Who Would Cancel Christmas?
Reflections from Annika,
Director of THE LAST WITCH:
Who Would Cancel Christmas?
The Puritans were Christians following a strict interpretation of the Bible, so naturally one would assume that Christmas would be a very special holiday and perhaps a moment of joy in the midst of the bleakness that was The Salem Witch Trials and the everyday lives of people in the colony of Massachusetts.
We know that Elizabeth Johnson Jr. most likely was in jail at the time Christmas rolled around since she confessed to witchcraft at her September hearing in 1692. She and many others were detained under difficult conditions, although a number of children had been released and placed in foster care in October. Some of the accused adults were also out on bail awaiting trial.
One of the curious facts that crossed my screen was that in 1659, the Puritans went so far as to ban Christmas because of the frolicking that went on during the celebrations. “Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way” would have to pay a 5-shilling fine. The law was repealed in 1681, but it’s safe to assume that the Puritans remained restrained in their feasting.
Let’s celebrate the holiday season in a way that is merry, bright, and a true delight while we cheer those who repeal ridiculous laws!
Happy Holidays, however and whatever you celebrate!
The story of THE LAST WITCH embraces diversity of cultures, traditions, beliefs and experiences. While there were no “detestable witches” in 1692/93, there are many people who identify as witches in modern society.
In the tradition and spirit of inclusivity, our documentary includes the voices of modern day witches. One of them is Debra Lori, who graciously shared how the traditions of the season are celebrated in her community.
What traditions do you see that are similar to your own?
“Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leavess o green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too,
And may all our Gods bless you throughout the new year,
May the Gods bless you through the year.”
Tradition is to cut a piece of the Yule Tree and save it for the next year. After cutting the new piece, rub the ashes of the current log, which works as a purification of sacred space when starting your ritual. It also reflects starting the year with a clean slate. New year, new beginnings!
We always gather for a pot luck feast with foods like, a hearty stew that has winter vegetables, an oven roast, and of course sweets! Usually, the High Priestess will conjure a simmer pot, which is basically creating your own personalized potpourri. It fills the Covenstead with the aromas of what you decide to add, reflecting the season.
I personally love to add cinnamon sticks, representing in this ritual the love and protection of the Covenstead, or your own home if you brew it there. Oranges are another addition, which represents the sun and the return of light. I will sometime add some peppermint oil to represent the Winter. Star Anise is another ingredient that represents the light at the end of the tunnel, literally! It represents the hope and excitement that the days are getting longer and the sun is returning.
I also add pine needles, representing a poignant reminder that life persists, evenduring the chilliest season. Another ingredient I will add is Rosemary, as itis used in safeguarding both your home and heart. All you need to do is fill your pot with water, add your choice of ingredients, and let the fragrance permeate your Coven stead or home. Simmer pots are often created for every Solstice. I usually do the one for Yule, as I love those specific scents.
After dinner, we exchange Yule gifts. We do handmake many ofour gifts, but store or Etsy purchases are just as good. Honestly, this is one of my favorite parts of the evening! I much prefer to give than receive!
Once the food has been eaten and the gifts given, we prepare the temple for our ritual. The Altar is set with greenery, we light the Yule candle in the cauldron, which is adorned with greenery and other decorations as well, and proceed with our Ritual.
Being in a Traditional Coven, we do celebrate with a specific ritual, which I cannot share as it is Oath Bound. In my opinion, this is one of the warmest and most beautiful of our celebrations! The feelings that envelope me during our Yule rituals, are overwhelming. I leave feeling lighter, happier, and full of love….and light.
To learn more about Debra and her work, please visit her website HERE.