Posts Tagged With: Holly King

Winter Solstice: Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Winter Solstice: Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Author: Christina Aubin

Yule/Winter Solstice (between December 21st and 23rd) also known as: Nollaig; Yuletide, Alban Arthan; Juul; Jul; Jiuleis; Joulupukki; Children’s Day; Dies Natalis Invicti Solis; Saturnalia; Mid-Winter; Brumalia; Sacaea; Festival of Kronos (Cronos); Dazh Boh; Chaomos; Inti Raymi; Dong Zhi; Soyal; Sada; Touji; Zagmuk; Sacaea

Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Yule Log

Yule log also known as the Yule clog, and Yule block, is the foundation log for the Yule eve’s hearth fire. When this tradition began is hard to say, it was mentioned in the 1600’s by John Aubrey, however as traditions are they may have well existed far longer than written word.

The Yule Log was the largest log that could fit in the hearth that had to be found and not cut; it was kindled with a section of the prior year’s Yule log. There is much ceremony and lore surrounding the Yule log. The log itself was treated much like a special guest on Yule eve, libations were poured on it, and songs sung to it, it was paraded in with much merriment and festivity. It was considered ill fortune if the log were to go out on Yule day.

“Ever at Yuletide, when the great log flamed in chimney corner, laugh and jest went round.” Aldrich: Wyndham Towers, stanza 5

There is folklore surrounding the use of the ashes of the Yule log — from the missing them with animal feed, ashes stepped in water assisting animals to bear young and for overall animal good health, placing ashes in the nest’s of poultry to increase their yield and ashes used to help in fertilizing the fruit trees in orchards. The ashes of the Yule log were revered as a potent magical entity.

Yule Candle

Yule candles were traditionally large, around a foot and half, candles, which were lighted on Yule Eve. Once lit the candle should not be moved. A small piece of the candle is kept for the following year to light the next Yule candle.

Candles have long been associated with the winter holidays; they cast a soft warm light, whilst reminding us of the central theme of the Winter Solstice holiday. We have always made wax talismans from the wax drippings, infusing them with the greenery we decorated with.

Mari Lwyd

The Mari Lwyd, the gray mare, is a Mid-Winter tradition from the area of Glamorgan and Gwent in Wales, it involves a horse, long since parted, enigmatically returning to life. Today one can see the horse and his companions travel house-to-house, and pub-to-pub through the streets of Llangynwyd on New Year’s Day, due to a revival of the tradition in the 1980’s. Upon the arrival of the Mari and his party the singsongs of introduction, followed by pwnco, a battle of wits. Folks inside the home or pub exchange challenges, mocking one another in verse, which carries on for as long as creatively allows.

Mummers Plays

Mumming plays typically reenact the struggle of Mid-Winter between the energies of life and the energies death and the resurrection of life from death. The Seven Champions also know as the Guisers, the Tipteerers, the Johnny Jacks, the Soulers, the Soulcakers, the Pace Eggers, the White Boys, the Paper Boys, the play actors, still enact mummer’s plays during mid-winter celebrations to this day throughout most areas of the British Isles and has spread into other areas of world with English emigrants and the increasing popularity of Morris Dance groups.

The majority of Mumming Plays feature a battle between a champion and an opponent, reminiscent of the clash between the Oak King and Holly King that is traditional at Mid-winter. One typically witnesses the champion being killed by his opponent, perhaps many times, only to then see the champion brought to life each time by a physician. The other two kinds of the Mumming Plays are the Sword Dance Play and the Wooing or Plough play.

The plays, are difficult to summarize due to their numerous and diverse displays through time and place. From where and when mumming plays became a part of English seasonal celebrations is still a question that puzzles both folklorists and historians. The first certain references to the mumming plays sprung up in the late 18th century, how long they had been around is still a mystery.

Wassailing

“Wassaile the trees, that they might beare; Many a plum and many a peare: For more or lesse fruits they will bring, As you do give them wassailing” Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648)

Wassailing can be traced back through written history back into unwritten history, when traditions, legends and song were remembered and told, when life itself was magical by just being. Although thought of as of Celtic origins, variations of Wassailing can be found in Ancient Rome and even in the present day Romanian custom of turta.

Wassailing began, according to a fifth-century Saxon legend, by a lovely lasso, the beautiful Rowena. It is she who toasted with the words “Wes-hal”(Good health!) to the English King Vortigern. Rowena toasted to the king with a wine that was a form of the ancient Roman drink hypocras, also know as hyppocras. Hypocras is a type of mulled wine of which spans back through time, it is claimed that this wine is named after the Greek Hippocrates.

Wassailing traditions have taken varied forms, most dependent on the geographic area. All, however, seemed centered firmly around song, drink, merriment, health, fruitfulness, the banishing of spirits bend on ill and the welcoming of those who bring fruitfulness and bounty. The word Wassail is derived from the Old English ‘Wes Hal’, meaning “Good Health” or “Be Whole”

Since times origination apples have been thought to be the “food of the Gods”. Apples have a long and celebrated place in history. Ensuring a good harvest was imperative to the success and survival of families and groups. Some time in the dim past people during winter began toasting and singing to the health of the trees in the orchard.

In some areas, cake and toasts were soaked in cider then brought to the orchard and either laid on the ground around or hung in the braches of the oldest and best trees. This ritual of offering is then followed by a merry ruckus created by those who are wassailing to scare off any bad sprits intent on harming the future apple crop. Singing a traditional, or perhaps not so traditional Wassailing song follows the ruckus. The singing is said to bring the beneficial spirits, who enable a bountiful crop to bless the orchard.

