9th July 00:42
"Twas the Night before Solstice (energy faith beliefs reality offerings)
Or a Solstice Carol
For those who understand, no explaination is necessary.
For those who don't, no explaination is possible.
'Twas the Night Before Solstice...
The night before Christmas as experienced from the
Five minutes before the Winter Solstice circle was
scheduled to begin, my mother called. Since I'm the only one in our coven
who doesn't run on Pagan Standard Time, I took the call. Half the people
hadn't arrived, and those who had wouldn't settle down to business for at
least twenty minutes.
"Merry Christmas, Frannie."
"Hi, Mom. I don't do Christmas."
"Maybe not--but I do, so I'll say it." she told
me in her sassy voice, kind of sweet and vinegary at the same time. "If I
can respect your freedom of religion, you can respect my freedom of speech."
I grinned and rolled my eyes. "And the score is
Mom -one, Fran - nothing. But I love you, anyway."
People were bustling around in the next room,
setting up the altar, decking the halls with what I considered excessive
amounts of holly and ivy, and singing something like, "O, Solstice Tree."
"It sounds like a...holiday party." Mom said.
"We're doing Winter Solstice tonight."
"Oh. That's sort of like your version of
I wanted to snap back that Christmas was the
Christian version of Solstice, but I held back.
"We celebrate the return of the sun. It's a lot
quieter than Christmas. No shopping sprees, no pine needles and
tinsel on the floor, and it doesn't wipe me out. I remember how you had
always worked yourself to a frazzle by December 26."
"Oh honey, I loved doing all that stuff. I
wouldn't trade those memories for all the spare time in the world. I wish
you and Jack would loosen up a little for the baby's sake. When you were
little, you enjoyed Easter bunnies and trick-or-treating and Christmas
Since you've gotten into this Wicca religion, you sound a
lot like Aunt Betty the year she was a Jehovah's Witness."
I laughed nervously. "Yeah. How is Aunt Betty?"
"Fine. She's into the Celestine Prophecy now, and
she seems quite happy. Y'know," she went on, "Aunt Betty always said the
Jehovah's Witnesses said those holiday things were Pagan. So I don't see why
you've given them up."
"Uh, they've been commercialized and polluted beyond recognition. We're
into very simple, quiet celebrations."
"Well," she said dubiously, "as long as you're
Sometimes long distance is better than being
there, 'cause your mother can't give you the look that makes you agree with
everything she says. Jack rescued me by interrupting.
"Hi, Ma." he called to the phone as he waved a
beribboned sprig of mistletoe over my head. Then he kissed me, one of those
quick noisy ones. I frowned at him.
"Druidic tradition, Fran. Swear to Goddess."
"Of course it is. Did the Druids use plastic berries?"
"Always. We'll be needing you in about five minutes."
"Okay. Gotta go, Mom. Love you."
We had a nice, serene kind of Solstice Circle. No jingling bells or
filked-out Christmas Carols. Soon after the last coven
member left, Jack was ready to pack it in.
"The baby's nestled all snug in her bed," he said with a yawn, "I think
I'll go settle in for a long winter's nap."
I heaved a martyred sigh. He grinned unrepentantly, kissed me, called
me a grinch, and went to bed. I stayed up and
puttered around the house,trying to unwind. I sifted through the day's mail,
ditched the flyers urging us to purchase all the Seasonal Joy we could
afford or charge.
I opened the card from his parents. Another sermonette: a manger scene
would fill our hearts in this blessed season. She means well, really. I
amused myself by picking out every Pagan element I could find in the card.
When the mail had been sorted, I got up and started turning our ritual\0
room back into a living room. As if the greeting card had carried a virus, I
found myself humming Christmas carols. I
turned on the classic rock station, but they were playing that
Lennon-Ono Christmas song. I switched stations. The weatherman assured me
that there was only a twenty percent chance of snow. Then, by Loki, the
deejay let Bruce Springs**** insult my ears crooning, "yah better watch out,
yah better not pout." I tried the Oldies station. Elvis lives, and he does
Christmas songs. Okay, fine. We'll do classical ~ no, we won't. They're
playing Handel's Messiah. Maybe the community radio station would have
something secular humanist.
"Ahora, escucharemos a Jose Feliciano canta `Feliz
I was getting annoyed. The radio doesn't usually
get this saturated with holiday mush until the twenty-fourth.
"This is too weird." I said to the radio, "Cut that crap out."
The country station had some Kenny Rogers Christmas tune, the first
rock station had gone from John and Yoko's Christmas
song to Simon and Garfunkel's "Silent Night," and the other rock station
still had Springs**** reliving his childhood. "--I'm tellin' you why. Santa
Claus is comin' to town!" he bellowed.
