It’s that time of year again!
What time of year?
You know That time of year….!
What, are we still talking about the twelve days of Christmas, the Winter Solstice, Hunting the Wren, etc.? Or do you mean the New year? Which many think is at the end of October, though personally I feel more drawn to the Winter Solstice and the returning light for a sense of a new year’s energy. Or maybe you mean Bear Feast time? Or the new calendar year and all that stuff about making new years resolutions?
Well, I dont know about you but today I got a bit overwhelmed thinking about the number of ways we might be celebrating at This time of year. Not that I am complaining you understand, any reason to celebrate and contemplate our existance has a deal of worth in my opinion. It seems there are a wealth of ideas, traditions and festivals that relate to winter all of which, ancient or modern, need to be given their just contemplation as they all have something to offer our psyches in this beleagured world of ours.
Take the Bear Feast (see the links below for more information) for example, this is an ancient (possibly back to the neolithic), world wide tradition, possibly the remnants of a powerful, pre-christian Bear Cult religion. This is an honouring of the Bear as Spirit of the Land, of food, the Gods and other fundemental needs in the depths of winter, that is fast regaining its popularity in Britain. As with many traditions it clung on in many places in the form of the Whittlesea Straw bear and The Straw Bear of the Fenland boarder and other areas, they may be a reduced form of the original traditions, watered down by religious preferences over the years, yet somehow they could never be fully let go.
I will be indulging in a deal of bear feasting (though no actual bear meat will be consumed) on the 2nd of January, it promises to contain singing and games as well as honouring the spirit of our food, all those who provide it, both farmer, animal and vegetable, and I am really looking forward to the experience. As part of the whole reflective thing I will also be taking the time to truly focus on how thankful I am for my western worldly comforts, such as a roof over my head, water on tap, good food, readily available and in my belly with no trouble or any real dependance of the vagueries of the weather, not to mention the profound appreciation of never having to actually hunt or kill a living bear to feed and cloth my family. I will indugle in the suprisingly ancient tradition of New Year’s Resolutions, apparently even the Babylonians and Romans made them to their gods, and Knights in the middle ages took the ‘Peacock Vow’.
Whether “this time” is just a good excuse to be with loved ones, over indulge in commercialism, rubbish T.V and more scrummy food than I aught, or if it offers a deeper focus, a time to contemplate, reflect and take a breath before the returning light brings a more active focus, is not that important.
What is important is that I take some time at some point between the roast turkey mountain and brussel sprout avalanche, to stop, breath and focus on what I have received over the past year and be grateful for it, no matter how much or how little it seems. Then to think about my wider community, both human and otherwise, find time to be empathic, generous and liberal with my love for my fellow inhabitants on this bright blue planet that spins in the infinite darkness.
I sometimes have that image from the Superman Returns film, where he flies up into the stratosphere and hangs above the earth, listening and watching, like a guardian angel. From up there it must all look calm, harmonious and beautiful, but sadly the closer you get the more pronounced the discord and chaos becomes. If there is a song of the universe, then let’s try to sing in harmony with it and drown out the chaos and discord. Woops! There you go, my brain can’t stay serious for long, now I have the New Seekers tune in my head, before it became adulterated into the commercial for Coke!
I will slope off now and leave you with an ear worm of wonderful 1970’s sentimentaliy, but hey it still says everything that I really believe so I am unrepentant. I am off to contemplate my blessings, contemplate new seeds to grow and make my own ‘Peacock Vows’, see you in the new calendar year.
love and blessings xxxx
Some links about Bear Feast traditions: