Good Yule to all!
(“When is breakfast?” asks Fisher the dog. “Why are we hanging around up here?”
Good Yule to all!
(“When is breakfast?” asks Fisher the dog. “Why are we hanging around up here?”
The little southern Colorado town of Beulah has a traditional Yule log hunt that is almost as old as Wicca — it began in 1952.
M. and I attended with a friend and her young son in 2015, and I wrote a blog post about it, “Invoking the Birds and Hunting in the Woods at Yule,” with lots of photos.
Then I chanced across another set of older pix on Facebook at the Beulah Historical Society’s page. Here is one from 1954 and one from 1977. Those “huntsmen” from 1977 look like they are ready to get back to their moonshine stills, but I think a couple of them worked at the steel mill down in Pueblo, a city that is a sort of mash-up of Pittsburgh and Albuqueque, although much smaller than either of those. One’s surname is either Slovenian or Czech; I had a co-worker who might have been his relative.
When I watch the hunt, I think of something that the English folkorist E. C. Cawte wrote back in the 1970s. He was directing a group of schoolboys in performing a “souling play,” a traditonal entertainment from the winter in which St. George slays someone — who does not stay slain.
“The boys found the play much easier to learn and perform than others they were given . . . and the Wild Horse seemed to know, without rehearsal, exactly what he was supposed to do.”E. C. Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1978), 224.
The kids in Beulah know it too.
This year, of course, everything fun has been cancelled, but up in Beulah, they are planning for 2021. Covid-19 should not last as long as Oliver Cromwell.
We Pagans may think that we “own” Hallowe’en, but we are own some ground at Christmas time — or Yuletide, if you prefer. Today M. and I drove 15 miles over twisty mountain gravel roads to a little town that celebrates a Yule log hunt.
This tradition dates to 1952, so it is about as old as Wicca. And it was passed on through a lineage: people here were given a splinter of another Colorado town’s Yule log in order to inaugurate their own. That town, in turn, received its splinter in 1933 from the Adirondacks resort town of Lake Placid, New York, where a Yule log ceremony was created afresh in 1911.
Recreating ancient tradition: it is all right out of Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun.
A local Protestant minister, an old man with a booming preaching voice, invoked a father god whose radiance shines down. “Ave Sol Invictus,” I thought, considering that the minister stood in front of a wreath-decorated blazing fireplace, no Christian symbolism in sight.
Maybe this was his non-sectarian mode of public speaking, but he talked about this “sacred valley” and the “sacred season” and invoked the ancestors. I felt right at home.
And then our friend, the director of a nearby raptor rehabilitation center, brought in a peregrine falcon while her associate carried a barred owl — and they invoked the birds!
“Owl . . . give us your secret knowledge . . . .” and so on.
“This is getting better,” I thought.
Then we moved outside, and things became a little more primal. The huntsmen in their short green capes gathered around . . .
The hunt for the Yule log takes place in a mountain park; the huntsmen describe the general area, and then the crowd takes off.
“They haven’t found the log yet,” says a man into his cellphone half a mile from the lodge, while three boys of 14 years or so dispute with one another: “It was over here last year.” “No, it was across the road.”
“You guys don’t know it,” I think, “but you are making memories that very few of your contemporaries will share.”
The ancient sequence is repeated. People (kids in the lead) spread out into the woods.
Then there is yelling in the distance. It becomes more organized: a ritual cry.
And that is followed by the processing of the prize back to the lodge.
And there is more caroling, cookies and hot drinks, and a closing prayer which M. and I slipped away from, thinking of the miles of snowy road and the dog left at home.
It’s truly Yuletide now. And I am bringing down my own logs, but they are to be split and burned as winter closes in.
|↑1||Hrothgar’s famous mead hall in “Beowulf”|
As a freezing fog swirls through the pines, I lift my coffee mug and think of the sun — and coffee!
Thursday was a much warmer day: M. and I went to Pueblo for supplies, and after a stop at Hercules Liquor for beer and wine, had a late breakfast at Solar Roast Coffee, whose emblem is Apollo Helios in his chariot. (They use solar power for roasting the beans, an idea that started in western Oregon but did not stay there — not enough sunshine.)
