Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Father Time



Well, the year 2009 is almost past and the year 2010 is about to begin. What does the new year have for us?
     The popular figure that is usually use to represent the old year is a figure called Father Time. He is usually represent as an old man with a long white beard, dressed in a long robe, carrying a scythe or a sickle and sometimes also holding a hour glass. Where did this figure come from?
     He can be traced back to the god Chronos, not to be confused with the Titan Cronus. He is said to be the representation of time itself. In some Greco-Roman mosaices, he is pictured as turning the Zodiac Wheel and is often named Aeon meaning Eternal Time. In some traditions he is also called the Father of the Horae ( Hours ). He was the second primordial god to be created He controls the past, present and future of everything. Without Chronos the other Greek gods would not have ever been made. Chronos is sometimes picture as an old wise man with a long beard. His name in modern Greek also means "year".
     Another figure that Father Time origins can be traced back to is the Roman deity of time, Saturn. He was also an ancient Italian corn god known as the Sower. His favorite weapon of choice was the scythe or sickle. He was honored by the Romans at Midwinter festival called Saturnalia.
     Saturn's flint sickle represents the harvest of the crops; last year's crops getting the fields ready for the following year's crops. Time can be seen as a harvester of the 'crops' either of days of the past or for the days of the future.  Time can be a teacher of many lessons that we have experienced in the past days or years. We can take the time to reflect on the purpose of these lessons and see how they affected our life. This is how we learn and grow therefore time can be the harvester of our 'crops' and prepare us (the fields) for next year's crops.
     Sometimes Father Time is seen with a hour glass which can be seen to symbolize the flow of time as both a destructive and constructive effect. His decrepit body and long, white beard can be considered  a reminder that time itself is a devourer of all things. Nothing can escape time, but the gift of time is the serenity and the wisdom that are harvested only though the experience living of a long life. The downward flow of the sand in the hour glass is balanced by the upward flow of the spirit. The loss of the body's vitality is balanced by the increasing wisdom of the spirit and the mind.
     Some see time as something that is dreaded but it is also something that we can look forward to. Think of all the lessons that we have learned in the past year, 2009, and the ones that we are going to learn in the next year, 2010, that will make us stronger and wiser.
     Yesterday is the past. It's gone. Can never be regain and not to be regetted. Tomorrow is not promised but it is something to look forward to with a song in your spirit and a lift in your step. Today is a gift and that's why it's called the present. Unwrap it and enjoy it!
     Father Time can be considerd a teacher for us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Tree


The tradition of bringing in a fir or evergreen tree inside the home to decorate it for Christmas is a Christian tradition, but the folklore and traditions of the evergreen associated with the Winter Solstice or Yule is truly pagan.
     The pagans honored a many variations of trees through their myths, lores and traditions. During the Winter months, the evergreen was held in high honor for when everything else was brittle, bare and dark, the evergreen was still green. It represented the eternal life even in the darkest times; that life continued on. Most pagans didn't like cutting down the tree. Some considered it taboo to even cut one down, but they did bring into their homes the sprigs and branches of the evergreen to decorate their homes.
     During the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, the Romans decorated their homes with the clippings of the evergreen shrubs. They would also decorate the living trees with pieces of metal and images of their god. The Romans are said to be the ones that started the tradition of decorating their homes with the evergreen. They did this in honor of their god Adonia.
     Even the Egyptians decorated their homes during the Winter Solstice not with evergreens but with the palm tree which to them represented eternal life and resurrection.
     The ancient Germanic people would tie fruit and attach candles to the evergreen branches in honor of their god Odin or Woden. The candles would also represent the coming of the sun and also would be light in the promise of the Sun King returning again. Apples and other fruits were hung on the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. The trees were also decorated with roses and colored paper.
     Now the idea of bringing the tree indoors and decorating it for Christmas is credited to Martin Luther. Around the 1500, he went for an early morning walk on Christmas Eve. As he was walking he noticed a group of evergreens glistening in the moon light because of the snow that was on the branches. He was awe stuck at the beauty. When he got home, he set up a fir tree indoors so he could share the story with his children. He then decorated it with candles, which he said represented the Christ child and the light that he brought into the world. The candles were also said to represent the stars in the night sky over Bethlehem with the tree topper star as the Star of Bethlehem.
     The idea of the Christmas tree was said to been brought to England by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert who was from Germany.
     The tradition of the Christmas tree that was started by Martin Luther was probably brought over to America during the Revolutionary War with the Hessian troops and also with the German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.
     During the beginnings of the United States, the English Puritans was against Christmas and anything connected to the holiday because of the pagan connections that it had.
     In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, OH decorated the first Christmas tree in an American church. He was condemned and even his life was threatened because of this.
     Through lots of my research I found a lot of Christian traditions to the origin of the Christmas tree. I do decorate a tree for Christmas or should I say Yule, but I decorate it with dragons, fairies, animals, pine cones and my tree topper is a wizard. I try to re-claim the tradition after all no matter what they say.... we, the Pagans started it.

