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    Holiday Customs Origins

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    ScarletteSpider

    Posts : 16
    Join date : 2013-01-13
    Age : 58
    Location : Denver, CO, USA

    Holiday Customs Origins

    Post by ScarletteSpider on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:33 am

    Do you ever wonder why we do and decorate the way we do at Christmas? Easter? Halloween? They all have roots in ancient Pagan practices for the Equinox and Solstice celebrations of those times of year.

    Christmas has begged, borrowed and stolen many practices and customs from Druidism which the Winter Solstice (December 21st) being the longest night of the year. In ancient times it was believed that God and the Sun are the same thing, because without the Sun all things would perish and life would cease for all things. So the 12 days of Yule Tide was the midwinter religious observance, that starts at sunset of December 21st and ends sunrise of January 1st. If you look at the lyrics of "The 12 Days of Christmas" which was originally the "12 Days of Yule Tide" you get clues as to what was done on each day of the 12 days of celebration. All were things that required an entire community to accomplish, to help tide them over for the rest of winter, and to prepare for spring. And some was just because everyone loves a good party! Cheeses were made (maids a milking), foul was prepared for feasts and winter stores in the larders (just how many different birds does the song quote? lol), and young men (lords a leaping) did their best to impress young ladies (ladies dancing) to convince them to accept proposals of marriage (5 golden rings).

    But they also believed that during Winter Solstice night that God/Sun would take a long winter's nap, and would require much cajoling and convincing to wake up. They actually believed that without this the Sun may very well not rise the next morning. All night vigils of storytelling, genealogies, songs and prayer would precede the dawn "Drumming Up the Sun". It is why we read “The Night Before Christmas” to our children at bedtime on Christmas Eve, and why we go caroling to bring good cheer to shut-in's, the elderly and disabled unable to commute to the community centers/halls the festivities were being held. But much of how we decorate our homes is steeped in ancient Druidic practices that would entice God/Sun to rise Winter Solstice morning.

    The evergreen Yule Tree was brought indoors and decorated as a symbol of God's promise of everlasting life. That no matter how cold or bleak winter was, the evergreens reminded us that even then there is life on and in Mother Earth. Yule Trees were decorated with strings of popcorn and cranberries, citrus poked with pins with bright colored beads and cloves not only to smell good and look pretty, but to remind God/Sun that He was to provide a bountiful harvest next year. The decorated oranges, lemons, limes and apples is why most Christmas ornaments are round! Apples in particular because if you slice it in half just right, the seeds make up a five pointed star in the middle. The strings of popcorn and cranberries is why we hang garland!

    But the best part is the lights, which were originally small candles which you see depicted in Victorian era Yule Trees. These were to honor the long time friends and sometimes foes of humans, the Faeries! Every good Druid household had practices that honored Faeries, because to be on their bad side could mean all sorts of catastrophes. They were blamed for every ill thing that would come to pass in a home or village, so keeping on their good side was of tantamount importance. Granted the modern day electrical Faerie lights not only mimic Will O' Wisps more accurately than candles do, and are a lot safer and prettier!

    It is also why we have so many bells. Originally it was the ringing of bells that helped Faeries get their wings, and not just their kissing cousins Angels. In older times there were bells everywhere in everyday life. Cash registers rung a bell when the drawer opened, shop doors had a bell on them to alert the proprietor of customers entering or leaving, trains and carriages used bells, large households with servants used bells, alarms of all sorts used bells. But look at our everyday lives now, where are the bells? All replaced with electronic beeps and sound bytes. Even church steeples don't use real bells anymore, but digital sound recording piped through PA systems. So how are all those Faeries and Angels going to be promoted and get their wings? In the 70's people started to notice the growing absence of bells, and started a new tradition. We now put jingle bells at the first crossing of shoe laces on our shoes. So with every step we make up for the lack of bells ringing all year long! We also hang them from the doorknob on the inside of the front door. We wear the jingle bells from Thanksgiving till New Year's Day, but in my household the doorbells stay up all year long. I have special ones that I use for Yule Tide. It's an easy to make craft project from felt scraps. It's about 4 feet long and looks like a fireplace with a long chimney. Sticking out of the top is Santa's boots, and in the hearth is Santa's face. Down the length of the chimney is all the jingle bells in a column.

