Category Archives: Religion & Spirituality

Winter Rites: Coven Yule Vs Church Service

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!”

Poison under Altar (aka Return of the Mouse)

Exactly 2 years 1 month and 2 day ago..  I woke up on my 40th birthday, with the running of a small mouse over my naked back!  There had been the odd sounds..but until that very moment, I had had no actual proof that a rodent had infested my room.. and I sleep on the floor on a futon-mattress (due to my bad back).   For the next few weeks it was a disturbed time..  sleeping downstairs in the sitting room, on the sofa etc.   Eventually the mouse went away (probably due to the ..ahem poison we carefully placed in corners of my bedroom).

Until the day before Christmas eve..  5 days ago, that is!

Yeap, while I was doing this very blog (one about neighbours?) I heard scratching sounds by the wall..near the room’s fireplace (where my pagan altar is).   I was disturbed several times that night…and around 5am while I watched in full room light, a mouse peeped out from just behind a potted plant next to the altar!    Needless to say, irritably, I packed my beddings and went to sleep on the single bed in the spare room.   Next day I went to stay with my partner for Christmas of course…(followed by the events of bad back injury etc).   Today I returned, and while checking …the same mouse  ran out from under one cupboard ..across the floor (2 meters) and under my altar!

There were 3 sets of plastic containers on various parts of the room floor..  with mouse-poison (you know the stuff..   greenish coloured grains)..  which had been placed there few days ago by my mother and sister..   But obviously, it hadn’t worked! The mouse was still there, having left evidence of chewing bits of news paper and carpet in corners!

Am in the small room tonight..  nursing a bad back that’s been through the hands of an osteopath and quite raw..   but I’ve taken care to mix grated cheddar cheese with each of the poisoned grain-packs in my room floor.   Hopefully it will entice the rodent forward.  It’s some sort of anti-coagulant. (Interestingly, on the box it came from..there are clear instructions on what sort of treatment medical doctors should give a human.. if a human accidentally ingests the poison!)

The thing is.. I have had discussions with people…. They ask of me- how could a nature loving pagan like me think of killing a mouse?!   Such an argument can only come from a person who never had a mouse run over their back in the early hours of the morning!    My childhood was in an ordinary urban household near crowded capital in Sri Lanka- where I’ve seen dangerous snakes fall from the roof into the house (once into my sister’s cot), or very large rats run about the house (and some get entombed into the walls by my grandmother who seals their burrows!). Some keep mice as pets, yes.  But I don’t have to- and I don’t have to let them run about my back either.

Even in Hindu mythology, the mouse / rat is a demon in disguise who attacked the elephant headed god Ganesh..who promptly tamed the demon and made it his personal `vehicle’!   (That’s why you always see Lord Ganesh seated on a large mouse!)

2 years ago I had the problem, and it has returned- demon strikes back?!   But then I have poisoned grains just under the altar. Now that one is weird even for me..  an actual tool of death, right under my sacred place.  But that’s the fireplace…through which the mouse is coming out.  In some ways, I see it as my sacred space being invaded by a demon… or rather, the mouse is a symbol of an alien unwanted energy trying to permeate my inner sanctum.   So I will fight it..  in the way  best can..  and I’ll tell you when I have won!

Happy Yule

Birth of the Sun-Child

Winter Solstice – when the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn..  shortest day..longest night..!

This year it’s happening on Thursday 22nd December 2011.. at 5.30am (GMT). That’s the astrology.
Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and New-Agers  celebrate this – and have done so for thousands of years – and consider the Sun-child being born.  Makes sense as after this, the days get longer…Sun gets stronger ..growing   its full force by Summer Solstice.
Of course this has been somewhat  `acquired’ by Christianity, and repackaged as celebration fo the birth of Christ (baby Jesus!).   Any decent effort at historical research will show that Christ was not born in December, but in earlier part of the year (if we can even consider the birth of Christ as `real’).
I have no problems with Christianity.  Brought up as a Hindu, I also went to the nearby Church with family – once in a  back in Ceylone in the early 70’s.   No one would deny the `magic of this time’..
These days I look forward to the annual special show of Doctor Who on Christmas day..   and yes, I have a Yule tree in my home, and it has lights…and I think about those Christmassy feelings of childhood gone by..