The Winter Solstice
The Winter Solstice is one of the oldest celebrations in the world. It has been observed by most cultures for over 30,000 years. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year in winter and for ancient peoples without the comforts of electricity to light and heat their homes, it was a frightening time when the sun and most of the birds literally disappeared from their world.
Their very survival depended upon the seasons. Therefore they became knowledgeable about the way nature worked through the changing seasons, the cycles of the moon and the solar patterns. They knew when to plant their seeds and crops and when to gather them.
Nature is both kind and gentle but can also be harsh and cruel. Ancient peoples were at the mercy of nature and therefore revered her in all her aspects. They observed, studied and understood the elements just as we study and specialise in particular fields at university. Even today, with all our science, inventions and technologies, natural disasters still have the power to devastate communities and countries.
Once our forests were revered and peoples worked in with Nature. Since we moved away from this reverence for nature, many of our forests have been devastated and used for fuel, buildings and other things. Our air and seas are becoming polluted. Issues of global warming due to deforestation and a lack of care for our Mother Nature are being urgently brought to our attention. Now, more than ever before, it is time for us to appreciate and restore our interest in Nature and learn how to live more harmoniously with her.
Let us celebrate the fact that we are part of Nature, not separate from her.
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Winter Solstice Ancestral Celebrations
Each year at mid Winter many celebrate the magical qualities and background of the Winter Solstice from the perspective of the Celtic Traditions ‐ The Druids and Priestesses of ancient Britain ñ an ancestry from which many Australians descend. For ancient peoples, the winter solstice was an awesome, mysterious, and powerful phenomenon. As the weeks drew closer to the solstice, it was a time of anxiety over ever‐darkening days. What if the sun lost its vigour and never came back? Would light and warmth simply fade away forever? Would the earth be wrapped in eternal night and cold?
Early peoples, held ceremonies/rites to the forces of nature as a way of ensuring the return of longer, warmer days. To early cultures, the winter solstice represented the death of the old solar year and the birth of the new. Yule festivities, accordingly, marked this planetary turning point away from darkness and the blessed return to light. And although the comforts of today’s modern civilization now shield us from winter’s harsh effects, Western cultures continue‐knowingly or unknowingly‐to honor the Yule traditions.
They thought of the Night and the Moon as the Great Mother who in the darkness of her womb (the longest night) gave birth to the Sun Child (the new day ñ new beginnings) so that the light could return to the world and help to warm the earth and germinate the seeds in the ground. From these seeds and the nurturing of Nature spring would return (a time of blossoming flowers, return of the leaves to the trees, new crops, the return of the warmth, birds and many other beautiful, magical things in abundance).
At Winter Solstice celebration rites the evergreens are always honoured and present upon the altar table. Those trees and plants that survived the harshest elements of winter and remained green and healthy. Holly and ivy are such wonderful, hardy evergreens. The Ivy was thought to respresent the feminine and the Holly the masculine ñ the balance on the altar.
The Druids always held trees to be sacred and no ceremony would be performed unless in the midst of a sacred grove. Mistletoe grew on such trees as the Oak and the Druids considered it very sacred.
The Celts maintained that the Holly King ruled for six months of the year until the Winter Solstice and then his twin brother, the Oak King, took over and reigned for the next six months. The new solar year began on the day after the Solstice.
Winter Solstice has always been a time when people would gather and reflect on those aspects of themselves and experiences they would like to leave behind (the darkness). The death of the old year. And with the return of the sun ‐ a time of new beginnings ñ to plant the seeds for the new year. To think about and write down their new goals and put them out into the ether to germinate. Then they would sing and celebrate the return of the light to the world.
We are coming up to the Winter Solstice in June. This is a wonderful time to let go of old and invite in the new beginnings. A simple way to do this is to set up and decorate your Solstice Altar in your own way. You might like to add some ivy and holly:
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Winter Solstice Candle Magic
- Light a white candle and place it on your altar table.
- Write those old events or belief systems that no longer serve you and with a small shovel burythem in Mother Earth.
- Take some time to meditate and write down that one most important wish that you would like to manifest. Make sure it pertains to you. Keep the language of the wish simple and clear so that when you put it out there can be no confusion as to what it means.
- Think about an overall area that your wish comes into. e.g. Finances, Relationship, Work, etc. Choose a small candle ñ the colour of which you feel best represents the wish you want to create ñ trust your own judgement with the colour (you can buy small spell candles). Many will have written books about what those colours should be, but that is really for them. This wish is about you and if you are going to put out a wish you must do it within your personal power.
- Light your coloured spellcandle and read your wish out loud so that it is very clear. If you have a faith, religion or spiritual belief you can call upon this faith to assist you.
- Once you have stated your wish clearly, take your spell wish and burn it. Let it go. Give thanks and know that it is on its way to you.
- Old cultures believed that the Winter Solstice was the time of year when the veils or portals between the worlds opened and magic reigned.
May the road rise up To meet you.
May the wind be always At your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall soft upon your field,
And until we meet again.
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.