‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for December 9th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

In this jet age when almost “instant there” is commonly accepted, the world has become very small. The days of remaining in one’s own birthplace are near an end, and those who never dreamed of traveling have adjusted themselves to it quite well.

And with shorter distances between us and our neighbors it seems our worlds should find more opportunities for mutual understanding. But we must realize that even though our material worlds may be easily crossed, our thoughts are worlds apart. Until we can bring together a thinking people with the desire to create living conditions that are peaceful and full of kindness, fast travel can waver between good and bad.

A British novelist and poet, George Moore, said, “It is thought, and thought only, that divides right from wrong; it is thought, and thought only, that elevates or degrades human deeds and desires.”

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Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 9

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 9

“The Natural Law will prevail regardless of man-made laws, tribunals and governments.”

–Traditional Circle of Elders, NAVAJO-HOPI Joint Use Area

The Great Spirit made Laws by which Man needs to live. These Laws are just and are about living in harmony. Man has passed many laws that say it is okay to do things. Many of these man-made laws are out of harmony with the Laws of the Great Spirit. These man-made laws will cause trouble for the human being if they are out of harmony with the Laws of the Creator.

Great Spirit, teach me Your Laws.

December 9 – Daily Feast

December 9 – Daily Feast

When the first snowflakes catch on leafless trees and crisp cold wind sweeps our faces, we know winter is in earnest. It turns the bright green canes of the wild rose to gray and sprinkles hickory nuts and walnuts on the path to the woods. The entire landscape seems to be one color – but the variation is so subtle and low-key that it takes a little while to see the green lichen and the misty blue haze that hangs over the tiny stream. Life sometimes appears to be at a standstill, and nothing is beautiful – no color, no shape, no hope. But if we refocus, if we are sincere and we use wisdom, we will move toward a new spring, just as does the season.

~ Whatever the fate of other Indians, the Iroquois might still have been a nations. ~

WA-O-WO-WA-NO-ONK – CAYUA CHIEF

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

The Daily Motivator for December 9th – Start the ball rolling

Start the ball rolling

Motivation leads to action, and action leads to more motivation. If you’re  not motivated to do anything, do a little something anyway and start the ball  rolling.

Even the smallest positive step can begin to create positive momentum. Take  that small step, feel the tiny wisp of motivation and momentum, and let it carry  you to the next modest step.

Even if it doesn’t seem to accomplish anything, a small, initial positive  action does in fact achieve something of great consequence. It gets you  going.

Once you’re in motion, you’re much more likely to stay in motion. The longer  you stay in motion, the more likely you are to keep going.

The best thing to do when you don’t feel like doing anything, is to do  something. Remind yourself that although you may be severely unmotivated, you  can take a small action anyway.

No matter what your situation or level of motivation may be, there’s some  little something you can do. Do it now, get the ball rolling, and let the power  of positive momentum push you forward.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

The Daily OM for December 9th – A Soulful Cure

A Soulful Cure
Working with a Shaman

by Madisyn Taylor

Working with a shaman can be a great puzzle piece in the process of becoming whole again.

Since time immemorial, certain men and women have felt called to heal the sick, to safeguard knowledge, to guide the lost, and to commune with the spirit world. These unique individuals, known as shamans, were mystics and seers, repositories of wisdom, and keepers of herbal lore. During those periods when ignorance loomed large in the world, shamans across the globe bided their time, peacefully practicing their practical yet refined arts in the jungle, mountains, deserts, and tundra that protected them from those who misunderstood shamanism. Today, however, shamanism has reemerged, as modern men and women feel the same call to service that their ancestors felt long ago. Also, as more individuals explore the notion that healing necessarily involves the soul as well as the physical self, people are consulting shamans in their search for wellness, wisdom, and guidance.

The word shaman literally means “he or she who knows. Shamanism is an art that has not changed in any quantifiable way for millennia and is not bound to any particular form of spirituality. It is grounded on the principle that the visible world is saturated with unseen forces that influence the lives of human beings. Shamans, in addition to acting as fonts of wisdom, are dedicated to diagnosing and curing human suffering—whether emotional, physical, or spiritual. To treat an illness, a shaman may communicate with the spirit world in order to connect more directly with the soul of their patient or with the force causing ill health. They often work closely with animal guides, plant and earth spirits, or your spirit guides, and may make use of use of herbal remedies to supplement other forms of treatment. Shamans, as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual realms, recognize that all objects are in manner alive and retain information that can be utilized to heal.

