I have been thinking quite a lot recently about seasons, particularly Pagan season of which there are eight. Here in New Zealand which is the southern hemisphere, our seasons are six months ahead or behind, of the northern hemisphere. This is something that the settlers did not think about when they settled here in New Zealand, thus Christmas, which for Pagans is Yule, is celebrated by the general public on December the 25th and seasonally in New Zealand it is Summer Solstice. But Christmas traditionally is a Winter solstice holiday. Confused yet.. wait there is more
Christmas is bearing down on us at great knots, there are those wintery Chrismas decorations starting to show in the windows of shops. The famous Kirks, Christmas shop with its shiny expensive heirloom decorations, of snow laden trees, sparkely baubles, and jandal wearing, cloak draped Santa’s is now in full force. In contrast the weather is warming up and the sun shining more, the days getting longer and people are breaking out their bbq and inviting their friends over for meat and beer.
What does this mean for us Witches and Pagans of varying hues living here in New Zealand. Most of us are first generation, with our families being nominally Christian. As in, they Celebrate Easter with secular chocolate and Christmas with secular presents and do not go to church even semi-regularly. Christmas and Easter has pretty much been relegated to secular type holidays here in New Zealand because as a nation we are not very religious. Christmas is still considered a time for families to spend together, thus spending Christmas day with our families is still, for some of us a requirement. I call it a command performance but I digress.
Others however enjoy this time they spend with their families eating too much, trying to stop Aunty from drinking the sherry again, and herding the children away from the present laden pine tree, with its fake snow, until after lunch when the gifts are allowed to be torn apart, opened. These are of course age old rituals, and can differ from family to family. In my family where all packed up our presents, food, kids, animals and headed to a place called Mokau, where my grandfather, whose name was Jack built a batch. A very traditional kiwi batch, with its kikouia grass and cactus garden, toilet on the outside and the zip.. oh the zip! I have fond memories of the bottom dropping out of the zip, water went everywhere, luckily it was not hot water as we had only just finished filling it up. Opps digressing again and yes the batch was sometimes referred to the house that Jack built. (it’s a poem)
Anyway our family would go the beach and stay at the batch and spend Christmas and New Years, fishing, building sand castles, eating, digging for pippies, floundering, swimming and all manner of beach like activities. The Christmas tree, a pine branch that the uncles had ‘found’ somewhere, and Christmas dinner was usually a leg of lamb or beef, roast stuffed chook, roast potatoes, kumara, carrots, salads, and for new years there was always a bbq outside. Both were followed with a night time walk down the beach and watching the ocean.. it was pretty cool actually and I have many fond memories of times spent at the batch, The house that Jack built.
Now as I am older, that lovely batch is no longer, and I am a practicing witch, so how do I relate to this season of summer with its winter celebration? Sure I could ‘only’ celebrate the summer solstice, and ignore the existence of Christmas all together but then I have tried this and it doesn’t sit right in my head nor for that matter my heart. So now I am contemplating how can I sanely combine the two.
As a younger Witch when reading the various witchy books out there that explained the seasons and what the stood for, I can remember questioning the reasoning presented, actually I still do, mostly because these books where written in a different country for a somewhat different climate, sure New Zealand has very distinct Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, but they do not fall precisely on the days that were prescribed in these books. So eventually for me the Pagan calendar changed and evolved, and these holy days became more times, or seasons. Let me explain.
Firstly I see these holy days, more as sacred seasons, or time periods, thus summer solstice lasts when the seasons have changed over form spring to summer through to the beginnings of autumn, and the actually dates, per say change every year. Take this year for example; the weather in windy Wellington has not followed a traditional pattern. Traditionally the frosts do not happen until early spring, which is the end of August or beginning of September. However this year they happened nearer the end of winter july/august, this along with some warm bursts, confused our local pine trees which spat there pollen over the city during the course of one foggy weekend, and covered the city with a fine yellow dust, I know this because I was gifted with a sinus infection, which I have not had in years. So the plants, pine trees thought that it was spring, however spring it was not, instead it was winter, sure the end of winter but still winter.
Spring this year didn’t really get into the swing of things until the end of September and beginning of October.. and here in November we are still getting cold bursts of southerly winds, which are very cold, but it is defiantly spring, that quickening. You can feel it in the air, see it in the unpredictable weather, and the new growth of various plants. As Wendy would say magic grass day has happened. Magic grass day is the day when after the slow growth of winter the grass all of a sudden grows overnight very quickly. This generally happens at the beginning of August.
On the last day of October and 1st of November was for us Beltane. For us in Wellington this year it was still very early spring, even though we had passed the spring equinox. I suspect that it will be this way up until December, which brings me neatly around to the original point of this post; how to celebrate Summer Solstice with its Yule trimmings.
Another thing to note is that we on the internet are very much like a global village, so while we are celebrating summer solstice here in New Zealand the southern hemisphere, in places like England, Canada and America, Pagans are celebrating the winter solstice. Beltane for us just gone, was Samhain for the northern counterparts, this for me brings a sense of balance, dark and light life and death, however the seasons of balance are actually the equinoxes, when the days and nights are of equal length, and while this is happening I often find that my life has become decidedly unbalanced.. it’s a thing.
So how to make it all feel right in my head especially the Christmas and Summer Solstice? Things I will have to mull over the next few weeks.