Deaf Pagan Crossroads Fri, 21 Dec 2007 13:06:02 +0000 en The Yule Series - The Sun In the Greenwood Fri, 21 Dec 2007 13:06:02 +0000 ocean1025

Come, my readers… and join me here in the Crossroads as we celebrate the Winter Solstice. Come pull up a chair and warm yourself by the fire as we prepare to be visited by the various characters who represent the rich and glorious medley that is Midwinter.



written by

John and Caitlin Matthews


Saint Nicholas:

We are met here in the still pint of the turning year, in a space between the worlds, at the heart of the greenwood, where the Midwinter sun reigns in splendor, to celebrate the Solstice mysteries. I hold in my hands a bag of good things, the largesse of the year, gifts for the giving, this Solstice tide.

Saint Lucy:

We welcome all who come here with glad hearts to celebrate the passing of the old year and the birth of the new, the turning of the wheel one notch further, the re-enactment of the age-old mystery of the sun in the greenwood, the eternal battle for the year’s renewal. I carry upon my head the crown of candles, to crown your endeavors with the Midwinter light.

Saint Thomas:

We call upon all here present this day to enter the time before time, when we shared the earth with gods and spirits and spoke the languages of bird and beast, when we danced on the greensward and sang the songs of creation and remembering. I hold the spear that finds the deepest darkness and releases the living light of wisdom.

Saint Stephen:

Back through the years, across the bridge of time, we call out to the rulers of the four courts of Winter to come forth and to join us in this celebration. Come, bright lords and ladies; creatures of fur and feather, horn and hide; come bird and beast, come sun and star; come rainbow and come green dancing tree and bright shining flower. I carry away the stone of all that burdens your hearts this Wintertime, that you may be able to receive the gift of joy.

The Four Saints Together:

Here at the gateway of the year, We strive to make good cheer. In our revels shall joy abound, And sorrow be cast underground.

Saint Lucy:

yew.jpg Who stands in the East, in the Court of the Yew?

The Wren

The yew, that most ancient of trees, stands guard in the eastern quarter. I am the wren, the king of all birds, who dies every year but comes back again, who flies so high that I can see all seekers on the path of the heart’s wisdom.


Modron am I, also called by some the mother of all living. I sought my son, taken from me when scarcely three nights old, throughout the length and breadth of the land. Now I seek the bright blessing of the newborn sun, when all that is immanent is seeded in the heart and in the head, and the promise of the old year bears fruit at last. I am the mother who welcomes all her children to her hearth and who teaches them the wisdom of the heart.


Mabon am I, whom my mother sought and whom heroes and creatures, working together, found and set free. I am the young sun who rises with the morning and who shines down my light through the new day. At night I journey in other lands, leaving my task to my cousin the moon. I am the watcher at the gates of dawn, who guides and guards the way of those who seek the greater light, who look to the new sun for inspiration and courage. Now I represent the New Year, whose bright rays reach out to all created things in the still moment between the old year and the new.

Saint Thomas:

givy.jpg Who stands in the South in the Court of Ivy?

The Horse:

The ivy that hangs by the door opens the way between the worlds. I am the horse who can carry you across the threshold and into the Otherworld itself. Worshipped for my speed and grace, I have been with you from the oldest time. Remembered as the Mari Llwyd, my riddles challenge all who seek the wisdom of the ancient ways. I call upon the Lord and Lady of this court to name themselves.

Green Lady:

The Green Lady am I, queen of the wildwood and of all growing things. I stand in the place of the star, where the light rises to illuminate those who seek the wisdom of the bright ones who sing all together to welcome in the newborn year. In my train come all those who wander the pathless ways of the forest and who seek the strength of the earth. I challenge all comers to face their hidden fears and go beyond them.

The Green Knight

I am the Green Knight, the lord of the beasts, the terrible challenger who came to the court of King Arthur on Christmas Eve to bring a draft of Winter into that place. Of all who seek the way through the woods, I ask that they acknowledge the wisdom of the animals, and that if they answer my challenge they should do so in the spirit of the errant knight, who goes in search of adventure and who expects nothing save what fate brings. I challenge all who walk this path to meet with me in the green chapel, and there discover what they will.

Saint Stephen:

xmas-mistletoe.jpg Who stands in the West in the Court of Mistletoe?

The Deer:

Honored by the druids, the mistletoe, oldest of the sacred plants, offers the deep dreaming way into the waters of the west. The deer am I, who runs beside Herne the Hunter at the rising of the morn. My antlers brush the stars and my cloven hooves have walked the roadways of the Underworld from the start of time. My cousins, the reindeer, draw the sleigh of the old wise man Santa Claus.


Elen of the ways I am named. I keep the paths between the many worlds and wind the strands of time and place around the souls of those who travel on these ancient tracks. Those who seek the wisdom of the spirit, who are drawn thither by their dreams, must first encounter me at the gates of Solstice. Then, if they pass the tests I set before them, they may proceed, deeper and yet deeper into the mystery of the Winter harvest.


Herne the Hunter am I. I have run through the deepest and darkest places in the forest from the beginning of time, and I have danced in the morning and the evening on this old green earth. My antlers are my living crown, and my shining gaze can pierce the depths of the night and the heart of thought. When my horn is blown, all the creatures of the earth answer and gather close by my feet. To all who venture in the court of mistletoe I offer this challenge: come, dance with me and run with me, and feel the thunder of the blood in your heart and in your head.

Saint Nicholas:

holly_leaf_reduced.jpgWho stands in the North, in the Court of Holly?

The Bear:

Holly bears the berry, red as any blood, and thorns to pierce the souls of men who seek the Winter mystery, that runs deep as time itself. I am bear. I have walked the uplands and the heartlands of this earth since time immemorial, and I know the hearts of men as well as I know my own. In the caves of time and space I lie and dream, and in my dreams I hear the song of Winter. Ice and snow wrap up the earth in bands of iron; yet beneath beats the steady heart of creation, just as it beats in the hearts of all who set forth in search of the solstice revels. I call upon the Lady and Lord of this court to name themselves.

Mother Carey:

Mother Carey am I, also known as Holle, she who keeps the old stories you love to tell. When I shake my pillow the snow falls, and I ride the wild winds of change and forgetting. I can turn your dreams inside out or upside down, or gather you under the wings of my stormy petrel and send you forth in search of fresh wisdom along the wind’s keen ridge. Whenever you see or hear me you will know that wonder is near - the wonder of Winter’s darkness and the light it hides inside.

Father Christmas:

As many names have I had as months in the year: Old Saint Nick, Sinta Claus, Old Sir Christmas, Woden, Saint Nicholas… but mostly I am known simply as Santa. I first climbed the great tree when mankind slept in caves, bringing back gifts from the Otherworld. Later I became the bringer of jollity, the bearer of the wassail bowl, the leader of the merry dance from Christmas Day to Twelfth Night. You all know me, and in your hearts you still believe. Remember, when you see me next I’ll have a blessing for each of you, and a gift for the new year to be.

The Saints:

Now the Solstice Courts are established.

Saint Lucy:

The sun rises in the Court of Yew.

Saint Thomas:

The star shines over the Court of Ivy.

Saint Stephen:

The moon shines over the Court of Mistletoe.

Saint Nicholas:

The earth abides in the Court of Holly.


The Courts of the Greenwood are established. Let the Winter Games begin!

Set your teeth the wind to face. Beat the snow down, trod the frost,

All is gained when all is lost!

Father Christmas:

I reach into my sack - a sack that has no bottom and holds gifts for everyone - and pull forth a story… a jest that tells of Midwinter and the mystery of the turning year.

Now enter the Mummers, who perform their play and their traditional Morris Dance in celebration of the season. At the end they sing their closing song to the Spirits of Solstice at the Four Courts.

Father Christmas:

We have heard the story, seen the dance, sung the song! Now is the time for gifting. Gifts I have for everyone, and from them everyone shall learn and grow. But the greatest gift of all is the gift of the old year to the new, the gift of peace and the mystery of true giving. Let us now celebrate and honor the newborn year… and let some of us reveal ourselves in other guises!

The Wren:

In the east the year is young. It is known as the Mabon, the mother’s own dear son. Let all who would, come forward. There are gifts to be given and blessings to share.

While Modron and her son Mabon remain sitting, the representatives from the other courts come forward, to offer up their gifts to the young sun. Gifts include sprigs of holly, ivy, and mistletoe - the three sacred plants of Yule - each a token of the power of the green earth soon to be reborn.

Father Christmas:

Thus is the New Year honored. But the gifting is not yet done. All who have come on this long road to the turning of the year shall receive a gift and a blessing. First the blessing. Let all who would, come now to the Mabon and the Modron.