The Norse connection


We all know of the famous jolly figure that roams our night sky at Christmas Eve this time of the year. Many of us know of the connection that he has to St. Nicholas, but can you recall....... the Norse connection. I almost broke into song just then. LOL
    Anyhow, our Santa Claus has it's begins with the folklore and traditions of the pagans of the North, the Norse. Some stories are quite interesting.
     Santa Claus was known as Father Christmas and became a part of the greater European folklore around the 1950s, but earlier than that, he was quite different. His origins steeped in Viking and Norse lore.  Britain was largely a Saxon stronghold. Christianity was having it's own troubles at the time. A lot of people think that Christianity took hold of Britain very swift, but it different. It took many years to take root. It was still unknown and isolated from Europe's mainstream. After the Norman invasion in 1066, the oaths that were taken were commonly sworn as "By God and by Odin." King Frost, Father Time or King Winter were known and welcomed by the Saxons. Someone would represented him by wearing a fine hat or crown and then would go from house to house.  He would then be brought to the fireside, tell stories and share in the meals. The Saxons believed that by welcoming the figure the element Winter would be less frighten and harsh for them.
     The Vikings came along and brought with them their god Odin. Odin was considered the Father of the Gods.  December was known as Yalka or Jul. Odin's month was known as Jultid, this is where we get Yuletide or Yule. At Yule or Winter Solstice, the Vikings believed Odin would come to earth riding his eight legged horse, Sleipner. He was thought or shown to be dressed in a long blue,  hooded cloak and he carried a satchel of bread and a staff in his hand. He had two companions with him, two ravens, Huginn and Munin, who would inform him on what was going on.
     Sleipner with his 8 legs represented the number of transformation. The two ravens, Huginn and Munin, represented Thought and Memory. The spear that he carried never missed it's target. It was named, Gungner which represented Clear and Focus Tent. Yes, there is a 'lesson' here. LOL
     When Odin came to earth he was suppose to join groups who were huddled around their fires and hearths. He would sit in the background, listening to all that was going on and to see who was 'good' and who was 'bad'. He was also listening to see who was content and who wasn't. Occasionally he would leave a gift of bread at the poor homesteads.
     Also at Yule, it was thought that Odin lead a great hunting party through the sky with other gods and honored warriors who had came to Valhalla. Children were place their boots near the fireplace or chimney for Oden's flying horse. They would put inside the boots things  like carrots, straw or sugar for Sleipner to eat. Odin would then reward their kindness by replacing Sleipner's food with gifts of candy and toys.
     Another Norse god that could have something to do with the beginnings of Santa Claus was Thor. He was the God of Thunder. He was thought to have a long white beard and wore red, representing his element fire. He rode in a chariot being pulled by 2 white goats known as Cracker and Gnasher. His palace was located in the 'northland' or north pole. He was friendly and cheerful. He had the utmost respect among the common folk for it was them that he loved and carried for. Many Norse traditions taught that he would come down the chimney into the fire to visit the household.
     Jultomten or the Tomte/Nisse was another figure who could have loan his characteristics to the legend of Santa Claus. Again this is a Norse figure of Viking lore. He was gnome who lived on the farms. In his beginnings he was known as the Tomte.  In ancient times, he was known as the 'soul' of the first inhabiter of the farm. He was usually described as a short man under 4 feet tall, wearing a red cap with a tassel. He wore the hunters' or farmers' winter clothes; a brown jacket and brown trousers. He would take care of the farmers' home and children. He would protect them, including the livestock, while they slept. There are many stories concerning the Tomte finishing the work on a barn or house when the workers would take a lunch break. People would still hammering and banging through-out the nights and they would say that the Tomte was still working. He was kind to the livestock and took well care of them. You could tell which horse he would favor because it would be more healthier than the rest. Even though he was real small, he had immense strength and was a big help around the farmstead.
     Although he was considered kind to the farmer's family and livestock, he was very easily to offend. If the farmer treated his family wrong or didn't take care of the livestock or was lazy on the work that needed to be done around the farm, he would get very angry. He would run around box your ears, kick you, turning over mail pails or teasing the livestock by maybe tying the cows' tails in knots. The family would leave him a bowl of porridge on Christmas night with a pad of butter on top. That's the way he likes it. If he doesn't get it, he throws a fit. One story told of a man who placed the butter under the porridge. The Tomte was very upset and went around ruining the farmer.
     Through-out time stories were re-written or re-told and he became known as the jultomte, who would bring gifts in a sleigh driven by the 2 goats of Thor. He then wore a red suit and a cap, carrying a bulging sack on his back. He would bring the good kids gifts and he would punish the bad kids.
     So we owe the Norse for our famous hero at this time of the year, Santa Claus. There are many more traditions and figures who attributed to the sleigh riding figure such as St. Nicholas, but I figured I would concentrate on his pagan beginnings and I found it interesting and learned a lot. I hope you did as well.

