By Kathryn Dyer
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Meagan. She lived in a house that had lots of woods behind it. She lived with her mommy and daddy, her big brother Corwin and her beautiful cat named Starweaver.
Meagan loved to watch Starweaver play with the snow in the winter. He would try to catch the flakes as they came down from the sky. Sometimes he would get mad when the flakes would melt and then his tail would start swishing from side to side. Meagan's parents told her not to mess with Starweaver when his tail was swishing like that.
"When Star swishes his tail back and forth it means that he is mad or frustrated," said her father Michael, "and playing with him would be like someone teasing you when you're mad or don't feel good." Meagan could sure understand that! "What does frustrated mean Daddy?" she asked. "Frustrated is how you feel when you are trying very hard to do something and it won't work right. Like when you were learning how to dress yourself and you couldn't get your head through the neck of a shirt." explained Michael. Meagan knew just how that felt and she promised never to bother the cat when his tail swished.
But today Starweaver wasn't swishing his tail. He was following Meagan and Corwin into the woods and chasing shadows. Meagan and Corwin had gone down the path into the woods to gather green fir branches, mistletoe and holly. It was Christmas time and they were helping to decorate the house. Later they would go with their parents to pick out a live tree to decorate and then plant in the Circle behind the house. Meagan's family were Pagans, but they also celebrated Christmas when Santa Claus came.
Meagan's mother Elizabeth told her that many people would celebrate a God's birthday at the middle of the winter or the Yule Solstice. Meagan knew that the Yule Solstice was the longest night of the year. Of course, many Christians celebrated the birthday of Jesus at Christmas. But before there were Christians some people would celebrate the birthday of Mithras, one of the old Gods, or some of the other Solar Gods. Solar means that the God is in charge of the Sun and Light. Meagan could see how the sun would be very important in the cold of Winter.
Meagan's family celebrated two holidays in the winter. They would celebrate Christmas, which her mother said was Santa Claus's birthday and they would celebrate the beginning of winter which they called the Yule Solstice. Meagan thought that Santa Claus must be a very nice person to give other people presents on his birthday so she and Corwin always left him a piece of cake and some eggnog to drink.
Meagan and Corwin picked lots of branches to decorate the house with. They tried to get fallen branches when they could but when they had to take them off a live plant they would ask the plant first and then thank it when they were done. Meagan had some crystals in her pocket to leave for the plants as a thank-you present. Corwin used the scissors when they had to cut something because he was older and Meagan's safety scissors might hurt the plant more. Corwin was always very careful not to cut more than they needed. They put all their branches into baskets that Elizabeth's mother Nana had made.
"Don't let Starweaver eat anything!" said Corwin, "Many plants can make cats and people sick." Meagan held her basket up higher. She didn't want Star to get sick! Corwin told her that soon she would get to go on walks with their father into the woods to learn about which plants were safe to eat and which were not. "Yes," said Meagan, "and then maybe Cindy's mom will show me how to make medicines!" Cindy was Meagan's best friend and her mother was an herbalist. Cindy's mother Anna made medicine, incense, make-up and lots of other things wit all kinds of plants and flowers. Sometimes Meagan would go with her mother when Elizabeth went to trade herbs with Anna. Then she and Cindy would have fun smelling all the herbs in Anna's workshop.
Soon Meagan's house was full of decorations. They made popcorn and cranberry strings to decorate the tree. Each year Meagan and Corwin would make a special ornament to put on the tree. This year Nana helped them make ornaments out of clay. Nana put the ornaments in her kiln, which is a kind of oven, so that they would get hard. Meagan loved her Nana very much. She always brought Meagan a surprise when she cam to visit. One time she had brought a little black kitten who grew up to be Starweaver!
One time Meagan asked Nana if she was a Pagan too. Nana said, "Oh, I'm half of one and a dozen of the other". Meagan couldn't talk about it to her other grandparents. Her daddy's parents Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott were very Christian and always asked where the children were going to Sunday school. Meagan had been to Sunday school a few times with Cindy because her parents wanted her to know about all religions. But she didn't tell Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott about the time she went to the Jewish temple or talked to her parents' Buddhist friend. She knew that they wouldn't understand and she didn't want to make them feel bad.
