Around this time of year I tend to do a lot of spiritual journeying. The spaces I journey to are consistent once December rolls in. There’s a lot of activity among the spirits I work with come the winter solstice and new calendar year, so much so it becomes easy to lose myself in that spiritual energy and forget the physical.
Adding to that difficulty, we currently live far away from any family. Family traditions become more difficult to uphold when separated, and my partner I have been perhaps too lax about forming our own. This is complicated by the heightened spiritual focus I have, while my spouse has little interest in religious matters. Still, every winter sees another attempt to establish new traditions and enjoy the unique flavor of life around us in this cold season.
The Otherfaith Wintertime Holiday
I don’t technically celebrate Yule as part of my Otherfaith practice. Yule is part of my Wiccan-ish practices, part of my wobbling observance of the Wheel of the Year. When it comes to the Otherfaith and the Four+ Gods, wintertime is about Reunion.
Reunion is a holy week running from December 25 to January 1. A week of celebrating our connection with the Gods and honoring Their most benevolent forms. ‘Reunion’ is what the spirits I work with called it, so I adopted the term as well. It might more properly be called ‘The Reunion of the Gods of Love’, since that is what the spirits celebrate at this time of year, but that’s a mouthful. Reunion is much simpler.
(Though I tend to just say I celebrate the Winter Solstice or Christmas, if I am asked in offline spaces. Most people aren’t interested in the minutiae of personal religions.)
Reunion is not radically different from other winter holidays. Gathering with chosen family and friends is important. Honoring the Gods and spirits close to us is important. Feasting, partying, and reveling in the light that is to return: all important. All rather standard. The week of December 25 through January 1 does hold a lot of religious meaning, but it fits easily with many other Pagan and polytheist festivities occurring at this time.
As to the specific timing – December 25 through January 1 rather than, say, the week after the Winter Solstice – I must attribute that to my own desire to have some days between more ‘generic’ Pagan Winter Solstice festivities and my obligations to the Otherfaith spirits. The Holy Ones also practically hit me over the head with Christmas music when I was first learning about Reunion through journeying and contemplative journaling, so it seemed fitting to place the start on ‘Christmas’. The calendar new year also seems to have some relevance to the spirits I work with, perhaps because they entwine themselves with humanity quite a bit, so aligning the festival so it ended on January 1 seemed correct. This could possibly be attributed to the ‘newness’ of the Gods and spirits I worship as well.
For all of December I find myself in a more contemplative and spiritual mood. This sometimes manifests as odd dreams and nightmares, all with a tinge I have come to identify as the spirits or otherworld (after years of dealing with them). I am best able to wrangle these energies into prayer and poetry writing for the Gods and Their kin.
The first few years I recognized and celebrated Reunion most of my prayer writing focused upon the Laetha and Dierne, the Gods of Love in the Otherfaith. Even now, more settled in my Otherfaith practice as I am, I return to these Gods of Fire to mine more wisdom from Them. Wintertime is when They are at Their safest to approach. Usually the Laetha and Dierne can burn ‘too hot’ together, and some practitioners of the Otherfaith have mentioned having to separate Them on their altars because of this. But in wintertime, the fires of the Gods become sustaining and protective. They are the hearth-fires. They are reunited in peace and affection. There is no strife during Reunion.
Taboo Against Fighting
Which leads to one of the taboos and traditions related to Reunion. No fighting or conflict should be engaged in during this time.
This was basically the first tradition the Gods and spirits conveyed to me about Reunion. ‘Do not fight.’ Not exactly easy considering how fraught family gatherings can be! For the Otherfaith spirits, though, this is a period of time where we set aside our differences to love each other. To forgive slights against us. To reach out to another and heal wounds, to gather in kindness just as the Gods do.
Sometimes this means reconnecting with those we have fallen out with. Other times it means upholding the boundaries we have set up in the past year(s), treating ourselves kindly. There are people I know and miss but who I cannot reconnect with, lest strife bubble up once again. Reunion is not about letting people continue to wound us but evaluating our relationships with others, ensuring we have acted in ways we feel honorable. In the best of times we are surrounded by our family – chosen and friends and beloveds – and are able to look with clear conscience at our lives.
Burning Out the Year
Reunion is a celebration of the Gods in our lives, of our connection to Them, the spirits, other humans, and the world. It is also a time of transition. Of the ending of one year into the fresh energy of the next. Part of that means burning up old parts of the past year.
In my practice this is expressed through burning partially used candles that have not been finished off. This is limited to candles used for religious or magical purposes; the candle I use in the kitchen for ‘mundane’ purposes gets to hang around one year to the next because it would be too much of a waste otherwise. If a candle has been dedicated to a specific purpose spanning one year into the next or across a few months that intersect with the new year I will, likewise, not burn it in my year-end burning.
I enjoy this practice partially because it helps me reflect on the spiritual and magical workings I have done throughout the year. I also enjoy it because watching over candles as they burn can be a meditative and calming practice!
As I mentioned in the opener, I do a lot of spirit journeying this time of year. Some people might call this astral travel or pathwalking; spiritual journeying is simply the term I’m more familiar with and prefer.
There are two main areas I journey to at this time of year. One is called, rather appropriately, the Winterlands or Wintertime. I’ve journeyed to that space since 2012. A land encased entirely in snow, with frozen lakes and evergreen trees bowed under the weight of snowfall, my journeys there are largely about self-reflection. Getting there is never pleasant, but getting back out is usually the more difficult part. I associate it most strongly with the Otherfaith God of Death, the Ophelia. Considering that Reunion is all about reconnecting with the Gods and aligning ourselves with Them, I suspect there are reasons why I feel such a strong call to return to the frozen landscape of the Ophelia’s domain each winter. The exact meaning I hesitate to give, having not yet understood it myself.
The second area is simply the wider Westernlands (fairy otherworld) were most of my journeying take place. In winter that world is full of lights, just as our own wintry cities are. Even when I was living in the middle of the desert the snowy cityscape of the West was palpable in my journeying. It was remarkably easy to lose myself in journeys when I lived in the desert as well; being in an environment with actual ‘traditional’ seasonal fluctuations makes it a bit easier to reground myself in my body. The mists of Germany are just as enticing as the fairy-lit streets of the otherworld.