Article ID: 4495
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 6,975
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Posted: December 25th. 2000
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Most Pagans still come from mixed families. Not all of our relatives are Pagan and indeed, for many first-generation Pagans, he or she may be the only Pagan that anyone else in their biological brood knows-assuming that they know that there is a Pagan in the family at all. So many of us this week will be with our bio-families partaking of Christmas hams, tearing open the poinsettia-printed-paper gifties and maybe even joining in the not-too-weird-for-us-to-deal-with carols 'sung by the fire'. Hopefully, we can all enjoy the Holidays for the wider and deeper themes which cross all religious and political lines: peace on earth and goodwill toward the guy that cut us off in traffic. Okay, maybe just that first one then. Whether you are Pagan or Christian, Jew or Buddhist, Atheist or Agnostic, Muslim or Hindu, Shaman or Shinto, we trust that your Holiday Season will be one of love, peace and general good humor. The 'good humor' part tends to be the biggie. Maintaining a sense of humor during what most Western psychologists denote, as the most stressful time of the year isn't easy. There is always something...
Hogmanay IS Really Something...
While many Pagans celebrate the New Year at Samhain, others define the end/beginning time as Yule at the Winter Solstice. In Scotland, it gets even quirkier with the strange custom known as Hogmanay. If the Scots ever needed a good excuse to party, this was it! (Wren's family comes from the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. She assures us that even today in a Scot family 'any excuse' indeed will do!) Gie it laldie! Bring yer lump 'o coal -for good luck to the house or pub ye visit- and prepare to join the The Broons Virtual New Year Party! In some parts of Scotland, boys go from house to house singing traditional songs and leaving a blessing of 'good luck' upon the inhabitants.
One of the traditional folkways associated with Hogmanay is 'First Footing'. According to Hogmanay Origins:
"Hogmanay has always been important to the Scots. For many years it was customary to lavish gifts on friends and relatives. There is often the firing of canon (not usually at the same friends and relatives), and the sounding of ship's sirens to indicate Midnight. It is then traditional to leave your own house and visit (or "first foot") your neighbors. In doing so, it is important that you should take some gifts with you. A bottle of whisky, a lump of coal and some type of food. (Traditionally oatcakes, black bun or shortbread, depending on the region). Those who stay at home generally hope that the first person to visit them will be tall, dark and handsome. (This is thought to be a throwback to Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep usually meant trouble.) It was also the tradition that you should clear of all your debts before you saw in the New Year. This was to be a clean break, a fresh start."
Which brings us to that probably-secular-turned-religious-returned-to-secular custom: the New Year's Resolution. Most Pagans have already made their intentions, wishes for the coming year at either Samhain or Yule or both. It is inevitable however that they will most likely get asked about a New year's "resolution" at some point this coming week either by non-Pagan family/friends or at work. As a matter of fact, we here at TWV are going to ask you this week in Pagan perspectives! There are even New Year's Resolution virtual greeting cards available along with the more classic Blue Mountain e-cards. Who knew? A little bit of Auld Lang Syne comes with the opening up of the new calendar that you got for Yule. Probably because after all of the one after the other festivities of the last few months, the next official- off-from-work-holiday now seems so very far away.
And Then There Is That Wren Boys Thing...
Yep, Wren will be lying low again this year on December 26th. That is the day when the Wren Boys are afoot. According to the Celtic.Net Encyclopedia of the Celts: "Druids considered the wren 'supreme among all birds.' It was the sacred bird of the Isle of Man, which used to be a shrine of the dead and the dwelling-place of the Moon Goddess who cared for pagan souls.
It was the Druid King of the Birds and auguries were drawn from its chirping; in Celtic lore the wren is prophetic and the direction from which it calls is highly significant. The bird was sacred to Taliesin. In Scotland it was the Lady of Heaven's Hen and killing it was considered extremely unlucky; but in England and France there was a Hunting of the Wren on St Stephen's Day, 26 December, a ceremony which rose from an ancient pre-Christian rite. Hunters dressed ritually, killed a wren, hung it on a pole and took it in procession, demanding money; they then buried it in the churchyard.
It was associated with the underworld and these hunting rituals were connected with the winter solstice and the death of vegetation. In Ireland it was known as 'Fionn's doctor' and was hunted by the Wren Boys in much the same ritual as in Britain and France on St Stephens Day. The bird was representing the Sleeping Lord who, whether Cronos, Bran or Arthur must cede place, however great his reign. "
Hunting The Wren, thank the Gods, has become a symbolic custom rather than an actual feat these days. But it still makes Wren -and Wrens everywhere- just a wee bit nervous. It's a good thing that Wrens also happen to have some Friends in high places! "The wren's nest as said to be protected by lightning. Whoever tried to steal wren's eggs or baby wrens would find their house struck by lightning and their hands would shrivel up. Lightning was the weapon of the thunder bull-god Taranis, who often inhabited oak trees, and the wren was sacred to Taranis."-(Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm: The Druid Animal Oracle: Working with the Sacred Animals of the Druid Tradition).
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