Sunday, January 22, 2012
Day Eight: Holidays
Yes, yes, I'm way late with this, but life is busy and leaves me not a lot of time to devote to thoughtful spiritual writing, so I've resigned myself to the fact that this is going to take more than a month. In any case, here's the next entry:
8. Beliefs – Holidays
Holidays are weird for me, for a few reasons.
The first reason is that man it is hard to remember when they happen. It’s an unfortunate side effect of living in a country where the state holidays tend to intermingle with the Christian ones, but I was never, in my Wiccish days, able to remember when Imbolc was, or what the hell it was celebrating, anyway.
Generic Wicca-flavored paganism tends to use the Wheel of the Year, a cycle of 8 holidays divided into the major sabbats (which Gardner, founder of Wicca, ripped off from Celtic traditions) and the minor sabbats (which are the solstices and equinoxes). One of the Major sabbats is Samhain and god help me but I can’t pronounce it like it’s supposed to be pronounced--fuck it it’s Halloween anyway.
(you see how lazy I am?)
(seriously though if someone could actually tell me how that damn word is pronounced I would be in debt to you, because I’ve heard about a billion versions and they all sound equally difficult/ridiculous. I know it’s supposed to be like “sa-wen” but I have so much cognitive dissonance with how the word looks as opposed to this pronunciation that the word just makes me frustrated and angry. Also as a misanthropic solitary pagan I have never actually heard a live human being say “sa-wen” so I’m just going on internet research basically. I’M DUBIOUS.)
Regardless! Where I’m at now in my religious practices, I observe the solar holidays on the solstices and equinoxes. It’s easy to remember, found on every calendar, and I can physically observe the changes in daylight throughout the seasons and these holidays keep me mindful of how much life on earth is dependent on the Sun. A nice bonus to using this simple system is that season affective disorder is a bit more manageable when I can observe and take specific days to reflect on the Sun’s importance to me and to the earth. Granted it’s still winter and I’m still depressed and miserable on all these overcast freezing awful gray days, but I can see the sun moving higher in the sky, and it gives me faith that like most things, my melancholy will pass.
I’ve already mentioned my visits to Cahokia, which are more about observation than celebration, obviously. I like to be able to hold a candlelight vigil on the winter solstice, or at least stay up as late as I can if the solstice is on a work night. I also like to reserve that night for knitting! The summer solstice on the other hand I prefer to spend outside (within reason, because as much as I love the sun I hate skin cancer with a passion) making offerings or just being out and active and enjoying nature.
One very nice spring equinox I made ghee out of some local organic butter, and it was a very rewarding experience, to make it with that kind of mindfulness on that day and then use it, like a little bit of sunlight, throughout the rest of the year. The Autumn equinox is such a harvesty-type day, I use it, generally, to take stock of things, organize yarn, bake bread, and sort of store up projects for the winter to keep myself sane.
Now, that’s been my holiday structure for a few years now, nothing big or flashy, just a few little activities to celebrate the turning of the seasons. And then I went and brought deities into it. And of course research indicates that they were historically worshipped on specific holidays: Shining God-who-is-probably-Belenos is associated with May 1, designated on the Celtic and Wiccish calendars as Beltain(e). So I’m in rather a pickle, since my questings have started to take a Celtic turn, wondering if I should try to go back to the full eight holidays or is that just too much for my poor little brain to remember? Or maybe I should add that one in and have five? And I always liked Halloween even though I don’t care a whit about the whole Horned God death and rebirth myth cycle that’s associated with Samhain, do I do something celebratory on October 31st? Often I’ll have a vigil on the Day of the Dead despite no Mexican ancestry that I know of, but a lot of my ancestors on my dad’s side were REALLY Catholic so that’s as good a day as any to give them food and such.
Meanwhile, Liminal God is pretty difficult to pin down, I’m tentatively identifying him as Gaulish Mercury (there at least hasn’t been any strong negative feeling towards that identification, but that’s not necessarily a positive) and there’s like...no real evidence for any specific holiday other than the Mercuralia celebrated on May 15 by Roman merchants to ensure good business throughout the year. Not sure about that, as I am not a businessperson.
Then again, that is for springtime, and I have a good while before I have to make any decisions about celebrating.
Is everyone bored of my ramblings yet? Here have a tentative calendar for this year:
Mar 20: Spring Equinox
April 20: My freaking birthday and if I hear any 4-20 jokes I will hit you.
May 1: Beltaine, MAYBE
May 15: Mercuralia?
June 20: Summer Solstice
Sept 22: Autumn Equinox
October 31-Nov 2: candy and also food for dead people.
Dec 21: Winter Solstice
That is really spring-heavy! Gosh! We’ll see. We shall SEE.