Yuletide Observations

Every year on Christmas Eve I drive around to see the lights of just about everyone in town. Some things I noticed this year:

  • I learned that the tree decoration I love so much is flat
  • It feels like there weren’t as many lights this year as there were last year. It made the town feel darker (literally and somewhat figuratively); I’m wondering if there’s a connection between this and all the complaints I heard this year about rampant commercialism (not a new phenomenon by any means, see A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it appears to wax and wane).
  • At one point, between two lit up houses, I smelled ash. It immediately reminded me of the Yule fire and the ashes I used for my wards.
  • I turned onto the street I used to live on, then onto that turn-off for the big residential neighborhood there, because they looked lit up. I don’t recall exactly when I got spit back out onto the street on which I used to live. I’m not sure if I was being supernaturally guided or if something was trying to lead me astray.
  • On the whole, the shadows gave me vibes in varying degrees, especially near the end when I was driving on the aforementioned street.

Another Talk About Santa

I’ve talked about Santa before (and my general idea on him remains unchanged), but there was one little thing I noticed in a couple of more recent Christmas pop songs (the only one whose name I remember is Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me”, but I remain convinced there’s another). That little thing is this: the songs came out sounding a bit like prayers to the Man in Red for relationship help, like it’s a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Now, I’m not sure how in his purview that is, but it kind of made me think. At the time it just made me think that this idea that Santa is not meant to be regarded as a physical entity, but is instead a spirit and therefore acts as such, had some merit (plus, it’s always better to ask the aid of spirits you have a relationship with, and we’ve all got a relationship with Santa, at least here in the States). But also: can Santa actually help in matters of love? Not sure on this one, as stated, but I have seen the odd Pagan blogger making links of sorts to a cluster of holiday figures that come to include the Ghosts of Christmas from A Christmas Carol, Bacchus/Dionysus, Odin, and others. Some of these links are probably more tenuous than others, but as also mentioned, probably better to hit up a long-time friend instead of a stranger.

Another thing to note here before I forget, is the interesting relationship I’ve had to this idea throughout my life. I wrote a letter to Santa once in high school because I was in love (that one didn’t work out, probably a good thing), and I’ve gradually gotten back into a practice of offering milk and cookies. A lot of it coincides with becoming Pagan myself and the winding road that has taken for me over the years, and I’ve found the notion of spirit!Santa helpful in that regard.

All of this to say, it probably doesn’t hurt to ask the guy for help every once in a while, especially around the holidays.

Tomten, Tomten Everywhere

These things. Are. Everywhere.

I feel like within the past three to five years I have seen an absolute explosion of items fashioned similarly to the above photo, just chillin around the place as Christmas decorations. And not just for Christmas, either. My workplace’s accountant has one dressed like Uncle Sam on her desk for the Fourth of July and another in black for Halloween. They are inescapable.

And I’m not sure why this of all things is the holiday decor trend for all possible occasions.

According to The Old Magic of Christmas, “[t]here is only room for one tomten in a household, so give the others away”, pg 106. And yet people inexplicably purchase dolls of these creatures in fairly significant numbers. I don’t know if the rules are different for businesses, and I don’t recall any vibes from seeing groups of these dolls, but I always thought it odd that, say, my bosses would keep more than one because they like the way the dolls look.

And while they do have a nice Yuletide vibe (that being half the point), in the States at least they are getting used for all sorts of holidays. I’ve seen 4th of July tomten; wood cutouts of the same that can hold different items; a chef tomte for, as far as I could tell, no discernible reason; and even the odd Halloween variant.

My question is: why?

See, I’ve been paying attention to a fair number of changes to Christmas fare in the past few years. Krampus has gotten more popular, and people seem to be getting tired of the same cheery nonsense every year. The “anti-Christmas” song (such as “The Night Santa Went Crazy” or “Ho Ho F@#$ing Ho”, for example) has been steadily gaining traction for at least a decade. But that’s just in the States. We’re talking at least partially about folkloric icons from parts of Europe that have been knocking around for centuries, with their own lore and context.