All the participants of this ritual, and all the readers of Deaf Pagan Crossroads, come forward one by one and approach the Mother and the Son to receive a blessing for the new year.


Modron and Mabon:

May all who come here in the spirit of peace and goodwill find life, love, and laughter for the new year. Blessings to all here at the Crossroads.

Father Christmas:

You have received the gifts of the Mabon and the Modron. Now it is time to receive a gift from me!

Father Christmas proceeds to give out gifts to all the Crossroads readers.


Mother Carey:

Good people all, let us now complete our celebration of the Solstice with merriment and the passing of the Wassail Bowl!

Father Christmas and Mother Carey bring forth the Wassail Bowl, a large punchbowl filled with wassail, a delicious alcoholic drink served at the Solstice. The Solstice Spirits from the Four Courts come forward and bless the bowl, and then it is ladled into cups and passed around to all of the readers to enjoy.

Father Christmas:

I bid each and every one of you to all depart in merriment and joy! May the New Year bring you all your hopes and wishes, and may King Sinta Claus bring you all you desire on Christmas Day in the morning! Wassail! Wassail! Noel! A blessing to you and yours!





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Pagan Poetry Sun, 16 Dec 2007 19:52:05 +0000 ocean1025

Before I continue with my Yule Series, I would like to take a moment to talk about a little book of poetry I am familiar with.


Or to be more precise, I’m familiar with its author.

She’s MoonRose Nightingale, my good friend and neighbor here at the apartment complex. She and her husband FyreDraconis are fellow Pagans, frequent readers and commenters here at the Crossroads, and just great people. They were the ones who referred me to this apartment, and helped me bless it before I moved in. We’ve shared a lot of laughs, and couple of tears as well. They’ve eaten at my home, and I’ve eaten at theirs. We celebrated Samhain together, and will likely celebrate Yule together as well. They’re always willing to help me empty that bottle of mead, and MoonRose makes some pretty wicked rum balls as well.

And now MoonRose is a published author, having just come out with a book of poetry. As she explains:

I began writing these poems shortly after my separation from my first husband back in October of 2005, as a way of expressing the feelings that were deep inside of me. It had been well over 25 years since I had last written any kind of poetry and I was surprised at how easily the words were once again flowing from my fingertips. In December of 2006, I suddenly realized that a dear friend I had been chatting with online for almost two years was my soulmate. By February of 2007, I had packed up all that I owned and was on the road from Florida to Indiana to be with him. We were married June 9, 2007 in a beautiful handfasting ceremony that we wrote ourselves, with friends and family around us to celebrate our union as man and wife. And so it was that the Fyre Dragon and the Nightingale were joined together as one…

The Dragon And The Nightingale


There once was a dragon so lonely and sad,

Nothing made him happy, not even the gold he had.


When along came a sweet little nightingale bird,

And his lonely heart thrilled at the song that he heard.


She sang of a love that was both strong and pure,

Singing only for him of that he was most sure.


For the nightingale had heard his lonesome cry,

Coming to her across the great night’s sky.


And so to his side she had flown with all speed,

Thinking only of him and nothing of greed.


The little nightingale had finally found her home,

And there she would stay for all time never to roam.

By: MoonRose Nightingale


Over fifty of MoonRose’s best poems are included in this book, one that she was encouraged to publish by her husband, Fyre - who is not only her husband, soulmate, and best friend… but her editor and best critic as well!


Sons Of The Horned God


Thunder rolling across the sky;

A bolt of lightening flashing by.


Drums beating deep in the night;

Fire on the hilltop burning bright.


In robes of black they file past;

Gather round and the circle is cast.


Owl flies across the moon on silent wings;

Off in the distance the lone wolf sings.


Quarters are called and the flames leap high;

Voices raised in chant to the midnight sky.


These men of great magick and mystery;

Sons of The Horned God, they are free.


Forever growing and learning all their days;

Following along the path of the old ways.

By: MoonRose Nightingale


Congratulations to MoonRose for the publication of her poetry, and I wish her all the best!



