Ah, the frantic holiday season of December! We Druids certainly aren’t the only ones running around getting ready for our religious (or non-) ceremonies, but this is definitely the only month where I ha e to hunt for a parking spot in a crowded lot and then wait in long lines to buy things for the ritual. Fortunately, I only needed to make a few stops to get our Yule tree (a good two feet from base to top) and crafting supplies this time around, and the weather this month definitely hasn’t been b ad by December standards. (This was, of course, more helpful for my outdoor job than it was for the ritual!)
Having an extra day to work with didn’t hurt. Since this is our first Yule on a Sunday, the Fire Lighting Ceremony was on Saturday. Rod, Gen, and Anne stopped by and we made ornaments for both the group praise and the return flow
of the rite. This was the first fire lighting I’ve hosted, and I thought it went okay. I’m so not used to hosting social gatherings any more. (Assuming that I ever was!)
So Sunday morning came, and after a trip to Kinko’s, I got to the Ed Center a few hours early, giving me plenty of time to unload the car and get some software installed on my laptop. (Well I had to do *something* for two hours!) Candy and Serena also arrived early, even if it was at the Friends Meeting and I had to convince them that the ritual wasn’t there this time. >8) When Rodney arrived, we all got the upstairs area set up for ritual, and more people arrived. Gen was late and still had to make the wreathe for the focus object, or we might actually have started by 2:30. Ah well!
The ritual itself went pretty smoothly, even if I did forget to have Dylan do the Outsiders first and forgot to do the Kindreds visualizations as I usually do them. But Yule is a pretty laid-back holiday for us, and Bel and Danu never seem to mind. We passed the wreath (along with a bowl, since we couldn’t have an offering fire in the building) for the individual praise, then decorated the tree (sadly the lights Gen put on decided not to work) and performed Danu’s Wave of Power before offering the wreath. The omen was good (Isa – Berkano – Fehu, the beginning of the winter season gives us prosperity, the blessings of Danu as we call them) and so we blessed and distributed the bell ornaments we’d made the night before.
And the potluck went well, if a bit noisily at times with the children there. I got a lovely ornament in the gift exchange, and a few late items in the raffle. (Sadly, still no takers on the printer.) Most folks left a bit early (for the Lions game, I wonder?) but I still had the place cleaned up by 6. All in all, a nice, laid-back Yule rite, with a decent turnout of nineteen. (I just hope the weather for the next two is as nice.)
And normally I’d feel pretty bad about taking six days to get this posted (especially with how short it ended up being), but maybe it worked out for the best, because it gives me a chance to ask everyone: What do you think of the songs we use for our Yule rite? I ask because not one but two of the blogs I usually read had articles this week where the authors said how little they liked hearing Christmas carols with the words changed to make them Pagan-friendly. Given how much I love them and that I’ve never heard any complaints about the ones we use, this caught me quite by surprise. I suppose I can sympathize with the sentiment that co-opting Christian anything for our purposes is a bad thing. (Though in fairness, I’m not one to complain about the Pagan elements of modern Christmas celebrations, and I actually find them kind of heartening. I may be unoriginal, but at least I’m not a hypocrite about it.) And I’d love to see actual Pagan musicians come up with original work, sure. But I also know that I’m never going to be the person who does that. I know how to work with words, I know nothing of composing music, as those of you who heard that zombie song at Samhain can attest. And I also distinguish between songs performed in a concert or other performance setting versus those meant to be used in a ritual. The advantage of using tunes that everyone knows is that everyone can take part in singing them without having to go through fifteen minutes of instruction first. To me, doing nothing but original songs at a Yule rite is a simple but excellent way to remind newcomers that they’re not really part of the group, at the time of year when we should be doubling our efforts to be inclusive as part of the rite. That said, if folks do have a problem with how we handle the Yule songs, let me know and we’ll figure out how to address those concerns for next year.
In the meantime, Happy New Year, and I hope that you succeed at every resolution you make!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF