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Sunday, 21 December 2014

At Winter Solstice



 At the Winter Solstice


At the Winter Solstice, the two god themes of the year's cycle coincide -- even more dramatically than they do at the Summer Solstice. Yule (from the Norse iul, meaning wheel) marks the death and the rebirth of the Sun God; it also marks the vanquishing of the Holly King, the god of the Waning Year, by the Oak King, the God of the Waxing Year. The Goddess, who was Death-in-Life at Midsummer, now shows her Life-in-Death aspect; for although at this season she is the leprous white lady, Queen of the cold darkness, yet this is her moment for giving birth to the Child of Promise, the Son-Lover who will re-fertilize her and bring back light and warmth to her Kingdom.
Modern Christmas celebrations are full of pagan symbology. Santa Claus is the Holly King, the sleigh is the solar chariot, the eight reindeer are the eight Sabbats, their horns represent the Horned God, the North Pole symbolizes the Land of Shadows and the dying solar year, and the gifts are meant both to welcome the Oak King as the sun reborn and as a reminder of the gift of the Holly King, who must depart for the Oak King to rule.
Sun plants like mistletoe, balsam, and fir, and also any dried herbs from Summer, are predominant this time of year because they contain light and warmth. On Yule, when witches decorate their houses, they do so from the doorway inward, this inviting the light inside. We adorn doorways and mantles with evergreen boughs, bunches of dried summer herbs and Witches cords in reds, blacks, greens, and golds. Our ancient ancestors brought an evergreen tree inside to mystically ensure there would be light all year round. The evergreen retains sunlight, staying green all year, and reminds us that life is forever present and renewable.
YULE FIRE SPELL
On the darkest night of the year, gather together three dried leaves of holly and pulverize them into powder. On a clean, four-inch by four-inch piece of paper, write a single word in red ink that represents what quality you would like to be born within yourself along with the newborn Yule Sun.
Sprinkle the holly powder into the center of the papertwist the whole thing closed with the holly powder inside. Light the wick of a red candle, and from this flame, light the holly- filled paper on fire. As it burns, see your wish fulfilled. The spell is done.
Cailleach Bheur (Celtic): In Scotland, she is also called Beira, the Queen of Winter. She is the hag aspect of the Triple Goddess, and rules the dark days between Samhain and Beltaine.
At Samhain we honour, celebrate and welcome the descent into, and return of, the dark - the beginning of the New Year, acknowledging that all beginnings emerge from darkness. At the Winter Solstice we reach the depth of that darkness with the longest night of the year. Darkness has reached its peak.
"Now we start to wonder: will this continue? Will the Earth grow darker and colder as the Sun disappears into the south until only darkness is left? But at Yule a wonderful thing happens. The Sun stops its decline and for a few days it rises in about the same place. This is the crucial time, the cusp between events. The Sun stands still, and everyone waits for the turning.
In our heads we know the light will return. But in the darkness of Winter, can we be sure? do our hearts believe what our heads tell us? Will the light keep its promises? We all have moments of darkness, when we don't know how much deeper we will go before the light starts to return (or even if it will). The world has moments too; it understands us, and lives as we do.
The Sun does start north again and the light comes back. In the world, in our lives, the light comes back. This is indeed something worth celebrating, and it has been celebrated throughout the Northern Hemisphere in remarkably similar ways."
The Festival of Rebirth and The Return of the Sun
With the end of the longest night the dark is defeated with the Return of the Sun, the return of light, hope and promise. The Goddess gives birth to the Sun/Sun God. The Sun begins to wax and the days grow longer. All that is hidden will begin to emerge. This is the Sun's birthday! And it really is time to celebrate!
The Holly King rules over the dark part of the year from Midsummer to Yule, he is God of the Waning Year. At Yule he surrenders his life to the young light Oak King, God of the Waxing Year and his twin, who rules over the light part of the year from Yule to Midsummer. Both rule for half of the year, both fight for the favour and love of the Goddess and both surrender their life force for the well-being of the land. In truth, they are one.
Traditions of Yule
Yule, or Winter Solstice traditions are many and generous, and are shared not only with Christianity with the birthday of the Christ Child, but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions and indeed more recent ones. It is difficult sometimes to identify their sources, but they are all very familiar in our Western culture even if we don't recognise the symbology behind them.
The Evergreen
Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Each has a symbolism of its own.
Mistletoe
Greatly revered by the Druids, this is the healer and protector. It is carefully cut to ensure it never touches the earth. It's magical properties are believed to be connected to the fact that it lives between the worlds, between sky/heaven and earth. The white berries of mistletoe represent the fertile white semen of the life-giving male. Which is where kissing under the mistletoe comes from!
Holly
Another evergreen of protection, holly's spiky bristles are believed to repel unwanted spirits. Newborn babies used to be sprinkled with 'holly water', water in which holly had been soaked, especially potent if left under a full moon overnight. Holly is sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld goddess, and symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the re-birth of the Sun/Son.
Ivy
Evergreen symbol of immortality and resurrection, growing in a spiral reminding us of reincarnation and rebirth. Sacred to Osiris, where His death and resurrection was a central theme in Egyptian religion. Sacred also to Dionysys, god of vegetation, blossoming and the Return of Spring.
Yew
Tree of regeneration and rebirth as no other - it sends up new trees from its roots and grows to a very great age. It is deeply connected with the spirit realms and the ancestors. Often used as the central 'world tree' in ritual spaces and was often planted in graveyards. Very poisonous.
Pine
Its branches bring healing and joy to the home, burning it will purify.
The Kissing Bough
At Yuletide it has often been customary to make a decoration using two hoops, one thrust through the other, and bound with evergreens, holly and ivy, and rosy cheeked apples specially reserved for the occasion. Inside, dolls are hung, male and female, with other brightly coloured baubles. At the bottom of the decoration a bunch of mistletoe is carefully tied, and the whole tableau is suspended in the middle of the room, the centre of attention. Every berry on the mistletoe bears the promise of a kiss, and for every kiss given or taken a berry is removed. When all the berries are gone, the kissing has to stop! (Hedingham Fair)
The Wreath
It was traditional to make wreaths from evergreen - the Wheel of Life as evergreen. These were hung on doors or laid horizontally and decorated with candles - later becoming the Christian Advent Wreath
The Yule Tree
Introduced into modern times apparently by the German Prince Albert in Victorian times and we love it. In ancient Rome, pine trees were an essential part of Goddess groves. On the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes in pots. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. It was the festival of Saturnalia. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months - food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.
Candles
This is the festival of light out of darkness and the tradition of lighting candles is ever popular. Red, green and the gold of the Returning Sun are the colours of Yule. Deck your home and altar with evergreens and candles.
Gift Giving
This is the Birthday of the Sun!   From ancient times the giving and exchanging of gifts has been a vibrant tradition of this festival.