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Turning Towards the Morning Wed, 12 Dec 2007 06:21:16 +0000 ocean1025


“Turning Towards the Morning”

by Gordon Bok


When the deer has bedded down

And the bear has gone to ground

And the northern goose has wandered off

to warmer bay and sound,

It’s so easy in the cold to feel

the darkness of the year

And the heart is growing lonely for the morning


Oh my Joanie don’t you know

That the stars are swinging low

And the seas are rolling easy

Just as they did so long ago

If I had a thing to give you

I would tell you one more time

That the world is always turning

Towards the morning


Now November’s growing thin

And December’s coming home

You’ll be thinking of the season

And the sad things that you’ve seen

And you hear that old wind walking

Hear her singing high and thin

You could swear she’s out there singing

of your sorrow


Oh my Joanie, don’t you know

That the stars are swinging low

And the seas are rolling easy

Just as they did so long ago

If I had a thing to give you

I would tell you one more time

That the heart is always turning

Towards the morning


When the darkness falls around you

And the North Wind comes to blow

And you hear her call your name out

As she walks the brittle snow

That old wind don’t mean you trouble

She don’t care or even know

She’s just walking through the darkness

Towards the morning


Oh my Joanie, don’t you know

That the stars are swinging low

And the seas are rolling easy

Just as they did so long ago

If I had a thing to give you

I would tell you one more time

That the world is always turning

Towards the morning


It’s a pity we don’t know

What the little flowers know

They can’t face the cold December

They can’t take the wind and snow

They put all their glories behind them

Bow their heads and let it go

But you know they’ll be there shining

In the morning


Now, my Joanie don’t you know

That the days are rolling slow

And the winter’s walking easy

Just as she did so long ago

And if that wind would come and ask you

Why my Joanie’s weeping so

Won’t you tell her that you’re weeping

For the morning


For the heart is always turning

towards the morning……


Wishing all of my Deaf Pagan Crossroads readers

A Most Joyous Holiday Season

~ Ocean


Note: The beautiful photographs included in this post were taken by “Madison Guy”, an editor/writer/photographer who resides in Madison, Wisconsin. You can find his pictures over at flickr by clicking here or check out his blog Letter From Here to learn more about him and his photography.



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The Yule Series - Old Woman Winter Tue, 11 Dec 2007 17:13:32 +0000 ocean1025

From the Greek and Roman culture of Helios, Sol, and Apollo (see my previous post on these gods), we now move north toward the colder climate of the British isles, to meet a deity who came to personify this time of the year…

the Cailleach.


artwork by Thalia Took

In Irish and Scottish mythology, the Cailleach is a divine hag, and the name basically means “old woman.” However, in much the same way that Sol Invictus came to represent various solar deities of Roman mythology, the Cailleach has come to represent various mythological figures found throughout the area of Scotland and Ireland.

In Scotland she was known as the Cailleach Bheur, also known as Beira - the Queen of Winter. Bheur meant “sharp or shrill,” as she personifies the cutting winds and harshness of the northern winter.

She was a hag said to live in the Scottish Highlands, which she is believed to have created while striding across the land and accidentally dropping rocks from her apron. Other legends say that she created the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. Associated with winter, she was reborn on every All Hallows Eve and returned to bring the winter and the winter snows. She carried a magical staff, which froze the ground with every tap. She was also guardian to animals throughout the winter, and returned to the earth by turning to stone on Beltane Eve. In other traditions she changes into a young maiden, suggesting the changing phases of an earth goddess. Her sacred trees were the holly and the gorse bush, under which she traditionally threw her staff before turning to stone.


The above legend describes the Cailleach’s relationship with the seasons, and links her up with another Celtic goddess - Brighde, also known as Brigid. The Cailleach was seen as ruling the dark, winter months of the year… which in the Celtic calendar began at Samhain on November 1st and ended at Beltaine on May 1st. Brighde thus ruled the light, summer months of the year, which occured from Beltaine (May 1st) through Samhain (November 1st). Some interpretations saw the Cailleach and Brighde as two different faces of the same goddess, while others saw them as two separate distinct deities in their own right.

There are many other legends related to the Cailleach which we will explore in later posts, but the important thing is that we recognize and honor her at this time of the year, as the Old Woman who brings the frost and snow and bitter winds of Winter. Whether or not you enjoy such weather, the Cailleach plays an important role in the changing of the seasons, and the neverending turning of the Wheel of the Year.


Welcome to you, Old One

Welcome to the snow and ice,

The bitter cloud of your breath,

The pillow-feathered snow

Welcome you in this Winter day.

May your blessing hold us,

May your chills avoid us,

May the bright promise of each clear day

Remind us of your gifts.

