Our family is planning the gifts for Winter Solstice/the holidays, as many of us are. Celebrating the Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) gives us an even shorter time than most Americans for holiday planning and waiting for delivery, so with still some weeks before the Winter Solstice, here are some gift ideas to give or ask for! Of the items here, many will help your spiritual practice, enriching your daily life for you and your family.
This is the updated list, with new gifts ideas at the top, and classic gifts below that. Some families draw names or lists for Solstice gifts when gathered for Thanksgiving, so here are ideas just in time for that! Also – many of us have relatives who assume that excluding us by using an evangelical Thanksgiving grace is OK. Here’s a video and inclusive grace resource that can prepare you to solve the problem before that comes up at Thanksgiving dinner.
Also, if you are quick, you can still have a Winter Solstice Advent Calendar for 2022! You could consider it an early Solstice gift to you and your family, or use the one you got last year – With the Solstice on December 21, most Advent Calendars should be started around November 27.
The top two items this year are the Songs of Solstice songbook from the Girl God, and the Adam the Ape book (see pictures above)! The Songs of Solstice book is a great way to keep singing in your holiday. Singing is a powerful and fulfilling human ability, and this book allows us to recover it from the Christian dominated culture. Like the Advent calendar, you may want to get this now, so as to better celebrate the time leading up to the Solstice. From The Girl God:
We, at Girl God Books, decided to create this special songbook with re-imagined Christmas carols and songs (only those in the public domain were used) to honor the original intent of late December, the Longest Night of the Year, known as the Winter Solstice.So, decorate that evergreen, set the Yule log ablaze, put on the Wassail, light the candles, and lift your voices in celebration.” -Sharon Smith from her Introduction to Songs of Solstice.
This Song Book is also filled with glorious artwork, Solstice poetry, and writings on the Solstice from Glenys Livingstone, PhD., Kat Shaw, and Sharon Smith.This Songbook celebrates the cycles of Nature—Birth, Life, and Death—through the changing Seasons (the Turning of the Wheel) from Autumn’s abundance, for which we give thanks, to Winter’s “Dead Time,” when even the warmth of the Sun leaves us, and the world goes dark and cold. It is a celebration of both the Light and the Dark, since both are Sacred and both are needed for new Life to grow and flourish.Get a list of songs here.View the complete Table of Contents here.Scheduled for December 2022.Join us on December 4th for our Solstice Sing-Along!
The book “Adam the Ape” is a fun adventure story for older kids (or bedtime reading to younger kids), which helps show the wonder of our evolutionary history along the way! Here is part of the detailed book review by Dr. Dad at “Raising a skeptical kid”:
I was delighted to find out that a new book, Adam the Ape by Wolfgang Wambach, has a chimp and 13-year-old kid that go on an wild adventure together. But I was thrilled when I read it and discovered that the book not only has a fun premise, it is chock-full of information about evolution. In fact, it teaches young kids about evolution so well that the Richard Dawkins Foundation praised the work and interviewed the author to help promote it. The Jane Goodall Foundation recommends it, and several skeptic and scientific organizations around the world are trying to get the word out about it.
Do you know Pagans who don’t yet have their own Book of Shadows? Our spirituality is important, and making sure that our tools for our spirituality are compelling and feel good to us is essential to maintaining our practice and hence our own mental health and impact on the future. Plenty of good options are out there, but this Book of Shadows is made with quality black leather (pentacle on the front, little Wheels of the Year on the back), has a solid clasp, and plenty of room for your rituals, experiences, spells, and other practices.
Moon Cycle Calendar 2023 From Avebury Stone Circle is now available! Look Beyond The Straight Lines Into A World Of Natural Time. How we see our days and schedule is central to one’s spirituality. Being reminded of what’s going on with our Moon and planet orients us to the real world.
The Moon Diary is coming back and will be available again for 2024After 27 years of writing and producing the Moon Diary , I am handing over the reins to Nicole French.
Nicole has used the Moon Diary for most of those 27 years and is the perfect person to take this beloved annual companion forward.And with my absolute love and blessing.
Deep gratitude to all of you who have loved and supported this work over the years. Your loyalty will be rewarded with the emergence of the 2024 Moon Diary . Available in August 2023You can sign up for notifications here http://eepurl.com/cSk1U
Items for Adults:
The bronze and pewter Atheopagan pendants from Meuleurgy are wonderful! What a beautiful way to live your spirituality, while also providing a solid reminder to help ground yourself! In fact, the artist who makes them also made the historic Suntree Retreat Cosmala beads, and has a wide range of additional Pagan sacred tools at his site here.
