The Grey Matters
Table of Contents
A Smoky Mountain Christmas Card
Mother Deer Lights Up the Winter Solstice
The Korean Winter Solstice
vGSW Yule Conclave
A Smoky Mountain Christmas Card
By Dean Katy Ravensong
The stately balsam that stands as sentinel of the night atop the hill draws every eye for miles around. For, at a glance, it seems that every firefly of summer has chosen this kingly fir tree as a refuge against the cold of winter. Each and every one illuminates the night with its’ twinkling glow. Every cardinal in the forest has unerringly found its’ way to the twinkling fir tree that stands in splendor atop the hill as Nature celebrates the birth of the Sun King. Each splash of red is accentuated by the glow of a firefly. Each glow of light reflects from the icicles draped from each branch, refracting into a rainbow of colors.
Birdsong echoes through the darkness: “He has come! He has come!” In the night sky above the fragrant balsam, a million stars shine forth in splendor while under the branches, the small inhabitants of the forest gather to pay homage on this holy night.
In the silence of nature’s cathedral, the message rings out: “He has come! He has come!” Woven in and around and through it all, joy is the dominant emotion. Even the stones cry out in praise! There is no evidence of the presence of man. This is nature’s celebration.
A magnificent balsam stands, proudly and tall, against the mountain night proclaiming: “It’s Solstice time! Rejoice! The Lord has come!”
To the Mother and to the returning Sun, I give thanks. To every heart I wish a most joyous holiday season.
Wishing you peace and joy at Yule and all through the year!
(Note: Yes, I know that there are no fireflies in midwinter – but Yule is a magickal time so allow me some poetic license here :) KR)
Katy Ravensong was born and raised in the mountains of southeast Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, where as a child she roamed free as a lark through fields and forests. It is there in the shadow of Chilhowee Mountain that she hopes to live out the remainder of this incarnation. She is mother of three, grandmother of eight (four by blood and four by choice). She is now a crone, married for 41 years, and is enjoying spoiling her youngest grandson dreadfully.
Mother Deer Lights Up The Winter Solstice
By Apprentice Antonius
Ever since I was a child, whenever I sang the nursery ryhme Do-Re-Mi, the first verse always made me question it's meaning: "Doe, a Deer, a female deer, (Rey) ray a drop
of golden sun."
I found myself singing this same verse as I was discovering amazing new information about the origin of Santa's reindeer; their relation to the winter solstice and Santa's sleigh ride. The last time I remember a conversation about Santa was when my Mother told me as a boy of eight that there was no Santa. This is the continuation of that story!
I was surprised to discover that the reindeer we see on post cards pulling a sleigh would have to be female because males shed their antlers in winter time.
The ancient deer mother was often depicted running through winter's darkest longest night with the light of the sun shining on her horns. For the ancient peoples of the British Isles, Scandanavia, Russia, and Siberia, the deer mother was associated with motherhood, fertility, rebirth and regeneration. These were also the main themes of the winter solstice.
What amazed me further into my search was discovering the origin of Santa Claus.
To my surprise, ancient folklore from ancient Siberian culture revealed that female shamans would wear red and white costumes and ingest the hallucinogenic Aminita Muscaria Mushroom.They would then set out on a vision quest. The female reindeer would also ingest the magick mushroom and then take flight! I could not help but think of
Rudolph the red nose reindeer when I learned of this! The female shamans would
deliver the magick mushroom through the chimneys as gifts.
The kichko or headress of the female shaman was far more ornate and artistically decorated then the modern day Santa hat. It had beautiful earth tone designs around a bright red background. The hat had two points instead of one and two white pom-poms on each side of the hat.The back of the hat had a long green tassel. I could imagine this amazing headdress flapping in the wind as the mother deer guided the sleigh and the light of the
sun glowed and glimmered upon the doe's beautiful antlers!
Now, whenever I imagine the ancient female shamans and the mother deer
guiding the sleigh with the golden sun shining through her antlers, I sing the first verse of Do-Re-Me and appreciate how enlightenment has shined on this sacred
animal and continues to do so as she welcomes the sun and the dawn of a new day!
Does the famous verse "Doe a deer a female deer. . .a drop of golden sun" have
anything to do with the female deer riding through the longest darkest winter night in ancient folklore. I am sure it does. That search I will keep for another day!