In another tradition, it is the village men who go into the orchards bearing the all important wassail bowl. They share drink, food, song and dance with the apple trees, a merry event indeed. In some places the tree is even threatened with an ax if it not to bear ample fruit, in others the spirits of ill are chased with said ax in hand. As it is with folk customs, the actual components of the custom can vary, sometimes greatly from area to area each adding its own special flare.

Wassail is served in a special Wassail bowl, sometimes known as the Loving cup. Through time the materials used for the Wassailing bowl varied and changed sometimes from silver or pewter, later from wood. The bowl decorated festively – and the Wassail is drunk directly from the bowl. References to Wassailing and the Wassail bowl can be found in the writings of Charles Dickens; by Dickens’ time Wassailing has become entwined with begging door to door.

Traditional Wassailing songs – also called wassails, were sung much like holiday carols.

1. “Here’s to thee, old apple tree, that blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An’ all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!”

2. “Here’s to thee, old apple tree; Whence thou may’st bud and whence thou may’st blow, And whence thou may’st bear apples enow Hats full, Caps full, Bushel, Bushel sacks full And my pockets full too! Huzza!”

3. “Old Apple-Tree, we Wassail thee, And hoping thou will bear For the Lord doth know where we shall be Till apples come another year; For us to bear well and bloom well, So merry let us be, Let everyman take off his hat And shout to the old Apple-tree; Old Apple-Tree, we Wassail thee, And hoping thou will bear Hats-full, caps-full Three Bushel bag-fulls, And a heap under the stair.”

4. “Apple tree prosper, bud, bloom and bear, that we may have plenty of cider next year. And where there’s a barrel, we hope there are ten, that we may have cider when we come again.

5. With our wassail, wassail, wassail! And joy come to our jolly wassail! A-wassail, a-wassail!

6. The Moon, she shines down; the apples are ripe and the nuts they are brown. Whence thou mayest bud, dear old apple tree, and whence thou mayest bear, we sing unto thee. With our wassail, wassail, wassail! And joy come to our jolly wassail! A-wassail, a-wassail!”

7. “Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen. We are not beggars’ children that go from door to door, But we are neighbors children that you have seen before. Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too, And God bless you and send you a happy New Year, And God send you a happy New Year!” Our wassail cup is made of rosemary-tree, So is your beer of the best barley. -English North and Midlands traditional song

Yuletide Greenery It is a long tradition for greenery to be brought indoors during the Winter Solstice as a remembrance that even when it seems the world is dead and lifeless, life does indeed persist. Customary greens include holly with its berries, hawthorn, mistletoe, and other evergreens, which are made into garlands, ropes and wreaths and other decorations

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

– Christmas Carol

Evergreens have long since reminded people of the continuation of life through death, of life in winter, and harkens the eventual return of the Sun. The bringing indoors the evergreens at mid-winter, throughout many cultures, have been documented for as long as there is written records, and as is the way of traditions the practice pre-dates those very records. Evergreens are thought to offer protection and to bring good fortune to the household. Traditional winter evergreens include: Bay, Box, Holly Ivy, Mistletoe, Rosemary, and Yew.
Mistletoe, is an important symbol at Mid-Winter. It is a parasitic plant which has a root system embedded in its host plant. It tends to grow on oak, maple, juniper, cypress and other deciduous trees. It is speculated that kissing under the mistletoe is a remnant of an old fertility ritual this is due to the physical properties of the mistletoe. To the Romans mistletoe was a plant of peace, under which the parties of a dispute would find solution.

In times long past, after the new moon, following the winter solstice, Druids would harvest the mistletoe off the oak trees in a specific Druidic ritual. In England and Wales the farmers would give a bunch of mistletoe to the first cow given birth to after Winter Solstice in later days Christmas, bringing luck to the whole herd. It is believed to ward of fires, lightening, water brought fertility and was an antidote to poison. Its ancient uses can be traced back to the writings of Pliny in his Natural History (77 CE).

Hawthorn, more specifically the Holy Thorn, is an important Winter Solstice as it blooms twice a year — mid-winter and again in May. It is customary to burn the household hawthorn that had been bent and woven into a sphere that had hung in the house as protection and create a new one for the coming new year. Every Christmas branches of the Hawthorn bush at St. John’s are sent to the Queen and Queen Mother, reminiscent this practice during Stuart times.

Holly finds itself one of the most recognizable winter decorations. It is a potent symbol as it bears fruit, its berries, in the deep of winter, reminding that life is always burgeoning forth even when it seems impossible. It is said that Holly can only be brought in the home during mid-winter – to bring it in during other times was unlucky. Holly is a plant generally thought of to be highly protective, thus the tradition of planting it near both homes and churches. It was also used in divination regarding matters of the heart. The size of the berry yield traditionally indicates the severity of the coming winter.

Halcyon Days The Rapper Sword Dance

The “Halcyon Days” are the fourteen windless, days seven days before and seven days after the Winter Solstice, so named for the Greek Halcyon or Kingfisher and their nesting period. The Halcyon Days are calm, peaceful, happy, and prosperous days. The Kingfisher is a symbol of peace and prosperity.