Who says the King should be worth more than the Queen?! An innocent question from a child led to this groundbreaking deck of cards, with the traditional King, Queen & Jack replaced by hand-drawn illustrations on the equal gender, multi-ethnic face cards of the Monarch, Duchess/Duke and Prince/Princess. Spread the message of equality to your friends & family and teach children to love from a young age! Cartomancy – divination by use of cards – is of course well known in our Pagan community, especially using Tarot cards (see especially the Tarot of Bones below). Cartomancy can be done with a regular deck of playing cards as well (there are lots of videos, links, and books online), and still works as a tool to see our inner, subconscious thoughts, without any need for belief in the supernatural.
We are so lucky to live at a time when we know more than our Ancestors could have imagined about our world and our history. I revel in this knowledge, and can get replicas of so many sacred objects (I try to get ones that are the actual size when possible, too). here are a few of the ones that others or myself have. In addition to often being effective ritual tools, can help our kids learn our family culture. Many of us have an altar or Focus – a perfect place for their presence. What deity do you, a loved one, or your family feel especially connected to? Prometheus, the Triple Goddess, the Green Man, and others come to my mind. If you don’t see her or him here, check Sacred Source, Ebay, Amazon, and Google. I try to buy from Sacred Source or other small shops before the others when I can.
Kernunnos, God of the wild wood. Timeless, tireless guardian of all living things, the Horned One. The Celtic Father of Animals, with his companion Stag and Boar, is an archetype of mature masculine energy in balance with the natural world. Taken from the Gundestrup cauldron, this image shows the forest god in his typical yogic pose of meditative entrancement with nature.
Venus of Willendorf (25,000 – 28,000 BC)
This figurine was found in the Austrian village of Willendorf in 1908 and dates back to the Paleolithic period of prehistoric times.. The voluptuous female figurine is cut from oolith (limestone), a type of stone which originally was not found in this area. “Goddess figurines” is a collective term for prehistoric female figurines found throughout Europe and elsewhere. The original meaning or meanings of the Goddess figurines is unknown. It is likely that, in the hunter and gatherer society of those days, their corpulence stood for prosperity and fertility.
Ancient atlatl replica! Mark Green pointed this one out (the Springing Horse of Bruniquel). What an incredibly powerful item, for ritual use, for placing on one’s Altar/Focus (especially around Samhain), and for just plain and simple awe! While we don’t know exactly how the ancient goddess figurines were used (see below), we know exactly how these works of art were used. They were used to provide the food that kept our Ancestors alive for millenia, over 12,000 years ago! A similar option from the same site is the Faoan aux l’oiseaux atlatl, which is also 12,000 to 17,000 years old. This goes on my Solstice list, at the top!
Try it out yourself! Here is an atlatl with three darts which you can throw yourself! I’ve tried this, and even made a crude atlatl and darts myself. It was incredible to see how much of a difference it made! I can’t imagine being able to hit a running deer using an atlatl, but our Ancestors did so, feeding their kids for thousands of years. It was great to get this for Winter Solstice last year!
Wheel of the Year (also look for others)
Honor the Solstices, Equinoxes, Thermstices and Equitherms of our sacred year with this seasonal pictorial wall plaque- and you don’t even have to show any math! Rich symbolism in loving detail. We have four Wheels of the Year in various places around the house so the kids learn it and see it every day.
The worlds oldest star map – an exact, full-sized replica of the 3,500 year old disc recently discovered within a Neolithic woodhenge observatory near Nebra, Germany. The original, bronze with gold plated stars, shows several constellations, including The Pleiades, and was just highlighted for our Samhain post. If you have Asian, African or European Ancestors, then your Ancestors made, revered, and used this.
This fossil of Archeopteryx is probably the most important and famous fossil ever discovered. Found when the controversy over Darwin’s Origin of Species was raging – before evolution was settled science, it is a perfect example of the transitional fossils predicted by Darwin. The skeleton is that of a theropod dinosaur, and possesses teeth, a long bony tail, abdominal ribs and three digits on each hand – characters absent in birds. It also shows bird characteristics such as a furcula (wishbone) and a retroverted pubis (characteristics also shared with some dinosaurs) and an opposable hallux (big toe) for perching. The most spectacular feature is the distinct impression of feathers around the forelimbs and tail. I have a replica like this on my living room wall.
Acheulean hand axe To hold one of these ancient artifacts in your hand, to know that it was made hundreds of thousands of years ago by an earlier human – likely one of your Ancestors – to aid in daily survival, is truly a humbling experience and a direct connection to our far distant past. Useful both as a ritual tool and on one’s Altar or Focus.
