Happy Holidays

          The holidays mean a lot of different things to different people. For most of us it’s little more than cause for exchanging disgusting amounts of purchased goodies. For others, it’s an excuse to reestablish their connections with family and friends in this the darkest time of year. For what seems like a dwindling minority, the holidays are, of course, meant to be a religious observation of some fundamental aspect of their faith, although it may not always be easy to discern what exactly is being observed. Though this may come as a shock, I count myself among this last group, although my own variety of "religious observation" is usually not quite like other people’s, even among those who consider themselves “pagan,” so I’m writing this to help explain precisely what I’ll be celebrating this holiday season, as well as how and why.

          If you’re Jewish, you probably come to the conclusion at some point that Hanukkah is only really celebrated in such a big way because it’s trying to compete with Christmas. However, if you’re Christian, you probably never realized that Christmas itself is largely an attempt to overshadow other, even older, Pagan holidays, for now is the time of year when the Pagans once celebrated things like Yule and Saturnalia, all marking the Winter Solstice. Though there are many different forms that these ancient religious expressions took, all of them shared one common motive: to provide some cause for hope in a time marked by increased darkness and a bitter, soul crushing, cold. Viewed in this way, it sort of makes sense why the Christians moved the birthday of their savior from summertime into the deepest winter. What this holiday basically means for us all is a promise that the tide will now begin turning back against the forces that have heretofore oppressed us.

          Call it what you like, but the holidays for me are the perfect time to strike back, in whatever fashion, against anything that is getting you down. Pagan myths tell a story of an epic struggle between the Holly King and the Oak King, who do battle twice a year, at both the winter and the summer solstice, when each gets the chance to strike the other one down, taking power back for the remaining half of the year, only to then face their reborn adversary six months later, as with the endless procession of the seasons.

          Yes, the Oak King, also known as the Green Man, a lustful pan-pipe playing satyr who heralds the rebirth of the sunny, green, earth, will have to face the Saturnine Father Winter once again in Mid Summer but that’s not what this holiday message is here to announce. The reign of the Dark and Sober Holly King is soon coming to an end, and for those of us who would like to embrace, or perhaps just strengthen, our own connection to this natural energetic ebb and flow of terrestrial life, there are many things that can be done.

          First, few Pagans seem to recall, much less observe, the rites of ritual combat that were once used to recognize this epic battle mentioned above. All that is required is for one person to represent the Holly King (whose costume can just be a Santa suit, since our modern conceptions of Old Saint Nick were all based on him anyway) and for another to be the contender, the Oak King (Oak King costumes can range from Satyrs to Werewolves to Swamp Monsters to even Jesus Christ himself. I am quite flexible on this point, just as long as the spirit of renewed life energy is being properly represented.). Once the cast of characters has been arranged, all that remains is to stage the battle, and be sure the right figure takes a fall at the end of the fight. It is, without a doubt, the most exciting way that I can imagine to properly observe the holiday season. Santa will most certainly be taking a beating at our house this year!

          Beyond this bit of ritual violence there remains only one other important holiday tradition that I will be taking part in this holiday, one which I encourage others to consider as well. The goal is to take on some personal project that will help capture the “true spirit” of the holidays. Whatever you decide to do it should in some way strike at the darkness that you see creeping into the minds of those around you, to help both uplift and ennoble the spirits of all you can reach, while at the same time renewing your own spiritual fire and conviction. I try very hard to remain conscious of the eternal struggle between the Archons, the forces of oppression, and the uplifting and spiritually liberating Aeons, at all times throughout my year, but the upcoming holiday, for me at least, is the perfect excuse to actively engage in this important and fundamental battle.

          Even more importantly, no matter what your faith, the holidays are a time to be reminded of the one essential message contained somewhere within all of our various winter holiday celebrations: Even at what might appear to be the very darkest hour, there is always hope.

          Happy Holidays Everybody.

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