Old One, cold one,

Though we fear your storms,

Yet we welcome you

Into our winter hearts,

With your cleansing breath,

To blow away the old year

And usher in the new.

John Matthews

“Invocation to the Old One”

The Winter Solstice

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The Yule Series - Helios, Sol, and Saturnalia Tue, 11 Dec 2007 01:41:48 +0000 ocean1025

As part of the Yule Series, it becomes necessary to study the importance of the sun and its worship in ancient culture. In doing so, we can thus gain a better understanding of how the worship of the sun created the festivals which eventually played a role in the development of our modern-day celebrations.Sun worship goes back thousands of years, and can be found in a wide diversity of cultures all around the world. People have worshiped a solar deity for all of recorded history, and thus many belief systems have formed around such worship. Indeed, solar worship is a possible origin of henotheism (devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods), and ultimately the creation of monotheism (belief in one god only).

However, for the sake of this post, we are going to focus on Roman and Greek cultures - their ancient pagan traditions and how those traditions may have indeed paved the way for the later Christian celebration we know as Christmas.

In Greek mythology, the sun was personified as Helios, who was imagined as a handsome god crowned with the shining halo of the sun, who drove a chariot across the sky each day. As time passed, Helios became increasingly identified with the god of light, Apollo. In Roman mythology, the equivalent of Helios was Sol - Latin for the word “sun” and of course, it is from this word that we get “solstice.” In fact, Helios was sometimes also known as Sol Indiges during Roman Republic times (believed to have lasted from approximately 500 BC to 25 BC) and was later called Sol Invictus during the 2nd and 3rd centuries.


Sol Invictus (”the Unconquered Sun”) or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus (”the Unconquered Sun God”) was the late Roman state sun god. He was part of a religious path created by Roman emperor Aurelian in the year 274, which continued until the abolition of paganism in the Roman empire by the emperor Flavius Theodosius. Also known as Theodosius the Great, this emperor ruled the Roman Empire from 379 to 395, and is known for making Christianity the only legitimate imperial religion, thus ending state support for the prior traditional pagan beliefs and practices.

The title of Sol Invictus was applied to at least three distinct divinities during the later times of the Roman Empire: Sol, Mithras, and El-Gabal. On December 25th, the Romans would hold a festival known as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” By using the title of Sol Invictus, the Romans could thus worship several different solar deities collectively. Under the former Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, the Winter Solstice fell on December 25th, thus it was the day when the Sun proved itself to be “unconquerable.” Under the modern-day Gregorian calendar, the solstice has been moved to December 21st, although it sometimes occurs on the 22nd. Some scholars believe that the Sol Invictus festival is the source of the December 25th date of Christmas, especially since Jesus Christ is viewed as “the sun of righteousness” or “the son of light.” However, recent Christian sources suggest that the identification of Christ’s birthday with December 25th actually predates the Sol Invictus festival.

Now we come to yet another Roman festival believed to have influenced modern-day holiday celebrations: Saturnalia. Saturnalia was the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, the Roman deity of agriculture, harvest, and time. It originally took place on the 17th of December, but over the years it was expanded to a whole week, ending on the 23rd of December.

Saturnalia became one of the most popular Roman festivals. It was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters would switch places - with masters serving their slaves. Schools and courts were closed, and the whole community would give itself up to feasting, gambling and drinking. It was also a time for exchanging gifts - particularly of wax candles (also known as cerei) and earthenware figurines known as sigillaria.

Saturnalia continued to be celebrated up until around the end of the fourth century. It was then moved to January, where it was merged into the festival of the Kalends of January, yet another significant part of the Roman Midwinter celebrations.


Indeed, there were many Roman Midwinter celebrations which were occasions for feasting, dancing, and music… as well as gift-giving. The fourth-century writer Libanius described such festivals in terms that might as easily be applied to the modern celebrations of Christmas:

The impulse to spend seizes everyone…

People are not only generous themselves, but also towards their fellow men. A stream of presents pours itself out on all sides…

The Kalends festival banishes all that is connected with toil, and allows men to give themselves up to undisturbed enjoyment.

From the minds of young people it removes two kinds of dread: the dread of the schoolmaster and the dread of the stern pedagogue.

The slave also it allows, as far as possible, to breath the air of freedom…

Another great quality of the festival is that it teaches men not to hold too fast to their money, but to part with it and let it pass into other hands.

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