The explanation for the Halcyon Days can be found in the myth of one of the sisters of the Pleiades, Alcyone sometimes known as Halcyone. The myth goes as such:

Alcyone, was the daughter of ®olus, who is the (guardian of the winds and ®giale,. Alcyone married Ceyx of Trachis. Ceyx drowned in a storm at sea. Alcyone, who was heartbroken by the loss of her love, threw herself into the sea upon receiving the news of her husband’s demise. The Gods who pitied poor Alcyone her anguish so they transformed her into a halcyon, the kingfisher of Greece.

The halcyon hen lays her eggs around Winter Solstice at the edge of the sea. In order to ensure the safety of his daughter’s eggs, ®olus stops his winds so the water is calm for 14 days centered on the winter solstice to allow incubation.

Blessed Solstice!

About these ads
Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, The Sabbats | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Summer Solstice: A Time for Awakening

The Summer Solstice: A Time for Awakening

Author: Robin Fennelly

The Great Wheel has turned once again and the longest day, the Summer Solstice, offers opportunity to stand in the heat of Solar Flame, cast the strength of our Inner Sun into the spotlight and bask in the expansive culmination of the prior months’ hard work and efforts.

Many celebrate the Summer Solstice with the story of the Oak King and Holly King. The Oak King having been crowned at the Winter Solstice is filled to bursting with the energy and power of solar energy and light; and it is He who draws the sacred seasons toward the bounty of Summer’s fullness. The Holly King has lain silently in his space of renewed slumber and HE waits to rise again at the time of the Summer Solstice. On the sacred day of the Solstice, the Holly King emerges to claim his own and triumphant in the battle for dominance with his brother now reigns as the keeper of death and rebirth. HE stands in command as the harvest is reaped and the silence of the cold and snows fall upon the lands. HE knows that he will only have half of the year to weave His magick before the battle ensues once again and the world will bow to his brother, the Mighty Oak. They are one and the same but each work their will wearing the appropriate face and archetypal energy in accord with the ebb and flow of the seasons, the expansion and contraction of the energetic state and the necessary demise of one so the other may reign supreme.

It is this same action that is applied to our inner spiritual workings. We work diligently with goal of increasing and expanding the flow of energy that moves within and ultimately arrive at the temporary state of that form of energy being dominant. This dominance must surrender to the gradual giving way towards a new form and a re-birthing (or re-crowning) of what will then serve us in continued growth. And, similarly it often does become an inner battle when we cling too fiercely to the comfort and familiarity of the old way of being. With this thought in mind, I would like to share another way in which to honor this season.

We can use this dynamic of energy to call forth our Inner Sun and the energetic changes that have occurred in concert with the increasing of the outer sun’s strength and have brought us to this midpoint of peak. To consciously engage the energy of the Solstice as a tool for enlivening our inner light is similar to the pulling back and tautness of the slingshot band forming its own state of temporary imbalance in order to send the stone straight, steady and fully propelled on its intended course. It is the tipping of the scales towards one extreme of expansion before the necessary contraction that draws all into a state of equilibrium and (temporary) balance at the equinox. This cycle of expansion and contraction- balance and purposeful imbalance- occur in a pattern of alternating the center of focus and the point of expression.

We find ourselves drawn to the longer days that have been gradually moving towards the apex of this day of the longest hours of light. We feel ourselves emerging into the fullness of this Light filled with the realized potential and life sustaining energy of the sun. We are infused with its power and take pleasure in opening our senses to the full experience of being lit from within and shining that magick on all we encounter. This is the center of our focus and we cling to the last vestiges of daylight before the cycle moves towards the waning time.

And, it is from this place of extreme that we drink in all of the light we able to hold to carry us forward in the days and months ahead, knowing they will bring increasingly shorter hours of daylight and longer times of nightscape. This absorption of the catalytic fires will be the fuel that will burn throughout the months ahead as we move into the space of darkness, cold and introspection and become the lantern of that light.

I usually craft a personal working for the solstices and the equinoxes using the solar energies as the continuous energetic thread. Below is a simple ritual that you may use to celebrate the Solstice as an awakening to and reaffirming of the solar energies that are part of our inherent make-up. Each of the workings I do serves to enliven and increasingly strengthen the solar current. It is this current that I use for energetic protocol and workings. And, it is this current that supports the lunar work that I do. In this way, I maintain the tools that are needed so that I may remain in sync with the energetic tides that flow around me and have as my foundation the Inner Sun that will Light the way.

A Ritual of Awakening

For the working:

1/Gold or Yellow Pillar Candle
1/White Pillar Candle
1/Black or Dark Pillar Candle
Candle snuffer (optional)

Place the candles in a triangular shape on a small altar table. The White Pillar would be the point of the triangle with the Gold on the Left base and the Black on the Right base. A white or gold altar cloth would be suggested. Something plain is preferable rather than a patterned cloth. Everything should be very simple, uncluttered and clean with the candles as the central focus.

Sacred space is prepared is whatever way is compatible with your path. Invoke those Patrons, Guides or Deity that you work with and wish to have witness and support this rite. For my ritual I would use RA, as the sustaining light and Anpu as holder of the dark and the midnight Sun. I also work regularly with Het-Heru (as the Ureaus) and would call Her forth as inner anchor for the energy.

Make statement of your intent to enliven and awaken your Inner Sun that its flame may burn brightly in the months ahead. You want to speak this aloud, so that all of your subtle bodies may respond to the physical vibration of the words you are setting forth.

