Someone recently asked me, at the gym of all places, why I wear a pentagram. This was an unusual question because ninety-nine percent of the time, I realize that if people see the nearly two inch wide wooden pentagram hanging on my chest I will get this question, so I usually hang it up in my locker first. I just had a lot on my mind stepping into the sauna yesterday (the BEST post-workout respite) and neglected to take it off.
The person asking me this was an older lady of Chinese heritage, and we see each other often in the gym (not often enough, I need to make more time) and she asked with what seemed to me, genuine sincerity and not disdain. It was just the two of us, so I didn’t try to hide my surprise that I was wearing the necklace or that she asked me, or even that she spoke to me for the first time ever.
I told her that it was a very profound expression of my religion. She nodded, but asked me what I meant. I liked that she didn’t ask me if I worshipped the devil, or if I knew that it was an evil marker. My belief in her sincerity went up.
I politely explained to her that I was a Wiccan and we have many different ideas of how and why we display the pentagram as there are several traditions. I told her that for me and my tradition, it was like a covenant between me and the divine, something real and tangible that shows my devotion and the oaths I have taken for my beliefs.
That brought a smile to her face and she nodded, and let out a little laugh. Not a mocking laugh, but a laugh of understanding.
She asked me if I believed it had the same power as the Cross of Christ.
This was a rough and difficult question to answer. I didn’t know if I was being baited, teased or if I should really worry about what to say; I figured though, I had left it hanging out there, both physically and metaphorically, so I told her, that yes, it has the same power and for me it has more.
This brought a funny kind of look to her face, so I asked her if I could explain. I told her that symbols, by their very use and belief are given power. So in that sense, my pentacle had the same power as someone wearing their cross because each of us has put our own belief and symbolism into that physical piece of Jewelry.
I went on to tell her, since I was not Christian, and did not believe in Christ as any more than a wise man, healer and spiritual hombre, I couldn’t put the same faith in the cross as a Christian, so to me, my pentagram held me power.
It took a moment, but again she started nodding and smiled at me. She told me, she liked that answer. Immediately she went back to her normal routine of bending at the waist, to reach past her toes several times in rapid succession.
I felt happy, I was glad I didn’t get into a spiritual war in the sauna at 24 Hour Fitness, but I was even more glad that she listened and didn’t judge. We live in a world where we still have to hang out in the broom closet and are often judged on our own symbols and beliefs. Sometimes, we are deported or denied entry to this country based on our beliefs. Sometimes we, as humans, are killed based on our beliefs, in fact, too much.
As she got up to leave, I will never forget her last words to me. She stood up, gathered her towel and water and walked to the door. She paused and, dramatically looked over her shoulder and spoke to me in broken English:
“I am glad I talk to you. You not so fat as you were fat last week”
She then walked out of the sauna. I am excited to see her again.
Imagine you are living on the plains or the forest millennia or even half a millennia in the past. You and your family work hard year by year and day by day growing the crops and hunting the meat to sustain you and ourselves and those nearby in a communal setting. You know the land, the sun, the game, the wind, the moon. You in your body feel the comings and goings of the year. The dark and the light pull at your heart and your fiber. When the light fades, the darkness grows – it’s inevitable. So is the fear in your body that this year, perhaps the light isn’t coming back. So like your father and your father before him, you feel the urge to ask the Goddess, for of course mother Earth that provides the corn to sustain you is a Goddess, and her prince partner the God who has always blessed your hunt for help.
This is one of the many reasons why the people who are our ancestors saw fit to celebrate, honor and provide physical manifestation that has in turn created a pantheon of ritual that become directly related to the way we celebrate our holidays and the turning of the year.
Winter Solstice, or Yule, is upon us and it is the end time when the Dark falls to the Light, the God begins his triumphant rebirth in the sun on the land and we as people remember that the year is born again; that we have not been abandoned and we are grateful but also recognize the importance of the dark, for without the dark there would be no light.
OK, huge preamble to put in context my recent crafting project with my friends, teachers, students and families of Inner Circle Sanctuary last night. We had a public crafting night to make Yule Logs. BAM! Another reason to shop at Joann’s (Joann’s, for all of your Wicca crafting needs, and more!). I bought daddy’s first glue gun and a bunch of raffia.
Funny story, I had to go buy a log, because people, we aren’t making Bouche Noel’s (which would be another awesome get together, maybe there is a Kitchen Witch Esbat coming?). I was told to go to a feed and tack store, and there happens to be Jones Feed and Tack around the corner from my house. I was a little self-conscious asking the elder, gruff, weathered man in a sweat soaked bandana cutting firewood where I could locate a foot long, round log about the size to place in my hearth from which I would decorate with candles, raffia and burlap. I didn’t need to be; he looked me right in the eye and asked
“You are making a Yule Log aren’t you”?