Everything we touch is made of these elements – this starstuff! Here is a rich Periodic Table of the Elements, showing both the elements as well as their place on the table. We have one of these, in a 3′ X 5′ frame, on our living room wall, not far from the archeopteryx.
23andme DNA test! It’s incredible to imagine that we can tap into the information in our DNA, opening a window to our Ancestors both recent and ancient. For me, reading my own DNA has been a spiritual practice, one that you can share in. Here is an article and video about it. The “Ancestry only” version costs half as much as the full test
Mark’s vitally important new book, Atheopaganism is a handy guide to the Atheopagan (or any Naturalistic Pagan) path, including the science background, the Atheopagan values, Principles, Sabbaths, crafting rituals, building a Focus, etc. It’s a great boost to your spirituality, whether you are just starting or have had a vibrant spirituality for years. Atheopaganism and Godless Paganism are the two main books on Naturalistic Pagan paths today.
While many Pagans today believe in literal gods, there are a growing number of Pagans who are “godless.” Today, the diverse assemblage of spiritual paths known as Paganism includes atheist Pagans or Atheopagans, Human- istic and Naturalistic Pagans, Buddho-Pagans, animists, pantheists, Gaians, and other non-theistic Pagans. Here for the first time, their voices are gathered together to share. Godless Paganism is available as a paperback and ebook.
What could be more useful for we Naturalistic Pagans than this ready made set of rituals, which we can adapt to our own circumstances?!
From the Amazon description: Sasha Sagan was raised by secular parents, the astronomer Carl Sagan and the writer and producer Ann Druyan. They taught her that the natural world and vast cosmos are full of profound beauty, that science reveals truths more wondrous than any myth or fable.
When Sagan herself became a mother, she began her own hunt for the natural phenomena behind our most treasured occasions–from births to deaths, holidays to weddings, anniversaries, and more–growing these roots into a new set of rituals for her young daughter that honor the joy and significance of each experience without relying on religious framework.
Have you seen the beautiful Atheopagan products? Necklaces, Solstice Tree Ornaments, Altar cloths, more! These make great gifts that help bring our spirituality into our daily lives.
Stargazer Laser. This is just a green laser bright enough to be able to see the beam of the laser in the dark. This means that one can use it to point into the night sky, and point to specific stars, planets, and constellations. It has been a joy to use this past summer with the kids, such as while waiting for Perseid meteors, or just out at night. Yes, purists will point out that it does very slightly reduce your night vision, for me, it’s been worth it. Kids love it when snow is coming down, or in fog, etc, as well.
Logical Fallacies Cards or Poster. As we just saw with the response to the election and so on, the attacks on reality are open now, and doing as much damage as ever. It’s essential that we move back towards accepting reality and reason. For this, these logical cards can help everyone learn the ways people mislead and lie. They have everything from the strawman fallacy to the “shirking the burden of proof” fallacy, and more.
Enlightenment NOW! The case for reason, science, Humanism, and progress, by Steven Pinker.
While some aspects of our lives are worse, on the whole, looking at our world, human lives have been getting much better over time, as a result of reason and science. If we are to have any hope to continue this, and give our great great grandkids the best world possible, then it will be through a culture based in reality and evidence. This is a great complement to Pinker’s “Better Angels”, and both are available on MP3 Audio.
The War on Science by Shawn Otto. What can we do to get back to a society that respects truth? Alongside “Fantasyland”, below, I rank this book as second only to Pinker’s “Better Angels” and “Cosmos” (both below) in importance. This book exposes the well funded, well organized Anti-Science movement in America, and most importantly, what we can do about it. Chapter 8 details the inner workings of the “all beliefs are equally true” falsehood we often hear in the wider Pagan community. Also available on MP3 audio, for listening during your commute, workout, walk, or whatever.
Wheel of the Year Tapestry Transforms any wall into our beautiful Wheel of the Year. I have one of these for the background behind my home Altar or Focus. The traditional elements are shown in the corners – a reminder of our long road to understand our world – they also can represent the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma).
Lupa Greenwolf’s natural Pagan crafts (some make great ritual tools). Also includes ritual wearables, artwork, and divination tools (yes, Naturalistic Pagans can use divination as a way to get a better idea of our own inner thoughts). A great Tarot deck for Naturalist Pagans is also available, with Lupa’s The Tarot of Bones .
These deeply moving meditations (with ritual instructions) can be an important part of your spiritual practice. Though Goddess based, they can be used by men also.