I was about to pick out a nice secular CD when there was a knock at the
door. Now, it could have been a coven member who'd
forgotten something. It could have been someone with car trouble. It could
have been any number of things, but it certainly couldn't have been a stout
guy in a red suit--snowy beard, rosy cheeks, and all--backed by eight
reindeer and a sleigh. I blinked, wondered crazily where Rudolph was, and
blinked again. There were nine reindeer. Our twenty-percent chance
of snow had frosted the dead grass and was continuing
to float down in fat flakes.
"Hi, Frannie." he said warmly, "I've missed you."
"I'm stone cold sober, and you don't exist."
He looked at me with a mixture of sorrow and
compassion and sighed heavily.
"That's why I miss you, Frannie. Can I come in?
We need to talk."
I couldn't quite bring myself to slam the door on
this vision, hallucination, or whatever. So I let him in, because
that made more sense then letting all the cold air in while I argued with
someone who wasn't there.
As he stepped in, a thought crossed my mind about
various entities needing an invitation to get in houses. He flashed me a
smile that would melt the polar caps.
"Don't you miss Christmas, Frannie?"
"No." I said flatly, "Apparently you don't see me
when I'm sleeping and waking these days. I haven't been Christian for
"Oh, now don't let that stop you. We both know this holiday's older
than that. Yule trees and Saturnalia and
I raised an eyebrow at the Beatles reference,
then gave him my standard sermonette on the appropriation and
adulteration that made Christmas no longer a Pagan holiday. I had done my
homework. I listed centuries, I named names--St. Nicholas among them.
"In the twentieth century version," I assured
him, "Christmas is two parts crass commercialism mixed with one part blind
faith in a religion I rejected years ago." I gave him my best lines, the
ones that had convinced my coven to abstain from Christmassy cliches. My
hallucination sat in Jack's favorite chair, nodding patiently at me.
"And you," I added nastily,"come here talking about ancient
customs when you--in your current form--were invented in the
nine****th century by, um...Clement C. Moore."
He laughed, a rolling, belly-deep chuckle unlike
any department-store Santa I'd ever heard.
"Of course I change my form now and then to suit
fashion. Don't you? And does that stop you from being yourself?" He said,
and asked me if I remembered Real Magic, by Isaac Bonewits.
I gaped at him for a moment, then caught myself.
"This is like `Labyrinth', right? I'm having a dream that pretends to be
real, but is only made from pieces of things in my memory. You don't look a
thing like David Bowie."
"Bonewits has this Switchboard Theory." Santa went on amiably, "The
energy you put into your beliefs influences the real existence of the
archetypal--oh, let me put it simpler: `in the beginning, Man creaed God'.
He lit a long-stemmed pipe. The tobacco had a mild and somehow
Christmassy smell, and every puff sent up a wreath of
smoke. "I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated than Bonewits tells it, but
that's close enough for mortals. Are you with me so far?"
"Oh, sure." I lied as unconvincingly as possible.
Santa sighed heavily.
"When's the last time you left out hot tea and
cookies for me?"
"When I figured out my parents were eating them."
"Frannie, Frannie. Remember pinda balls, from
"Rice balls left as offerings for ancestors and
"Do Hindus really believe that the ancestors and
gods eat pinda balls?"
"All right, y'got me there. They say that spirits consume the spiritual
essence, then mortals can have what's left."
"Mm-hm." Santa smiled at me compassionately through his snowy beard.
I rallied quickly. "What about the toys? I know for a fact they aren't
made by you and a bunch of non-union Elves."
"Oh, that's quite true. Manufacturing physical
objects out of magical energy is terribly expensive and breaks
several laws of Nature--She only allows us to do that on special
occasions. It certainly couldn't be done globally and annually. Now, the
missus and the Elves and I really do have a shop at the North Pole. Not the
sort of thing the Air Force would ever find. What we make up there is what
makes this time a holiday, no matter what religion it's called."
"Don't tell me," I said, rolling my eyes, "you make the sun come back."
"Oh my, no. The solar cycle stuff, the Reason For
The Season, isn't my department. My part is making it a holiday. We make a
mild, non-addictive psychedelic thing called Christmas
spirit. Try some."
He dipped his fingers in a pocket and tossed
red-gold-green-silver glitter at me. I could have ducked. I don't know why I
It smelled like snow, and pine needles, and cedar
chips in the fireplace. It smelled like fruitcake, cornbread savory herbal
stuffing, like that foamy white stuff you spray on the window with stencils.