In part, I’m sure, the answer is capitalism. Marketers saw the changing trends and thought “this image [tomten] is similar enough to Santa, let’s try that” and have had an utterly indisputable level of success.

But, as with the Gavle Goat that I’ve discussed last year, it’s possible unseen forces are also at play. I joke to myself that the tomten are going to awaken in the night and take over. But, considering the overall fuzziness of the “real world” at this time of year anyways, and increasingly so in recent years, maybe I’m not too far off? Maybe they are taking over?

Adventures in Amazon Reviews

Goth rock has been my music of choice for the past few months for dealing with suffering and bullshit. I like its vibe.

And if you’re anything like me, I recommend putting on some Siouxsie or Bauhaus and strapping in.

I’ve been looking into playing card divination (a specific form of cartomancy related to tarot). I’ve got a specific deck, that has its own vibe for sure, and learning to read it has been a struggle. That’s kind of what you get when you have decks based on intellectual properties; the vibes get transferred over, and you have added associations based on your knowledge of the intellectual property. Much of this is besides the point.

At some point, John Beckett reviewed Camelia Elias’s Read Like the Devil: The Essential Course in Reading the Marseilles Tarot, the first in a trilogy which includes a book on playing cards and a book on Lenormand. As is my wont, I poked into the reviews for the book on playing cards, and found a zinger of a review. One star, by a fellow calling himself ABCDEFG. This lovely individual has a problem with Cameliaa Elias’s books, chiefly that those books are Wrong. With a capital W.

I’ve read several of ABCDEFG’s reviews on these and other tarot books, and the one on the recent Charmed reboot. That one, though, is blessedly short, and if you’ve got it in you, you may take a gander below.

The new version of Charmed is… racist against white people and culturally appropriating the symbols of Wicca???

It’s hard to parse their problems with tarot books but it appears to be that there is no appreciation for “number”, sometimes capitalized for no discernible reason. For example, in their review of the Essential Course in reading Playing Cards, they say this:

For traditional card readers, Number rules the world into which we were born. Number is not alterable. It cannot be made to bend to the wishes of mankind. I can tell you, precisely–even mathematically!–why 3 is “a little” or why 7 can represent either an obstacle or something magical/mystical. The same is true for the rest of the numbers. Elias does not give such instruction.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RM68QDR1YWIES?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

I also have a snazzy math/science background but I’ve always struggled with numerology, so I’m not one hundred percent sure I can fully grasp this and I feel like if I asked politely I would receive a dissertation in my email within a week explaining in the most condescending fashion possible how everything works and why I am wrong for not automatically knowing this.

Speaking of which, ABCDEFG appears to believe that not just anyone can read cards:

she is not herself in the lineage of the cunning folk or the Old Religion, no one has trained her in the art of foretelling, and no one has passed her the power.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RM68QDR1YWIES?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

This is in a passage describing how the system presented in Elias’s book is ripped from a website the reviewer used to run, where they hosted the system they learned “as a child” from their family.

I can’t find any indication for how long the reviewer’s family has allegedly been doing fortune telling, but they rely on their family history and long years of personal experience to tell everyone that Elias is Wrong. ABCDEFG is kind enough to provide example readings they have done for people in their lives, which they claim were completely accurate.