Olson Prohom Danielle. Doe A Deer, A Female Reindeer: The Spirit of Mother Christmas, Enchanted Living magazine, 12
December 2016, gathervictoria.com
The Korean Winter Solstice
By Apprentice TheNamelessOne
Here's a submission for you: "The Korean Winter Solstice" As a disclaimer, the history given was hearsay, just what I was taught years ago when I was a baby witchie. This wasn't a fact-checked history lesson, just a bit of cultural exchange. But I've been saving the story since last winter. It's a true one, too. This conversation actually happened.
“Okay, so I've got a really weird question now,” I said, poking my head into my boss's office. Technically, there were three bosses. There was Nikki, the head teacher. There was Erica, who isn't really formally a boss, but everyone respects her and this school would curl up and die without her. Then there was Kay, the owner of the school. No one's really sure what she does, other than charm rich parents and look way snazzier than anyone working in a school should be allowed to look.
Two of the three looked up at me. Kay sort of glanced up, then returned to whatever she'd been thinking about before. She doesn't speak any English at all, so she mostly pretends the English teachers aren't here. I think she's a bit scared of us, to be honest. Americans are weird. “What is it?” Nikki asked.
“I've had two separate classes tell me that tomorrow is a holiday for Korea,” I replied. I was met with two very blank stares. “Longest night of the year?” I offered. “The kids are saying something about red bean soup?”
Nikki and Erica both grinned and spoke at once. “Dongji!” Erica said. “It's porridge, not soup!” was Nikki's reply. Then Nikki went blank again, and looked at me. “That's tomorrow?” she asked, diving for her phone to look it up.
“Yeah, the winter solstice,” I said. “Didn't know it was y'all's holiday too.”
“Yes,” Erica said. “It's old superstition, that's all. You eat red bean porridge, to... it's about bad spirits, the beans chase them away.” She spoke with her hands a bit, miming something that resembled bad energy dispersing.
“That sounds awful,” I said, making a face. I hate Korean red beans, and don't believe that they belong in most of the treats that they end up in.
“It IS awful!” Erica grinned. “That's the point!”
“It's the color,” Nikki said, reading her phone. “Red beans, red pepper, just the color red. Makes bad spirits go away. Just old stories.”
“That's actually kind of cool, you know,” I said. I pointed to the Christmas trees that the school had put up. “Those trees, they come from old European stories about the longest night of the year. They used to believe that ghosts could come carry you off, so folks would put green branches in their homes and light them up with candles to show the ghosts how alive everything was.”
Nikki just stared at me with a funny expression on her face. “Different color!” Erica snorted. “Red, not green!”
“The traditional Christmas colors,” I pointed out. “What color does Santa always wear?”
“He does not protect!”
“Check out the older legends of Saint Nicholas,” I grinned. “Liked to sneak around giving presents to the poor. Rescued three kids from a cannibal, and became the patron protective saint of children. Turned into Santa Claus later when everyone was too lazy to say his whole name.”
Nikki started tapping at her phone again, translating what we were talking about to Kay... who was starting to show curiosity about the conversation. A moment or two later, Nikki made a high-pitched noise in her throat and started speaking very quickly in Korean to the others.
Erica blinked at me. “HOW DO YOU KNOW THESE THINGS????” Then she started laughing. Erica's really cool about the weird stuff. She was the one who responded to the school's rumors of my being a Witch by asking me in front of the kids to de-hex the broken scanner in the teacher's room. Oddly enough, it started working perfectly after I played a Tibetan singing bowl over it. We just don't talk about that part.
“THIS IS WHERE SANTA CAME FROM?” Nikki was squealing. She's always been a bit more skittish about... well, almost everything. “Oh my god, this is Santa?????”
Kay was speaking very quietly, very seriously, while looking over Nikki's shoulder. Whatever she said just made Erica laugh harder.
“Happy Yule,” I said, heading for the door. “See you on Monday.” My husband had joined me, too late to see what the bosses were freaking out over. I didn't bother to enlighten him on the way home.
vGSW Yule Conclave
ATTENTION APPRENTICES, MAGISTERS, DEANS, AND FACULTY!
Join us for the Yule conclave on Sunday December 22,2019!
Schedule of Events:
10 AM-11 AM: Meet and Greet
11 AM-12 PM: Ritual
12 PM-1 PM: Lunch Break
1 PM-2 PM: Faculty Forum
2 PM-3 PM: Bardic Circle