    The wreath you hang on your door, and nowadays some people even put them on the grill of their cars and trucks, loooove that! These originally were symbolic in many ways of the Wheel of Life, known also as the Pentacle. The Yule Wreath is suppose to have a red ribbon strung through the middle to make a five point star representing one spoke for each of the elements, Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Spirit. Spirit being that of the Oneness between Man and God, and that through this communion all manner of things are made manifest. The circle of the Yule Wreath is made up of things that symbolize eternal life and the Wheel of the Year moving from season to season, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn and how we are all connected, man, God and Nature. Things like evergreen boughs, holly, maple and oak leaves, acorns, pine cones, and in later years poinsettias all adorn the Yule Wreath to represent the things that household wants to come into their home the next year. Druid Lore through Celtic Tree Oghams teaches that every tree, bush, flower and plant has a correspondence to something that brings health, nourishment and spiritual fulfillment to man.

    It is also for that reason there is the tradition of the Yule Log, made up of nine sacred woods, with the core being of an oak log that was salvaged from the previous year's Yule Log. This symbolized not only what it was of the good things you wanted to bring into your home and lives, but what you wanted to banish as the bad things from entering your home and lives as well, and were lit and burned on Winter Solstice Eve for the all night vigil. Yule Logs fell out of favor during the Western Expansion in the United States because wood was too precious a commodity for building the Wild West to be used for ceremonial firewood. But in Pagan households it has been making a comeback in recent decades, so if you are a supplier of firewood, you would do well to do a little research in Celtic Tree Oghams, find out what the nine sacred woods are and make up ready made Yule Log bundles to sell at Christmas. Advertise them on the web and people will sell you out every year I guarantee!

    Finally we come to Ol' Saint Nick himself, he was taken from the Yule Tide known as Father Winter. He would be dressed in a robe of red with white fur trim with a hood, carried a staff of oak adorned with oak and maple leaves and acorns. On Winter Solstice night he would be known as The Oak King who reigned from Samhain (Halloween) until Winter Solstice Eve. He then would pass the crown to The Holly King Father Winter and his robes would change from red to green. Red symbolizing that the Earth and life died on Samhain and returned at Winter Solstice. His staff would change from oak to pine, and the leaves and acorns would change to holly, mistletoe, evergreen sprigs and juniper berries. The Oak King would carry a lamp in his other hand, and that changed to a large sack with presents for The Holly King Father Winter. It is from these symbols we get the modern day Santa which during the early 20th century has been forever iconisized by Coca Cola as the jolly St. Nick we all know and love. There is a wonderful book that came out in the 90's called “The Story of Santa Claus” which when you try to find an author's name simply says, “Scribbler Elf”...lol..too cute. But it is a large picture book that tells all the historical facts about Santa and how he came to be and all of his changing incarnations through time. It is done in such a way as to keep belief in Santa alive for children and adults alike and is a marvelous read. It is what was read aloud to my children, and now read aloud to my grandchildren Winter Solstice Eve. And we still read aloud “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. These days to deny children of Pagan households the delights of Christmas would be cruel. But they get one present every day of Yule Tide, and get to open the vast majority of presents Christmas Day, and keeps peace in our households lol.

    Now for Easter, which in ancient times Druidism calls Ostara after the Goddess that reigns over Spring, fertility, and love. Much of what we see in Easter decorations is taken from the ancient observances that this was the time of year that honored those things that would bring fertility to livestock, crops and children to our households. Rabbits because...well you know the old saying...”they fornicate like rabbits” lol. Eggs because it is not only a symbol of new life at it's beginning, but because they also symbolize good heath.

