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Celebrations and the Wheel of the Year


I was watching The Enchanted Dreamcatcher’s video on Litha just recently and I confessed to the creator in a comment that I don’t really celebrate the Wheel of the Year pagan holidays unless someone almost makes me. If I’m invited to an event and I’m available, I will go and share in the celebration. But if I don’t receive an outside invitation, I don’t observe it in my own home.

I wondered if my lack of commitment to these holidays might have to do with the fact that I spent some of my most formative years in the Arizona Sonora Desert. That’s significant because, the Wheel of the Year holidays are based on seasonal realities that have no application in the desert. There are only two seasons there, hot, and hotter. It also could be that the Wheel of the Year holidays are largely Wiccan in origin. One of my first introductions to a magical religion was Wicca, and I am grateful for those teachings, but I never felt connected to that religion and I never have identified as Wiccan.

What was interesting to me is that in a conversation inspired by The Enchanted Dreamcatcher’s video, I learned that I was not the only pagan struggling to connect to these holidays. And we were wondering if our failure to observe these holidays made us less-spiritual people. Then it dawned on me that I was having this conversation with people who are pagan or spiritual YouTube creators or spiritual teachers. Clearly spirituality is huge aspect of our lives. It was only these holidays that didn’t inspire us personally.

I think that celebrations in general are magical and spiritual events. I think it’s essential to mark moments of change and growth in our lives. Celebrations encourage us to gather the important people in our lives and share our stories. Celebrations provide opportunities for reflection so that we can better direct our future. And as I thought about the things that I do actually celebrate in my own home, I realized that I had profound spiritual celebrations, they just were more personal in nature.

So, in case you’re another one of those spiritual people who is struggling to be inspired by main stream holidays, I’m hoping that by sharing my personal celebration wheel with you, you’ll be inspired to see the spirit behind your own celebrations.

The first celebration that I look forward to every year is Valentine’s Day. Although I celebrate it in a completely different context far away from romantic love or the fertility rights of Lupercalia which is the Roman pagan holiday many scholars attribute as the bases for Valentine’s Day.

I fell in love with this holiday as a child. When I was growing up, my father believed that I was his only daughter. He was a part of a club that celebrated Father-Daughter Day every year on, or close to Valentine’s Day. I got to leave school for this event to eat horrible food and sit through boring programming, and I loved it so much that even when I was older and moved away, I still made a point to fly in to attend my father’s club event with him. When I had my own child, I turned Valentine’s Day in a Mother-Son event, and without fail, we go to Medieval Times for magnificent food and entertaining programming. But the sentiment is the same, we mark the bond between parent and child and celebrate that love on that day.

When I said that the Wheel of the Year didn’t really inspire me, there are a few exceptions, the first being the Spring Equinox, which I have been known to call Ostara and Easter. I really look forward to spring. My favorite flower actually is the crocus which is one of the first flowers to pop up in spring. And I’m sure that you’re shocked to learn that I’m rather fond of the whole rabbit motif of Easter. And speaking of rabbits…let’s talk about the rabbit in the room…Many Pagans make the claim that Easter is an ancient pagan holiday, but there just isn’t historical evidence to support that. I made a video on that topic in my ABC’s of Mythology Series with B is for Bunny – Myths of Bunnies, Fluffy and Otherwise. But, for me, it’s not about the history of a particular celebration, it’s the personal meaning. I just have this sense of new beginnings when I see those first crocuses. I love dying Easter eggs even though my son is now a teenager and it’s no longer cool. I see potential and possibility in the act of coloring eggs. And I see energy and playfulness is the rabbits that dominate as symbols for during this time. And when I give baskets with trinkets, chocolate bunnies, and colored eggs, I feel like I’m sharing all that potential and new beginning energy with people. It makes me happy.

Continuing with that spring theme, I’m also a big fan of Spring Break, which usually happens in April here in Illinois. The reason is largely because when I was child, my parents were hyper-focused on responsibility and they did not make many allowances for frivolity and adventure. I was expected to behave like an adult before I really had the skills to do it successfully. I didn’t take vacations, when I was granted Spring Break from my schooling, even when I was in elementary school, my parents had me work an adult’s job. I didn’t have an allowance; I had a paycheck from a 40 hour a week job. And I was expected to use that paycheck to buy my own clothes and school supplies. This might have taught me responsibility, but it was very isolating, and it made it difficult for me to relate to children my own age. And I often wonder if this contributed to my sometimes-crippling anxiety. So, when my own child had his Spring Breaks, I wanted to map out time to allow my child a chance to explore and experience adventure.

