Director of Children and Youth Ministry's Monthly Column for December
A Children and Youth Ministry Message from Emmy Galbraith, DCYM
My mother quietly showed me the ways of paganism through kitchen magic, herbal medicine, tending the garden and living a purposefully simple life centered in a connection with nature, frequently thanking Mother Earth for her gifts. I didn’t know it at the time, but through the hours spent playing in the woods, camping, collecting rocks and feathers, studying insects and stars, stacking firewood for the cook stove, and potion making with plants—I was actually developing my pagan practice as a child. One of the things I love about both paganism, and children, is their inherent connection to each other. A parent doesn’t have to teach a child how to be in tune with nature. We are born simply knowing, fascinated and comforted by her.
I continue to feel most at peace and connected to a higher power when I am in the woods. Or swimming in fresh water or the ocean. Or collecting garden veggies and herbs to bring in the kitchen and make a pot full of magic potion. I think about my ancestors, and what their practice might have looked like. I don’t really know, so I like to imagine a Scottish woman, a Swedish woman, an Italian woman, and an Irish woman, and all their children underfoot. They may have decorated their home for winter with dried flowers, berries and fresh evergreens. Or more practically, hanging herbs around the kitchen for food and medicine. They may have even had a Christmas tree, a lasting pagan tradition.
One Solstice, my children and I met a bunch of friends at the top of a hill before dawn. We all brought musical instruments and noisemakers, and as the sun crept over the hill after the longest night of the year, the children paraded and cheered. This year, I plan to practice manifestation by directing my intentions out into the world. It can be challenging to engage a tried mind, or an aching body, to do the same work we might do in the summer. So as we celebrate the season of Yule, I will send out intentions that the suffering of the world may ease, that we may all receive what we need. These intentions may be cast over a cauldron of burning herbs, a pot of stew, or a fire or Yule Log.
There is no formula for a perfect pagan ritual. It can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. There are traditions, and there is encouragement to personalize one’s practice, because that is what will make your work its most powerful. If you feel pulled to connect with pagan practice this holiday season, my advice would be this: Begin where you are, and go where you feel called, because that is your intuition dancing with the wisdom of the universe.
Here’s a list of my family’s favorite winter holiday activities that invite pagan tradition and values into the home:
• Home cleansing and blessing
• Hanging cranberry and popcorn garland
• Coffee filter snowflakes
• Sun catchers of dehydrated citrus slices
• Pomander balls of orange and clove
• A simmer pot of citrus, rosemary, and cinnamon sticks
• Making homemade gifts and holiday cards
• Featuring music from your cultural or ancestral heritage
I hope you and your family have a joy-filled winter holiday season. Blessed be.