Last Sunday, June 30th I drove three hours to Otisville, MI, to visit Terry and Tanya Hughes. I’ll be staying with them for a week, until I leave for Starwood on the 9th. We’d met last Halloween in Salem MA, where they joined in the grand procession I led up to Gallows Hill for the huge Samhain ceremony conceived and run by Gypsy for many years.
I don’t have any more gigs scheduled between now and Starwood. Tanya and Terry are such gracious hosts, just encouraging me to kick back and relax while I’m here. Having been offline for most of the past few weeks, I’m spending a lot of my time catching up on email, FaceBook, and my various projects—such as the Pagan Credit Union, the Grey Council, and the 2020 Vision Project. I’m also renewing my effort to open communications with Disney regarding their obvious incorporation of my Millennial Gaia in the penultimate scene of their marvelous Polynesian animated film, “Moana.”
Terry’s brother Aaron. Tanya’s brother Jim, and other family have been coming over for barbeque and conversation, and in the evenings we watched more episodes of Sabrina. We finished off the first two seasons last night with episode 20. I won’t spoil it for you, but one has to wonder, what next?
This past Wednesday, July 3, Terry and Tanya took me to the nearby town of Frankenmuth, settled by 15 German refugees from Franconia, Bavaria in 1845. A charming little community of 19th-century Bavarian-style architecture, it’s “Christmastown” the way Salem, MA is “Halloweentown.” The first thing you come to after passing under the highway-spanning “Willkommen” arch is BRONNER’S CHRISTmas WONDERLAND, which promotes itself as “The World’s Largest Christmas Store.”
Designed with an Alpine architecture and operating year-round, the vast building is 7.35 acres in size with landscaped grounds covering 27 acres. It’s a very strange amalgam of Christian nativity stuff such as miniature and lifesize creches, statues, angels, camels, Magi (yes, Pagan Zoroastrian Wizards) juxtaposed with secular holiday stuff like Xmas trees, acres of ornaments, countless Santa Clauses (including black ones), giant snowmen, white-tail deer (not reindeer), little light-up winter villages, etc. Incongruously, there are even major displays of Halloween stuff, with little haunted houses and villages and lotsa stuff from the animated film, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
A big sign on the life-size creche in front of the store explains that the Nativity is best dated to 4 BCE, but they don’t question the date of Dec. 25, which we Pagans know was chosen by Emperor Constantine to co-opt the Roman Winter Solstice celebration of Natis Solis Invictus (“Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”). But nowhere is there any mention whatsoever of the real “reason for the season”—Winter Solstice. No hint of Yule, no Sun symbols, Green Man, Isis and Horus, or any other Pagan seasonal symbols. Unless, of course, you count all the secular decorations, which we know to be Pagan, but evidently these people don’t.
According to the Biblical account, Jesus was born six months after his cousin, John the Baptist. John was born while his father was serving as Priest in the temple, during the month of Nisan, which falls over March-April. So Jesus would have been born around Fall Equinox, while the shepherds were still staying out in the fields with their flocks at night, before bringing them in for the winter. In other words, nowhere near Winter Solstice.
The Christian element in Bronner’s comes on really strong. Tanya and Terry said they’d been thrown out previously for asking about Yule decorations and symbols. I think they may have noticed our pentacles, as we were followed around the store by suspicious floorwalkers. Worried about being overheard, we kept our blasphemous comments low and quiet. A spooky experience more in keeping with Halloween than Christmas.
There are big signs everywhere helpfully explaining the historical significance of everything. After touring the quaint little town and its museum, we went to the famous Zehnder’s (founded in 1856) for their special “World Famous” family-style chicken dinner. Billed as “America’s largest family restaurant,” the period-costumed waitresses kept bringing additional servings of chicken, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli, buttered noodles, etc. as we requested them.
On the 4th and 5th we visited with some of Terry & Tanya’s friends and relatives. Interesting folks…
Last night I performed a handfasting ceremony for Terry & Tanya, under a bright quarter moon.
Tuesday the 9th I’ll be leaving here. I’m picking up Samina at the Columbus Airport and going on to Starwood. I look forward to seeing many of you there!
For previous Journal entries and more, be sure to check out my personal website: www.OberonZell.com