The Wikipedia article on caffeine says nothing about its divine patrons, but it seems obvious what is going on.
In his wonderful Pharmakodynamis, the section on Excitantia, Dale Pendell lists correspondences for caffeine — Planet: Sun, of course, and these, among others:
Outside, the fog is spitting graupel. Two wild turkey hens scratch under the bird feeder, looking for seeds that the little birds kicked down. Canis major is sleeping by the fire.
I missed Orthodox Christmas by a day, but here is an article on Russian Pagan dream practice.
Here I’ll try to give the “taste” of the authentic Russian tradition of dream work that has very deep roots in pre-Christian culture. Mainly the Russian tradition tells about highly practical dream incubation and tuning. The tuning rituals are connected to certain calendar dates and periods all over the year, days of the week, and time of the day. There is also very rich practice of using ‘magic’ objects and creating special situations for powerful dream incubation. My experience in teaching dream work shows that three days intensive in the nature is not enough to try at least either summer, or winter rituals.
You thought that you had a drum circle. Read more about it.
Was 1 January 2013 was some kind of unrecognized cultural watershed, like “The Year Frenchmen Stopped Wearing Berets” or something?
I took my 2012 Reed College alumni association calendar off the wall and realized that I had nothing to replace it with — not one free calendar.
Not another from Reed, nor Trout Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, nor any other organization. Maybe I have not been sending them enough money, preferring to donate to local and state-level causes this year. Or maybe this is some spin-off from the over-hyped 12-21-2012 apocalypse.
Despite all the electronic stuff, iCal and whatnot, I still like to be able to look up and see the month at a glance (What day is the 22nd?) without opening an app.
M. had picked up a free calendar at Natural Grocers down in Pueblo, but it hangs in the kitchen, where she can clip the monthly discount coupon.
So I am “buying Pagan,” ordering this year’s Gerald B. Gardner “Year and A Day” calendar, featuring historic photos of Craft figures and a list of Pagan festivals from different cultures in case you need an excuse to lift a glass in honor of Janus, Hathor, or the Vietnamese Parade of the Unicorns. (Parade of the unicorns?)
This man is costumed as the King (or Khan or Bull) of the Winter, as envisioned in the Sakha Republic of northeastern Siberia.
Here is the translation of the page about him in the Turkish Wikipedia, with a link to the photograph.
The Turkic people of Sakha were originally followers of shamanic traditions before being converted to Orthodox Christianity, and some are going back.
There seems to be a suggestion in the Wikipedia text that the bull horns might have been originally mammoth tusks, which would make more sense for that part of the world.
The website English Russia has a selection of photos of winter life there as well. “Yakutia has turned cold into brand!”
When I was 16-17 years old, I lived part of each year in Mandeville, Jamaica, up in the hills, during breaks from school in the US.
One Christmas break I was getting a haircut at a second-floor establishment in the center of town when one of the staff glanced out a window and shouted, “John Canoe! John Canoe!”
Immediately everyone rushed to the windows and looked down on the street, where no more than half-a-dozen maskers were dancing down the street. Their appearance must not have been announced in advance, for no one seemed to be waiting to see them.
I wondered if I was seeing a dying tradition. Wikipedia says,
The parade and festivities probably arrived with African slaves. Although Jamaica is credited with the longest running tradition of Jonkanoo, today these mysterious bands with their gigantic costumes appear more as entertainment at cultural events than at random along the streets. Not as popular in the cities as it was 30 years ago, Jonkanoo is still a tradition in rural Jamaica.
This was certainly “at random along the streets.” There did not seem to be any organized civic or touristic organization behind it all. In a way, that was more cool.
When things get organized and promoted for touristic purposes, the rough edges are smoothed off. Watching the history of the May Day hobby horse processions in Padstow, Cornwall, you can see how the local antagonisms and occasional violence mixed in with the parade are pushed down as it becomes more of a tourist event.
Since these Krampus parades occur in ski resort towns, I wonder how much of them is controlled by the maskers themselves and how much by the ski-tourism industry. Re-created or not, at least they speak to archaic understanding of the solstice season not just as fun and feasting but as cold, dark, hunger, and “cabin fever.” Among other things.