Many of us were raised by Christian parents, so we often associate childhood Christmas celebrations with family togetherness, cheerful holiday music, yummy food, and awesome gifts. Whether Christmas is inspired by ancient Pagan festivities or purely a Christian holiday is irrelevant.
At Patheos, they make this point wonderfully by saying, “Christmas is a confluence of religious traditions, capitalism, story telling, and the human need to simply connect with those we love.”
In that same article they point out that some Christmas traditions are actually secular in origin, and I agree with their notion that part of the beauty of the holiday is its cosmpolitan embrace of non-religious, Pagan, and Christian imagery.
Maybe this is why a lot of Pagans are comfortable having their Yule celebrations on Christmas day. I am usually too busy to celebrate Yule on the day of the winter solstice. But I’m off work on Christmas! And if you have kids, good luck getting them to forgo the gift-giving and tree-decorating of the Christian holiday. A lot of Pagans come from Christian roots, so that feeds into their comfort with Christmas symbolism.
My favorite thing as a kid was decorating the Christmas tree — I enjoyed it more than opening gifts! Now that I’m a Pagan, I want to continue that tradition. If you feel the same way, here are some ideas on what you might adorn a “Yule tree” with:
- Decorate your tree with symbols of light and the sun: solar ornaments are good ideas.
- Colorful Christmas lights make perfect additions too!
- Symbols of winter: snowflakes cut out of paper, for example
- God images: tiny statues or portraits of solar gods and goddesses
- Herbal sachets: fill small, lacy bags with cinnamon, clove, and other dried seasonal herbs. A variation on this would be to create pomanders.
- Pinecones and acorns
- Prayers for the coming year
- Strands of popcorn and cranberries
Remember to bless your tree and have a wonderful Christmas!
The window is thrown open, allowing the silvery moon to dance upon the water offering in the chalice. The altar is adorned with candles, flowers, and colorful lights like candies. Yule approaches, and Long Nights Moon is a time to put the darkness behind us and prepare for the rebirth of light. The magician contemplates this, sliding into a meditative state, then evokes the moon:
Shining in the velvet night
Fill this place with silver light.
Come, O Hastener, to this place
Weave a web of moonglow lace
Swirl above this Circle case.
Bless this place, O Whirling One
Line it with a silver run
Make it strong, not undone.
The Circle spreads through space so vast
And the shining rings are now cast
Joining Present, Future, Past.
What do you think of this cover I created for my book?
I discovered the beautiful image here. At freedigitalphotos.net, you can download an image for free and use it for almost anything — even book covers! The only caveat is to include a credit to the artist and the website.
There’s been a lot of talk on the NaNoWriMo website about covers: writers are contemplating the ins and outs of commissioning an aritist to design a cover. But I simply have no cash to spare for such an endeavor. [I don’t even have internet at home — I’m forced to use free wifi.] The advice for those of us who want to make our own cover boils down to this: keep the image simple. No problem — I prefer simple covers. So instead of an artist, I sought free stock photos, as well as a royalty-free font. The one I chose is called Scalpel.
I’m going to play around with a few more cover ideas, but the cover is an important part of inticing someone to read your book. So tell me what you think!
The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape – Pablo Picasso
- What is the Purpose of Art? – Pablo Picasso (lifehack.org)
Part Two in the Biblical Goddesses series
But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster – Jeremiah 44:17
Do you remember the furor over Dan Brown’s depiction of Jesus in his book “The Da Vinci Code?” Fundamentalists were up in arms over the idea that perhaps God had a wife…but in ancient times, the Judeo-Christian god Yahweh did indeed have a female counterpart — and among some circles she was worshipped exclusively! Her name is Asherah, Lady of the Sea.
Asherah is a Semitic “mother goddess” who appears in several ancient sources. She was loved by the Jews, Akkadians, Hittites, Canaanites, Sumerians, and possibly the Ancient Egyptians. Due to syncretism, she absorbed the traits of the Goddess Athirat. Her titles are similarly many and include Queen of Heaven, Creator of the Gods, Lady of the Sea, and Holiness.
Contrary to what you may believe, Jews were not always monotheistic: the worship of many deities was at one time a common and acceptable practice. Monotheism came late to Israel’s history. During this early time period, some scholars believe, the Goddess Asherah was worshipped alongside Yahweh, the god of the Bible. We can find evidence of this in the “Good Book” itself: in 2 Kings 21:7, Manasseh builds a statue of Asherah, and Solomon builds temples to many deities. Goddess figurines, along with numerous references to “Yahweh and his Asherah,” have also been unearthed in Israel. Furthermore, biblical verses that describes God as mother [Deut 32:18; Num 11:12-13; Isa 45:9-10, 49:15; 66:13] were probably absorbed from Asherah.
We also see Asherah linked to knowledge, serpents, and sacred trees. We see these symbols in the Genesis creation myth. It makes me wonder about Asherah’s connection to it. Could the serpent in the Garden of Eden be one of her sacred symbols? And what about the trees themselves – is this Asherah imagery?