It felt like a crisp wind, Grandma's hugs, fuzzy new mittens, pine needles
scrunching under my slippers. I saw twinkly lights, mistletoe in the
doorway, smiling faces from years gone by. Several Christmas carols
played almost simultaneously in a kind of medley. I
fought my way back to my living room and glared sternly at the
hallucination in Jack's chair.
"Fun stuff. Does the DEA know about this?"
"Oh, Frannie. Why are you such a hard case? I
told you it's non-addictive and has no harmful side effects. Would Santa
Claus lie to you?"
I opened my mouth and closed it again. We looked at each other a while.
"Can I have some more of that glittery stuff?"
"Mmmm. I think you need something stronger. Try a
I tasted rum ball. Peppermint. Those hard candies
with the picture all the way through. Mama's favorite fudge. A chorus line
of Christmas candies danced through my mouth. The Swedish Angel Chimes, run
on candle power, say tingatingatingating. Mama, with a funny smile, promised
give Santa my letter.
Greeting cards taped on the refrigerator door. We
rode through the tree farm on a straw-filled trailer pulled by a red and
green tractor, looking for a perfect pine. It was so big, Daddy had to cut a
bit off so the star wouldn't sc**** the ceiling. Lights, ornaments, tinsel.
lifted me up to the mantle to hang my stocking. My
dolls stayed up to see Santa Claus, and in the morning they all had new
clothes. Grandma carried in platters with the world's biggest Christmas
dinner. Joey's Christmas puppy chased my Christmas kitten up the tree and it
fallen over but Daddy held it while Mama got the
kitten out. Daddy said every bad word there was but he kept laughing anyway.
I sneaked my favorite plastic horse into the nativity scene, between the
camels and the donkey.
I came back to reality slowly, with a silly smile
on my face and a tickly feeling behind my eyes like they wanted to cry. The
phrase "visions of sugarplums" took on a whole new meaning.
"How long has it been," Santa asked, "since you
played with a nativity set?"
"But it symbolizes--"
"The winter-born king. The sacred Mother and her
sun-child. Got a problem with that? You could redecorate it with
pentagrams if you like, they'll look fine. As for the Christianization, I've
heard who you invoke at Imbolc."
"But Bridgid was a Goddess for centuries before
the Catholic Church-oh." I crossed my arms and tried to glare at
him, but failed. "You're a sneaky old Elf, y'know?"
"The term is `jolly old Elf.' Care for another
I did. I tasted gingerbread. My first nip of soy eggnog the way the
grown-ups drink it. Fresh sugar cookies, shaped like
trees and decked with colored frosting. Dad had been laid off, but we
managed a lot of cheer. They told us Christmas would be "slim pickings."
Joey and I smiled bravely when Mama brought home that spindly spruce. We
loaded down our "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" with every light and ornament
could hold. Popcorn and cranberry strings for the
outdoor trees. Mistletoe in the hall: plastic mistletoe, real kisses. Joey
and I snipped and glued and stitched and painted treasures to give as
We agonized over our "Santa" letters...by now we
knew where the goodies came from, and we tried to compromise between what we
longed for and they thought they could afford. Every day we hoped the
factory would reopen. When Joey's dog ate my mitten,I wasn't brave. I knew
I'd get mittens for Christmas, and one less toy. I
cried. On December twenty-fifth we opened our presents ve-ery slowly,
drawing out the experience. We made a show of cheer over our socks and
shirts and meager haul of toys. I got red mittens. We could tell Mama and
Daddy were proud
of us for being so brave, because they were grinning
"Go out to the garage for apples." Mama told us,
"We'll have apple pancakes."
I don't remember having the pancakes. There was a
dollhouse in the garage. No mass-produced aluminum thing but a homemade
plywood dollhouse with wall-papered walls and real curtains and
thread-spool chairs. My dolls were inside, with newly sewn clothes. Joey was
on his knees in front of a plywood barn with hay in the loft. His old farm
had new paint. Our plastic animals were corralled in
popsicle stick fences. The garage smelled like apples and hay, the cement
was bone-chilling under my slippers, and I was crying.
My knees were drawn up to my chest, arms wrapped
around them. My chest felt tight, like ice cracking in sunshine. Santa
offered me a huge white handkerchief. When all the ice in my chest had
melted, he cleared his throat. He was pretty misty-eyed, too.
"Want to come sit on my lap and tell me what you want for
"You've already given it to me." But I sat on his
lap anyway, and kissed his rosy cheek until he did his famous laugh.
"I'd better go now, Frannie. I have other stops
to make, and you have work to do."
"Right. I'd better pop the corn tonight, it
strings best when it's stale."