 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Joy to the World - Wiccan version

Burning the Yule Log


Today this symbol of an ancient tradition has become a term meaning  a cake that's baked around this time of the year in the shape of a log with maybe holly or poinsettia on top, but I'm not talking about a cake.
     The tradition of having and burning a real Yule log is an ancient tradition dating back to the Druids.  Different areas of England, Germany, France, and the Netherlands have their own traditions to the Yule log. In the North East of England it was commonly called a Yule clog. In the Midlands and the West Country the term was Yule Block
     The Yule log has been associated having its origins in Germanic paganism. It was a large wooden log which is burned in a hearth, either in the community or privately in the household.   It was an entire whole trunk of a tree which was cut on Candlemas ( Feb 2 ) and dried all year long. It was brought in a household by a group of males who, for the task, would get free beer from the farmer's wife. The log was of the Oak tree. The fire that was used to burn the Yule log was started from a piece of the log that had been burned the previous year. The log's role was to bring prosperity and protection from evil.
    Druids would pray that the oak would flame, like the sun forever. After the burning, it's ashes were thought to bring good luck and protection into the household. It was considered bad luck if the fire went out before New Years.
     In Southern France, people put the log on the fire for the first time on Christmas Eve and then continued to burn it a-little bit each day until the twelfth night (Jan. 5th).

     If the ashes or any part of the burned Yule log was kept under the bed, it will protect the house from fire and thunder. It would also prevent those who live there from getting chilblains on their heels in the winter. The unburned remains are also believed to cure cattle diseases and to help cows deliver calves. If you scatter the ashes over the fields it will save the wheat from mildew.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Note from Grannulus

I appreciate all those that have visited and viewed my blog. I really do enjoy the writing and sharing.  If you like what you see on here and wish to leave a comment please do so. You can send me an email, Grannulus1@yahoo.com under the subject line of: Blog Comment. I will not share your email address. I will be sure to post and share it here on my blog.
  I know that under each article is a comment link but some people has told me that it won't allow them to leave a comment, that's why I'm offering another way for my visitors to leave a comment..
  So please do so if you wish. Also if you have any ideas on how I can improve my blog, then please by all means email me.
  Blessings As Always,
    Grannulus

Silent Night ( a Pagan's perspective)

Mistletoe



Among the many decorations that we use during these holidays, the Mistletoe is the most popular. Many home owners will hang the mistletoe somewhere in their doorways hoping to catch some unsuspected victim.
     The Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant which means it does grow attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub, but it can live on it's own. The word 'mistletoe' can be related to the German word mist meaning dung and tang for branch, since the Mistletoe is known to be spread in the feces of birds moving from tree to tree.
     The most popular usage for the Mistletoe is when two people are caught underneath a branch or sprig of Mistletoe, hanging from above, has to kiss. This custom can be traced back to a Scandinavian origin.
     In Norse mythology, Balder was a god of vegetation . His mother, who was Frigga, had a dream of the death of her son. Worried about her son, she made every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to ever harm Balder. Frigga accidentally overlooked the small Mistletoe plant. The mischievous god Loki who knew of this mistake took advantage of this for he didn't like Balder. He tricked the blind god, Hoor, into killing Balder with a spear which was made from the Mistletoe. Of course Balder died and then the world went into the season of winter until the gods restored him to life.
     Frigga declared the Mistletoe sacred, ordering that from now on it should bring love rather than death into the world.