Begin by lighting the Gold candle. Declare this candle as the energy of the Sun (RA) held in its peak of potency and life sustaining properties. It is the catalyst that bursts forth at the dawn of each day. It is the strength and fullness of light as the midday sun. And, it is the drawing of the solar energies into the belly of night; still burning brightly as its mysteries are held in the Midnight Sun. Take some time to connect with these energies and envision this solar cycle in whatever way presents and feels natural to you. Breathe in deeply, feeling the expansion of your lungs and imagining this expansion as the heat and warmth of the growing sun.

Next, stand before the White Candle (Het-Heru) . Make declaration that this candle represents the pure illumined energy of your Higher Self and the power and strength that is held within. This candle represents your Spirit and the true nature of your being, that flows with the cycles of nature, the seasons, the Universal and Cosmic laws. Feel its resonance within you as you speak each work of description. You may also wish to say your mundane and magickal names, affirming your identify in Spirit and Matter. Using the Gold pillar as Source, light the White candle of your Being. Place the Gold pillar back on its stand. Return your focus to the growing flame of the White candle as the brilliance of Light that is held within the solar fires that have burned so hot and so pure that nothing remains except that which holds All. Breathe your energy into this candle feeling the resonance and connection to the core of your inner sun. And, inhale deeply the reciprocity of its energetic return spreading throughout your body. Allow this enlivened energy to move through your body as it will and making note of where it settles. You may experience a pulsating feeling at the center of your solar plexus or feel something like a sun-filled liquid warmth moving gently through you. Just continue to breathe gently as you envision the circuit you have created of inhale and exhale, receipt and return.

Move to stand in front of the Dark Pillar (Anpu) . Make declaration that this candle represents the coming season of darkness and decrease in visible light. This is also the power and the mystery of the Midnight Sun and the spark of potent flame that lay within the depths of all that gives illusion of shadow. Take a moment to feel the raw energy of this darkness and the imposing silence that reaches long into the night. Using the White Pillar, light this candle. As you do so, declare this as the quickening of the darkness so that it may nurture and hold strong the spark of catalytic flame that will burst forth at the Winter Solstice. Place the White Pillar back on its stand. Return your focus to the Dark Candle and breathe into its flame and open to connecting deeply to the contrast of white/blue flame and dark wax. Envision the lantern of your own Inner Sun lighting the paths of this darkness. Envision the reality that on this earth plane; night and day occur simultaneously with only the designation of geographical location as the determining factor as to what we name as dark and light.

Come to stand at center point in front of these three lit candles. Allow your gaze to move from one to the other, remembering what each represents and the energy of connection you have made. Soften your gaze, and allow the stream of light emanating from each to interweave. Breathe deeply and fully as you relax into this weaving. Soften your gaze further and see these three streams coming to a central point directed towards you. Breathe into this co-mingling of energy feeling its point of connection at the same place you felt the settling of your inner flame previously when connecting to the Gold pillar. Feel the strength of the Sun (Gold Pillar) , Your Inner Sun (White Pillar) and the Midnight Flame (Dark Pillar) coalescing as a singular Source of Light to bring forward and light the paths of your own inner darkness as the year wanes.

When you have received all that is needed, offer up gratitude for this experience. Offer up service to the nurturing and tending of this Fiery energy within and the gift and blessings of the Solar Flame you have received. Stand once again before each of the candles and offer thanks to their individual energies and then gently use a snuffer to extinguish each candle in turn. When you have extinguished the Dark Pillar, take a deep breath in and gently breathe out in exhale of release allowing whatever excess energy you may feel to gently fall away, leaving you feeling renewed and empowered.

Thank the Deities and those seen and unseen Who have offered their witness and support. Close down your sacred space in whatever way is in keeping with your path. Be sure to get something to eat and drink immediately following to ground and center. If necessary, connect with the earth or floor beneath you allowing any excess to drain into the Great Mother.

May the blessings of Solstice Light burn ever brightly informing and infusing all of your actions. Blessed Be.

Categories: Daily Posts, The Sabbats, Articles | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Witches Correspondences for Litha, June 21(Down Under)


Litha Comments & Graphics

Correspondences for Litha

Purpose Rededication to the Lord and Lady, beginning of the harvest, honoring the Sun God,honoring the pregnant Goddess

Dynamics/Meaning Crowning of the Sun God, death of the Oak King, assumption of the Holly King,end the ordeal of the Green Man

Tools, Symbols & Decorations
The sun, oak, birch & fir branches, sun flowers, lilies, red/maize/yellow or gold flower, love amulets, seashells, summer fruits & flowers, feather/flower door wreath, sun wheel, fire, circles of stone, sun dials and swords/blades, bird feathers, Witches’ ladder.

Colors Blue, green, gold, yellow and red.

Customs Bonfires, processions, all night vigil, singing, feasting, celebrating with others, cutting divining rods, dowsing rods & wands, herb gathering, handfastings, weddings, Druidic gathering of mistletoe in oak groves, need fires, leaping between two fires, mistletoe (without berries, use as a protection amulet), women walking naked through gardens to ensure continued fertility, enjoying the seasonal fruits & vegetables, honor the Mother’s fullness, richness and abundance, put garlands of St. John’s Wort placed over doors/ windows & a sprig in the car for protection.