I let him out the door. The reindeer were pawing
impatiently at the moon-kissed new-fallen snow. I'd swear Rudolph winked at
"Don't forget the hot tea and cookies."
"Right. Uh, December twenty-fourth, or Solstice,
He shrugged. "Whatever night you expect me, I'll
be there. Eh, don't wait up. Visits like this are tightly rationed. Laws of
Nature, y'know, and She's strict with them."
"Gotcha. Thanks, Santa." I kissed his cheek again. "Happy
The phrase had a nice, non-denominational ring to
it. I thought I'd call my parents and in-laws soon and try it out on them.
Santa laid his finger aside of his nose and
"Blessed be, Frannie."
The sleigh soared up, and Santa really did exclaim something. It
sounded like old German. Smart-aleck Elf.
When I closed the door, the radio was playing
Jethro Tull's "Solstice Bells." -- author unknown
======================================= MODERATOR'S COMMENT:
I haven't seen this one for years! Thanks for reposting it. -Baird
9th July 00:42
"Twas the Night before Solstice (time)
This one makes me cry every time I read it, and this morning was no
exception. I love it - for so many reasons. Thank you!
"Subtract the python and think crushed velvet."
spamtrap: remove number to reply
12th July 22:30
"Twas the Night before Solstice (paganism don)
Wow, it seems this is an old favorite for many here at ARWM, but I've
never read it before. I think I'm going to print this out for my
hubby... if I thought she'd get it, I'd give a copy to my mom who
keeps insisting that this "paganism thing" is a phase based on the
fact that I don't duck and run when holidays come around.
Thanks for posting that, moonstorm.
17th July 04:45
"Twas the Night before Solstice (faith religion able gender church)
I sent this one to some friends and a friend of mine (Brit) emailed me
back with this great email.
I have a little story to tell you about this.
The girls in the office decided to erect a nativity scene - some kind
office competition. Anyway, the damn thing got put up right next to my
desk - stinking of pet-shop straw bedding which made me sneezy and,
made me feel a bit intimidated considering I really don't want to
participate in such things. This morning, when I got in they'd got a
player running carols end-to-end - on MY desk because it was the
their nativity scene. And because I reacted a little contemptuously to
of this I earned myself the nickname "Scrooge". About halfway through
morning, and about a hundred sneers and insults to my faith later, I
about ready to either rip someone's head off or walk out of my job. I
pretty close to tears that much was certain. I'm no Scrooge and I
find a way to explain to them that this time of year means really a
me, that I don't dis Jesus, Joseph and Mary just because they're
watered-down symbols of the Old Religion. I put up with the crass
saturation of Christmas even though I'd love to call it all the work
their 'Devil' to use cynicism to cause the world to ignore the true
of this time. While all this was carrying on I was reformatting your
because it had become badly scattered by the onforwarding process. I
reading it too as I went on. Generally a little 'American' and Wiccan
taste (f****ve me for both jibes but they both have their distinctive
cultural hallmarks which I take with a squinty-eyed expression -
lot of similar British stuff I might add), but I was able to see the
Halfway through I went for coffee-break and found that 'Thorntons'
our best chocolatiers) had set up a stall in the can**** for the day.
Feeling pretty desperate by now to get myself out of a hole by any
necessary, I went for the one Achilles-heel I know I can get most of
female gender on - choklit!!! Three boxes of their deluxe
biscuits to be precise. My supervisor sent round the email "CHRISTMAS
MIRACLE - ANDY (SCROOGE) BUYS YOU ALL CHOCOLATE BISCUITS!". And
I was exonerated of all sins! While all this was going on I finished
reading that email. Damn poignant isn't it? Well I had to work with my
polaroids on (I often do any because of the VDU glare) because I was
moved by how all that came together. It taught me a damn good lesson
made it acceptable again for me to see the whole nativity thing, in
whole Christmas thing as something I can relate with. I even starting
humming along to those annoying carols! The girls sent me an email to
me for the gesture (and to ask me if I would make a chocolate Yule log
Solstice Day, which really touched me) and Lesley (Lesley's a church
verger - we get along because we can talk religion comparatively)
a bag of chocolate gold sovereigns with the note "for the Dragon's
it. And now I'm home feeling very at peace with myself and looking
to enjoying something I feel I can join in with again (if not the evil
commercial bits of it) after several years abstinence. And that, my
Synn, is down to you. So thank you! I hate you too - this taught me a
lesson!! I hope karma-transfer works over the distance...
Thanks, buddy, today meant a lot ))
The art of thinking
Is one I have not mastered
So I contemplate
For that one moment in time
That I would then Know.