All of this is used to inform the reader of the review, in this case me, that Elias is Wrong. I don’t see much attempt at correcting misinformation, besides the occasional, condescending addition of things like this from their review on Elias’s Marseilles tarot book:

In cosmological reality, Swords are Air. The principle applies everywhere in manifested reality. Of the four building blocks of life, Air is Oxygen. The word comes from Greek “oxus” – “sharp” because Oxygen cuts away things and eliminates them. Wands aren’t sharp. Swords are. This is manifest even in your own body, where oxygen is used to get rid of waste. Oxygen combines with hydrogen, and you sweat it out. It combines with carbon, and you breathe it out. It combines with sulphur, and you poop it out. Oxygen = Air = Swords. Similar things can be said of the other Suits and Elements.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R260YFJZ1NA0X?ref=pf_vv_at_pdctrvw_srp

This emphasis on “reality” is also really grating, and crops up 11 times in the playing card book review and 4 in the tarot book review. The implication, I gather from all this harping on “reality” (let alone how triggering it is coming from the home life I have), is that Elias is not in line with reality, i.e. “delusional”. (In the hyperrational world us Pagans come into contact with, “delusional” = “disagrees with me”, despite having a proper psychiatric use and its misuse being actively damaging.)

Since ABCDEFG dipped into the well of their personal experience (twice), I suppose I have a right to do the same. I am in possession of the Night Vale Tarot, and really should catch up on the podcast but that’s besides the point. I haven’t been reading with it lately, but I have had experiences, years ago, where I did read with it and twice, something happened. Andred hijacked whatever a given card was “supposed” to mean and said, symbolically, “I am here, hang onto this”. So those two cards are on Her altar. It was unmistakable at the time it happened. Was I supposed to turn to Her and say, “Sorry, but the principles of Number say XYZ”? I have a feeling that wouldn’t have flown.

I have had milder versions of this experience with other decks. Sacred Circle Tarot is my go-to deck for big readings about the nature of the numinous in my life. There are differences between the Reno Day and Reno Night cards I own, in ways I can’t put into words. And the Doctor Who deck, mentioned above, has been giving me absolute fits trying to decipher. Knowing what numbers mean is only half the battle.

This rando on Amazon is way too much: witchsplaining, implication of an unbroken tradition untainted by [fill in the blank, really], on some moral crusade to “correct” “misinformation”, and a belief that a Charmed reboot with Latina actresses is racist white people because… reasons. Generally, they seem perpetually angry about things I can’t discern, and are taking it out on witchcraft and pagan content they disagree with.

(I suppose now it merits pondering the products they do like: Trials of the Moon, Magic Words and How to Use Them, Odisbook: The Book of Odr, The Compleat Witch or What to Do When Virtue Fails, Garnet Bracelet CHOOSE YOUR OWN CHARM, The Open Giza Fold-Up Cardboard Pyramid. I’m not opposed to the bracelet or the pyramid, Trials of the Moon or Magic Words (the last even sounds kind of interesting, as if I need more books). But Odisbook deserves plenty of second looks for dropping “odinist” and “a stronger relationship with the Gods of your people” in its blurb, that people are supposed to read, to decide if they want to buy the book! I guess all those 5 stars are self-selecting and I should avoid them and their opinions.)

I feel like I didn’t cover half of what I wanted to, even if I would be repeating myself. Perhaps I’m just overwhelmed by what I uncovered.

Yuletide Reflections

My internet connection has finally cooperated enough to allow me to write this on New Year’s Eve, where I still feel like I am in a bit of a nadir period with the seasons. I am growing into the opinion that shortly after the Winter Solstice is kind of a dumb spot to put the start of a calendar year, and this is something I’ve kind of explored in the worldbuilding for my still-in-progress sci-fi novel: the alien culture in question reckons every year by the rising of their two suns, an annual phenomenon with deep religious and cultural significance.

I’ve heard arguments for other dates, too: Samhain, as the start of the “dark” portion of the year, is popular among many Wiccan and Pagan groups. Jason Mankey makes a good case for Yule/Winter Solstice as “witch’s new year”, what with the rebirth of the Sun and suchlike. (This idea is also reflected above, albeit as something of a coincidence or synchronicity.) In Kemetic traditions, Wep Ronpet (the Opening of the Year) coincides with the heliacal rising of Sirius, which is usually in early August where I am but changes based on location. So really, a year can be reckoned just about any which way one feels like.