Goddesses Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Venus, Aphrodite, Yemaya, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, all Goddesses of love, passion, beauty and the Sea, and Pregnant, lusty Goddesses, Green Forest Mother; Great One of the Stars, Goddess of the Wells

Gods Father Sun/Sky, Oak King, Holly King, Arthur, Gods at peak power and strength.

Animals/Mythical Beings Wren, robin, horses, cattle, satyrs, faeries, firebird, dragon, thunderbird

Gemstones Lapis lazuli, diamond, tiger’s eye, all green gemstones, especially emerald and jade

Herbs Anise, mugwort, chamomile, rose, wild rose, oak blossoms, lily, cinquefoil, lavender, fennel, elder, mistletoe, hemp, thyme, larkspur, nettle, wisteria, vervain ( verbena), St. John’s wort, heartsease, rue, fern, wormwood, pine, heather, yarrow,oak & holly trees

Incense/Oil Heliotrope, saffron, orange, frankincense & myrrh, wisteria, cinnamon, mint, rose, lemon, lavender, sandalwood, pine

Rituals/Magicks Nature spirit/fey communion, planet healing, divination, love & protection magicks. The battle between Oak King, God of the waxing year & Holly King, God of the waning year (can be a ritual play), or act out scenes from the Bard’s (an incarnation of Merlin)“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, rededication of faith, rites of inspiration.

Foods Honey, fresh vegetables, lemons, oranges, summer fruits, summer squash, pumpernickel bread, ale, carrot drinks, mead.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Winter Solstice: Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Winter Solstice: Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Author: Christina Aubin

Yule/Winter Solstice (between December 21st and 23rd) also known as: Nollaig; Yuletide, Alban Arthan; Juul; Jul; Jiuleis; Joulupukki; Children’s Day; Dies Natalis Invicti Solis; Saturnalia; Mid-Winter; Brumalia; Sacaea; Festival of Kronos (Cronos); Dazh Boh; Chaomos; Inti Raymi; Dong Zhi; Soyal; Sada; Touji; Zagmuk; Sacaea

Other Mid-Winter Traditions

Yule Log

Yule log also known as the Yule clog, and Yule block, is the foundation log for the Yule eve’s hearth fire. When this tradition began is hard to say, it was mentioned in the 1600’s by John Aubrey, however as traditions are they may have well existed far longer than written word.

The Yule Log was the largest log that could fit in the hearth that had to be found and not cut; it was kindled with a section of the prior year’s Yule log. There is much ceremony and lore surrounding the Yule log. The log itself was treated much like a special guest on Yule eve, libations were poured on it, and songs sung to it, it was paraded in with much merriment and festivity. It was considered ill fortune if the log were to go out on Yule day.

“Ever at Yuletide, when the great log flamed in chimney corner, laugh and jest went round.” Aldrich: Wyndham Towers, stanza 5

There is folklore surrounding the use of the ashes of the Yule log — from the missing them with animal feed, ashes stepped in water assisting animals to bear young and for overall animal good health, placing ashes in the nest’s of poultry to increase their yield and ashes used to help in fertilizing the fruit trees in orchards. The ashes of the Yule log were revered as a potent magical entity.

Yule Candle

Yule candles were traditionally large, around a foot and half, candles, which were lighted on Yule Eve. Once lit the candle should not be moved. A small piece of the candle is kept for the following year to light the next Yule candle.

Candles have long been associated with the winter holidays; they cast a soft warm light, whilst reminding us of the central theme of the Winter Solstice holiday. We have always made wax talismans from the wax drippings, infusing them with the greenery we decorated with.

Mari Lwyd

The Mari Lwyd, the gray mare, is a Mid-Winter tradition from the area of Glamorgan and Gwent in Wales, it involves a horse, long since parted, enigmatically returning to life. Today one can see the horse and his companions travel house-to-house, and pub-to-pub through the streets of Llangynwyd on New Year’s Day, due to a revival of the tradition in the 1980’s. Upon the arrival of the Mari and his party the singsongs of introduction, followed by pwnco, a battle of wits. Folks inside the home or pub exchange challenges, mocking one another in verse, which carries on for as long as creatively allows.

Mummers Plays

Mumming plays typically reenact the struggle of Mid-Winter between the energies of life and the energies death and the resurrection of life from death. The Seven Champions also know as the Guisers, the Tipteerers, the Johnny Jacks, the Soulers, the Soulcakers, the Pace Eggers, the White Boys, the Paper Boys, the play actors, still enact mummer’s plays during mid-winter celebrations to this day throughout most areas of the British Isles and has spread into other areas of world with English emigrants and the increasing popularity of Morris Dance groups.

The majority of Mumming Plays feature a battle between a champion and an opponent, reminiscent of the clash between the Oak King and Holly King that is traditional at Mid-winter. One typically witnesses the champion being killed by his opponent, perhaps many times, only to then see the champion brought to life each time by a physician. The other two kinds of the Mumming Plays are the Sword Dance Play and the Wooing or Plough play.

The plays, are difficult to summarize due to their numerous and diverse displays through time and place. From where and when mumming plays became a part of English seasonal celebrations is still a question that puzzles both folklorists and historians. The first certain references to the mumming plays sprung up in the late 18th century, how long they had been around is still a mystery.