Shamanism is powerful in part because its practitioners tailor healing to the individual needs of those who seek them out. A shaman manipulates energy, giving you power where you have lost it and removing misplaced energy lurking within you. When you seek out a shaman, they will endeavor to know and understand you before treating you. In this way, they can provide you with therapies that act on your whole being, positively influencing your body as well as your soul.

The Daily OM

Labeling Pagans and Other Impossible Tasks!

Labeling Pagans and Other Impossible Tasks!

Author:   Avren  

Elitist. Snob. Know-it-all… These are not names you would normally use to describe the Pagan community. This is the reason many of us filtered in to this diverse, and multi-faceted spiritual path. I felt much battered and bruised by my own self-imposed guilt when I turned from my previous path to God. Truth be told, I prayed to Him and Them the first transitional year. I was too terrified not to! Yet here I am today. I’ve worshiped and practiced now for almost ten years.

Fair warning to the more delicate of us, there is a lot of labels thrown around in this essay. To everyone else, get your B.S. goggles on, and don’t forget your earplugs!

I’m no “Fluffy Bunny” nor am I a “Cynical Badger, ” these are a couple of descriptive names used by Isaac Bonewits in his essay ’Making Fauna Pagans’ to describe many of this community. His essay is one of the top thirteen viewed on this site, and for good reason. I think everyone should view it. It is well written and to the point.

I recently read yet another essay where the author attempted to put down one or several of us by describing a particular type of Pagan as not “real.” In fact the whole theme seemed to revolve around not being real because you don’t put your biggest pentacle out there. This seems to be a very worrisome subject for lots of us, so I figured I might as well throw in my two cents.

I am not a part of a coven, nor do I interact with many of the Pagan community. I don’t think I am in anyway “better” or more “advanced, ” I’m just simpler. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who feel the same way I do. I don’t need reinforcements to follow my path. I interact with many of you here in this virtual community. While I thoroughly enjoy it, the separation that is integral in any safe online interaction serves me just fine. I love to read the voices of like minded people, I just can’t stand the pressure to be “right” or “in” or the most “real” (Usually under debate, who’s path was first) or whatever the term may be. To be fair the people I’ve communicated with have primarily been positive.

However, I ask this question. Why do we need to know who is more authentic? What’s more, who of us has the right to tell someone they are unreal and/or a fluffy bunny? (For people new to the term, this usually means one or more of the following: Flamboyant, inexperienced, know-it-all-two-book-reader. You get the picture. It’s someone who can act at times immature, yet claim to represent us all.)

I take my faith seriously, and I try to teach our young ones to love and respect our Lady as well. Do I need a face full of black makeup, or a neck full of pentacles to be “real?” Didn’t many of us leave our various paths sick to death of “Keeping up with the Jehovah’s?” You all know what I mean. My path is right for me. I’m not fake nor am I a flake.

Do you see the recurring theme here? Lots of labels. Bottom line, Too much make up = Fluffy Bunny. Too little = Not Pagan enough.

Is it possible that others are threatened by my ease and confidence with the Lord and Lady, when theirs is possibly shaky? Is that why they cannot share their Yuletide traditions with those people they love, while simultaneously celebrating their loved ones holiday as well?

I’m not a traitor; I just don’t feel the need to dredge up a history lesson, when my mom says “Merry Christmas.” She isn’t saying it to try to make me conform; she is just saying a small blessing in her most comfortable way. If anyone wishes to label me, try these on for size: Forgiving, Non-Judgmental, And Real (a personal favorite) , or just plain Happy. I don’t live in a bubble, or take happy pills. I live day to day, and try to look on the bright side. (NOT always easy when times are tough, not to mention being a Scorpio who can see B.S. everywhere I look.)

I think the issue with the folks who need to label, is the simple fact that the Pagan community at large wouldn’t wear a label, even if it fit and was made of 100% recycled paper! Are these hypocrite Pagans too afraid to branch out on their own? Are they too afraid to use the brain the Lord and Lady gave them to think of their own traditions?

We as Pagans don’t have the “Word, ” and I for one am grateful. I never liked the thought of only one way. Is it this lack of black and white, mixed with a whole lotta grey that causes the uproar? Who among us hasn’t struggled with identity in this Craft? There isn’t anything like being under enemy fire, and trying to explain your spiritual roots. The sad thing is, however; the firing brigade that often awaits in our own camp.