I thought I was enriching his life, but I got just as much out of these experiences (and maybe more) than he did. My son encouraged me to go places I had never heard of and do things I had never imagined doing. I’m going to have to introduce a second rabbit in the room with my celebration of Spring Break. I think too often, adults do not appreciate that celebrations are important regardless of whether there are children involved or not. Celebrations do encourage wonder and an appreciation for life in children, but to imply that adults must only be concerned with responsibility without engaging in a practice of wonder and inspiration is not only wrong, it’s been my experience that it’s harmful. Life is worth celebrating whether you’re 4 or 444. And when it comes to Spring Break, I think it’s going to be important for me to continue celebrating adventure even after my son goes off to college and wants to try out some exploration without me. Instead of wistfully wishing he was still my excuse to celebrate, my challenge is going to be to have my own independent adventures too.

The next spiritual celebration for me personally, is Mother’s Day. Some interesting history on this holiday is that the original founders of the American version actually wanted Mother’s Day to focus on the sacrifices mothers made for their children, and one of the founders denounced what she felt was the commercialization of the day. Heaven forbid you give your mother flowers! The day is supposed to be about how you ruined your mother’s life! I always tell my son that I wouldn’t be a mother if not for him and I am so grateful that he became a part of my life. I have been a single mother since the beginning of my son’s life; and while that has been challenging, I can’t say that it ruined my life. I had given up singing before my son was born, but I starting singing again to him, and when he was a toddler, he told me I should sing for other people and I did. The Fairy Fortunes YouTube Channel was the also brainchild of my son. Now, I have made some difficult decisions in regards to my child, but I do not feel like motherhood is a sacrifice. But the main reason Mother’s Day is so spiritually important to me is that I very nearly died giving birth to my child and I feel that I made a conscious choice to be here. I distinctly remember asking my Goddess Diana (the Goddess of Childbirth incidentally) to help me live so that I could be a mother to my child. I wanted that experience of motherhood. For me, Mother’s Day is a day to remember that promise I made and celebrate life – both the birth of my son and my own life.

The next spiritual celebration I honor is my own birthday. This has often been a struggle for me to do because I often question my value and I worry that I haven’t contributed enough to the larger world. It worries me so much that it has made me very secretive about the actual day of my birth. But I’m going to release my secret publicly, it’s July 2. There is also another problem, my birthday is often completely eclipsed by the birthday of the United States of America. The 4th of July in 2020 is going to be a tough one to celebrate. I don’t think that anyone would argue that the year 2020 has been perhaps the worst year in American history.

I like many others have been affected by the senseless murder of George Floyd. And I have had a front-line seat to witness the devastation of both Covid-19 and the destruction of the riots. As I said, my birthday is hard for me because I worry that I’m not doing enough. But I make a point to celebrate my birthday in order to remind myself that if I can make a difference in one person’s life, then that is something. If I can help bring change to one person’s world, then I have in fact, changed the world. One drop in a bucket means that the bucket is no longer empty. Even the smallest of acts have great potential. Everyone can do something, and even something small is enough.

I have joined the trend of asking for donations to a charitable cause on my birthday. This year I’ve chosen the Jackie Robinson Foundation. I must sheepishly admit that I didn’t know who Jackie Robinson was until I saw a play a few years ago that featured him as a main character. I was really moved by his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement and his bravery as he became an icon of change. The Jackie Robinson Foundation provides scholarships for young women and men of color, encouraging them to be community leaders and further grow our world. I’ve provided both my personal fundraiser link and a donation link directly to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. I would be honored if you would help me celebrate my birthday this year by donating to this worthy organization. One drop in the bucket means that the bucket is no longer empty – even a small donation is incredibly valuable.

The next celebration for me is another birthday, which is my son’s birthday in August. I already told you that I nearly died in childbirth and that I asked my Goddess Diana to help me live. Coincidentally, my son was born on an ancient Roman holiday known as Nemoralia or Diana’s Day. My son lights up my world like the sun in the sky. He’s told me that the two concepts that he holds most dear are creativity and exploration and I celebrate his birthday by embodying those ideals. We often travel on his birthday and seek out creative new experiences.

Before we move away from birthdays, do you celebrate your own birthday, yes or no? Please consider commenting about why you do or don’t celebrate it in the comments below.

When my son was younger, we often celebrated the month of September by going apple picking. It’s hard to coax him away from his technology these days but there is something magical about accepting gifts from nature and then transforming those gifts into wonderful foods.

Halloween (and I prefer the modern Halloween over Samhain) is an epic celebration at my home. I know a lot of people make a point to celebrate their ancestors during this time, but I don’t. For me, Halloween is all about imagination, creativity, and possibility. And I’ll never be too old for costumes, because no one should ever be too old to creatively imagine possibility.

America’s Thanksgiving happens in November, and it did originate from a fabrication and legend of the first white settlers to the America’s. And while it is important to understand that our American history isn’t as bucolic as we wish it was, I do love having a celebration that focuses on gratitude. To fit in with the fabricated legend, the traditional American Thanksgiving meal is roast turkey, Sweet potatoes or yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I love to cook, and I do serve this traditional meal. Additionally though, as part of our personal celebration I also ask my son and any guests we have to share something that they are personally thankful for. I love this holiday because gratitude grants me so much perspective. The act of giving thanks for what I have fills me with hope and is a source of inspiration.