    The reason we decorate and hide eggs, and then to hunt them is an ancient Druid practice that was a form of prognostication (fortune telling.) The High Priestess and Merlin (High Priest, Merlin is a rank of highest title among male Druid clergy, NOT a name. It is equal with Vizier or Court Mage;) would put all the novices and acolytes to work boiling eggs, preparing dyes and inks, and then decorate the eggs. 13 of these eggs would be pulled aside to be decorated by the HP and M themselves. Each of these eggs would be adorned with one of 13 sacred symbols that would bring some sort of great boon to the finder. Some of these are a heart for finding the love of your life, a four leaf clover for good luck, a dove for inner peace (quite important if you had a curmudgeon or mentally ill person in your village,) an anchor for a long sea voyage and adventure, (important to the farmers son that wants to be a sailor), a crossed hammer and pick ax (important to the farmers son that wants to learn a craft or trade), a wheat bundle (important to the sailor's son or trades/craftmen's son that want to be a farmer), a golden ring (important to the spinsters that want to get married).

    You can see how this device was used by Druid clergy to settle all manner of common disputes in households. If your son or daughter got the right special egg, then the parents could no longer argue against their offspring wishes because the egg would be considered as Divine Providence and not to be argued against unless you wanted the wrath of the Gods upon your head. Not to mention disfavor with the clergy, which was tantamount to excommunication, and the entire family would be shunned by everyone for generations to come. Not a good thing to do when in those days Druid clergy acted in every capacity much like ancient Rabbi’s did. They were not only spiritual leaders but also healers, historians, scientists, Bards, judges and counselors. You put yourself in mortal danger to no longer have the favor of the Druids, because it meant you could not be healed when sick or injured, your children could not be educated, you could not get counseling or judgments for disputes, nor could you receive Blessings of any kind. It was like signing your own death warrant to be in disfavor with Druid clergy.

    So how did rabbits become Peter Cottontail that delivers the eggs? 18th century children's literature, when the printing press started to be used to publish the growing demand by the middle and upper classes for reading materials. Reading then was as popular a pastime as watching movies and television is today. Publishers commissioned authors to take old stories that were originally told through oral traditions for adults, to be dumbed down and made more acceptable by the dictates of religious, governmental and societies standards of the day. There is still much debate as to whom the original culprit author was that created Peter Cottontail and his egg delivering exploits, and a few different schools of theory depending on which set of facts you lean more towards. Personally I think it was a combination of contributors that over time collectively evolved into Peter Cottontail and not just one author.

    Halloween is my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons. The foremost being that it is a scientific fact that around 6 weeks after birth is when a baby's eyes begin to focus properly and see the world around then clearly for the first time. What ever season it is then is usually the one that is imprinted on the mind and soul as your favorite for your entire life. I was born in August, so I saw the world clearly for the first time in Autumn with Halloween decorations everywhere. As I grew older, as a child my penchant for the dramatic was feed wholesale by the prospect of getting to dress up once a year as anything my imagination could conceive. Then later into adulthood as I began my studies as Native American clergy, and learned the ancient meanings and traditions of the season, fell in love with it wholeheartedly.

    It is a very misunderstood holiday these days, steeped in bad propaganda from centuries of prejudice and discrimination, not the least of which resulted in The Women's Holocaust, aka The Burning Times, aka The Spanish Inquisition. Originally this was the time of year that the Druid calendar calls “The Day Out Of Time”. Before the advent of the Georgian calendar which is what we use the world over today, the year was divided into 13 months of 28 days each in harmony with the celestial movements of the planets in our solar system. In particular with the Moon. Halloween/All Hallows/Samhain was the one day a year that had no number or designation of any kind that fell between the last day of October and the first day of November. It was the day that Druids and Wiccans would honor their ancestors for the sacrifices they made in their lifetimes so that your lives could be better. It is way in some religions and Christian denominations it is called “The Day of the Dead.”