Wassailing

“Wassaile the trees, that they might beare; Many a plum and many a peare: For more or lesse fruits they will bring, As you do give them wassailing” Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648)

Wassailing can be traced back through written history back into unwritten history, when traditions, legends and song were remembered and told, when life itself was magical by just being. Although thought of as of Celtic origins, variations of Wassailing can be found in Ancient Rome and even in the present day Romanian custom of turta.

Wassailing began, according to a fifth-century Saxon legend, by a lovely lasso, the beautiful Rowena. It is she who toasted with the words “Wes-hal”(Good health!) to the English King Vortigern. Rowena toasted to the king with a wine that was a form of the ancient Roman drink hypocras, also know as hyppocras. Hypocras is a type of mulled wine of which spans back through time, it is claimed that this wine is named after the Greek Hippocrates.

Wassailing traditions have taken varied forms, most dependent on the geographic area. All, however, seemed centered firmly around song, drink, merriment, health, fruitfulness, the banishing of spirits bend on ill and the welcoming of those who bring fruitfulness and bounty. The word Wassail is derived from the Old English ‘Wes Hal’, meaning “Good Health” or “Be Whole”

Since times origination apples have been thought to be the “food of the Gods”. Apples have a long and celebrated place in history. Ensuring a good harvest was imperative to the success and survival of families and groups. Some time in the dim past people during winter began toasting and singing to the health of the trees in the orchard.

In some areas, cake and toasts were soaked in cider then brought to the orchard and either laid on the ground around or hung in the braches of the oldest and best trees. This ritual of offering is then followed by a merry ruckus created by those who are wassailing to scare off any bad sprits intent on harming the future apple crop. Singing a traditional, or perhaps not so traditional Wassailing song follows the ruckus. The singing is said to bring the beneficial spirits, who enable a bountiful crop to bless the orchard.

In another tradition, it is the village men who go into the orchards bearing the all important wassail bowl. They share drink, food, song and dance with the apple trees, a merry event indeed. In some places the tree is even threatened with an ax if it not to bear ample fruit, in others the spirits of ill are chased with said ax in hand. As it is with folk customs, the actual components of the custom can vary, sometimes greatly from area to area each adding its own special flare.

Wassail is served in a special Wassail bowl, sometimes known as the Loving cup. Through time the materials used for the Wassailing bowl varied and changed sometimes from silver or pewter, later from wood. The bowl decorated festively – and the Wassail is drunk directly from the bowl. References to Wassailing and the Wassail bowl can be found in the writings of Charles Dickens; by Dickens’ time Wassailing has become entwined with begging door to door.

Traditional Wassailing songs – also called wassails, were sung much like holiday carols.

1. “Here’s to thee, old apple tree, that blooms well, bears well. Hats full, caps full, Three bushel bags full, An’ all under one tree. Hurrah! Hurrah!”

2. “Here’s to thee, old apple tree; Whence thou may’st bud and whence thou may’st blow, And whence thou may’st bear apples enow Hats full, Caps full, Bushel, Bushel sacks full And my pockets full too! Huzza!”

3. “Old Apple-Tree, we Wassail thee, And hoping thou will bear For the Lord doth know where we shall be Till apples come another year; For us to bear well and bloom well, So merry let us be, Let everyman take off his hat And shout to the old Apple-tree; Old Apple-Tree, we Wassail thee, And hoping thou will bear Hats-full, caps-full Three Bushel bag-fulls, And a heap under the stair.”

4. “Apple tree prosper, bud, bloom and bear, that we may have plenty of cider next year. And where there’s a barrel, we hope there are ten, that we may have cider when we come again.

5. With our wassail, wassail, wassail! And joy come to our jolly wassail! A-wassail, a-wassail!

6. The Moon, she shines down; the apples are ripe and the nuts they are brown. Whence thou mayest bud, dear old apple tree, and whence thou mayest bear, we sing unto thee. With our wassail, wassail, wassail! And joy come to our jolly wassail! A-wassail, a-wassail!”

7. “Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, Here we come a-wandering, so fair to be seen. We are not beggars’ children that go from door to door, But we are neighbors children that you have seen before. Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too, And God bless you and send you a happy New Year, And God send you a happy New Year!” Our wassail cup is made of rosemary-tree, So is your beer of the best barley. -English North and Midlands traditional song

Yuletide Greenery It is a long tradition for greenery to be brought indoors during the Winter Solstice as a remembrance that even when it seems the world is dead and lifeless, life does indeed persist. Customary greens include holly with its berries, hawthorn, mistletoe, and other evergreens, which are made into garlands, ropes and wreaths and other decorations

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown:
O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

– Christmas Carol

Evergreens have long since reminded people of the continuation of life through death, of life in winter, and harkens the eventual return of the Sun. The bringing indoors the evergreens at mid-winter, throughout many cultures, have been documented for as long as there is written records, and as is the way of traditions the practice pre-dates those very records. Evergreens are thought to offer protection and to bring good fortune to the household. Traditional winter evergreens include: Bay, Box, Holly Ivy, Mistletoe, Rosemary, and Yew.
Mistletoe, is an important symbol at Mid-Winter. It is a parasitic plant which has a root system embedded in its host plant. It tends to grow on oak, maple, juniper, cypress and other deciduous trees. It is speculated that kissing under the mistletoe is a remnant of an old fertility ritual this is due to the physical properties of the mistletoe. To the Romans mistletoe was a plant of peace, under which the parties of a dispute would find solution.

