On Being a Southern Hemisphere Heathen.
by, 02-14-2009 at 06:57 AM (1912 Views)
A suggestion was made to me by Aemma in regards to writing up this subject, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
I live in a part of the world that still sees the need to conform to Northern Hemisphere traditions, mainly because of our Indo European heritage.
In particular, Christmas is flogged to death in December, as a carryover from Yuletide. All the Christmas cards printed are of Santa, reindeer and snow, bloody snow!
In our part of the world - and thankfully some artists have cottoned on seasonally at least - you might see Santa stripped down to his speedos, grabbing a surfboard and catching a few waves, as we are wont to do at this time of year.
Easter is also flogged in such a way that chocolate bunnies are ever present on our supermarket shelves. I would rather buy a chocolate Bilby, a native marsupial.
This is a dilemma of mine, and one that I'm battling with to some degree. My battles have been longstanding in this regard, due mainly to my Roman Catholic upbringing. Religion is spoon-fed from an early age and nothing is questioned among the more gullible flock.
There comes a time when a more intelligent, curious, analysing and questioning person such as myself eventually explores my own path and wants to know - I quote Julius Sumner Miller, a scientist of some repute - "Why is it so?"
First of all, there is the issue of the earth having what we call a vertical flip - otherwise known as the Equator - which separates the Southern Hemisphere from the Northern. The sun and moon rise and set in an anti-clockwise motion across our skies. I couldn't possibly fathom what it's like to watch them rise clockwise.
Then there are the seasons. We are currently in Summer, but we have now gone past our longest day of the year - back in December - and reverting to darkness and cold soon enough.
As if it isn't odd enough to be a Heathen, it's probably even more bizarre to be a Southern Hemisphere Heathen. Our tradtions are a carryover from Europe, but herein lies the contradiction. Tuning in to the seasons!
Autumnal Equinox is the first seasonal marker on our calendar - being around 21st March. Next is Yule on 22nd June. Spring Equinox is 23rd September and the last is Midsummer around 21st December.
Lots of people in Australia still celebrate the Northern Hemisphere celebrations when they do - without giving a second thought as to what they are really about, let alone having any inkling to it being totally out of sync with our seasons!
I was one of them, and it's taken a long time to change my mindset. However, I am! March/April isn't Ostara, September is! I remind my kids of this, and whoever else is open to the more Pagan ways. We still like to eat chocolate but there's an emphasis on giving thanks for what we have been given in the previous spring.
Christmas in July has been a growing trend in Australia in the last decade or more, someone got that idea right at least!
There are Pagans and Heathens who adhere to the Northern Hemisphere traditions because of their ancestry. I accept that reason behind their practises, but I'm not comfortable with it. Our ancestors lived their lives according to the seasons, and that will always be the overriding factor for me. I know that my forebears would not only understand this, they would be proud of me being able to do so.
Many's a time that I've seen a post for Yule, for example, on another board. I might be polite and wish everyone a happy Yule, but I grit my teeth. The northern folk are so used to their seasons and the like, but so are we.
Believe me when I say it's a paradox, and sometimes a hard one to explain. Someone might say, "Oh, no offence, but I couldn't imagine living in your part of the world, it's so upside down blah blah blah". Well, hello, neither could I imagine it from the opposite perspective either!
I realise that we are still relatively a minority and our voices are few. But I wonder at times, what the Northern folk really think of us Southerners? Is it ambivalence? Is it ignorance, perhaps? After all, we've had it drummed into us all our lives what the opposite viewpoint is all about? Or is it something else, and a something else that festers from other forums in the way of holding their noses up in the air as much to say "Oh, you're not of our kind!"
Damn right we're not! We throw back from Indo Europe but we're a different breed again and we've evolved as such for more than 200 years now. I'm finally able to throw off the shackles that has bound me to the spoon-feeding mentality I had to endure.
It's a rather comfortable position that I'm in nowadays, but it's taken a long time to get here. Even longer to understand how it works for us.
The one carryover from my ancestors is my fighting spirit - I will neve lose that!