And the interesting thing about this year is I’m a little less about all that light symbolism when it comes to the solstice. Sure, I was hyped, and I got to have a neat ritual even if keeping it going for any length of time was a little difficult (and I will happily joke with others about shoving a sequoia through my front door over a twelve-day period. If you know you know). But there’s an energy to this time of year that I first noticed a while back: I don’t really feel like doing anything. In the words of a meme going around, why do I have to work instead of curling up in my den with enough food and hibernating until Optimal Foraging Conditions? An opossum wouldn’t put up with this.

My sense of activity and being-outside-ness will not return until around March, I reckon. I enjoy winter, I do, but I dislike being out in the cold and at risk of freezing to death. So I stay indoors as much as possible, with my books and my writing projects (yes, more than one), feeling that vague sense of biting cold deep within my bones.

And the other thing I’ve noticed is that spirits have been fairly active this year. Generally they are more active than they have been in decades past, or the conditioning designed to make us not notice is breaking down (or both), and also generally, they have historically been more active at this time of year than in other parts of the year (although the Good People have been known to move about on Beltane/May Eve, as well). But the past couple years I have been incapable of not noticing what’s going on. Several weeks back I was overpowered with the feeling of it, and have since been haunted by the feeling that something is coming and I must make ready. Shades of this feeling pass over me every time I pull into work, to remind me, I suppose, to have my emergency magical/mundane supplies on hand. (After all, my brain goes, this could be the day.)

I received a new deck of playing cards as part of the Doctor Who advent calendar I purchased, and I have been pulling at least one card each day (or rather, each day I remember to do so) in an effort to get to know the deck as a divinatory aid. Many of my notes on systems for reading them have fallen flat, and I’ve been largely forced to rely on analogies to Doctor Who episodes and situations, as well as “vibes” or impressions. Today was the 8 of Clubs and the Missy Joker (the latter asking if there were, indeed, spirits in this Chili’s tonight, and based on Missy’s primary or earliest scheme, I gathered the answer would be yes). Based chiefly on context and the way the suits were assigned by the deck makers (such that Clubs = monsters/aliens), I got an impression tonight would be quite busy. Not that this matters to anyone but myself, but I think it’s relevant to the point at hand: spirits are moving, often in groups this time of year. Usually the answer is to lock up properly and not venture outside unless absolutely necessary (i.e. I have to go to work at stupid-o’-clock in the morning). And if you hear unusual noises, don’t get too curious. It’s probably an animal anyway. Animals make plenty of weird noises.

(Side bar on that last point, a customer at my job at place discussed his second home, where he went for the most recent snowstorm we had, and among other things, he said “Be careful what you wish for” and that there were mountain lions up the wazoo in the area. “Kitty City” he called it. Tracks, a neighbor got a good photo, and a pit full of various bits of meat from various animals. He was wise enough to not linger to long at this pit, and I wouldn’t either. The wildlife is becoming more active and this is worrisome.)

Interestingly, spoons have been hard to come by when it comes to traditional Christmasy activities like watching festive movies, decking the halls, and baking more cookies than I could feasibly eat as a single individual. I’m not sure if it’s me being exhausted by “traditional” Christmas overall, or if it’s connected to the increased activity and my overall pull toward a “darker” holiday (and, I gather, the increasing popularity of Yule Goats), or both, or something else entirely, or a combination. But the image of Christmas being pushed (as it always has been) is increasingly not lining up with what I feel to be happening around this time of year. It does seem, though, that Christmas imagery is slowly changing to reflect the overall seasonal vibe (the aforementioned Yule Goat, straw goats both large and small that are ubiquitous in Sweden, as well as an increased popularity of figures like Krampus over the past several years).

And who knows, it could also be part of the overall anti-consumerism push among us young people out to kill all the industries because we don’t have the resources to keep up with the Joneses and are sick of hearing that we have to on principle.

