Sunday, December 26, 2010

Perfect Storm

 Well, this Christmas went better than Christmas has in quite a few years. Just as I posted the previous entry noting that I seem to recognize the nature-centric elements of the holiday a bit more this year than usual, the nature spirits seem to have appeared to say hello and present me with gifts of their own.

First, was the occurrence Christmas Eve night/Christmas Day morning, around midnight. I was online in the family room (where my parents' computer is located) when my mom called me to the window of my bedroom. There, trotting around the Nativity scene and trying to get into the birdfeeder, were at least six or seven beautiful deer, right there next to my bedroom window. I watched them for at least ten or fifteen minutes before they wandered off.

Christmas morning went smoothly. We had breakfast and opened gifts at my parents' house, followed by lunch and gifts at my aunt's house. I will probably be spending the remainder of my vacation (until Jan 4) being generally unproductive and watching the movies I got for Christmas, and catching up on reading. At around 9:00AM it began snowing. Within the hour, the ground was covered in snow, and by the end of the day it was up to almost my ankles, if not higher. We've gotten snow before or after Christmas before, but the news stations report that this is the first time we've had a large amount of snow fall on Christmas Day since 1947. I took quite a few pictures, some of which I may post here once I get back to my computer and uploaded. I walked around outside several times, taking in the scenery and meditating and praying to the beauty of it all. I wandered to a section of what's left of the small forest behind the house, and came across what was once a small "tree house" that my sister and I used to play in as little kids. I use that term loosely, because as my sister is disabled, the treehouse is a treehouse in the sense that it is a bunch of plywood nailed around tree trunks. At that time I was into shows like "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?", and the big thing for us was to pretend we were secret agents, and the treehouse was our headquarters. I was somewhat saddened to see that the structure had finally collapsed on itself with age. By this time, my mom had joined me, and we dug through to see what could be found. All that was still remotely intact was my sister's old Pocahontas bookbag, which contained some of her old toys and two diaries. One was locked; the other had only been written in on one page, dated, coincidentally, December 25 - we found it on the exact anniversary of its first usage. It had been given to her by our now deceased grandmother, who died when I was in 9th grade, which would put this entry probably about 3-4 years prior. 

In all honesty, I'm hoping these are all omens of some sort for a good 2011. God knows I need a really good year for a change.

Friday, December 24, 2010


 One thing I like to do around holidays, particularly Christmas and Easter, is, strangely enough, watch documentaries on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, etc., about whatever holiday is at hand.

One particular documentary I saw today (not for the first time) discussed the history behind the different aspects of the Nativity story, and the scientific plausibility of the various elements. Now, this time watching it, I was watching it with my literalist Christian mother, as I am in North Carolina visiting family for the holidays. All whilst hearing the various theologians discuss how the virgin birth is a metaphor for this-and-that and not historically accurate (I am inclined to agree), I hear my mom asking me "you don't really believe what they're saying, right?" and lamenting "If you don't believe in the virgin birth, you may as well just not even bother with any of it". As can be imagined, I find holidays very difficult with my family, no matter how much I love them. I struggle to come up with ways the more mainstream religious holidays that I include in my spiritual practice can have meaning to me as a Gnostic Druid, whilst simultaneously celebrating them with a family I seem to have only genetics and family history in common with. At times I feel like I'm being a fake, for not being forthcoming about the true extent of my religious beliefs as of current - instead I smile and nod and go along with it, telling myself that I only see them a few times a year and everybody does basically the same thing over the holidays. I answer questions only when directly asked (such as, incidentally, just a few minutes ago, when my mom asked about The Infancy Gospel of James, after hearing about it in the documentary), or in other cases such as her "Do you really believe this?" accusatory question, I just answer vaguely or don't even acknowledge I heard her, pretending to be absorbed in the book/tv show/whatever. Not exactly healthy confrontational skills, I know.

Nonetheless, Christmas this year does have a different "feel" to it than some years past, as it were. I seem to be more aware of the nature symbolism behind the traditions - the Christmas tree as a symbol of life in the death of winter; the lights as a symbol of the coming light in the darkness of winter. I feel more connected to the nature aspects of the holiday and the history behind the traditions. As such, it is becoming a more meaningful holiday to me this year than it has since I first began this path (even though, unfortunately, on the Winter Solstice I held little celebration, doing so a day late, and could not see the eclipse very well). I even read my current favorite version of the Christmas story, the aforementioned Infancy Gospel of James  online.

