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Article Specs

Article ID: 2238

VoxAcct: 286445

Section: holidays

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 6,566

Times Read: 12,821

Sharing Traditions

Author: Diana Rajchel [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 12th. 1998
Times Viewed: 12,821

When time comes to celebrate Sabbats, I freeze. I can handle Esbats with an ease borne of the Muses; I can write spells and rituals for the odd needs of life with wit and fun and joy. But when the sun turns a spoke in the Wheel of Life, I find myself firmly stuck in a rut that doesn't leave room for inspiration to fit in the rut with me.

So this year, I tried to plan ahead and work out my observances around the usual interruptions and objections during my family's celebration. I had simply planned not to travel eight hours to visit my parents over the winter holidays. Instead, I chose to go on a cruise with my husband rather than resort to a secretive rite after my parents were abed, feeling hopelessly like the teenager I once was.

The first monkeywrench came in our finances: after several events in the summer that led to my unemployment and my partner's hospitalization, we simply could not afford the cruise. The next monkeywrench came in a positive reaction. After much meditation and prayer, my mother has decided to accept my religion. She told me that she realized that there are several roads to salvation, and that I "always was one to do things the hard way."

I know my mother and her way of thinking. In every other aspect of our lives except religion, she raised my sister and I to appreciate diversity and nature. When one of us ventured into an area unfamiliar to the rest of the family, we were expected to SHARE and whatever we shared was then adopted into our familial practice.

Holidays are one of her favorite areas to incorporate these ideas; because of this, I can't remember the last time we had a traditional meal at Thanksgiving. Since my father is Polish, even though our family was never Catholic, she somehow obtained a wafer blessed by a priest with the nativity printed on it that we share for good wishes. When my sister returned from living a year in Japan, I could not identify several of the items on the dinner table the following Christmas. Since my mother has now decided to accept differing religious practice outside of straightforward monotheism, eventually she will likely ask that I contribute to the eclectic atmosphere of our family gatherings. Me, the same person who feels wobbly every time I pick up my athame to conduct a Sabbat ritual, may be asked to incorporate some of my own shaky Sabbat practices into the smooth running if somewhat weird traditions of my family.

With the exception of religion, my family is usually very eclectic in its practices. However, because religion is so diverse even in extended family, I feel that ritual of my kind does not fit into the family holiday atmosphere. My sister dabbles from day to day in Shinto and Druid paths (don't ask), my father and my mate both raise their glasses in case there IS a god or gods and my mother attends church as though it were a vitamin.

So for the time being, in case I am asked this year, I offer for your use as well as my own something simple that satisfies the need to observe simply that the solstice is sacred and that all the practices within my family have value.

My ritual that crosses the borders of Yule and Christmas to give my relatives a liason between Christian and Wiccan practice: time honored story telling, with visual aids. I can even use the old trick of adopting a practice from another religion:

The youngest person in the family has the job every year of setting the nativity underneath the tree. Until my niece was born, this was my job. Now it's my niece's job, although she is still a little young to resist the impulse to play with the camels and the wisemen. Setting the nativity inevitably becomes a group activity because she does need supervision.

When time comes to assemble the nativity, I plan to sit down with my niece and my mother under the tree and take the baby Jesus in my hand and the Mary figure in the other hand, and tell about how the Goddess loved her partner so much that she followed him into a dark place but could only spend a little time with him before she had to return to the world, ...and how she was sad and lonely during the winter because she faced life without her beloved.

On the day the sun was at its lowest point, she discovered her pregnancy and had the greatest joy she had known because she knew this was her beloved's way of coming back to her. I will then hand the figures to my mother, and have her tell the story of the angels coming to Mary and announcing that she would give birth to Jesus. We can while away the hours passing the figures of the nativity back and forth, telling stories about them until we have no more tales to tell.

In so many of the dominant traditions and lore, I see so much of the pagan tradition still hiding. To me, Mary is one more Goddess, and Jesus one more sun god -- although those names never reach my private pantheon. When I hear the tales of Santa Clause, I think of a Christmas tradition in Germany where St. Nicholas was accompanied by the rather mean Schwartze Peter - who had horns, much like a deity I know and love. The rest of the year, tales of elves and fairies belong to Pagans and children, but during December, they go to advertisers and pagan and non-pagan parents who thrill at their childrens' excitement.

I would like to, in this private family affair, awaken the deeper meanings of the winter season with a pagan flavor. Stories are the way to do it. We are a religion that calls our sacred stories myths and can acknowledge that there is likely mythology in all religions, whether it is perceived as truth or as a simply story to explain the universe. A myth earns its label for the purpose behind it, and keeps its label depending on how well it fills its purpose: myths are meant to describe and explain the phenomena in the world around us. At the same time, a good myth fills the deeper need of the human mind to develop a symbolic system that connects all of us by bearing a subtext that crosses all human experience.

Both the story of Jesus and his birth and the Sun God in his many forms and his own birth fill that story. The final message, no matter the religion, is about hope. I could trot out candles, invoke the gods and have a huge affair for my family. However, the candles and the prayers have no meaning to my family members -- my experience in ritual is internal, something that took a great deal of training and a great deal more belief to conceive of and appreciate. But stories and myths -- even if the story has no objects or names, a good one will always have emotion.

Emotion is something we all understand and can communicate to each other, whether or not we relate to the symbols used to communicate it. This way, I can tell the joy I feel at Yule, and the peace I find in knowing that the wheel turns, and my mother can relate her own joy and peace in her own beloved Lord. Perhaps my niece and any other participants will even notice the subtext: that in the long run, the lessons of the stories are the same: there is hope, there is joy, and even though to world is dark, a light can shine within.

I think I rather like the idea of my recommended new "tradition". When my niece grows up, she can tell us tales of her own. If I have children, they too can eventually add to the family lore that takes root underneath the plastic evergreen. Now if only I could come up with something to say to the God and Goddess during the time beyond "Congratulations. I hear you're expecting!" I keep thinking that my private Yule ritual will involve a bubble-gum cigar. But perhaps I should save that for the season when my Lord is born.

Bio: Diana Rajchel Olsen is a human. She also serves on the High Court in a cybercoven and edits "Shadowzine", the ezine from the covenstead. She currently resides in southern Minnesota, where she acts as an occult advisor to a student/community pagan organization. She is attempting to finish her degree in mass communications this year and is trying to break into the hard copy publishing field. Articles by her can be found on the web at The Megalith, Gaea's Navel and at her own website at


Diana Rajchel

Location: San Francisco, California

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