The Wildlife (or, Don’t F@#k with Bears)

I didn’t find it in the newspaper I purchased, but my coworker told me about a news item she read about how there have been five bear attacks this season. Some bears will protect their cubs, but others will attack without reason. (Additionally, a friend of hers was taking his dog for a walk up by the lake and found fresh bear scat and huge tracks, and when he found a fresh kill he grabbed his dog and booked it back to civilization. She also mentioned the time her sister was charged by a mother moose, who dented her rental car.)

Us locals all have stories like this. I was told when I went to Yellowstone to not get within seventy-five feet of the bison we may encounter, and I remember observing them down a gentle slope from a distance of a few hundred feet, and leaving it there. And, I’ve always been a little freaked out by the moose. When one hopped the fence when I was little, minding its own, I ran back to the house. When they wander through my complex/neighborhood, I stay indoors and sometimes watch them from a distance. I wouldn’t get too close to them, I don’t stand a chance.

In the past two years we’ve had an influx of outsiders, moreso than usual. They moved here from places like California to escape the pandemic and they don’t know. Last winter was too easy on them and they stayed. But they ask questions to us about “is this [six feet] how close you can safely get to a moose?”, about a sign showing what six feet looks like in terms we recognize (size of a grizzly bear, span of a moose’s antlers). They do shit like pick up bison calves because “they look cold” and cause that calf to be rejected by the herd (true story, though it happened closer to 2007).

I consider myself a cautious person. There are things I know better than to mess with, and large fauna is among them.

(I originally composed this at the start of the month, a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t think of a good ending.)

Yuletide Vandalism 2021, pt. 2

In the early hours of Friday morning (Sweden time), the Gavle Goat was set ablaze. This marks its first defeat in five years following the institution of 24-hour scrutiny. Many of my pagan friends recognize the value in setting the goat ablaze, regardless of legality, and I think many of them recognize the same forces I do: misrule and a pull toward some modernized form of ancient ritual.

Coupled with other reports of recent holiday vandalism, and the overall sense of an increased presence of the gods and spirits in the “ordinary” or mundane world, I think this theory is pretty plausible.

Yuletide Vandalism 2021

I learned (after an impromptu visit from my mother) that the Fox News Christmas Tree (not the Rockefeller one, the one in front of the Fox Station) has been set on fire this morning. The tree is artificial, so this isn’t a Christmas Vacation situation where a loss of tree water can lead to an accident that results in the festive blaze. The person responsible has been arrested, but the motive is unclear as of just a few hours ago.

When searching up that story to get details (I googled “new york christmas tree vandalism”), I turned up another story from two days ago where another tree, in Chicago’s Washington Park, was also set ablaze by vandals, and had to be replaced.

(Update on the Gavle Goat: It is still standing. Although December is young.)

Someone asked “Why our community? Why our Christmas tree?” with regard to the attack on the Washington Park tree (which is the third in a row in its three-year history; that tree is not lucky). Now, call me insane, but if you’ve been on this blog a bit you probably suspect that I suspect the tides are influencing certain people toward vandalism of Christmas symbols not necessarily as a cruel or petty act of violence but as a form of sacrifice to the old gods. The fact that these acts are not state-sanctioned sacrifices, or even recognized as sacrifices, influences public perception of them, but I think from the perception of the forces influencing and encouraging this behavior, this is about as close as they think they’re going to get.

Rabbit Rabbit 12-1-21

Firstly, an update on the Mesperyian situation:

Secondly, an observation: It seems to me in my recent studies into winter folklore that the harsher the winter, the spookier and more terrifying the winter spirits become. I think it is connected to whether or not winter has historically been a threat. Perhaps it explains my own recent call to the darker side of the Yuletide season; in my lifetime local winters have been quite harsh indeed, although the past two years have been… odd. But perhaps it is a premonition, an indication of what is to come within the next few years.