In times long past, after the new moon, following the winter solstice, Druids would harvest the mistletoe off the oak trees in a specific Druidic ritual. In England and Wales the farmers would give a bunch of mistletoe to the first cow given birth to after Winter Solstice in later days Christmas, bringing luck to the whole herd. It is believed to ward of fires, lightening, water brought fertility and was an antidote to poison. Its ancient uses can be traced back to the writings of Pliny in his Natural History (77 CE).

Hawthorn, more specifically the Holy Thorn, is an important Winter Solstice as it blooms twice a year — mid-winter and again in May. It is customary to burn the household hawthorn that had been bent and woven into a sphere that had hung in the house as protection and create a new one for the coming new year. Every Christmas branches of the Hawthorn bush at St. John’s are sent to the Queen and Queen Mother, reminiscent this practice during Stuart times.

Holly finds itself one of the most recognizable winter decorations. It is a potent symbol as it bears fruit, its berries, in the deep of winter, reminding that life is always burgeoning forth even when it seems impossible. It is said that Holly can only be brought in the home during mid-winter – to bring it in during other times was unlucky. Holly is a plant generally thought of to be highly protective, thus the tradition of planting it near both homes and churches. It was also used in divination regarding matters of the heart. The size of the berry yield traditionally indicates the severity of the coming winter.

Halcyon Days The Rapper Sword Dance

The “Halcyon Days” are the fourteen windless, days seven days before and seven days after the Winter Solstice, so named for the Greek Halcyon or Kingfisher and their nesting period. The Halcyon Days are calm, peaceful, happy, and prosperous days. The Kingfisher is a symbol of peace and prosperity.

The explanation for the Halcyon Days can be found in the myth of one of the sisters of the Pleiades, Alcyone sometimes known as Halcyone. The myth goes as such:

Alcyone, was the daughter of ®olus, who is the (guardian of the winds and ®giale,. Alcyone married Ceyx of Trachis. Ceyx drowned in a storm at sea. Alcyone, who was heartbroken by the loss of her love, threw herself into the sea upon receiving the news of her husband’s demise. The Gods who pitied poor Alcyone her anguish so they transformed her into a halcyon, the kingfisher of Greece.

The halcyon hen lays her eggs around Winter Solstice at the edge of the sea. In order to ensure the safety of his daughter’s eggs, ®olus stops his winds so the water is calm for 14 days centered on the winter solstice to allow incubation.

Blessed Solstice!

Christina Aubin

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Deities of the Winter Solstice

Deities of the Winter Solstice

 

While it may be mostly Pagans who celebrate the Yule holiday, nearly all cultures and faiths have held some sort of winter solstice celebration or festival. Because of the theme of endless birth, life, death, and rebirth, the time of the solstice is often associated with deity and other legendary figures. No matter which path you follow, chances are good that one of your gods or goddesses has a winter solstice connection.

  • Alcyone (Greek): Alcyone is the Kingfisher goddess. She nests every winter for two weeks, and while she does, the wild seas become calm and peaceful.
  • Ameratasu (Japan): In feudal Japan, worshipers celebrated the return of Ameratasu, the sun goddess, who slept in a cold, remote cave. When the the other gods woke her with a loud celebration, she looked out of the cave and saw an image of herself in a mirror. The other gods convinced her to emerge from her seclusion and return sunlight to the universe.
  • Baldur (Norse): Baldur is associated with the legend of the mistletoe. His mother, Frigga, honored Baldur and asked all of nature to promise not to harm him. Unfortunately, in her haste, Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, so Loki – the resident trickster – took advantage of the opportunity and fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hodr, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe. Baldur was later restored to life.
  • Bona Dea (Roman): This fertility goddess was worshiped in a secret temple on the Aventine hill in Rome, and only women were permitted to attend her rites. Her annual festival was held early in December.
  • 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.
  • Demeter (Greek): Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother in winter. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter’s grief caused the earth to die for six months, until her daughter’s return.
  • Dionysus (Greek): A festival called Brumalia was held every December in honor of Dionysus and his fermented grape wine. The event proved so popular that the Romans adopted it as well in their celebrations of Bacchus.
  • Frau Holle (Norse): Frau Holle appears in many different forms in Scandinavian mythology and legend. She is associated with both the evergreen plants of the Yule season, and with snowfall, which is said to be Frau Holle shaking out her feathery mattresses.
  • Frigga (Norse): Frigga honored her son, Baldur, by asking all of nature not to harm him, but in her haste overlooked the mistletoe plant. Loki fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hodr, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe but Odin later restored him to life. As thanks, Frigga declared that mistletoe must be regarded as a plant of love, rather than death.
  • Hodr (Norse): Hodr, sometimes called Hod, was the twin brother of Baldur, and the Norse god of darkness and winter. He also happened to be blind, and appears a few times in the Norse Skaldic poetry. When he kills his brother, Hodr sets in motion the string of events leading to Ragnarok, the end of the world.
  • Holly King (British/Celtic): The Holly King is a figure found in British tales and folklore. He is similar to the Green Man, the archetype of the forest. In modern Pagan religion, the Holly King battles the Oak King for supremacy throughout the year. At the winter solstice, the Holly King is defeated.
  • Horus (Egyptian): Horus was one of the solar deities of the ancient Egyptians. He rose and set every day, and is often associated with Nut, the sky god. Horus later became connected with another sun god, Ra.
  • La Befana (Italian): This character from Italian folklore is similar to St. Nicholas, in that she flies around delivering candy to well-behaved children in early January. She is depicted as an old woman on a broomstick, wearing a black shawl.
  • Lord of Misrule (British): The custom of appointing a Lord of Misrule to preside over winter holiday festivities actually has its roots in antiquity, during the Roman week of Saturnalia.
  • Mithras (Roman): Mithras was celebrated as part of a mystery religion in ancient Rome. He was a god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.
  • Odin (Norse): In some legends, Odin bestowed gifts at Yuletide upon his people, riding a magical flying horse across the sky. This legend may have combined with that of St. Nicholas to create the modern Santa Claus.
  • Saturn (Roman): Every December, the Romans threw a week-long celebration of debauchery and fun, called Saturnalia in honor of their agricultural god, Saturn. Roles were reversed, and slaves became the masters, at least temporarily. This is where the tradition of the Lord of Misrule originated.
  • Spider Woman (Hopi): Soyal is the Hopi festival of the winter solstice. It honors the Spider Woman and the Hawk Maiden, and celebrates the sun’s victory over winter’s darkness.
Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, Deities, The Sabbats | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Calendar of the Moon for Friday, July 25th

