On the night of 23rd of December, I celebrated the Winter Solstice in a private coven (withchy) Yule ritual in south London. Then on the night of 24th of December, I attended a small local Church service in north London. Quite a bizarre one for many pagans and Witches, am sure. Many pagans have woken up to it, and have been previously unfulfilled or unsatisfied Christians. So when they hear about an initiated Wiccan / pagan going to a Christmas service ..it must raise questions such as – has he started to waver? is he going over to the other side?
Unusually for our coven, especially at Yule, we had 5 guys (Priests or male Witches) and 1 gal (High Priestess). Almost 5-6 of the other Priestesses had not turned up due to one or other personal circumstances. Initially, when I turned up, the other 4 guys were almost at a point of giving the Yule ritual a miss and going straight on to the celebrations, feasting and sipping of the wines! But after some discussions, we decided to do a rather informal ritual.. (which ended up having almost all the ritual components anyway, albeit in different order at places!). Yule is about the birth of the Sun-child, so considering the numbers present, I suggested the Priestess holding a Cauldron, and the 5 Priests lighting (in turn) candles inside the Cauldron. That seemed a good symbolic ritual.. where the Cauldron is the birthplace of light!
Following day, I went to be with my partner for the Christmas / festive 3-4 days.. and we went to a local church for a short service. Some bus-driver talked about Jesus, sin, loving God, following the rule of the God (people who sinned can;t go to heaven) and Gods’s love and own sacrifice (God sent his only Son into mankind to take on all of our sins, so mankind can be free to enter heaven). Now this `sin’ part was not something neither my partner nor I ever accept or agree. Needless to say, we believe we are all born free and pure – no sin – full stop! It’s what we do there after that creates a sort of `good/ bad’ person. Sadly, seeing that this sin-issue is at the heart of Christianity makes it impossible for any pagan to digest.
We were not there to infiltrate, nor recruit, spy, disrupt or anything of the sort. We were looking for a bit of rejoicing.. festive experience. Singing..!
To give it perspective, I must mention – few weeks back, we had both unexpectedly went to a Service at St.Paul’s Cathedral in Central London, and it had been hea
venly..the ethereal singing that echoed through that Cathedral. I guess we wanted a re-experience of that. It could also be that after many years of being practicing Witches/ pagans, we are feeling certain elements to be lacking. Christianity may have come only 2000 years ago, in contrast to Paganism that has existed for many thousand years, but at least in modern times – pagan celebrations of Yule does not seem to nearly even match the festive atmosphere and celebrations of Christmas, it’s choir and carol singing, the lights and decorations. And it is that festive element that we seem to miss, and sought in that Church service.
Another factor to add – one of my friend- a Christian – came to a pagan open ritual recently.. only few days prior to this – to see what it’s like. So I guess we were just completing the exchange – not that it was some contrived exchange. Truth is – we all seem to have did it for our own personal genuine reasons.
In the case of my partner and me, (despite my bad-back experience which started on Christmas day).. we had a quiet and personal few days together – sipping wine, watching period dramas on TV, Xmas films on old videos (Scrooged, Miracle of 34th street..) and having the Christmas meal for 2 evenings in a row – with a X’mas / yule tree and plenty of candles around us. That in the end gave us what we had been searching for – which neither coven nor church seem to provide for us.
This all reminds me of the old pagan principle – “If that which you seek you do not find within, you will never find it without!”
7 thoughts on “Winter Rites: Coven Yule Vs Church Service”
My mother in law is a vicar, so last year I attended her usual midnight mass service on Christmas Eve. Despite what it presented on the surface, I actually found very little in it that was completely Christian. Much of it seemed very Pagan to me. So I think that we Pagans can most certain rejoice in some of the Christmas celebrations if we look to the deeper meaning of it all. This works for me, anyway! 🙂
Agree with you there Elle. After all, Christianity took the symbols from old pagan traditions, so it’s all in there. As I was saying to Lizzie’s post, am more interested in the interface – how we can all get along, rather than interfaith – which I don’t think works (to be honest). xx
That is soooooo interesting. In previous years I have been very anti-christian in the run-up to Yule and made a big issue out of my difference. However, this year, I have been reconnecting with my born-again Christian daughter. We both made an effort to be respectful of each other’s beliefs for the first time and had a lovely time together on the 23rd. I sang Christian carols, both at the Chelsea Pensioner’s home in Richmond Park and at Wimbledon shopping mall with my local choir. Funnily enough, I really enjoyed that this year and was happy to celebrate both. I eventually got tired of how much music is chrisstmassy on the radio but enjoyed singing along for a few days. Good luck with your blog. xxx Happy (non-pagan) New Year 😉
Hia Lizzie, wow – am pleased to hear of your experience, especially reconnecting with your daughter. Your post sort of gives me a bit of nudge – that am looking at this pagan-christian interface (not interfaith) the better way. I do think pagans have made too much of a fuss, and personally I don’t want to carry on old `feuds’ (if you know what I mean).
Didn’t realise you have a blog.. Will get around to exploring blog-world and yours. 🙂 xx
PS: there is a world of difference between St Paul’s and a local church – LOL!
That ritual may have worked out aptly as what struck me was that the 5 male coveners lit a candle and placed it in the cauldron held by the 6th covener to represent the birth of the new sun. This was placing at lighting the fire in the 6th place which to me represented Tiphareth, the place of Sun/Christos consciousness.
On going to church I know what you mean. There is more of a feeling of celebration and I also feel it’s to do with the singing of carols. I find myself singing along when I encounter carol singing in the street. Maybe that’s what we need – some hymns to the Sun and the Rebirth of the Sun. The Ancient Egyptians were good at that. I don’t mean those parodies of xmas carols that pagans often sing, I mean create some beautiful songs and maybe do some carol singing of our own.
I also love the stained glass windows in the churches. It’s that same thing as loving the colours and hues produced by the sun through the tree tops in the woods.
Yes, finding it within. Really it doesn’t matter where you are. The way that we perceive the outer world is determined, usually overdetermined by our inner perception. That was brought home to me from within me when a few weeks ago, I was walking through the streets and saw a cluttering of roadworks and rubbish in a side street. My immediate thought was “what a dismal place this is” then I looked upwards and just behind this was a tree with the most beautiful pink blossom against the backcloth of a clear blue sky. Then I felt a warm positive glow towards the place and I could not possibly see it as dismal. The roadworks even looked like part of the artwork. So we are actually the creators of how things, festivals, places and themes look and feel to us. We produce the effects or special effects.
It has just occurred to me that maybe us pagans should write more praising hymn.Take a leaf out of the trees of life from those who fly closer to the sun than us do. Im thinking of the dawn choruses which are salutations to the rising sun…
Thanks Rose for the esoteric analysis. Good to know about Tiphareth. So much more in your reply that I want to get back to.. when I have a bit time next week. But one quick thing- why are you not blogging? With your experiences of scientific thoughts and tarot/ psychic matters, I think you really should do blogs.. It will be fab!! xx