Like so many of us, our family is planning the gifts for Winter Solstice/the holidays. Those of us who celebrate the Winter Solstice have an even shorter time than most Americans for holiday planning and waiting for deliver, 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. Books and other indoor items are especially useful during this pandemic, as 2020 winds down.
This is the updated list, with new gifts ideas at the top, and classic gifts below that. Oh, on a side note – 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 be useful to check before that comes up at Thanksgiving dinner, even if that Thanksgiving dinner is virtual (safer this year!).
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! When the first Egyptian pyramids were built, this atlal was already thousands of years older than the oldest Egyptian pyramids are today. Wow! Without these, none of us would be here. 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!
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.
Stuck at home during the pandemic? How about a family game that helps kids learn about graphs, while having a blast? Check out chartyparty! Similar to cards against humanity or apples to apples, a graph is picked, and players play which idea to use for the y axis from their hand.
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.
The Sad Little Fact – Children’s book. Like the cards, this helps us address the reality denial going on in our society now. Addressing this will take time and effort from millions of caring parents, and if this past election showed us anything, it showed us that it won’t be solved quickly. Teaching kids is the long game we need to be looking at.
Moon Phase Tapestry The moon will dominate our skies more and more as we approach our sacred Winter Solstice, and here we have another opportunity to celebrate it! This versatile tapestry can remind us of our planetary companion regardless of where it is used.
Wild Edibles and Survival Playing cards. These help us Pagans live closer to the wilderness we love. The cards can be used for any standard card game – Euchre, Cribbage, Pinocle, etc (OK, I’m here in Michigan – insert your own local games!). Play (and learn) in the Winter, then go and eat, live and thrive in the woods in the spring, summer and fall!
Items for Adults:
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.
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. 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.
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”
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’s Books 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. My first book, Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, was published in 2006, and I’ve had several titles published since then. The newest book is the The Tarot of Bones .
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 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, 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.
Evolution board game As with so many other topics, kids learn best while playing a game. Though I haven’t personally played this one, it looks like a game the whole family can enjoy, and is similar to the game we have here at our house (Evo). Our Evo game has been played so many times that it’s pretty worn out, and has several odd items being used as substitutes for missing pieces.
A glimpse of life half a billion years ago! The first ancestors of many animal groups appeared over 500 million years ago. This set includes five scientifically accurate toys, and each toy comes with a tag explaining the animal’s phylum, class, actual size, modern relatives, and more. Our Ancestor, pikaia, is included.
Similar (and more affordable) toys are available in Toobs, (though the Cambrian Life Toob doesn’t include pikaia). Many other Toobs are very educational, including mammal skulls, Powhatan Native Americans, venomous animals, and more. Parental discretion is needed, as there are also Toobs of things that aren’t real.
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!