Local pagans feel right at home amid mainstream holiday rituals when they celebrate the winter solstice on Dec. 21.
"Winter solstice is celebrated as a festival of light, just like Christmas and Hanukkah," says "Rhiannon," a Venice musician and the high priestess of a local pagan group called the Circle of Aradia. "The light becomes a symbol of hope that the sun will return."
Although the current incarnations of paganism are only a few decades old in the United States, people who pray to Celtic, Greek, Norse and Egyptian gods and goddesses claim their rituals were the first to include many popular traditions, such as hanging mistletoe.
"People don't realize that what they're doing is the same ancient ritual, when they light the Yule log, or when they light candles, or when they put up a wreath," said Sandy Kopf, a San Fernando Valley resident and former national officer in the pagan umbrella group Covenant of the Goddess.