Feeling overwhelmed once again by anticipation for the Christmas season, I’ve been compelled to share a few thoughts on why I love this time of year. The concept of the year being a wheel that turns, with each cycle of the sun returning us to the same point as the year before, is a popular way of viewing the seasons. And yes, the same patterns generally occur each year, but on a personal level I’ve noticed that as the years pass I’m never in the same place I was the previous year spiritually. There’s always a change in belief, or more like an evolution that I sense within, that allows me to experience the returning cycle as something a little more deep and complex than I knew before. This has been occurring with most holidays throughout the year, but I feel it strongest at Christmas. Maybe it’s the fusion of Christian/Pagan traditions or because of my strong Christian background, or possibly both of these reasons, but Christmas has turned into something much more than words can express. The sound of jingle bells or a glimpse of a Christmas tree brings up a surge of emotion that puts the biggest smile on my face and often a tear trickling out of my eyes.
I’ve tried to understand this on an intellectual level, but I don’t think I’m meant to understand it, just feel it. Pagans celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the renewal of the year through the returning sunlight, and Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, as a promise of love and redemption from a hostile world. On the surface, it’s obvious to see the parallels, but I find too often that people get stuck on trying to debate the “meaning of Christmas” and totally miss the synchronous energy that flows through all of the traditions and stories that rise around this ancient celebration. I have found that by diving deeper into Christmas, and erasing the dividing lines set by religion there’s a great transforming power that comes forth. This, I feel, is what causes the reactions I have to the symbols and traditions of Christmas. I’ve been able to strip away the dogma and experience the raw energy that these symbols represent, and it truly is powerful. I respect everyone for their beliefs and I would never try to discount somebody’s religion by picking it apart for them, but for my personal spirituality, this is the only way I can see the world. I am a student of the occult, and this requires an open view of what lies below the surface, an exploration of symbolism and what that means for me personally.
Since this recent holiday season I’ve had a renewed interest in Jesus and how all the things I learned growing up in church relate to me now. There’s no doubt my previous convictions have changed and morphed as my life has taken many different turns, and I’m feeling it’s about time I revisit those convictions of my past to try and gain a new understanding of them with the knowledge I’ve gained since. Until recently, when studying magick I would get very uneasy when I came across discussions dealing with any Judeo-Christian themes, such as Qabala, Ceremonial Magick, and the works of famous occultists like Dion Fortune. Slowly my views are changing to a more open perspective that embraces spirituality as a whole, and by dealing with my hang ups of the past I’m able to find the truths that are found even within Christianity. There have been a few sources that have inspired me to loosen up a little and let the universe teach me what it may. The one that had the most profound effect was The Cosmic Shekinah by Sorita d’Este and David Rankine. This book took everything that I thought I knew about the Bible and scrambled it all up and placed it neatly back in my head, much to my surprise as like I’ve said, I wasn’t keen on letting Christianity leak back into my newfound pagan beliefs. This book and other works that I’ve come across have helped me to see that once you look beyond the face of Christianity, and get to the heart of where all these teachings fit into the development of mankind as a whole, there are many great truths to be found.
Last night I decided it was time to start putting up decorations for the holidays, and now I’m sitting here going through my iTunes library, putting together my favorite holiday songs for the season. As I go through and listen to a lot of the classics and some more recent songs, I can’t help but get wrapped up in the spirit of the season. Cascada has a new song called “Somewhere At Christmas Time,” and the simple yet beautiful lyrics bring to mind the images we’re all familiar with. In my mind I travel back through the story many of us have learned from the time we were young, of that little child in a manger on a starry winter night. I’m not here to debate the historical accuracy of anything, because that’s beside the point, but I do want to discuss this magical spirit filled with hope and wonder that affects the world during this special time of year. Regardless of what you believe, whether you call it Yule or Christmas, or if you choose not to believe in anything at all, there is something undeniable that happens this time of year that we all feel in our hearts. It’s a lifting, a peace, a joy, a sense of happiness and celebration. I listen to these songs and relive the memories of being with family, of waking up on Christmas morning to find gifts under the tree; the smell of turkey in the oven and the glow of twinkling lights everywhere.
From the time I was born, I was taught the story of baby Jesus, and how he was born in the manger outside the inn. I could visualize the angels filling the sky with song, and the wise men travelling on camels following that bright shining star. I’m more educated now and I understand that much of the Bible is basically a mythology, but I have also learned that “myth” doesn’t mean not real. Since discovering paganism and reading the fantastical myths that many of us adopt as a religious backdrop, I look at the big picture and how these myths are real when we believe them in our hearts. I no longer follow Christianity as a religion, but do I have to be an Egyptian to believe in the myths of Osiris, or a Roman to honor Jupiter? The Christmas story is one of joy, hope, and the redeeming savior coming into the world, and to me that is what Christmas will always be about. Now as a pagan I can also celebrate the redeeming sun coming to save us from the darkness of winter, and the Horned One ruling over the harsh landscape during this time of year. I know there are many pagans who, like a light switch, just automatically try to do away with all things Christmas to replace it with Yule once they convert, but really, what is the difference? I used to be that type of person, but this year I embrace it all. I want to listen to “O Holy Night” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and celebrate the birth of the newborn king. There’s no other way to describe this season other than pure magic. It’s probably the only time of year that collectively we join together in love and good cheer, to just celebrate. It goes deeper than what religion we follow, what gods we honor, or whether we call it Yule or Christmas. As we enter into this joyous season, my hope is that others can see through these walls we put up between each other; that we allow each of our celebrations to color the world just as the lights on the tree come together under that beautiful twinkling star. So no matter what holidays you’ll be celebrating in the coming weeks… remember to just believe.