I'm not yet sure why I like this version so much. Perhaps because it is different from the standard version of the Christmas story that we read every year in the canonical Bible, quoted in my favorite Charlie Brown Christmas special. In addition to that, it's the first Infancy Gospel I have finally had the chance to read in its entirety.  This version begins with Anna, Mary's mother, lamenting that she has not had children, and she and her husband are old. An angel appears to her, and she is told she would conceive. Of course, she then has Mary. A couple of more stories regarding Mary in the temple and things that show her specialness compared to other girls, and Joseph not wanting to marry her because of her age, and the fact that he is older and has children from a previous marriage. But he does take her in, she is visited by Gabriel, etc. etc. I think my favorite passage, probably due to how different it is from anything else I'd heard or read up to this point, is when Joseph is looking for a midwife while Mary is in labor in a cave, as quoted in this post:
Now I Joseph was walking, and I walked not. And I looked up to the air and saw the air in amazement. And I looked up unto the pole of the heaven and saw it standing still, and the fowls of the heaven without motion. And I looked upon the earth and saw a dish set, and workmen lying by it, and their hands were in the dish: and they that were chewing chewed not, and they that were lifting the food lifted it not, and they that put it to their mouth put it not thereto, but the faces of all of them were looking upward. And behold there were sheep being driven, and they went not forward but stood still; and the shepherd lifted his hand to smite them with his staff, and his hand remained up. And I looked upon the stream of the river and saw the mouths of the kids upon the water and they drank not. And of a sudden all things moved onward in their course.
In other words, Pleroma, the True God, stopped time so that Joseph could find a midwife before Jesus' birth. It goes on to say that the midwife went to get a second midwife, Salome, to assist, and Salome disbelieved the first midwife's story about Mary, so when she arrived she "tested God". As a result, her hand falls off. She prays for forgiveness and is healed.

I think to me, just like the mainstream versions, this version serves as a metaphor of Pleroma's love for us, for the Divinity within us, and the importance of Jesus as a Wayshower, alongside Buddha, Krishna, and other prophets from all religions. To me, they all lead to the same Source, and Christmas is the celebration of just one path, celebrated alongside a commemoration of the natural world around us near the Winter Solstice, a conjunction of the spiritual and material. So, on that note, I hope everyone had a Merry Yule and has a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dreams and Shooting Stars

 I had a strange dream a couple of nights ago, which makes me wonder if it's a message from the Divine (a symbolic one, obviously, and you'll know why when I describe it), or if I've simply been watching/reading too much sci-fi. Either way, it had me feeling a little weird when I woke up, and I haven't quite shaken it off, even now.

In the dream, a young woman, with blonde-ish, curly hair (sort of reminded me of that actress who played in Felicity and August Rush, if you've ever seen any of those), is drowning. There are flashbacks, and I somehow know that she can't swim because she almost drowned as a child. I jump in and rescue her, because, in the dream at least, I'm a great swimmer (in reality, I love to swim, of course - I'm a water-based person - but didn't learn to swim until I was 12, so my swimming abilities is kind of mediocre). Also, in the dream, I possess hydrokinesis/aquakinesis, or the ability to manipulate and control water. Flash forward a few scenes, and I'm fighting this bad guy, who I don't recall really knowing what he looks like. Most of the time, his back is facing me, and I just have this feeling, of knowing that he's evil. I'm fighting him using the aforementioned hydrokinesis - water touches my hands, and I blast the water at him in waves. Jump ahead again, and I'm hiding in this room with the same young blond woman. She is being kept prisoner by the same guy from the previous scene. I am discovered by the captor, and I jump out of the window into the water below. The emotions around the dream all seem to center around the "unseen bad guy", the mysterious woman, and water.

I will note at this time, that I do not know any women with curly blond hair (curly hair, sure; blondes, yes; but the combo, not so much). However, even as I type this entry, the writing process brings to mind my first encounter with Brighid during my Pagan days (remember a few posts back, how I was writing of my struggles to sort out how my experiences as a Pagan mesh with my experiences since becoming Gnostic, and how Brighid is one I still follow in her Christianized Saint form?). Well, when I first met Her, it was through a dream, involving a woman with silvery blond hair and surrounded by water. For at least a month, I thought I was being spoken to by some water deity. So, I researched and prayed to various water goddesses from various cultures. But nothing clicked. Then I stumbled upon Brighid, and learned of Her associations with creativity and inspirations. Although she is typically associated with fire and smithwork, the common phrase immediately came to my mind, that which refers to "the flows of inspiration", and the way, in our culture, inspiration and creativity are often referred to by artists and writers as something fluid, flowing. It was that moment I decided that it was Brighid who was speaking to me. Perhaps this dream has something else to do with Her.

