Pagan Christmas tree ornaments?
December 10, 2005 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Ahh, Christmas time. MeFites are a bunch of blasphemous heathens, so I'm hoping you can suggest some interesting pagan Christmas ornaments. Also interested in cool pagan wall hangings.

I'm seeing a lot of pendants with pagan symbols, but they tend to be heavy and kind of small, so not really ideal Christmas tree ornaments. If you know of anything that might be more appropriate, in a similar vein, please suggest it. We especially need a tree topper that's not an angel.

I'm also interested in cool wall hangings with a pagan bent, or similar. I'm not pagan myself, but I've always liked the imagery. This one looks pretty cool.
posted by agropyron to Religion & Philosophy (22 answers total)
Not very helpful but... isn't the christmas tree itself a pagan decoration?
posted by -harlequin- at 7:28 PM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: Why yes, yes it is. And you're right, that's not very helpful. Since a Christmas tree is a pagan symbol, wouldn't it be cool to put ornaments on it that were pagan symbols too? A glittery ball isn't a specific pagan symbol, afaik. Not especially looking for Santa Clauses either, although it's said he was originally a pagan symbol too. A star might be considered a pagan symbol, but when Christians use it as a Christmas ornament, it's supposed to symbolize the star that the wise men followed to find Jesus, so that doesn't help much either.

Thanks though!
posted by agropyron at 7:34 PM on December 10, 2005

When I think pagan, I think of wiccans, and anything Celtic.

Here are some pretty Celtic ornaments.

Something wiccan.

You could also go with natural symbols, like moons, trees, etc. Or magical symbols like cups and daggers. Or, best of all--fertility symbols like eggs and phalluses.
posted by frykitty at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2005

Brigid's crosses or other woven straw ornaments. Pentagrams or crossed circles made from twigs and tied with red thread. Sprigs of holly. Pinecones spray-painted gold. Strings of cranberries and popcorn (why not -- give them to the birds after Yule). Ornaments shaped like apples, moons, or stars. Mirrors, crystals, sparkly things.

Especially appropriate is anything with a solar motif -- a big gold sun would be great for the top of the tree.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:12 PM on December 10, 2005

Try Gaelsong or edge of the circle.
posted by matildaben at 8:25 PM on December 10, 2005

Eww, why does my Brigid's cross link go to Here it is again.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2005

How about an original Roman soldier's Sol Invictus ring? The Sol Invictus cult was the deity that Constantine pimped up in Rome as a final attempt at a compromise cult that would satisfy Christians, Mithraists, and old-school pagans. The Sol cult bequeathed many of the totems now taken as "Christian": the cross as a religious symbol of triumph over adversity, Sunday as sacred, and most especially for your interests, a birth festival on December 25th (the "Festival of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun").

If you are feeling especially flush, you could splash out for this ceremonial Sol Invictus goblet.
posted by meehawl at 8:42 PM on December 10, 2005

I like gold suns, birds and little red apple ornaments. I also have a set of gold plastic musical instrument ornaments which work well. As for a tree topper, I once made one which was a pentacle made from red thread wound in a gold ring - there are instructions for making something of the sort here.
posted by andraste at 8:44 PM on December 10, 2005

There are a lot more Green Men out there (Wikipedia link). We have a few around the house. I haven't seen ones suitable for an Xmas tree though.
posted by Aknaton at 9:03 PM on December 10, 2005

Brigids crosses are Christian- Brigid was a bishop. Yule logs (the fireplace kind), holly and ivy and mistletoe are all pagan AFAIK.
posted by fshgrl at 9:32 PM on December 10, 2005

Here is some info on solstice rituals and traditional decorations.
posted by fshgrl at 9:35 PM on December 10, 2005

Like many other local goddesses, Brigid was co-opted into sainthood. That doesn't make her symbols any less pagan, IMO.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:06 PM on December 10, 2005

Response by poster: A lot of excellent responses! Thank you everyone. Keep them coming if anyone has more.
posted by agropyron at 2:16 AM on December 11, 2005