I suppose you could look at this essay as a “can’t we all get along” type, and maybe it is. Why can’t we all get along? We teach our kids this, and we also tell other people we don’t judge people by their faith. (Unlike some monotheistic faiths) Why don’t we see more essays on how to cast, or some neat meditation techniques we might have? How about traditions that are neat to pass down.

I recently walked through the forest. What an experience. The pine trees smelled of secrets and childhood. The green was so vibrant it almost hurt the eyes. I shared woods lore my grandparents taught me with our two children. I explained how seeds work, and we counted the rings of the tree that gave its life for our holiday. We also gave thanks to it, and the earth for giving it to us. This is new to them, (I’m the stepmom) but they enjoyed it anyway. I felt Them around us. Who needs a church? I wrote this, by the way, as an example of what we COULD be sharing.

I worship this way. I tend my garden with a joyful and grateful heart. I pray to Them, and I give back to Them. I don’t wear a Pentacle, I don’t advertise period. I don’t need it, and neither do They. If this isn’t Pagan enough, I sincerely don’t care. I have nothing to prove, and I don’t believe my path is the only right one. I’ll celebrate mine, if you celebrate yours! (Small joke) Why can’t more of us feel the same?

So the next time you catch yourself judging the Pagan next to you, relax and remember that we are all different, but They know who we are

__________________________________

Footnotes:
Issac Bonewits ‘Making Fauna Pagans’

Instant Witch

Instant Witch

Author:   Stephanie Arwen  

Gotcha! Now you know there is no $19.95 wayof being a Witch, don’t you? Sit down; take a breath…now that you havefound something you want you want it yesterday! I understand. I can rememberwhen I started. I remember that sense of urgency I got. That “I have toget there right now” I have to be just like Z. Budapest, Starhawk, Margo!I wanted to meet them. I wanted to talk to them yesterday! But most ofall and worst of all, I wanted to be them. Put pushing the river isn’tgoing to get you there any faster. And where is there anyway?

Seventeen years down the road now and I cansay to you that you will NEVER be a Z a Starhawk a Margot a Silver Ravenwolf, a D.J. Conway, a Scott Cunningham. Oh no, you can’t be them. You can onlybe you. And that you is going to be a beautiful thing!

So I was 20 and I finally knew what I wantedto be when I grew up, but no one could give me enough information. I wasneither as fortunate nor as cursed as you are in today’s world of a dozenbooks per subject. Fortunate because you can go into almost any Barnesand Noble, Waldenbooks, or even Amazon.com and just pick up a book. Doyou have any idea how hard that was in 1981? Finding a copy of ZsuzsannaBudapest’s The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, pt 1 was an experience.I was living in Louisiana at the time and a friend had introduced me toStarhawk’s The Spiral Dance. I was hooked. I am also a bibliography reader.If an author I like mentions a book, then I want to get my hands on thatbook and see what it is about!

But you are cursed as well because thereis so much witchcrap out there. So many people who have written books thatare a total waste of paper. But the books that I think are a waste of papermay be the ones that speak best to you. That is a clue, my new Witch friend.Never let me or anyone else tell you that a book is useless. Learn to readfor yourself and think critically while you read. Does the author makesense or is there a nagging feeling you have that this person is a completeflake? If there is, then do yourself a favor and research the subject.You don’t think that author woke up one morning and knew everything therewas to know about their subject do you? Patricia Telesco, one of my favoriteauthors, has a page on her website that tells new authors to plan for 800hours per book. And that 800 hours includes research as part of it! Soif Ms. Telesco must research, why shouldn’t you?

The web has wonderful places for that kindof research, but don’t forget your local library! Find authors you admire.Then try to discover why you like them. Is it because they have writtenbooks period? Or is it in the way that they deliver their information?Dorothy Morrison has a style that I adore! She is personable and approachablein her books as well as accurate and knowledgeable. Or you might preferFrancesca De Grandis style that has the feel of teacher walking with herstudent and talking.