A Cosmala is a set of sacred Pagan beads which tell the story of our history, from the Big Bang until today. My set includes many of my Ancestors, and is my most powerful ritual tool. Though not available commercially, the instructions for making one are here – an especially good choice for those who prefer to hand-make the gifts they give.
Lupa Greenwolf has improved and re-released her foundational books! These are a gateway into a strong connection with our Earth, and build a living Naturalistic Pagan practice. Easily readable yet full of detailed information, they are great for anyone over about 12 years old. Some include Plant & Fungus Spirits, Vulture Culture, and more! Lupa explains: Nature-based spirituality has been a conscious part of my life since 1996, though nature has always been sacred to me to one degree or another, ever since I was very young. I especially gravitated toward animals, so it was no surprise that animal totems and other such beings have been central to my practice.
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (available on DVD) Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is my #1 recommendation to families for giving children the priceless gift of our Universe, which they will carry with them into adulthood. It’s essential inspiration for me, as an adult, too. Nearly all of the original version is still wonderful and relevant today. The original and new versions have a lot of different content – I highly recommend owning both, and sharing them with your kids.
Fantasyland, by Kurt Andersen. Especially important for all naturalists (not just Naturalistic Pagans) this is essential reading for all Americans, and I rank it as tied with “War on Science” as being second only to Pinker’s “Enlightenment NOW” and “Cosmos” (both above) in importance. It traces the history of why delusional thinking is so prevalent in America, from the 1600’s to today. By showing that (and the reason why we have ex-President Trump), it makes so much of our culture – both on the right and on the left – understandable, if not excusable. Also available on MP3 audio, for listening during your commute, workout, walk, or whatever. This is not a kid’s book.
Spinning in Place The book describes a cycle of eight seasonal celebrations which humans have observed for thousands of years in various ways. These are the equinoxes and the solstices as well as the so-called cross-quarter days. Here is an interview of the author.
Equally comedic and insightful, Letting Go of God is Sweeney’s brilliant one-woman show about her struggle with her faith. While faced with door-knocking Mormons and wise-cracking priests, Sweeney takes listeners on her very personal journey from God to “not-God”. For me, this has been a helpful door key, making it easier to come out of the Atheist closet to Christian family and friends. It’s non-threatening, using comedy to safety open discussions of Atheism.
The Ancestors Tale takes us modern humans back through four billion years of evolution on our planet. As the pilgrimage progresses, we join with other organisms at the forty “rendezvous points” where we find a common ancestor. The band of pilgrims swells into a vast crowd as we join first with other primates, then with other mammals, and so on back to the first primordial organism, meeting our Ancestors that many of us don’t yet know. Here Dawkins shows us how remarkable we are, how astonishing our history, and how intimate our relationship with the rest of the living world. The audio version is especially good, being read by Dr. Dawkins himself, who is so cool that he autographed my Darwin Cosmala bead in 2017. Another good Dawkins book is Outgrowing God, by Richard Dawkins -a helpful book for those leaving supernatural religion.
Pagaian Cosmology brings together a religious practice of seasonal ritual based in a contemporary scientific sense of the cosmos and female imagery for the Sacred. This book is well referenced academically and emphasizes the Goddess naturalistically. An excerpt is here.
Bible Stories YPNTY There exists in the world today a nearly universal presumption that the Holy Bible is a “good” book. Bible versus are etched into the walls of our national monuments. Churches operate tax exempt. Even the President of the United States takes his oath of office with one hand planted firmly on a copy of the Bible. But actually reading a Bible, we
see story after story of looting, murder, genocide, torture, slavery approved by this god. For people who have ready a Bible cover to cover (as I have), this is redundant – but for others, it is an eye-opener that saves many hours of readying boring lists of begats.
Of course, an important part of Naturalistic Paganism is thinking about the future of our world. That means recognizing that gift-giving can often result in too much “stuff” – especially plastic toys that don’t teach a sustainable, reality-based worldview, and just add both pollution and clutter to our world and your life. So consider “de-gifting” your holy days – or just reducing gifts. Just a hug, or a conversation, can mean a lot more, especially for older loved ones. Not sure about something? Maybe just ask the loved one openly? They might be dreading the game of acting happy when they really don’t need more stuff. For others, consider practical gifts – a gas card, a homemade meal, or other things that will make their lives easier while not adding to clutter.
My spirituality if future-focused. It is future generations who will determine the fate of humanity and the rest of our family of life on Earth. We have the opportunity to help give them some tools for that task. Or we can leave it to popular culture to fill their minds. It’s our choice. Here are first, items, then book/DVD, holiday gifts for parents & kids.