Brigid was a bishop

Really? Go tell that to Maman Brigitte.
posted by meehawl at 6:38 AM on December 11, 2005

I made a yin/yang mandala in red and green. Fiddly to make, but nicely non-Christian.
posted by KRS at 8:18 AM on December 11, 2005

meehawl, Brigid's Crosses are associated with Saint Brigid, not the original pagan deity.
posted by ubersturm at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2005

Which is to say, legend has it that St. Brigid was accidentally consecrated as a bishop during a ceremony intended to consecrate her as an abbess. Maman Brigitte, who you mention in your link, was probably associated with St. Brigid, and not the pagan goddess. This does make more sense than an association with the original Celtic goddess, since vodoun was stronly influenced by Roman Catholicism, not Druidism.
posted by ubersturm at 9:03 AM on December 11, 2005

Everyone is giving such great ideas. I just want to add that anything hand-made is more "authentically" pagan than not. Not that you'll have much choice, if you want a string of popcorn or cranberries, you are going to have to make it yourself. Tie some small twigs or large coniferous needles into a five-pointed star, and you have yourself some cheap ornaments. Brightly coloured string will make them stand out more.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:22 AM on December 11, 2005

I have a long horned sheep skull that I keep in my living room. This time of year, it gets promoted to mantelpiece and wrapped with greenery & lights. It looks good. Also, when the nativity scene comes out (yes, the classic 1950s style American/Irish Catholic plaster nativity scene with the camel with the broken leg and Mary inexplicably in red instead of blue and Joseph and the shepherd boy and the three kings and all) we add to it: Buddha gets a place in the barn along with Santa Claus and a couple of dogs and Krishna, Ganesha and Kwan Yin and, when my son was smaller, Spiderman.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:27 AM on December 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

If you want to go a completely different route, our tree is trimmed with skeletons and flying pigs and fish and blimps -- in other words anything not normally associated with Christmas or Jesus. We have a beautiful Christopher Radko Frankenstein head that was my husband's first Xmas gift to me, and everything else is the absurd or unusual that has caught our eye.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:25 AM on December 11, 2005

Brigid's Crosses are associated with Saint Brigid

The earliest "life" of St Brigid was by Broccan Cloen, around 650, and was barely two stanzas and almost 150 years years after she is alleged to have set up Cill Deara. In the Christian version her father is "Dubthach" (Dark One). In the pagan version her father is "Dagda" (Great One). Later chroniclers, such as the 8th century Cogitosus and Coelan, who seem to have competed to create the most extensive Brigid story.

The St Brigid Cross is so similar to the classic Indo-European lauburu swastika motif as to defy belief that it was not grafted onto the Brigid myth by early Celtic Church mythmakers. At any rate, similar celtic swastikas can be found back to around 200 BCE. It seems to have been Middle Eastern in origin, possibly arriving with one of the new cattle technology cultures. In point of fact, you can see a struggle in celtic symbolism between the triskele, or three-pointed swastika, and the four-pointed swastika. Initially, the three-pointer seems to have been more prevalent. The four-pointer gained greater currency later, especially with the new christian dominance.

St Brigid's Feb 1st feast day corresponds with the Drudic Imbolc festival. I have no doubt that in the rapidly modernizing Ireland of the 5th and 6th centuries many earnest young women called some version of "Brigid" lived and proselytized, some for the old religion, and some for the new. Their efforts were syncretized, synthesised, and sanitised into a "St Brigid" story suitable for future use.

At any rate, the cross is easy to make, and can be ritually burned afterwards while saying prayers, which neatly recapitulates its use as both a pagan and a christian totem.
posted by meehawl at 2:25 PM on December 11, 2005

agropyron - go to your local craft store (Michaels? Here?) and there'll be an aisle with fake birds covered in real feathers. There should also be fake fruits and other "natural" type stuff. Most, if not all, of this stuff can be made into ornaments, wreaths and displays.
posted by deborah at 5:32 PM on December 11, 2005

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