And don’t just read websites! A website ownercan be someone with less knowledge than you but has the ability and know-howto scan books and copy things wholesale without credit. Don’t be takenin. Go to your local library (you remember, that large brick building onthe corner?) and check out books on anthropology, archaeology, history, etc. Learn where our roots come from. And please, don’t let someone tellyou Wicca is an ages-old religion! It is not. It is a new religion. I liketo say Wicca is a new dress on a very old set of bones. We do have someancient roots, but the branches we have today are new. But you have tolearn to let the urgency not rule you. Do read everything you can get yourhands on. Read “Witch” books. Read all the books! But don’t forget to takeyour salt cellar with you.

Huh? Arwen? What the heck are you talkingabout and what is a salt cellar?

Your Salt Cellar is that thing you carrysalt in so you will always have a grain of salt to take things with. Don’taccept something simply because it is published in a book or on the web.Learn to believe in yourself. Learn to listen to your inner voice. Theone telling you that maybe what you just read is a load of manure …ormaybe it is saying that there is a pearl in that load of manure. Trustin the reality of self. I can’t stress this enough. If you will give yourselfthe tools of knowledge and discernment, then you can begin to hear thetruth in things as well as the lies and mistakes. Do listen to what otherssay about books, but don’t take their word for it. Figure it out for yourself.

The sense of urgency you feel now may makeyou too intent on getting there. But, here is the question. Where is there?Are you so focused on your race to the finish that you are not enjoyingthe journey? Be too intent on getting there wherever there is and not intentupon enjoying the journey and the journey will pass you by! I don’t knowif this message will reach you, but I am 38 (b. 1961). I began my journeyon the path to Wicca in 1981 (or 2). That was 17 years ago. I am stillon the journey of getting there. I will always be on that journey. Learnto enjoy the Trip. There is no there. When you get there, you will havereached the end and that means starting again.

Once you learn that the journey is the meansand the end, then you realize how much more you have to learn.

I wish you good fortune on your travels.A part of me wishes I was at the beginning again, but most of me is quitecontent to be where I am. I am still experiencing new thoughts, new thingsand new people on a daily basis. Remember to enjoy the trip. Oh, and don’tforget to send a postcard from some of those exotic places you visit.

Ok, for those of you who still want all theanswers.

All The Answers ™

Red, blue, green, yellow, white, Hallows, Samhain, Winter Solstice, Yule, Candlemas, Brigidmas, Imbolg, Vernal Equinox, Spring Equinox, Ostara, Beltain, Mayday, Lady’s Day, Beltaine, Litha, Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Longest Day of the Year, Lammas, Lugh’s Feast, Lughnassadh, Autumnal Equinox, Mabon, cakes and wine, Heiros Gamos, 42, North, East, South, West, Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Center, Above, Below, salamander, dragonfly, snake, dolphin, Raven, Morgan, WildHawk, Hawkdatter, OakStandingTall, cat, dog, frog, toad, A, B, C, D, All Of The Above, True, False, myrrh, frankincense, pine, oak, holly, Cerridwen, Cernnunos, Herne, Hecate, Isis, Tammuz.

Now…you have to supply the questions.
Arwen NightstarThe Instant Witch Graphic was done by Andra (webmistress for http://www.spiritonline.com) This graphic is one she made in response to a flurry of “insta-witch” questions she received on her discussion board Spirit Online, an interactive resource for those interested in understanding and discussing religion and metaphysics.

Dear Wicca, Thank You.

Dear Wicca, Thank You.

Author:   Selena Rose  

I began to research Wicca when I was eleven or twelve years old. I – obviously – was not extremely serious about it at that point, and the interest came and went for a year or two. I always loved the idea of the religion, but I didn’t seriously start studying until I was about thirteen. And I studied for almost a solid two years before I started to practice. I know that it was still very young and, looking back, maybe it was too young. But I don’t regret starting early because it just gave me more time to develop into the kind of spiritual person that I wanted to become.

When I was sixteen I developed Anorexia Nervosa. During the year and a half battle, I dropped over twenty pounds, yo-yoed between weights, dealt with depression, anxiety, and a number of other “issues”. Twenty pounds is not nearly as serious as it could have become, I know. I got lucky that it didn’t get worse. Physically, I was not that ill. The illness was completely and entirely mental. I was dealing with self-hatred, feeling worthless, like I was created wrong.

Over the December holidays, I was shopping for gifts with my family. We celebrate a very secular Christmas and I celebrate Yule in my own ways on my own. I was seventeen at this point, a senior in high school. I decided to buy myself a Yule gift while I was at Borders and headed back to the religion section of the store.

