The Christians + The Pagans


When I used to hear the word “Pagan” an image of devil worshipping cave men came to mind. Oh the power of patriarchal brainwashing! Pagan actually refers to any person who has an Earth-based belief system, which many of the specific traditions and origins came from Europe. My northern and western European ancestors were Pagan before they were Christian.

Pagans honor the wheel of the year and have celebrations that revolve around the Sun and the growing season. My favorite Pagan, Earth-based celebration is Yule. During Yule (the longest night of the year), my ancestors honored the medicine of the darkness and held vigil for the sun as he takes a loooong rest to restore his energy for the next half of the year as the days get longer and longer. They brought in evergreen trees and lit candles as a symbol of everlasting light and hope that the sun would return, and with it fuel for food and another growing season.

My dear friend Becca Piastrelli taught me that they would gather to share stories, sing songs and exchange gifts of candles, wood, mead and medicines to help them get through the winter.

The Norse people would eat magic mushrooms and often have visions of the local reindeer flying.

The Celts told a story of the Holly King (dressed in a fur cloak and pulled in a sleigh) coming to Battle the Oak King at Winter Solstice and take over the thrown of the world until Summer Solstice.

Any of this sounding familiar?

When Christianity was being spread, they adopted these pagan traditions in order to make the new religion palatable to the masses.

The Goddess became Mother Mary and the Sun became “The Son”, Jesus. And the story of Jesus being born happened right around the Sun being born again after the longest night of the year, even though Jesus was born in the Spring.

I believe it is so important to recognize the origin of these traditions because it helps us to remember that we are still connected to the seasons and the wisdom and magic they bring. When we celebrate the shortest day we remember the importance of resting and cocooning during this time (just like the sun) so we have the space and quiet to connect with our intuition and deepest desires.

For me, connecting with these ancient traditions ignited a part of me that knows how connected I am to the magic of the Universe. When I pause and honor Solstice as a doorway from one way of living my life to another, I feel incredible power knowing the Universe is supporting me in letting go and leaving behind what I no longer want in my life in the darkness. The day after Solstice, the day where the sun returns and the days start getting longer is really the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere’s New Year, an incredibly powerful day, and a chance for all of us to be new, to have a blank slate.

A few years ago, Dorothee Sophie Royal, founder of Moon Tent posted this beautiful history of the “Christmas” Tree, and I read it every year. I wanted to share it here with you so you can remember that these traditions that many of us do with rote action are actually incredibly sacred.

“I like to imagine my Celtic forbearers gathered in groves each season to pray under the open sky. Perhaps in winter they chose a living evergreen tree in the forest to honor and make offerings to. Maybe they tied cloth and trinkets on the branches and left gifts and food at the base of the trunk. Perhaps they weren’t worshipping the tree as an object in itself, but instead honoring it as a living portal that connects heaven and earth.⠀

How can we reclaim this practice and make it meaningful today? How can we be sure that we’re not enacting traditions by rote without acknowledging the deeply spiritual significance of including a tree in our celebrations?⠀

Welcome Your Tree As An Honored Guest

Before you take it into the door of your home, take a moment to introduce yourself, say thank you and welcome it in with love. ⠀

Hold Gratitude For the Medicine of the Plant

When you bring a living tree into your home, you are bringing medicine into your space. Pine, spruce and fir trees are all known to have a wide range of medicinal properties. ⠀

Recognize That You Are Building an Altar⠀

When you put up a Christmas tree, you incorporate the four sacred elements of life as we know it: Earth (the tree), Water (in the stand), Air (around the tree and represented by ornaments) and Fire (the lights).

In many cultures, trees are thought to be a portal to powerful spiritual energy and a conduit from the earth to the stars. Decorating the tree is a way to adorn your altar and a chance to offer prayers with each object you tie onto it. ⠀

Honor the Sacred

For those who bring a real tree into their homes, perhaps it’s a beautiful if bittersweet thing to know that it will die at the end of the celebration. The prayers, blessings, songs and stories shared with the tree may then be taken to the other side of the veil. In this way, the tree in life is a portal and in death is a messenger. It takes with it the grief and sickness of winter and in sacrificing its seemingly immortal life, it sweeps clean our lives in readiness for spring.”

I’d love to close with one of my favorite Dar Williams Songs that always makes me cry.

Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams
Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with Red Dye No. 3.
He told his niece, “Its Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style, “
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and its been awhile.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a Witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning, ” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, your cousin’s not a Christian, “
“But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere, “

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.
When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas, and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
“Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

Isn’t this just delicious! I am sending you blessings as you embark on the magical journey of the holidays. I am going to be taking time away from my Moonday emails to dive deep into the darkness and be with my inner world and my family. I’ll see you in 2020.

All my love,


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