Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rebirth of the Sun

Photo of Druids and Pagans celebrating the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge, photo by Mat Cardy, credit to framework.latimes.com

A Joyous Yuletide, or Winter Solstice, to all!

Do you know where the word Yule comes from? Well, it's related to the Norse god Odin. One of his many names is Jolnir, meaning "Yule father." In fact, Yule started as an indigenous midwinter festival celebrated by Germanic Pagans. We still retain many of their Yule traditions including the Yule log, the Yule goat, eating ham or boar, and caroling. Another ancient festival that influenced the holiday season as we know it is the Roman Saturnalia. Saturnalia was a week long celebration held in honor of the god Saturn. It was celebrated with gift giving, gambling, feasting, and granting special privileges to slaves. The Celts also had a midwinter festival, and although not much is known about it we do know that that is where the tradition of hanging mistletoe (a symbol of virility) comes from.

Well, that was then. This is now. How do modern Pagans celebrate the holiday season? Well, there are many different traditions, but in Wicca much attention is paid to the fact that this is the longest night of the year. After this the days grow longer and stronger. This is the time in which the Horned God (in the form of the sun) is reborn again. All matter of young sun gods and mother goddesses are honored on this season.

Here are the ways in which we party:

  • Not surprisingly, many traditions will be familiar to people who celebrate Christmas. Pagans also decorate a tree, hang mistletoe and stockings, give gifts, and spend time with loved ones. They give charity and kindness to strangers just like everyone else does.
  • It's getting a bit redundant to say that Pagan holidays are celebrated by lighting things on fire, but it's true. It's traditional to keep the Yule log burning all through the night of Yuletide Eve and Yule. At the very least, Pagans will have a Yule log as a decoration.
  • There are various gift giving spirits for the holiday season. Some Pagans still wait for Santa Claus, especially if they have an interfaith family. One favorite for Wiccans is the Holly King who, along with the Oak King, represent the Horned God. The two battle for supremacy with the youthful Oak King winning until Midsummer. In some rituals Pagans may reenact this battle.
  • For feasting the traditional foods are ham, chicken, turkey, duck, chestnuts, oranges, apples, figs, plums, pomegranates, pears, potatoes, gingerbread, caraway, and the usual assortment of cookies. Some like to make wassail, which is a spicy fruit punch that may or may not be alcoholic. There might also be a yule log cake, a.k.a. a buche de noel.
  • Some Pagans like to celebrate "twelve days of Yule" by honoring twelve specific deities or spirits each day starting on the Solstice.
  • Yuletide is a great time of year for making plans for the future. Casting spells that have to do with rebirth and new beginnings are common.

And now for a massive holiday dumping of names, because I love giving the gift of name inspiration:

Mythical beings associated with the season:

Holly King & Oak King (So probably just Holly and Oak, Arguably Celtic)

Odin (Norse)

Mithras (Mithraic)

Saturn (Roman)

Apollo (Greek & Roman)

Santa Claus (or Nicholas, Christian)

Alcyone (Greek)

Horus (Egyptian)

Osiris (Egyptian)

Frigga (Norse)

Dionysus (Roman)

Frau Holle (German)

Ameratasu (Japanese)

La Befana (Italian Christian)

Juno (Roman)

Isis (Egyptian)

Ceres (Roman)

Demeter (Greek)

Nephthys (Egyptian)

Arianrhod (Welsh)

Cerridwen (Welsh)

Freya (Norse)

Gaia (Greek)

Morrigan (Irish)

Fortuna (Roman)

Other suggestions:

Yule

December

Decembra

Decimus

Winter

Midwinter

Solstice

Sol

Invictus

Invicta

Sunny

Sunshine

Io

Golden

Silver

Crimson

Garnet

Emerald

Rosemary

Orion

Wren

Robin

Draco

Klaus

Mistletoe

Ivy

Clove

Tannen

Snowlily

Cinnamon

Ginger

Hibiscus

Dove

Paloma

Cardinal

North

Renata ("reborn")

Ravi ("sun")

Zohara ("light, brilliance")

Carol

Phoebus ("bright, pure")

Phoebe

Noel ("birth")

Natalie

Orange

Nutmeg

Caraway

Glimmer

Radiance

Mirth

Joy

Jolie

Dawn

Poinsettia

Lucia

Luz

Lux

Evergreen

Spruce

Pine

Branch

Bay

Juniper

Cressida ("golden")

Rime ("frost")

Frost

Snowden

Alban ("white")

Festus

Allegra ("cheerful, lively")

Drummer

Isolde ("ice battle")

Farah ("joy")

Felicity

Festus

Hilary ("cheerful")

Merry

Turquoise

Elk

Onyx

Jupiter

Lettice ("joy, happiness")

Lowender ("mirth")

Dora ("gift")

Antler

Garland

Acorn

Fun combo time:

Felicity Rime

Yule Evergreen

Klaus Garland

Juniper Allegra

Draco Drummer

Fortuna Lux

Phoebus North

Rosemary Snow

Io Golden

Apollo Wren

Orion Sol

Robin Jolie

Paloma Solstice

Ravi Oak

Noel Caraway

Capricorn the Surefooted

"The Two Goats" by Gustave Dore

"Only a fool hopes to repeat an experience; the wise man knows that every experience is to be viewed as a blessing."
--Henry Miller, author and Capricorn

Many modern Pagans prefer to pick names based on astrological signs. Yes, I know I just finished doing a series of posts very similar to this on the old blog, but this time I'm not limiting myself to thirteen names. Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names by K. M. Sheard is an excellent resource for finding names to go with specific astrological signs, so if you want even more options than the ones I list here go find that book.