So-called “asherah poles” are mentioned many times in the Bible. Described as a pole or stylized tree, they are usually written off as phallic symbols and evidence of the pagans’ barbaric attitudes toward spirituality [as though sexuality is barbaric]. To further erase their connection to the goddess, the word asherah is sometimes translated as “grove” or “wood.” Asherah is connected to sacred groves and trees, and by extension fertility; therefore, the “asherah poles” are symbols of how the goddess brings fertility, prosperity, and abundance to the land and the people who dwell there.
Creating poles for the Goddess Asherah was common among the Jews particularly during the tribal period and beyond, even though Deuteronomy 16:21 forbids the practice. The ancient people of Israel seemed to think that honoring Asherah was appropriate within the religion of Yahweh. They built her poles beside his altars and within his temples. In 1 Kings 16:33 and 2 Kings 13:6 we see King Jehu leave one of Asherah’s poles standing, even though he tried hard to destroy the worship of other deities.
Archaeological findings also point to the idea that some ancient Israelites thought of Yahweh and Asherah as a pair, and worshipped as such. The goddess was obviously important to ancient people, and her worship was difficult to stamp out. As Raphael Patai, author of “The Hebrew Goddess,” says: “… it would be strange if the Hebrew-Jewish religion, which flourished for centuries in a region of intensive goddess cults, had remained immune to them.”
But her cult was never eliminated. To this day, people still honor the goddess. Whether you identify as a Goddess Christian, a practioner of Jewitchery, Natib Qadish, or something else, tell us your experiences with the Goddess Asherah.
- Wife of Yahweh (wifeofyahweh.com)
- Eve, Forgotten Goddess part one in the Biblical Goddesses series (fractalfortress.wordpress.com)
- “Ancient Goddesses: The Myths and the Evidence,” Lucy Goodison & Christine Morris (lindibrenndu.wordpress.com)
- The Hebrew Goddess (northernway.org)
My partner and I are fostering several kittens for our local animal shelter. Two of them are sick with Coccidia and an eye infection. So we brought them to the shelter a few days ago to receive check-ups and medication.
That was when we spotted a man bring in a black Shar Pei. I thought he was bringing it in to surrender it, in the hopes that the dog would find a better life with a different family.
But when we drew nearer, I saw that this wasn’t the case. The dog was covered with bloody wounds and yellowing scabs. Its skin was dry and crusty. Its fur fell out in chunks, and its neck was completely bare – a telltale sign that it wore a too-tight collar for many years.
I overheard the man say, “I want to put it down. My father doesn’t know how to take care of animals.”
I watched the shelter workers take the Shar Pei to the back. The dog was, amazingly, still friendly after its ordeal. Who knows how long it languished on a short leash with no protection from the elements? Though the dog was in rough shape, it certainly wasn’t so bad off that it had to be euthanized.
Many people in my area take on puppies and kittens, failing to realize that these animals are a 10 – 30 year commitment. They are not toys or tools – they have a rich emotional life and can suffer just like humans can. Because of this, they deserve humane treatment.
If you want a dog to guard your property, invest in an alarm system instead. If you want a fluffy cat to look good on your sofa, get a pillow instead. If you want a companion for years to come, get an animal.
On top of all this are the words a veterinarian working for the shelter told my partner and me. They run out of equipment before the end of each fiscal year. They are over-worked and under-staffed – and they are on salary, so no overtime. Every day, each vet is required to do 20 spay and neuter surgeries. But she admitted that if that was all they did they’d be overwhelmed and fall behind – so she herself has to perform at least 45 surgeries every day.
She said, “We’re fighting a losing battle.”
The shelter is inundated with unwanted animals; there are so many that the youngest often are euthanized just for lack of space if no foster home comes forward. [And this at a no-kill shelter!] The youngest ones have no immunity against diseases that infiltrate the shelter, so they must be put down.
People come from distant counties to our shelter, because apparently ours is one of the few that perform free spay and neuter surgeries. While I am grateful and glad that these pet keepers are doing the responsible thing, I’m appalled that their cities don’t have programs like my city does.
However, many people never take responsibility for the animals they take on. They leave the defenseless creatures to languish and suffer, or they fail to get the animal “fixed,” or they never invest time and effort into socialization or training, and then when the creature is too big or too inconvenient, they dispose of it at the animal shelter. The shelter exists to provide a humane alternative to just letting animals run rampant around neighborhoods. But with the sheer volume of animals that the shelter takes in – this shelter even takes farm animals – it veers into cruel and cramped conditions, which simply can’t be helped with their miniscule budget and even tinier facility.
For these reasons and many more, I just don’t know if it’s moral to breed animals strictly to be companions. Some people want purebred dogs and cats because they want an animal that has a predictable temperament and adult size or appearance. I understand the desire to avoid nasty surprises. But the fact is shelters take in tons of purebred animals. Just today I saw many purebred dogs: a trembling Yorkie, a beautiful Irish Setter puppy, a Mastiff, Bloodhound, and several more. Someone also dropped off a neurotic parrot. I wonder how long till that poor beast is adopted?
And I’m not just thinking about purebred animals. What of accidental litters? With the number of irresponsible pet owners out there and the volumes of unwanted animals, is it right to continue breeding pets? The longer I’m a foster parent for my shelter, the more my opinion changes to a resounding NO.