Since today is the winter solstice, I got to thinking about some of the wackiness by which I am surrounded in these here hills of Athens County. There tends to be a rather good-sized population of folks in these parts who think of themselves as "neo-pagans" or something like that, people who appear to believe in all sincerity that certain "pagan" practices and cult-like activities in which they like to partake actually have a history of more than about 150 years. In particular, there be "druids" here, or people who like to think that climbing one of the local hills on 21 December and 20 June for some wicked partying is a sufficient condition for counting oneself a member of a cult that hasn't really existed in over a thousand years. In some years the attendance at these shindigs has gotten rather extensive, usually due to rumors--sadly, always unfounded--that there will be much nakedness up on that hill in the wee hours of the morning.
It's far too cold here for me to trek out to Mount Nebo this year, either naked or fully clothed, so I'll just try to have a surreptitious look out my window (my house is situated on a hill that looks out over the mighty Hocking River Valley, and Mount Nebo--epicenter of all such lunacy--is directly across the valley from my house). As I do, I will think fondly of another place of much pagan wackiness, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When I lived there I found it difficult to go into any commercial establishment, whether bookstore, coffee shop, or grocery store, without finding a plethora of paganism (no Christian stuff, of course--that would be gross). The activities available in that area almost always included the mandatory nudity and frolicking, but I'm afraid I never attended there, either. I was in better shape, then, too. What a waste.
In one of the many bookshops in Chapel Hill (here's an interesting aside--in Chapel Hill, a city with a university about the same size as Ohio University, there were dozens of bookstores, but no tatoo parlors; here in Athens there are three tatoo parlors but no real bookstores to speak of) I ran across a book--it was about this time of year--called, if I remember correctly, The True Story of Sinta Claus. I very much regret not buying it, because it was one of the most politically, ecologically, and culturally correct book I have ever seen. Sinta Claus, the protagonist, is not the Dutch companion of Black Peter but is, rather, a pagan version of Santa Claus, who delivers--not toys, but, I kid you not--snack items made of entirely organic ingredients. I don't remember whether the snacks were macrobiotic. But I do remember that Sinta Claus started off as a traditional Santa Claus figure, bringing toys to children, but she (yes, "she") got tired of bringing toy guns, toy soldiers, toy action figures, and other violence-teaching toys to children because she began to notice that boys and girls everywhere were becoming far too materialistic and fascinated by violence. Hence her change in product. She was also feeling guilty for all the work that her elves did for her making these massive numbers of weapons of destruction, so she let them all go and started baking the organic munchies herself. This was offered as an explanation as to why women traditionally bake cookies--it's not supposed to be a sexist stereotype, folks, it's part of our wymynly roots! It's time for us to own that sucker: get back into the kitchens and bake our way to a more perfectly Gaia-friendly world!
Enough. It is nearly sunset here, almost time to bring a close to this pagan year and start looking forward to the next one. I'm certainly looking forward to the end of the materialism surrounding Christmas: the author of Sinta hit that one on the head, as far as I'm concerned. But I would also like to see an end to wacky spiritualisms that have more to do with being self-righteous and self-indulgent than anything else.
I do like a macrobiotic cookie now and again, though.