It seemed like no time at all before it was the night before Yule Solstice. Meagan's family had found a dead tree in the woods to use for a Yule log. They decorated it with greenery after Michael carved little suns onto it. When it was ready they put it in the fireplace and put the piece of Yule log they had saved from last year on top of it. This year Jeremy, the Coven's High Priest, had to work on the Solstice so the Coven had decided to hold their ritual on the next Saturday. Meagan was excited, they would celebrate three days this year!
That night, Meagan's family had a big dinner and Nana came to stay the night. Elizabeth had talked to Cindy's mother Anna and she let Cindy come to spend the night too! Sonn Elizabeth lit the Yule log and many candles around the room. Cindy and Meagan lay on the rug in front of the fire while Michael played his harp. They sang some songs that people in their Coven had written about the Yule. Cindy didn't know very many of the songs they sang but she tried to sing them anyway. This made Meagan giggle and so Cindy started to tickle her. They had a great tickle fight until Nana said that they were too close to the fire even if it had a screen.
Cindy and Meagan got to stay up past their bedtime and even got to have a cookie before they went to bed. They promised each other to meet after Santa came to play with their new toys. Meagan could hardly wait for Santa to get there! On Christmas Eve she and Corwin left out some coconut cake and eggnog for Santa. They left him a note wishing him a happy birthday and thanking him in advance for anything he might leave for them if he thought that they had been good. Meagan had tried to be good all year but it was very hard for her to go to sleep that night. She kept thinking that she heard raindeer on the roof.
The next morning Meagan got up and brushed her teeth. She could hardly wait to go downstairs but she had to wait until her parents and Nana were ready. Because Corwin was old enough he had gone down to the kitchen to heat water for tea and coffee. Meagan's mother and Nana would only drink herb tea but Michael said he had to jumpstart his mornings which always made Elizabeth laugh and tease him.
Once they got downstairs Corwin and Meagan rushed to see what Santa had left them while their parent's took pictures. After they were done, the whole family exhanged presents. Then it was time to visit Gramma Lee and Granpa Scott. It wasn't until the next day that Meagan had time to play with Cindy.
Since the Coven had chosen to meet on Saturday they decided to have a party all day. People began arriving early in the morning. Some of them had brought gifts for Meagan and her family who also had gifts for them. Meagan had made Jeremy a plate with a pentagram and runes around it spelling out his name with the clay her Nana had brought to make the Christmas decorations with.
"Thank you so much Meagan!" said Jeremy, "I will put this on my altar at home and everytime I see it I will think of you." Meagan felt very happy that Jeremy liked her present. Everyone had a good time. They all played games and sang songs. Michael played his harp. Corwin had gotten a new recorder for Christmas and played it for eveyone. Sometimes people would stop for a little bit and go for a walk in the woods. Not everyone had woods behind their house like Meagan's family did.
It was getting to be time for the Circle to gather. Everyone took turns taking quick showers and baths to purify themselves. Meagan and Corwin helped decorate the Circle with greens and candles before it was their turn. They took their baths and put on their robes. The Coven was starting to gather in the Circle. There was a bonfire ready to light and two unlit candles waiting on the Altar. They would light the bonfire and the candles to help light the Horned Lord's way through the dark months of winter.
Robert blew a Horn and the ceremony started. When it came time for Cakes and Ale they passed out some special cookies that Nana had made for them. "I may not come worship with you," Nana said, "but I respect what you do and I would like to share a little part of it with you."
All too soon the ritual was over. Meagan was going to help clean up the Circle but her mother saw her yawning and sent her to bed. "Don't worry Meagan," said Elizabeth, "the grown-ups are going to stay up until the bonfire goes out and we'll clean up then. Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed and one of us will come tuck you in in a minute, o.k.?" "O.k. momma," yawned Meagan, "it's all been so much fun this week, I just can't stay awake any longer."
When Michael came up to tuck Meagan in she was already sound asleep and dreaming about the wonderful week she had had.
(Click here to see the page that I got the story "Meagan And The Yule Solstice" from).