The sign of Capricorn starts on the solstice (usually December 22) and ends around January 19. Capricorns are nowadays associated with mountain goats, but in the ancient past they were symbolized by a mythical hybrid goat-fish. This is interesting because the goat's head would suggest a realistic and grounded approach to life, while the fish bottom would suggest emotional and spiritual depth. Capricorn is arguably the most resourceful of all the signs. They know how to work hard and get things done. Generally, they are reserved and standoffish unless the rest of their chart has flamboyant signs. They tend to turn their noses up at things they deem to frivolous and are not the type of people that take a lot of risks in life. They also have a bit of a materialistic streak and can have an obsession with status symbols.

Again, "sensible" names tend to be more appropriate for earth signs, but I got a mix of styles here.

Goat/horn/hybrid creature names:

Faun
Pan
Amalthea
Giles
Thor
Thora
Griffin

Earth and (to a lesser extent) water names:

George ("farmer")
Georgia
Octavian
Octavia
Terra
Ceres ("to grow")
Demeter ("earth mother")
Sita ("furrow")
Gardner
Meadow
Valley
Willow
Turqouise
Rosmerta
Ocean
Fisher
Mina ("fish")

Time names:

December
Decembra
Decimus
January
Janus
Winter
Solstice
Yule

Green, purple, black, and grey names:

Jet
Raven
Onyx
Sable
Evergreen
Olive
Midori
Viridiana
Forrest
Emerald
Esmeralda
Plum
Lavender
Amethyst
Greyson
Wolf
Ash
Shadow
Cole

Attribute names:

Severine ("severe")
Severus
Caprice
Wisdom
Sage
Frodo ("wise")
Cato ("wise")
Sophia ("wisdom")
Clemency ("mercy")
Clement
Pia ("pious")
True
Truly
Vera ("true")
Fidel ("loyal")
Loyal
Perseverance
Faith
Prosper
Boniface ("good fate")
Millicent ("work+strong")
Ida ("work, labor")
Emmeline ("work")
Ophelia ("help")
Amias ("friend")

Other ideas:

Garnet
Hypatia
Siddhartha
Dove
Hazel
Yew
Beowulf
Artemis
Saga
Melissa
Solomon
Saturn
Ruby
Nester
Paloma
Dove
Minerva
Theodore
Theodosia
Deborah
Juniper
Clove
Vesper
Alma

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yuletide Carols


After I became a Wiccan I couldn't bear the thought of playing Jesus-y songs during my Yuletide. Or, for that matter, very materialistic songs. I hate "Santa Baby" with a flaming passion. Anyway, a few years ago I started aggressively looking for proper Yuletide carols. I love listening to great holiday music. I was in bands and orchestras throughout most of my growing-up years after all.

Anyone who has tried to do this before knows that they'll find a lot of Christian Christmas songs with Pagany lyrics. You know, "God Rest Ye Merry Paganfolk," "Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland," "Share the Light" to the tune of "The First Noel." Pass. They bother me because they feel like mockery. It's okay sometimes, depending on how it's done but mostly I wanted something more genuine. And in any case, you can't find mp3s for any of these.

So how did it go? Terrifically, actually. I really don't understand it when other Pagans say that it's so hard to find non-Christian holiday songs. You just need to know where and how to look.

So as a present to all of you, here is my Yuletide carol playlist. It would have taken forever to find links for all of these, but rest assured that I found all of these on the Internet. Some are from amazon, some are from bandcamp, and some are from free music blogs. You could probably tell that my music tastes generally fall into the indie/folksy camp. If you guys know any other great Yuletide songs feel free to leave them in the comments!

Carols that are either overtly Pagan or about the Winter Solstice:

"Lady Greensleeves" -- Julianne Marx and Craig Olson
"Ring Out Solstice Bells" -- Jethro Tull
"Patapan" -- Damh the Bard
"Solstice" -- Andy Ditzler
"The Cutty Wren" -- Damh the Bard
"Santa Claus is Pagan Too" -- Emerald Rose
"Bold Orion" -- Susan Mckeown and Lindsey Horner
"Holly, Ivy, and Rose" -- Tori Amos
"Solstice Night" -- Julianne Marx and Craig Olson
"Wintry Queen" -- Coyote Run
"Hunting the Wren" -- Steeleye Span
"On Midwinter's Day" -- Damh the Bard
"The Longest Night of the Year" -- Mary Chapin Carpenter
"Winter's Carol" -- Tori Amos
"The Winter King" -- Damh the Bard
"Thank You Sunshine" -- Zucchini Brothers
"Rozhanitsa" -- Julianne Marx and Crag Olson
"The Christians and the Pagans" -- Dar Williams (although I have to admit that I think Darryl Purpose's cover is better than the original.)
"Wintergrace" -- Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum

Carols that could be about either Yuletide and Christmas:

"Deck the Halls" -- 11 Acorn Lane
"Here We Come A-Wassailing" -- Kate Rusby
"Walking in the Air" -- Chloe Agnew (If you grew up watching The Snowman you know this song.)
"The Boar's Head Carol" -- Katie McMahon
"The Wassailing Song" -- The Grizzly Folk
"Dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy" -- Pentatonix (or really anything from The Nutcracker.)
"Patapan" -- Heather Dale
"Mistletoe" -- Indigo Girls
"Frosty the Snowman" -- Fiona Apple

Wintry Carols:

"The January Man" -- Bert Jansch
"Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" -- Emilie-Claire Barlow
"Wishes" -- The Bird and the Bee
"Congratulations (A Happy New Year Song)" -- Pink Martini
"The Hounds of Winter" -- Sting
"Winter Song" -- Ingrid Michaelson
"Winter Solstice" -- Jordan O'Jordan
"Tracks in the Snow" -- The Civil Wars
"Song for a Winter's Night" -- Domestic Crisis Group (The version by Sarah McLachlan is probably the most famous.)
"Aspenglow" -- Lovespirals
"Sleigh Ride" -- She & Him
"Baby It's Cold Outside" -- Ray Charles & Betty Carter
"White Winter Hymnal" -- Pentatonix
"My December" -- Scala & Kolacny Brothers
"Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)" -- Laura Marling
"The Atheist Christmas Carol" -- Vienna Teng

I know it's for Christmas but I'm keeping it anyway:

"The Bells of Dublin/Christmas Eve" -- The Chieftains
"Jingle Bells?" -- Barbra Streisand
"Christmas is Interesting" -- Jonathan Coulton
"I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus" -- Amy Winehouse
"This Endris Night" -- Heather Dale
"Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake" -- Robbie O'Connell
"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" -- Amy Mann
"Feliz Navidad" -- Jose Feliciano (and another version by Sea of Bees.)
"Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24" -- Trans-Siberian Orchestra (a.k.a. the hard rock Carol of the Bells.)
"River" -- Rosie Thomas

Songs I associate with the season:

"Auld Lang Syne" -- Salsa Celtica (and another version by Pink Martini.)
"When the River Meets the Sea" -- John Denver with the Muppets
"Here Comes the Sun" -- Yo-Yo Ma (The Beatles version sounds more appropriate for Summer Solstice to me.)
"Give a Little Bit" -- Supertramp
"To Try for the Sun" by Donovan

Naturally, these songs will inspire some names:

Carol

Song

Solstice

Greensleeves

Marx

Olson

Jethro

Wren

Damh

Bard

Emerald

Rose

Orion

Holly

Ivy

Amos

Queen

Coyote

Sunshine

Rozhanitsa

Dar

Wintergrace

Acorn

Chloe

Plum

Pan

Heather

Indigo

Mistletoe

January

Emilie

Wish

Bird

Ingrid

Jordan

Fiona

Apple

Snow

Aspen

Glow

Ray

Hymnal

December

Vienna

Chieftain

Bell

Jonathan

Amy

Fogarty

Feliz

Navidad

River

Denver

Donovan

And here are some lovely combos:

Donovan Hymnal

Wren Solstice

Jethro Denver

Amy Wintergrace

River Navidad

Ingrid Bird

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Name Magpie: New Names for All

I have finished my classes! I have my TEFL certificate! Now I have to go job hunting. I know I've been quiet, but all through my personal madness I've kept my eye out for new gems:

Indre. I forget where I first saw this, but I believe whatever I was reading was about France in some way. I thought that this was a French form of India. It's actually the name of a river. It might also be a Norse name.

Gotham. This is the name of Deepak Chopra's son. Obviously, my first thought was Gotham City but somehow I don't peg Deepak Chopra as a comic book fan. My theory is that it's a respelling of Gaotam, meaning "one who dispels darkness," but I'm not certain.

Dorigen. Another one from Appellation Mountain. Dorigen is a character in The Canterbury Tales, a book that I have not gotten around to reading yet.

Annelore. I've been lusting after these books for a while, but I'm didn't pay attention to the author's name before. It's either a variant of Anna or it's Hannelore without the H, depending on who you ask.

Bellafaye. A smoosh-name of Bella and Faye meaning "beautiful fairy," found over here. It does remind me a bit of Harry Belafonte. You know who Harry Belafonte is. Trust me.

Fernway. From The Beauty of Names, it's apparently the name of a film character played by Lena Horn.

Suchart. Also from The Beauty of Names, this is a Thai name meaning "born into a good life."

Rime. This is used as a place name for a lot of fantasy franchises. It's an old word that roughly means "frost." Rime is still sometimes used as a word in Scotland, but it has become obsolete elsewhere. It sounds like "rhyme."

Matisse. Of course I've heard the name Matisse before. I did major in fine arts after all. But this was the first time I've seen it on a little girl.