The Winter Goddess

At Solstice, something magical happens

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The Snow Queen shared courtesy of Emily Balivet

At the Winter Solstice we reach the depth of that darkness with the longest night of the year. Darkness is at its peak. The Earth grows dark and cold as the Sun disappears, the days gradually get shorter.

But at Solstice, something magical happens. The Sun stands still as we await the return of the light.

This is indeed something to celebrate, and it has been acknowledged throughout history in 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.

The Oak King and The Holly King

The Northern Europeans believed that the Holly King ruled over the year from Midsummer to Yule. At Yule he ‘surrenders’ to the light of the Oak King, his twin, who rules from Yule to Midsummer. Both fight for the attention of the Earth Goddess and each surrenders their life force for the well-being of the land.

Traditions of Yule

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Yule, or Winter Solstice traditions are varied and mystical, and are shared not only with Christianity and the birth of the Christ Child, but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions . Many of their origins are hidden in the mists of time, however they are all somewhat familiar to Western culture due to the imagery and symbolism.

The Evergreen

Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Each has its own symbolism.

Mistletoe

Greatly revered by the Druids, this is a 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 male fertility. (This legend is where kissing under the mistletoe began).

Holly

Another evergreen of protection, holly’s spikes are believed to ward off unwanted spirits. Newborn babies were sprinkled with ‘holly water’, holly that had been soaked in water — especially potent if left under a full moon for one night. Holly is sacred to the Germanic Goddess, Holle, and symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent the divine feminine. 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 to remind 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 is deeply connected with the spirit realms and one’s ancestors. Often used as the central ‘world tree’ in ritual spaces and it was often planted in graveyards.

Pine

Its branches bring healing and joy to the home. To burn it brings purity.

The Kissing Bough

At Yuletide it has often been customary to make a decoration bound with evergreens, holly, apples and ivy. 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 stops. This custom was very popular in Tudor England.

The Wreath

It was traditional to make wreaths from evergreen boughs — the evergreen represented the Wheel of Life. These were hung on doors or laid horizontally and decorated with candles — later becoming the Christian Advent Wreath

The Yule Tree

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 to their temple celebrations. People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. Their celebration was the festival of Saturnalia. Meanwhile, 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. The Yule log was burned throughout the celebrations, with a part of the tree saved for the next year.

Candles

Yule is the festival of light out of darkness hence the tradition of lighting candles. Red, green and the gold of the Returning Sun are the colors of Yule.

Gift Giving
This is THE Birthday of the Sun/Son! From ancient times the giving and exchanging of gifts has been an integral part of this festival.

Yuletide Talisman

You need:
One wooden spoon
Thin red and green, or gold ribbon

Take the spoon in your right hand and say ‘Brightest blessings on this Yuletide Fare, give Love and Peace in equal share’. Tie the ribbon in a bow around the neck of the spoon and say ‘with Yuletide Warmth my Hearth be blessed, That lifts the Heart of Kin and Guest’.

Take your charm and place it in a suitable place in your kitchen. This charm can be extended in many ways, for example by tying a pouch of cinnamon together with the ribbon. Brilliant small gift — and you can do it yourself!

The Spirit of Yule

Above all, Yuletide is a Celebration of the Return of the Light, the promise of the Earth Goddess fulfilled by the birth of the Sun.
It is a time to share Love and Celebrate…

and the Wheel of the Year continues to turn…

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Written by

USA Today Bestselling Author. Follow me for current happenings, stories from history & the occasional tall tale. Atlanta GA

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