Calendar of the Moon

Holly Tree Month

Colors: Iron-grey, red, and dark green.
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon cloth of dark grey set many sprigs of holly, real or created, four red candles, a spear and a sword.
Offerings: Honor your inner warrior, including examining the areas where s/he overreacts.
Daily Meal: Red food. Meat of any kind.

Tinne Invocation

Call: Hail the month of the Holly King!
Response: Hail the King of the waning year!
Call: Hail, sharp leaves and sharper eye!
Response: Hail, white flowers that give way to blood-red berries!
Call: Hail the month of the starling’s flock!
Response: For the starlings move together as one!
Call: Like them, we defend what is dear to us!
Response: Like them, we do not let each other stand alone against opposition!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the sword and the spear!
Call: For our sword is Reason….
Response: And our spear is the death of Illusion!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the armor and the shield!
Call: For our armor is Hope….
Response: And our shield is Love.
Call: The Oak King gives way to the Holly King…
Response: For all things have a time of increase, and a time of decrease.
Call: For all things wax and wane.
Response: For all things rise and fall.
Call: This is the moment just beyond the year’s apex!
Response: This is the time of the beginning of the end!
Call: May we take courage with every passing morning!
Response: May courage fill us with every breath!

Chant:
Spear of truth, find me,
I open myself to you.
Chains of honor, bind me,
Bound, I am free to hold true.

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Calendar of the Moon for Saturday, July 19th

Calendar of the Moon

Holly Tree Month

Colors: Iron-grey, red, and dark green.
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon cloth of dark grey set many sprigs of holly, real or created, four red candles, a spear and a sword.
Offerings: Honor your inner warrior, including examining the areas where s/he overreacts.
Daily Meal: Red food. Meat of any kind.

Tinne Invocation

Call: Hail the month of the Holly King!
Response: Hail the King of the waning year!
Call: Hail, sharp leaves and sharper eye!
Response: Hail, white flowers that give way to blood-red berries!
Call: Hail the month of the starling’s flock!
Response: For the starlings move together as one!
Call: Like them, we defend what is dear to us!
Response: Like them, we do not let each other stand alone against opposition!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the sword and the spear!
Call: For our sword is Reason….
Response: And our spear is the death of Illusion!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the armor and the shield!
Call: For our armor is Hope….
Response: And our shield is Love.
Call: The Oak King gives way to the Holly King…
Response: For all things have a time of increase, and a time of decrease.
Call: For all things wax and wane.
Response: For all things rise and fall.
Call: This is the moment just beyond the year’s apex!
Response: This is the time of the beginning of the end!
Call: May we take courage with every passing morning!
Response: May courage fill us with every breath!

Chant:
Spear of truth, find me,
I open myself to you.
Chains of honor, bind me,
Bound, I am free to hold true.

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Calendar of the Moon for Tuesday, July 15th

Calendar of the Moon

Holly Tree Month

Colors: Iron-grey, red, and dark green.
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon cloth of dark grey set many sprigs of holly, real or created, four red candles, a spear and a sword.
Offerings: Honor your inner warrior, including examining the areas where s/he overreacts.
Daily Meal: Red food. Meat of any kind.

Tinne Invocation

Call: Hail the month of the Holly King!
Response: Hail the King of the waning year!
Call: Hail, sharp leaves and sharper eye!
Response: Hail, white flowers that give way to blood-red berries!
Call: Hail the month of the starling’s flock!
Response: For the starlings move together as one!
Call: Like them, we defend what is dear to us!
Response: Like them, we do not let each other stand alone against opposition!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the sword and the spear!
Call: For our sword is Reason….
Response: And our spear is the death of Illusion!
Call: Hail the color of cold iron!
Response: Hail the armor and the shield!
Call: For our armor is Hope….
Response: And our shield is Love.
Call: The Oak King gives way to the Holly King…
Response: For all things have a time of increase, and a time of decrease.
Call: For all things wax and wane.
Response: For all things rise and fall.
Call: This is the moment just beyond the year’s apex!
Response: This is the time of the beginning of the end!
Call: May we take courage with every passing morning!
Response: May courage fill us with every breath!

Chant:
Spear of truth, find me,
I open myself to you.
Chains of honor, bind me,
Bound, I am free to hold true.

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,338 other followers