Long ago, the telling of ghost stories didn’t stop on Halloween, but would continue during the dark, cold winter months of Northern Europe. Disguises and costumes didn’t expire in October either, but would be worn until at least January. Harvest time was over which began a time of feasting, debauchery, and libations. At the same time, stories began all over the world about monsters, demons, and goblins (Most famously, Krampus) told to scare children into being on their best behavior during the boring winter months when they were most likely to get into mischief.
Most likely in an effort to quiet the rowdy evenings, trees were brought inside by candlelight to bring nature indoors, and wreaths were made as a symbol of the spring yet to come. Bonfires were lit to bring in the light, and Yule logs were burned as a ritual to cleanse the past year and welcome the new.
Telling ghost stories around these winter fires is a tradition that dates at least as far back as Elizabethan England. This folk custom is even mentioned in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “A sad tale’s best for winter, I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And also in Christopher Marlowe’s Jew of Malta: “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”
The most famous of all Christmas ghost stories is of course Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. It is the famous story of the selfish, greedy Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of his past, present and future on Christmas Eve. What was most genius about Dickens’ particular ghost story is that it brought morals and values to the otherwise rambunctious drunken holiday season.
The Winter Solstice (Yule) on December 21st marks the darkest day of the year, and the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. But it also marks the moment the light begins to return, and the days slowly become longer. Modern Pagans spend the entire evening around a blazing fire, telling stories, and singing to make certain that the light will return and the sun will once again rise. “After the longest night, sing up the dawn.”
All modern religious celebrations of the holidays have the common theme of bringing in the light. Remembering and recreating our family and cultural traditions are most important this time of year. And we are always thinking of, and missing the loved ones that are not here with us to celebrate. I believe the veil stays thin throughout these darks months, and I believe our loved ones and ancestors are most near to us.
This year I encourage you to bring back the age old tradition of telling ghost stories. Light a candle, tell your children stories of your ancestors, and share memories of your loved ones on the other side.
For more ghost stories and tips on how to connect with your own loved ones, check out my book, Ghost Stories & Hippie Sh*t. Available on Kindle, Paperback, and Audiobook. There’s still time to add it to someone’s stocking.
I’ve always been an outcast in the spiritual sense. I was raised Mormon which put me in the “weird” category with my friends growing up. I haven’t been to church since I was a kid, and the religion never really spoke to me personally. But most of my family still attends church and practices a Mormon faith. I can’t tell you how many times in my life that I’ve been sitting in a room with people who don’t know my family or upbringing, and they start making fun of what Mormons believe, or saying they’re awful to women, or that they’re a cult…etc. I listen, get really uncomfortable, but smile and nod. I feel like such a freak.
I don’t associate with any religion now. I’ve been to some non-denominational church services, and I learned a lot about Judaism after my dad married my step-mom and we got to know her amazing Jewish family, friends, and traditions. My husband grew up Christian, but organized religion in general never spoke to him either. Our children don’t attend church even though we’ve contemplated it a lot since we feel all religion teaches you morals. …But I can tell you now that I’m more spiritual and more connected to a higher source (call it God?) than I have ever been as I learn mediumship and understand how to use my intuition.
So I’m a medium? I don’t know yet. I just know that I had a really great job helping to run my family’s multi-million dollar company and I wasn’t happy there. You can say I’ve been “called” to do this. Why would I choose to continue to be labeled “weird” otherwise? I feel like I understand what it was like for my gay friends and family members to come out of the closet. That’s what it’s like for me. I didn’t choose this. It’s just who I am. And I’m really afraid of what people will think of me.
Well, the uncomfortable nod and smile happened again. But not with Mormons this time…with psychics. My best friend grew up as a really strict Christian and she still is. I have “come out” to some of my friends and family as I develop my skills as a medium, healer, and intuitive. But I block her (and a few others) from a lot of posts and I don’t tell her what’s going on with me because I know that she wouldn’t understand. The other day, she started telling me about a tv show she saw where a woman who claimed to be psychic was scamming the families of murder victims out of money saying she could help and was called out on it. I said, “Wow that’s really sad. She gives real psychics who do this sort of help for detectives a really bad reputation.” And she laughed and said no one could really help with that.
Earlier that same day, we were picking up some pizzas for our kids. She ordered the pizza and came back to the car while we waited for them to bake. We were both watching a young couple with backpacks talking at the edge of the strip mall. The woman grabbed a couple of dollars out of her pocket and went into a sandwich shop and came back with a small cup of soup and two spoons. They sat on the sidewalk and shared. My friend said, “Do you think they’re homeless or wandering backpackers?” I said I didn’t know but they looked clean. She went back inside to pick up our pizzas, and came back out with an extra one and handed them a whole pizza. They were so appreciative and waved and smiled as we pulled away. I said, “Aww that’s so sweet you bought them a pizza.” And she said, “I was just called to do it for them. God told me to do it.”
So when this conversation with the fraud psychic came up later and she was telling me that there was no such thing as someone with real gifts like that… I said, “I really feel that there are people who use their intuition for good and I feel like it comes from God.” And she said, “God wouldn’t do that.” So I said, “Why is it so hard to believe that the same inner voice that told you to buy that couple a pizza, is the same inner voice that some people use to help find a murder victim and comfort a grieving family?” She didn’t really have an answer but we talked a little about false prophets in the bible and that doesn’t have anything to do with gifts people have. (What do I know? I don’t read the bible.) I said, “You gave those people a pizza out of good intentions and love. If a medium gives messages out of the same place, then they aren’t doing anything wrong.” I guess she kind of agreed but we mostly agreed to disagree.
This friend and I are like two peas in a pod of laughter. We think alike, talk alike, were each other’s maid of honor, our kids and husbands are best friends too, and I’d like to think she’d love me no matter what. And like I said before, she knows nothing about the energy medicine and intuitive development classes I’ve been taking, the books I read, or the amazing messages I’ve been able to give people this past year or so. She doesn’t know that I was talking about myself when I was defending psychics. But I think that she would feel that if I go down this road, I must be working for the devil, and it stops me from telling her anything about it. All I know is that I’m doing all of this out of love and I believe I have more of a higher connection than I ever have before. I used to call her and ask her to pray for my flights before we took off like she had some direct line to God that I didn’t have access to. I haven’t asked her to do that in months because I have my own faith now. I’m not sure if she’s noticed.
In this world, there are good people and bad people. Good energy and bad energy. People who do things for wrong reasons, and people who do things for right reasons. There are Mormons who have 5 wives and treat them terribly, and there’s my aunt and uncle who treat each other with love and respect, and give tours of the Mormon Conference Center in Salt Lake City and never press the religion on me. There are awful fraud psychics or people who channel lower energies for profit, and people who channel out of love and just want to receive a little financial reimbursement for these gifts since it takes time away from their families or another better-paying job. It’s kind of funny that this just popped into my head since my friend is a huge Disney freak but… from The Little Mermaid… “I don’t understand how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad.” This world isn’t bad, but there’s plenty of bad people in it which is what Ariel’s father is afraid of. He didn’t need to be afraid, and I need to learn to stand with this secret I have. Maybe start by posting this blog…