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!”