Earlier tonight I was sitting outside thinking about what the Winter Solstice meant to my ancient Pagan ancestors. Those people to whom the long dark winter often brought death to weak and the old. Those people who hunted their meat with spears, and with bows and arrows. Those people whose very lives depended on the success of those hunts. Those people who worshiped a Horned God not because he was the Devil, but because nearly all they hunted for meat had horns. He was the God of the Hunt. The Horned God of the Hunt. The God they prayed to, honored, so that the hunt would be successful, and their family, their tribe, would survive. So yes, red and white are colors of Yule. The white of snow, the red of blood staining it. Blood from the hunt, that would give life to the people.
And fires, oh they lit fires, to keep from freezing, and to help welcome the Sun back so that once more Spring would come, and the people would again know plenty. The lit Winter Solstice bonfires, and drank, and made Merry in the midst of cold darkness to call the sun back. To help the light be reborn. Sometimes, in the form of a child, who grow to become a God.
And they decorated the evergreen trees. Sometimes outside, with blood offerings meant to honor the animals that had been killed in the hunt, and that would be killed in the hunt, so that the people would live. And they decorated their homes with greenery, to remind themselves that even the midst of darkness and death, there is light and life.
All this went through my mind as I sat outside thinking about those ancient Pagan ancestors of mine, and of yours. Oh now don't let your head explode there my little pretty. We ALL have ancient Pagan ancestors. It's just some of us, still follow their ways. Then I came inside, and while scrolling through my FB feed found a video about the real origins of Yule. And I welcomed the Winter Solstice listening to an old radio program that so perfectly matched what I had been thinking, feeling, it just blew me away. And I wept a little because I was so glad haven't forgotten the old ways. So very glad I still honor those ways, and those ancient ancestors.
2 Butternut Squash, halved with seeds remove
Margarine or Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
4 Tablespoons Butter or Margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place squash cut-side down on greased shallow baking pan.
Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until fork tender.
Wipe cut surface with a little butter and sprinkle with salt.
Return to bake cut-side up about 10 minutes longer or
until browned and soft. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Scrape out the squash into a mixing bowl.
Add sugar, honey, ginger, pumpkin pie spice and butter.
Beat with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth.
Put in buttered casserole.
Return to oven, covered, for 30 minutes.
1 Dozen apples; baked
1 cup Water
4 cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon Freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons Ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground mace
6 Whole cloves
6 Allspice berries
1 Stick cinnamon
1 Dozen eggs, separated
4 Bottles sherry or Madeira wine
2 cups Brandy
Ancient England gave us the custom of "wassailing". It is based on the tradition of friends gathering in a circle, whereupon the host drinks to the health of all present. He sips from a glass of hot punch or spiced ale, then passes the glass. A special bowl was used as the vessel. As each friend raises the vessel, before sipping he or she proclaims the Saxon toast "Wass hael!" meaning "be whole" or "be well." Although many versions exist, this one contains the symbolic ingredients: apples, representing fertility and health; spices, signifying riches and variety; eggs, a symbol of life and rebirth; as well as wine and brandy.
The beverage is served hot, so plan on a heatproof punchbowl. This makes enough for a crowd. Just how large a crowd depends on your group's taste for rich, spicy wine drinks. Figure on at least 16-18 servings.
Cook's notes: This also can be made with a combination of beer and wine, preferably sherry, with roughly 4 parts beer to one part sherry. The resulting flavor is authentic to the Colonial period, but far less familiar to contemporary palates.
Prepare the punch: Combine water, sugar, and spices in a large stainless steel, enamel or glass saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until light in color. In separate pans, bring the wine (and beer, if used) and the brandy almost to the boiling point.
Fold the whites into the yolks, using a large heatproof bowl. Strain the sugar and spice mixture into the eggs, combining quickly. Incorporate the hot wine with the spice and egg mixture, beginning slowly and stirring briskly with each addition. Toward the end of this process, add the brandy. Now, just before serving and while the mixture is still foaming, add the baked apples.
Presentation: Serve in heatproof cups or punch glasses. Guests are welcome to take part or all of an apple
Design and Dishes: Dish | Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup: This recipe comes from Virginia Willis' latest cookbook "Basic to Brilliant Y'all - 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up.
This is going to sound really strange to a lot of people, but this Witch recently had no problem putting out two Nativity Scenes while helping to decorate around the Top of the Hill RV Resort where I live and work. When I found the first Nativity Scene, the first thought that crossed my mind was, "Well some will really like this!" So I put it in the Clubhouse. Then I found a second one while I was sorting through more decorations. And I knew how much it would mean to some in the Office to have a Nativity Scene, so I took it there, and gave it to them to put out in the Office wherever they wanted.
Now I know some of my fellow Wiccans are probably wondering what the blazes I'm thinking doing that? And perhaps even getting all riled up about it. However, before you think about beating me with my own broom, let explain why I had, and have no problem with what I did.
First of all, it's not like I'm going to explode or burst into flame handling, or walking by a Nativity Scene. Nor am I going to be overcome with a desire to convert to Christianity. Nor does the Nativity Scene offend me in any way. That's a big part of the Christian belief, and they are entitled to that belief. I had already put up trees, greenery, lights and some other "Christmas" decorations whose origins actually date back Pagan times, so I figured why be a Scrooge about something I know is very important to many Christians.
There was a time I would never have put those Nativity Scenes out. Indeed, I would have fought not to have them put out. But, I have changed. I like to think, evolved, and become wiser and gentler in my Crone phase. History shows us all the Christian Holidays are based on Pagan Festivals and Rituals. Now, one can choose to look at it from the point of view they stole our Festivals and Rituals, and get really riled up about it.
Or, one can look at it from the point of view I do now, and acknowledge that although they did borrow them, thanks to living in a land of Freedom of Religion, we can now openly take them back and celebrate the true origins of them without getting burned at the stake, or tied to a chair and tossed in a lake, or stretched upon the rack. Which gives me even more reason to be filled with joy and goodwill this Yuletide Season.
Blessed be to All this Yuletide Season!