There were a few titles I was familiar with but never purchased, a few I owned. I ran my hands over the spines, trying to get some kind of idea of what to purchase. My body and mind stopped on a thin, black binding. I bought the book and took it home. Literally, that night, my life changed.

The book was The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan. If you’ve ever read it, you should realize how beautiful it was to me. It opened my eyes to parts of Wicca and Witchcraft that I never knew existed and somehow, I wanted them in my life. I can’t point out a specific passage that changed everything. It was everything at once. I finished the book in less than twenty-four hours. And I started my own journey toward recovery of my eating disorder.

Yes, one book did all that. I brought that book to school. I underlined and starred passages that I needed to remember. I kept it in my mind all the time as I tried to work my way up to a semi-normal number of calories a day. And it worked. I ended up purchasing Sylvan’s other book, The Body Sacred. That was probably one of the greatest purchases of my life, as well. I kind of owe everything to her. After that, I began to read more about the spirituality of Wicca, and created my own bond with the God and Goddess that was one of the most beautiful feelings I have ever felt in my life. I felt genuine and I felt new.

For several months, I was deep into my spirituality and practice. For that summer I worked at a very Zen coffee house where incense was always burning and Bob Marley was constantly on the sound system. Everything was organic and healthy and I felt extremely at peace for a whole summer as I prepared to go away to college. I had a wonderful therapist helping me with my “launching phase” who helped me heal my relationship with my mother (that was always a troubling spot for me) . I was in the good place in my life. And I went away to college and my life did a tailspin again.

In college, I gained a good eight or ten pounds. I didn’t really mind too much at first. I was okay. I just started to go to the gym a little more often and I paid more attention to what I was eating. It’s difficult in the dining hall because you don’t exactly know what you’re getting on your plate. Around October, I noticed one of my roommates acting strange. I noticed classic symptoms of Anorexia in her. I saw myself. She was dropping weight like crazy, sleeping way too often, spending hours at the gym and becoming very secluded. It took me two times of addressing the situation to her to get her to fess up.

Meanwhile, I retreated back into my old bad habits, turning to Anorexia as a crutch when I was stressed out about school, friends, or relationships. In just about a month I dropped over ten pounds. I lost all the weight I gained when I arrived, and then some. I was becoming happier with my body, but worse about my soul. I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stop it. I was afraid to lose it. I had just started talking to a guy that I seriously liked and he liked me and I wanted to be lovely.

During this year I also stopped practicing Wicca. I still considered it my religion, but I was not as active as I could have been. I would pray once in a while to try and figure out my life, but it was difficult to keep focused on it. A few days ago, things changed again.

I opened up to one of my friends about my eating disorder. She then told me that she had similar problems, only on the Bulimia side. She had been in and out of treatment and offered to help me any way she could. I told her that I didn’t want help right now. And I lost two more pounds the next day. Losing weight made me feel secure, but it also scared me. I felt a bit out of control when the number kept dropping lower, lower. I was starting to get very worried and unhappy. I would go on drinking binges because I knew that it would make me weight less in the morning. (FYI – NOT a reason to have a drink, especially if you’re underage. I do NOT condone drinking to excess.) I had become reckless. I was scared. I had a breakdown in the shower after going to the gym one day and asked myself – when will I be happy? When will I become complete again? I thought it was about the number, but there was another voice in my head telling me that there was something more out there for me. I had to learn that I was more than my eating disorder.

Somewhere along the way, I tried to eat a little more. Mostly it was to appease everyone else who was worried: my friends, my sister, and somewhere deep in me, myself. Then my second roommate found a great website with a ton of yoga and some meditation. I had completely stopped doing yoga and meditating and I needed that. So I decided to try again and be serious about it. I also pulled out my good ‘ol Dianne Sylvan book again. I wanted to get back to the girl I used to be. I was happiest when I was greeting Divinity each morning and saying goodnight before bed. I was happiest when I could sit outside for hours just staring at the trees and feeling the Earth breathe beneath me. I was happiest when I could fully be myself, in my own skin. Every time a Sabbat comes around, I remember how this religion is Me. Because I always miss celebrating one to the fullest extent that I can because of the completeness that celebration always brings to me.

The beauty of Wicca is seeing the beauty in everything and feeling the magic pulse within yourself and all around you. If I’m not living, I can’t feel that. If I’m not being alive to the greatest extent that I can, there is no point. We are all a part of the Divine. The Divine is not ugly, or fat, or useless. And through learning this, I have to learn to respect myself.