Items for Parents & Kids
My Name is Stardust What a wonderful book to introduce our origins to our kids! This book combines the wonder and awe we feel for our Universe with the awesome reality of our stardust nature. Written by a 10 year old, this make s a great complement to both the original and the updated Cosmos DVDs. Because engaging the next generations with joy and awe is the key to a just, healthy, and sustainable world, this book is an incredible blessing to us all. If you have people in your life with kids or grandkids, you just found a great gift for them!
Stardust Explores the Solar System Like the Stardust book above, this new book was written by a child, bringing the wonder of science to children everywhere! Because engaging the next generations with joy and awe is the key to a just, healthy, and sustainable world, this book is an incredible blessing to us all. If you have people in your life with kids or grandkids, you just found a great gift for them!
Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders is a wonderful new part of the excellent Stardust series, again written by a child, for children. In this book, Stardust shares the beauty and awe of our immense family of all life on Earth, with the childlike joy of learning that I hope we never lose.
Plush Organs for Kids has a new addition, a vulva+vagina! This will help them learn about healthy sexuality (especially important now that many women in America no longer have a right to control their own bodies), while the other organs help them learn about our bodies in a fun and cuddly way! Heart, spleen, liver, brain and more are available.
These are especially useful when coupled with an anatomy diagram to show what the organ is, where it is, and what it does – and also to help kids deal with medical issues. I had hernia surgery last year, and the testicle plush will help me explain the evolutionary reason for hernias to my kids.
Timespirals enable you to grasp the enormity of the 13.8 billion year story of the universe, allowing you to comprehend the awesome scope of the events and processes necessary for you to be on planet Earth at this time.
DVDs and books for Parents & Kids
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (available on DVD) Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is my #1 recommendation to families for giving children the priceless gift of our Universe, which they will carry with them into adulthood. It’s essential inspiration for me, as an adult, too. Nearly all of the original version is still wonderful and relevant today. The original and new versions have a lot of different content – I recommend owning both.
Essential Books for all Families:
Understanding how we got here gives a child roots – a foundation on which to build a life. For the youngest kids, aged 3 to 7, “Grandmother Fish” is the best introduction to evolution out there (here is a video of it being read). “Our Family Tree” by Lisa Peters is also very good. Next, for ages 5 to 10, is the “Born with a Bang” trilogy by Jennifer Morgan. After that the child can read on their own, so Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Magic of Reality” is a good choice for kids over 11.
Both Grandmother Fish and Mira & the Big Story (video trailer here) are great for young kids, and especially for kids’ story time, such as at UU churches. Mira helps kids understand that there are mythical creation stories out there, and that those stories can cause divisions among people. Another evolution book for kids is here – it looks good. It’s brand new & the only one I don’t yet personally own and read to my kids – it just came out.
My name is Medusa – A kid’s introduction to Goddess Spirituality by Glenys Livingstone “A wonderful introduction to and re-framing of the myth of the wise, powerful, fabulously snaky-haired Medusa. The magical pages of this gorgeous book teach children love for the Earth and for all of Her creatures.” Review by Miriam Robbins Dexter, author of Whence the Goddesses. Also available – the Girl God Calendar.
Elemental Birthdays lets anyone celebrate birthdays while having fun with science. All the elements of the universe have an atomic number (Z). Elemental Birthdays matches that number with a birthday. The book uses this simple idea to incorporate the elements into fun, easy party themes, and it provides a step-by-step guide to games and activities. The result: a party where kids and adults have fun learning science!
The BBC “Walking with” series is excellent – especially “Monsters”, “Cavemen”, and “Beasts”. Many people think of the dinosaurs as the first inhabitants of the earth, but this prequel to Walking With Dinosaurs puts viewers in the midst of a host of strange creatures that inhabited the earth millions of years before the dinosaurs ever existed. With the help of complex computer animation and the research of hundreds of paleontologists, the BBC presents an extremely realistic picture of the earth’s earliest, most primitive aquatic inhabitants and chronicles their evolution to the precursors of man himself and the mighty dinosaurs.
For younger kids, the need for evidence is shown by: ”Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second Seasons (1969)”. Many of us Gen-Xer’s learned critical thinking and the need to look for rational explanations for supernatural claims from this lovable dog. The best thing is that kids love it – asking to see episode after episode. To me, this is the “real” Scooby – after these two seasons, the series declined, losing some critical thought and becoming a mediocre, regular, (and, shall we say…) “scrappy” kids cartoon.
This is the yearly Gift List Post. Did I miss a great gift? Put it in the comments section!