Another interesting event happened today on my way home from doing my last round of home visits before Christmas break: I saw a beautiful shooting star.  I can't recall where, but I read somewhere recently that shooting stars symbolize rebirth and change. Certainly fitting timing, since I just finished a new semester at school, and am about to start a new one. Better be careful how I interpret it though, as in the past when I make a seemingly obvious interpretation, I turn out to be completely, totally wrong. So, we'll see what happens next, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


December is a time for holidays. It seems like every religion celebrates some kind of coming of light in the dark of winter, in or around this time of year. The liturgical/religious calendars I follow have two sets of holidays:
- the Gnostic calendar, as laid out in the book Living Gnosticism, includes Christmas. As a further Christian extension of this, I also celebrate Advent, which began this year on November 28th. There are Advent meditations for each Sunday listed in The Gnosis Archive, as well as a daily Advent devotional I printed out from The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship,

- The Pagan/Druidic Calendar lists December 21 as Yule, or the Pagan equivalent of Christmas. It is the official first day of winter, and anticipates the return of spring and warmth.

In addition, on occasion I may feel drawn to a holiday of another religion that I may want to experiment with. It is in this vein that I celebrate my inner eclectic/Unitarian Universalist, and experiment with such holidays for approximately 3 years. My logic is that if I feel drawn to it to the point of feeling compelled to experiment with it, then 3 years will give me enough time to celebrate it, research the meaning behind it and various customs for it, and decide if I can relate to it enough to continue on and make it part of my "official" religious calendar. This year, I have two:

- Chalica = a recently invented (as in, around 2005ish) Unitarian-Universalist specific holiday. Modeled after Hannukah and Kwanzaa, it is a seven day long celebration. On each day the celebrant lights a candle honoring each of the 7 Principles of Unitarian-Universalism. It begins on the first Monday of December. For example, Monday will honor the first Principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person), Tuesday the 2nd Principle, etc. This is my 2nd year experimenting with Chalica. So far, I feel that I relate to it quite well. Many of its' practices so far include giving some kind of gift to someone that represents that day's principle, and I don't really have anyone to give gifts to, and right now I also have inadequate time to be more creative in other external expressions of the holiday. So, I light the candle for the day, and try to keep that Principle in mind when I go about the day's activities. Today was particularly difficult, as my caseload at the internship was shifted around so much I don't really know who my caseload is at this point, and on top of that, they did all this the day before my technical last day with them until January. The positive thing about this holiday is that in typical UU fashion, there is no official way to celebrate it, or even any requirement to celebrate it. It is growing in popularity among UUs and the closest to an 'official' holiday they've ever had. Many UUs are celebrating it along with whatever other religion-specific holidays they may practice. As such, if I feel compelled to celebrate it in some way, how I do so is completely up to me. In any case, so far it looks as though this will become an official holiday for me.

- Hannukah - a couple of years ago, while in a Christian bookstore Christmas shopping for family, I came across a menorah. I felt drawn to it, as I'm interested in Jewish culture and at the time I was briefly looking more into Kabbalah (which I will look into again once I get to that section of my reading list and have more time), so I bought it. This is also my 2nd year experimenting with this one. On a small level, I feel I can relate to the overall message of the holiday - celebrating light in the darkness; miracles when you feel you're at the end of your resources and have done all you can; overcoming oppression. However, ways to celebrate it are so cultural specific, and I'm not a Jew (and the last Jew I dated was a cultural, rather than practicing, Jew), so I feel that I may not be able to relate to it in a way that I feel I would need to in order to keep it in my list of practices. So, I will continue the rest of this year, and next year, to complete my "3 year rule", but if I don't feel any different after that, I will acknowledge and appreciate it for the beautiful holiday that it is, and say goodbye to it.

To finish, here is a picture of my new seasonal altar. In the center is my Advent wreath. To the right, of course, is the menorah. And to the left, a chalice candleholder with a tealight candle inside, for Chalica. Under it is a meditation board, tarot deck, and oracle card deck.