If you’re struggling in any of the same ways that I did – I am feeling your pain. It is a meal-to-meal struggle. And that’s sad because food is one of the most magical pieces of art in the entire world. But it is possible to survive, and spirituality can help. It is not the only tool; you have to want to get better. I was not sure that I wanted to get better, and then I realized that not only did I want to – I needed to. In order to feel the beauty of the world around us, we have to be alive. I’m used to being completely dead inside because of this disease and for the last few days I’ve felt alive. Not completely – but much more than I have in a while.

Recovery is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And now I’m doing it for the second time. It is damn scary and I’m afraid for every day. Yet I continue to try. Some days are worse than others, but I still keep on, and I hope to continue to keep on until I have a healthy relationship with food again.

Do something scary and live. Because I firmly believe that it is worth it. Especially as Pagans, we have the ability to see the world in a way that not everyone can. We have different ways of appreciating the unbelievable qualities all around us. So appreciate it, and live. It’s what I’m trying to do.

Reindeer Folklore

Reindeer Folklore

Santa’s reindeer most probably evolved from Herne, the Celtic Horned God. Eight reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh, representative of the eight solar sabbats. In British lore, the stag is one of the five oldest and wisest animals in the world, embodying dignity, power and integrity. From their late Autumn dramatic rutting displays, stags represented strength, sexuality and fertility. As evidenced by multiple prehistoric excavations of stag antler ritual costumes, the wearing of stag antlers in folk dance recreated the sacred male shaman figure called Lord of the Wild Hunt, Cernunnos, or Herne the Hunter, among others–he who travels between worlds, escorting animal spirits to the afterlife and sparking wisdom and fertility in this world. Likewise, the stag’s branching antlers echo the growth of vegetation. In America, the stag represents male ideals: the ability to “walk one’s talk,” and powerfully, peacefully blend stewardship and care of the tribe with sexual and spiritual integrity.

In Northern European myth, the Mother Goddess lives in a cave, gives birth to the sun child, and can shape shift into a white hind, or doe. Therefore, the white hind was magical, to be protected and never hunted. In myth, graceful running women of the forest–who were actually magical white hinds–brought instant old age or death to hunters who chased them.

To the Celts, all deer were especially symbolic of nurturing, gentle and loving femaleness. White deer hide was used to make tribal women’s clothing. White deer called “faery cattle” were commonly believed to offer milk to fairies. In Britain amongst the Druids, some men experienced life-transforming epiphanies from spiritual visions or visitations by white hinds, balancing and healing their inner feminine energy. In Europe white hinds truly exist, and are many shades of warm white cream-colors, with pale lashes–otherworldly in their peaceful and modest behavior. To many Native American tribes, deer are models of the graceful and patient mother who exhibits unconditional love and healthy, integrated female energy.

Let’s Look At The Folklore About Santa Claus

Folklore of Santa

Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year), and Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats). Julbock or Julbukk, the Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, had his beginnings as carrier for the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf when he makes his rounds to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge.

When Early Christians co-opted the Yule holiday, they replaced the ancient Holly King with religious figures like St. Nicholas, who was said to live in Myra (Turkey) in about 300 A.D. Born an only child of a wealthy family, he was orphaned at an early age when both parents died of the plague. He grew up in a monastery and at the age of 17 became one of the youngest priests ever. Many stories are told of his generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing the bags through the windows where they landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry. Some years later Nicholas became a bishop–hence the bishop’s hat or miter, long flowing gown, white beard and red cape.

When the Reformation took place, the new Protestants no longer desired St. Nicholas as their gift-giver as he was too closely tied to the Catholic Church. Therefore, each country or region developed their own gift-giver. In France he was known as Pare Noel. In England he was Father Christmas (always depicted with sprigs of holly, ivy, or mistletoe). Germany knew him as Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man). When the communists took over in Russia and outlawed Christianity, the Russians began to call him Grandfather Frost, who wore blue instead of the traditional red. To the Dutch, he was Sinterklaas (which eventually was mispronounced in America and became Santa Claus). La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver toys into the stockings of Italian children. These Santas were arrayed in every color of the rainbow–sometimes even in black. But they all had long white beards and carried gifts for the children.

All of these Santas, however, never stray far from his earliest beginnings as god of the waning year. As witches, we reclaim Santa’s Pagan heritage.