I laughed and he went on to tell me at least three other folks had come in that week looking for the exact same thing. He did ask me what we did with them, so I shared a little of what I knew about traditionally what the log represented (hope for rebirth of the light). Funny thing was, he didn’t look oddly at me or anything, he nodded and said that he thought that sounded nice. I get it; he makes his living off the land and probably understands why I do what I do more than most.
Coming together where we do for most of our public nights and sabbat practices, we set up four long tables for the creation, and two for the food that we all love to bring. Wiccans eat ladies and gentlemen, and not just the fat of babies, we eat sometimes like it’s going out of style. And coffee; if you want to have a witch be your bestie, bring them a nonfat skinny vanilla latte or hell, just black as the night, and your crops are guaranteed to stand taller than your neighbors. But I digress, Yule logs…
I and Michael were in charge of drilling out the candle holes in these beasts, while of course Lady Ravenfeather stepped in to drill as well, awesome. One thing I can say, everybody in our group contributes. I was only drilling because I brought the drill, but any one of us regardless of age, gender or station always, ALWAYS steps up to help where needed, whether that is making sure the glue guns are loaded, the ribbon is ready, the soup is on or even the holes are drilled. It is a great community. But these logs, damn.
I believe that some of these logs were from the times our ancestors celebrated Yule, because they did not give up the hole easily. So drilling took place among the scents of pine and cedar and burning wood. Awesome stuff people.
The tables had every kind of crafting supply you can imagine, possibly purchased at Joann’s (for all of your Yule need, Joann’s!). Ribbon of green and red, burlap, holly, mistletoe, evergreen boughs, doves, handmade snowflakes, stars, twenty or so glue guns, bling, and pinecones; man, the pinecones!
As we planned out the Pinterest or Tumblr worthy logs in our heads, and gathered together the crafting supplies we would need the children played, the people ate, we laughed we talked of our friends and family. I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite things and separate from the self-confidence, the divine experience and the wisdom I gain within ICS, the feeling of community and friendship I feel with my peers is awesome. I was raised a little bit as a loner, so it has taken me a little bit to feel “part-of” this community as it is. I am sure I share that with some of my peers, but this also is divine in the metaphoric and literal meaning. We create magic by being together, I truly believe it.
Again, as we glued, trimmed and blinged out our logs, our elders shared the traditions of what the log represents, the reasons we use certain colors and what we should be doing with our log. I asked permission, so I want to share a little of that because it is a nice share.
My preamble set the tone, our ancestors would fear that the light would not return and would ask the God and Goddess for light to return to the land to sustain life. The log represents the dark surrounding the light, the actual sun is within the log. We place a red candle on the log to represent fire, the warmth of the sun. The green candle represents the earth, the land, the reason we need the sun and the white candle represents illumination from the sun. The log is decorated not just because it is pretty, but to please the Gods. The candles are lit on the solstice and the log is burned at Imbolg (traditionally) to release the sun and allow the warmth of spring to return to the land.
Everyone’s logs looked amazing. From big and beefy to small and natural, everyone did an amazing job. Lady Joyanna made a log for Lady Morgana, and that was really nice. All in all, this night of crafting and fellowship (Sponsored by Joann’s (?), for all of your pagan needs), was a lot of fun. I had been surly for the last twenty-four hours, but this lightened my heart (I told you it is divine), and I look forward to seeing my friends soon for Yule.
I am sure I have left some things out by fault or intent, so please leave a comment and share your Yule tidings and traditions.
Blessed be my friends!
YULE LOG NEEDS
One log about a foot in length, as wide as you see fit. A Half log is just fine as well.
3 wax tapers; one red, one green and one white
A Drill with a ¾ inch to 1 inch bite to drill the holes for the tapers
Decorations; if you can go natural, all the better, you will be burning this at some point
Glue Gun, tack or other adhesive
Friends and food (of course)
If you are able, make a log for yourself and make one to give to a friend or loved one.
a friend of mine at work who is an understanding soul found me in my study place at work recently, which now I know is also his go grab a quick smoke place.
He found me reading from ‘The Witches Bible Compleat’, by the Farrars. I was a bit awkward at first as on the cover there is a big pentagram. Most people outside of the craft associate this with the Christian Devil, but he and I spoke for a few minutes about my Year and a Day journey.
Later that day he gave me this. What a wonderful gift to say he understands and accepts. It’s just a small, cheap plastic cauldron but it spoke volumes about how priceless friendship and understanding is.
In a modern world where instant gratification as God and we don’t put a large enough value on true relationships, sometimes we can find an island of sanity, truth and love.