     The Mistletoe growing in an Oak tree was considered sacred and powerful to the Druids. On the 6th night of the moon, dressed in white, Druids would meet underneath an oak which had the Mistletoe growing within it's branches. Somewould stand at the bottom of the tree holding a white cloth, while another would climb the tree, then cut the Mistletoe with a gold sickle. The ones holding the white cloth would catch the Mistletoe, preventing it from touching the ground. The Mistletoe wasn't allowed to touch the ground for it may loose it's power and enchantment.  Two white bulls then would be sacrificed while prayers were being said. Then the Mistletoe was broken and handed out to different recipients, spreading the blessings to their homes or used in incantations, herbal remedies or rituals.
     Many uses of the Mistletoe by the Druids were lost because the Druids did not believe their teachings should be written down. Then the Romans came along and kill a lot of the Druids therefore a lot of sacred knowledge was lost with their deaths.  The Mistletoe is a poisonous plant especially the berries. The Druids were considered a  pro when it came to handling the Mistletoe. The white berries some say were the seamen of the Gods.  It was considered to bestow life and fertility, a protection against poison and an aphrodisiac.  When Balder died it was said that when Frigga cried her tears landed on the mistletoe creating the white berries.
     Mistletoe was regarded as a sexual symbol and the soul of the oak tree. It was gathered both midsummer and winter solstices. The use of decorating homes at Christmas is a tradition that was a survival of the Druids and other pre-Christian traditions.
     During the Middle Ages, branches of Mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. Around Europe, they were hanged over doorways, windows and in the stables to prevent the entrance of evil. It was also believed that the Mistletoe from an oak tree could extinguish fire.
     It was a tradition that if enemies were feuding or battling and they met underneath a tree with Mistletoe in it, they were required to lay down their weapons and declare a truce until the following day.
     In Rome, the Mistletoe played an important role in the Saturnalia festivals which were held during the Yule season to celebrate the birth of Saturn.
     Of course the Christians had to get their hands in the action. An old Christian tradition said that the Mistletoe was once a tree that furnished the wood from the cross that Jesus was hung on. After the Crucifixion, the tree shriveled and became a dwarfed parasitic plant. The Mistletoe was ashamed.  Imagine that!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

and the battle is on... The Holly King vs The Oak King



In pagan mythology, these two were twins of a whole. One couldn't exist without the other. Some think this folklore or belief was probably constructed by the Druids since they honored both trees; the Holly and the Oak.
     The Holly King and the Oak King battles twice a year; once at Midsummer when the Holly King wins and then again at Midwinter or Yule, when the Oak King wins. They both fight for the favor of the Goddess. When one looses, he goes to Caer Arianrhod to lick his wounds for six months and then returns to battle again; exchanging places with the other. They are dual aspects of the Horned God.
     Gods that is associated with the Holly King would be: Saturn, a Roman god of agriculture, Cronus, Father Ice or Grandfather Frost, Odin/Wotan, The Tomte, which is a Norse land spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of the year & Thor.
     Through time the Holly King became represented by the famous Christmas figure; Santa Claus or Father Christmas because he is depicted wearing red, a sprig of holly in his hair and is sometimes driving a team of eight stags, which could be a representative of the eight sabbats celebrated by the ancient pagans. He was also in some areas of Europe considered to be a powerful giant covered in Holly leaves and branches wielding a Holly bush as a club. In the Arthurian Legends, the Holly King could be seen as the Green Knight.
     The Oak King is depicted as the Green Man all dresses in green appearing out from a foliage of green leaves. You can pretty much see him hanging over castle and church walls, starring down at you.
     The Holly leaves are hung in honor of the Holly King and the mistletoe is hung in honor of the Oak King, because you can find mistletoe hanging far up in the branches of the Oak tree.
     This time of the the year, the Holly King represents withdrawal, lessons, life and rest.
     Take time this time of the year, while it's cold outside, go over the lessons of the year and see where to apply them to you life. Take the time to withdrawal and mediate on these lessons.
     The two must battle for they are the cycle of the Sacred Wheel. The time of the Holly King is about over and the reign of the Oak King is upon us.
    

