Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holy Daze

National Gallery of Art

I actually get the idea of rushing out, immediately after Thanksgiving, to buy gifts. It came to me in the shower this morning, why we would do that. Bless the Voice in the Shower! I know we are very greedy in my society, but there is an ancient, shamanic inspiration underneath our insane behavior at the holidays.

During the holidays, almost all traditional behaviors have a shamanic aspect, because the holidays are pagan. Oh my god they are so pagan! The Romans could not have done a better job with the over indulgence, the ramped up behaviors, the extravagance with which we make our way through the last few weeks before winter solstice. Of course the Romans were cognizant of why they were behaving this way. They knew and understood the interconnections among all things a lot better than we do. Before electric lights, everyone understood - at a visceral level - the cold and dark and long nights of winter. We really appreciated Brother Sun before the light bulb.

We still do the same old rituals, we enact the sacred dramas, because we are all shamans, even if we don't know it consciously.

In the case of the post Thanksgiving buying spree, it's all about the ritualistic act of making offerings. After we sacrifice the turkey, (a very ancient way of giving thanks for the harvest and asking for abundance through the winter), the next thing that needs to happen is for the participants to make offerings to Brother Sun, as a way of asking him to come back after solstice. It's classic shamanic ritual behavior, it surely is.

If we were still fully shamanic, we would put the gifts on a bonfire at winter solstice as the pagans of old would have, sending the offerings directly to Brother Sun. Instead we give them to each other. It's a minor technical difference, I think. The gifts should be received as enthusiastically as they are given in order for the sacred drama of winter solstice to work. Sadly, many Christmas gifts will end up stashed in closets already packed full of other stuff the receiver never wanted or needed, or will be "re-gifted." I love that phrase - some marketing genius came up with that, hey?

The idea behind ritual acts is always quite pure. Giving thanks, asking for abundance, making offerings in the hope that the cold, long, dark winter will not go on forever - all of these are noble gestures, yes? I say yes. Of course we take it way too far here in 21st century America. It's always like this at the end of empires.



The Pollinatrix said...

I very much appreciate your perspective and have been thinking about similar things.

I have a Facebook "friend" who has once again begun her rant against the "ridiculous consumerist holiday" of Christmas. While I understand where she's coming from, there is so much more that she's missing about the whole thing.

ellen abbott said...

I love how you cut through the bullshit Reya. I've never really thought of the extreme christmas frenzies as being a subconscious expression of our pagan roots and celebrations. Of course, they are but ai yi yi! I imagine it will take several thousand years of no dark since the coming of electric light for our unconscious to adapt. still, a little better understanding does not make me less abhorrent of the season. personally I'm already tired of the christmas themed TV shows, the constant christmas carols and songs everywhere you go, and the christmas advertisements of stuff urging you to buy buy buy. it's all christmas all the time. I will hole up til after the new year, as much as I am able.

Reya Mellicker said...

There must always be naysayers at any pagan festival. They, too, are enacting their shamanic sacred roles in the ritual.

Ellen, who likes it? I doubt seriously that even the ancients loved the winter festival. They HAD to do it, to bring back the light. It was necessary. I've been thinking about asking people why they celebrate at all, just to see what kinds of crazy answers we in our clueless society can come up with.

Tom said...

if we are giving gifts to one another - instead of our gods - does that mean we consider ourselves gods?

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes. We are god. This calls for a much longer conversation, Tom..

Steve Reed said...

We are all pagans at heart, that's true! After all, look at how church attendance has been diminishing in our societies, but Christmas just gets more and more popular. For all the wrong reasons, I think, but it IS an expression of our inner pagan-ness!

If I could opt out of Christmas gifts -- giving and receiving -- I totally would. (I keep it pretty minimal even now!)

Elizabeth said...

I love your clarity, Reya!
Totally agree with you.
For some reason I'm really feeling festive this year
(too much hurricane and election and snow storm)

JOY to the world and let the consumers do whatever the advertising agencies tell them to

we can go for long walks and look at nature instead....