Another exception I have concerning the Wheel of the Year celebrations is the Winter Solstice or Yule. I love everything about all of the winter holidays. I love the lights, I love the decorations, the music, I love the giving and receiving of gifts, and the sentiment of goodwill towards all, I love it all. However, I have always gravitated towards the concept of Yule over the other winter Holidays. I do have Scandinavian heritage and I have some personal experience that I think supports a theory concerning genetic memory. I made another video discussing that topic in my ABC’s of Mythology Series, I is for Inheritance – Can Mythology Be Inherited? But I have another story specifically about Yule, and my son, that I think articulates this concept and presents a pretty strong case for genetic memory.

Now, the Scandinavian God Odin is very tied to Yule and there are a few scholars who believe Odin is one of the origins of our modern-day Santa Claus. To celebrate the winter holiday season, my son’s grandmother had given me quite a few Santa Claus ornaments, and when my son was about three or four, he found a black sharpie marker and then proceeded to hunt down every Santa on display in our house and “fixed” them by blacking out one of the eyes. I have raised my child with pagan beliefs but I never made him give devotions to a specific deity, and when he was little, I didn’t give him much information on any particular God or Goddess. This was also long before the Avenger Movie Franchise had made Thor and his father Odin household names. I didn’t talk about Odin much at all and I certainly hadn’t told my son that Odin was a one-eyed God. So how did he know that? Regardless of the answer, it is that question that makes Yule a particularly sacred celebration for me.

The last celebration that hold special spiritual significance for me is New Year’s Eve. This is another tradition my teenage will give up his technology for. Every year I make Hoppin’John which is made with black-eyed peas which are supposed to bring you luck for the coming year. Then at midnight, we watch a countdown program and toast the new-year. During our toast with non-alcoholic champagne we talk about what we hope to accomplish in the coming here. This isn’t exactly a resolution and certainly not an edict. For me it’s a very magical process that focuses more on who we would like to be and where we would like to go.

I know that most of my celebrations are very focused around my child; but that is because he is the most significant of my relationships. I feel the magic and the spiritual aspect of celebrations concern relationships, and not just those with children. I cannot stress enough that celebrations are not just for children. Celebrations honor the journey of life. I’d love to know one of your favorite celebrations. Please let me know in the comments below.

Please visit The Enchanted Dreamcatcher: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKrUhz5TEb1vnw2PdzEhHrw

I would be honored if you would consider helping me celebrate it by donating to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. I have created a Facebook Fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/592290844825699/592290858159031/

Or if you prefer, here is the donation page from the Jackie Robinson Foundation website: https://www.jackierobinson.org/support/donate/

Resources

Amelinckx, Andrew. “The Agrarian Roots of Our Winter Holiday Traditions.” Modern Farmer. 21 December 2017. https://modernfarmer.com/2017/12/agrarian-roots-winter-holiday-traditions/

“Cycles of Celebration.” The Pluralism Project, Harvard University. https://pluralism.org/cycles-of-celebration

Harris, Karen. “Odin And Santa: The Norse God Delivered Gifts With An Eight-Legged, Flying Horse.” History Daily. 09 December 2019. https://historydaily.org/odin-and-santa

“History of Valentine’s Day.” The History Channel, A&E Television Networks. 22 December 2009. https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

The Jackie Robinson Foundation. https://www.jackierobinson.org/about/

Lynn, Andrea. “Black-Eyed Peas and Greens on New Year's Day.” Spruce Eats, Dotdash Publishing. 11 December 2019. https://www.thespruceeats.com/new-years-black-eyed-peas-greens-101706

“Mother’s Day 2020.” The History Channel, A&# Television Networks. 29 April 2011. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

Ruby Ruse. “Can Mythology Be Inherited?” Fairy Fortunes, YouTube. 28 June 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLDC41GMUMg&list=PL7k_wE1001gZUtDNGOM2bgUdIuYzsslKp&index=10&t=11s

--. “Myths of Bunnies - Fluffy and Otherwise.” Fairy Fortunes, YouTube. 17 January 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIrqYTPav0w&list=PL7k_wE1001gZUtDNGOM2bgUdIuYzsslKp&index=3&t=0s

--. “The Valentine Special: An Adventure Blog.” Fairy Fortunes, YouTube. 14 February 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZLOqhwPAfc&t=15s

--. “Wild Hunt Mythology and Yule Ritual.” Fairy Fortunes, YouTube. 20 Dec 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zATzrd8wFjg&list=PL7k_wE1001gZUtDNGOM2bgUdIuYzsslKp&index=12&t=32s

“Sabbat Celebration Series – Litha.” The Enchanted Dreamcatcher, YouTube. 17 June 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXb8sRTbZeU&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3d7aNOUBYX8erpkCUoSpidcJs5lWmnXDfADrLh0lImrZV-qtnv0_fjTaI

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