The Holly Tree



As we celebrate the holidays rather we call it Christmas or Yule, most of our decorations consist of Holly. The Holly was used back in the ol' country during these holidays, as well. What was so special about the Holly?
     The Holly was known by different names. In Norfolk it was called Hulver. Devon, Holme and in Dartmoor, it was called Holme Chase. It was also known by Christ's Thorn, Hulver bush, Bat's Wings, Tinne and Holy Tree. There are over 400 species of the holly tree.
     The early Romans would send boughs of Holly along with other gifts to their friends and family when they celebrated the holiday of Saturnalia. It was the Roman festival of Saturn held around the 17th of Dec.
     Through the advice of the ancient druids, our Eastern European ancestors would bring Holly into the homes not only to protect the home from malevolent spirits but also to give the faeries of the home a place to be sheltered so there wouldn't be friction between them and the humans., but please make sure you remove all Holly out of the house before the eve of Imbolc because one leaf left in the home could cause misfortune. Also, whichever of the prickly-leaved or smooth leaved Holly was brought into the house first, dictated whether the husband or the wife respectively were to rule the household for the coming year.
     The Holly tree deities were: Lugh, Tannus, Taranis, Thor, Tailiu, Habondea and Tina Etruscan. The planetary ruler of the Holly is Mars. The Holly was thought to be a male plant and also associated with the element fire. The charcoal from burning the wood of the Holly was favored by the smiths. The charcoal would burn strong and for a long time. Charcoal from the Holly was used mostly for forging the swords, knives and tools that were necessary for survival and protection.
     Like many other beliefs, the Druids also favored the Holly tree. There were strong taboos about cutting down a whole tree. Even the Duke of Argyll had a road rerouted to avoid cutting down a distinctive old Holly  in 1861.
     The Holly tree was known for many ritualistic purposes and symbolic meanings: life, death, re-birth, holiness, consecration, material gain, physical revenge, beauty, immortality, peace, goodwill and health. The tree was thought to be very magickal since during the winter months when most of the trees had lost their leaves and looked so bare, the Holly tree kept it's greenery and it's red berries were very noticeable against the snow covered ground.
     Druids would take Holly water ( not holy water, but I'm sure there is a connection somewhere.. lol ) and sprinkle it on newborn babies to protect them. Sounds familiar.... hmmmmm  something else stolen by the Christian religion from our pagan ancestors.
      If anyone had a problem with coping with depression and loss of sleep, the Holly was used to help the victim. The Holly could be used to enhance dreams. If Holly was gathered on a Friday after midnight, wrapped in a clean cloth then tied up using 9 knots and then placed under a pillow, then the dream would come true. The juice from fresh Holly leaves could be sniffed to stop a runny nose. Soaking some Holly in vinegar and left for a day and a night was used for corns. Now some folks would carry a piece of Holly in their pockets to promote good luck, especially a man.
      In the Black Forest area, the leaves of the Holly tree were sometimes used as a substitute for tea, but I wouldn't suggest it. Any parts of the Holly tree esp. the berries can be deadly.... the berries are poisonous to us humans. If you're think of using any remedies like this, I would suggest seek out the advise of a Herbalist who knows what they are doing.
      Animals could eat the berries and nothing would happen to them. Folklore suggested that the wood had a power to tame animals. Horse carts or coaches were made from the wood of the Holly tree. Sometimes when the food for the cattle was running low during the winter, people would gather up young stems of the Holly tree and use it as cattle feed.
     Looms in the 1800s used Holly for the spinning rod because Holly wood is dense and can be sanded down real smooth. The threads wouldn't get snagged on the spinning rod. The white chess pieces were also made out of wood for the Holly tree.
     As I said, the Druids consider the Holly tree to be sacred. In the Celtic tree calendar the Holly represents the 8th month of the year ( July 8t through Aug. 4th) which includes the Celtic festival of Lughnassadh or Lammas. In Celtic mythology, the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from Summer to Winter Solstice then him and his brother, the Oak King, would battle. The Oak King would win and rule until the Summer Solstice.
     Pliny the Elder thought the Holly was a good plant for protection. He suggested that it should be revered and planted near homes or farms. He advised that it was good for protection against poison and defend from lightning and witchcraft. He also suggested that it's flowers could cause water to freeze and if you threw a Holly twig towards an animal, even without touching, it had the power to compel the animals to return and lie down. I bet the prisoners in the arenas wish they had some Holly. LOL
     So when you use the Holly, rather it be real or plastic, for decorations this holiday season, you will have a great conversation piece for when you and your family have that moment of awkwardness. LOL