Feminist Craft - Chapter 4
The first month of the year is usually cold and grey in Britain, where I live. It feels like the heart of winter, even though the daylight hours are increasing. It can be hard to do anything except stay indoors in the warm, but hopefully I can offer some ideas for making January more magical.
While New Year’s Eve celebrations might seem non-religious, some customs are close to what our pagan ancestors got up to. Historically, New Year’s Eve got a boost after the Reformation in the 16th century, when Christmas festivities came under attack as being too Catholic. In Scotland, people switched their celebrations to December 31st and the feast got called Hogmanay.
People have always celebrated at this time of year. One of the biggest Roman December festivals was Saturnalia, in honour of Saturn, god of wealth, plenty, liberation and agriculture. Starting on December 17 it was a week of partying, feasting, gift-giving and drinking – a bit like Christmas.
Bringing holly into the house in December is more ancient than Christmas trees. Romans decorated their villas with holly for Saturnalia, on December 17, which was somewhat like modern Christmas Magically, holly has protective powers. Planted around your home, it helps ward all who dwell within from harmful spells, malicious fairies and evil spirits.
As I’m sure most people are aware, Christmas trees only became popular in England after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had one in their home in 1848. Steve Roud in The English Year explains they were seen in England before that, but weren’t common. An older midwinter way to deck the house with greenery was to hang a kissing bough from the ceiling. Roud wrote: “One thing the Victorians didn’t invent was kissing under the mistletoe.”
Late November sees autumn’s end. At the start of the month where I live, in England, there were still some leaves on the trees although many were shades of red, brown and gold. By the end of the month, following winds and rain, the oak and ash and thorn stand stark and bare. But although the nights are long and dark, we start to prepare for the midwinter festivals.
November is Blood Month. At least the Anglo-Saxon name it was Blod-Monath according to the Venerable Bede. Professor Ronald Hutton in Stations of the Sun writes that this is because it was when cattle that couldn’t be kept over winter were slaughtered.
To save the Earth from destruction, we need to understand the purpose of the mind, our consciousness, our awareness of the world around us and our purpose in it.
In the modern Wheel of the Year, November is a month without a major pagan festival, but the wheel still turns and change is in the air. In this post I’m writing about seasonal customs in the early days of November that might not be overtly pagan, but are still relevant.
October 31st is a major Wheel of the Year festival for modern pagans, whether you call it Halloween, Samhain or anything else. I live in England, and a few traditional customs that are similar to Halloween take place in October in my country, but their origins are unclear.
Moon Books starts a new eco-spirituality series this month… Earth Spirit. The purpose of the series is to stimulate and help develop ongoing discussion on what is, of course, pretty much the most important topic anyone could focus upon today – the future of the planet.