    During The Women's Holocaust, Pagan practices could not only get you killed, but your family would have to pay The Inquisition for your arrest, incarceration, trial and execution. In the majority of the cases it would bankrupt an entire family into poverty and destitution. So to scare away authorities and curiosity seekers, to protect their identities, and to be able to honor their ancestors with this religious observance, many things came into practice.

    Jack O' Lanterns being the most prevalent and popular, they were hollowed out and carved into scarey faces to be worn as masks/helmets to hide the identities of the Pagans that were having a Samhain bonfire ceremony in the woods. So if the authorities or curiosity seekers were to witness their ceremony, the participants could not be easily identified. And in most cases would scare them away since it would be assumed that these fearsome creatures in the woods were demons from hell. This is also why playing dress up became part of the holiday customs, which evolved from trying to hide identities from authorities, to masquerade balls to trick or treating dress up.

    Trick or Treating is another custom from ancient times. Used to be that the town healer or midwife was also some sort of practicing Pagan, usually one that honored Mother Earth. The practice then was that in order to continue being able to cure the sick, treat the injured successfully, you had to replenish those gifts once a year or you would have nothing left to give of your energies for the coming year. The more generous you were, the more you would replenish of your healing/psychic gifts. When others in the villages noticed how well this worked, everyone began to copy the custom. Thus children would go from house to house asking for either a Trick or a Treat. Not all households could afford to give something away, but could be generous with a gift of entertainment that would suit just as well. But there is an entire rhyme that is suppose to be said at the doors and not just Trick or Treat which goes:

    Trick or Treat
    Trick or Treat
    Give me something
    Good to eat
    Or a Trick
    That's really slick
    Or your dog Rover
    Will get really sick.

    The rhyme implies that if you didn't give a sweet or a trick, that the things in their goody bags they didn't want would get fed to your dog until he overeats and gets sick. Yeah, not a nice thing to do but children will be children no matter what century it is lol. So please teach your children and grandchildren to say the rhyme the correct way? To just say trick or treat alone without the rest just sounds like a case of the Greedy Galloping Gimmies as Bearenstain Bears would say.

    Trick and Treating would usually save the town healer/Witches house for last, because this is also the night the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Meaning that spiritual energy and psychic phenomenon would get a big boost to being clearer, more accurate and more easily accomplished. It is also believed that it is easier to commune with the deceased on this night as well because of that thin veil. So you would save her house for last to get your divinational readings done before returning home with your loot. This could take many forms depending on what your town healer's medium was that she was most proficient with. Tarot Cards, Scrying with crystal balls, water basins, fire gazing, or animal entrails (yeah I know, that last one sounds super duper icky to me too;) throwing of the bones or Runes Stones, I-Ching coins, Astrology Charts, Ouija Boards, Palmistry, Tasseography (Tea Leaves or Coffee Grounds), Phrenology (hand writing analysis), Iridiology (reading the spots on the iris of the eyes, still used in diagnosis by medical doctors today), Dream Interpretation, and the list goes on.

    Much of what we decorate our homes with comes from ancient Pagan symbolic, the things that would represent that we were honoring our ancestors that had passed beyond the veil before us. Spiders and webs because they symbolized our connection with Nature, the Spider being a symbol for Mother Earth and Mother Nature and the web representing how we are all connected to each other through Her weaving. Skeletons and Skulls to represent the ancestors themselves, with skulls in particular symbolizing wisdom because it is where the brain is stored in the human body and thus where wisdom is kept. Bats and Besom's (the proper name of a Witch's ceremonial broom, not the one you clean house with but the one used in rituals), because they are symbols of the soul's ability to astral travel. When you hear about witches flying on broomsticks, it is a metaphor for astral travel, extended consciousness, remote viewing, and all manner of out of body experiences, which on this night is reportedly easier to accomplish.

    So now you know a brief history of where our popular customs and traditions practiced on these holidays come from.






      Current date/time is Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:10 am