2 Winter Solstice Projects

2 Winter Solstice Projects

  • Cait Johnson

Each solstice falls upon the ecliptic midway between the equinoxes, when the sun reaches that midway point, generally about June 21 and December 21. Winter Solstice on December 21 is the shortest day of the year. After Winter Solstice each day becomes longer until the longest day of the year arrives around June 21st. The solstices have been observed and celebrated by cultures throughout the world.

A central aspect of the winter solstice rites observed by many Native American tribes includes the making and planting of prayer sticks. Prayer sticks are made by everyone in a family for four days before the solstice. On the day named as the solstice, the prayer sticks are planted – at least one by each person – in small holes dug by the head of the household. Each prayer stick is named for an ancestor or deity.Here’s how to make a prayer stick; they are usually:

  • Made out of cedar and are forked;
  • Are equivalent to the measurement from the maker’s elbow to the tips of
    their fingers; and
  • Are taken from a tree that the maker feels connected to.
  • Tobacco is offered to the largest tree of the same species in the area and
    permission is asked to take a part of its relative.
  • The bark can be stripped.
  • The bark can be carved on the stick.
  • One feather should be added to the prayer stick; traditionally this is a
    wild turkey feather.
  • A bit of tobacco is placed in a red cloth and tied onto one of the forks.
  • Fur or bone from an animal that the maker wishes to honor is tied onto the
  • Metal or stones should not be tied to the stick.
  • It is also customary to say prayers silently as one makes the prayer stick.

Winter Solstice Project II: Discover Stones

All matter whirls at incredible speed, atoms in constant, breathtaking motion. But the rock people are seemingly still. We are all of us surrounded by the stillness of stone; if you dig in any patch of earth, you are likely to find bits and pieces that are unimaginably old and likely to outlast us by countless lifetimes.

Just as trees may be intuited to have individual spirits and personalities, so the humble rocks beneath our feet may be known and their energies felt in ways that have much to teach us.

Children are inveterate rock collectors, often seeing unique power and beauty in a rock that looks plain and nondescript to us. By seeing with the open inner eyes of our children, we can share their fascination for the magic of stone. And when we surround ourselves with rocks that are special to us, when we take time to hold one in our hands or stroke its weighty smoothness or striation, we make a bodily connection with the oldest matter on this planet and with the element of winter.

Particularly at this often harried time, building a relationship with rocks–allowing them to permeate our consciousness in quiet and stillness–is a great gift of peace for the entire family.


First, find some. This shouldn’t be hard to do, but you may be surprised at the variety of rocks you and your children can come up with, and you may notice that particularly varieties attract some children more than others. Take small trowels or large spoons outdoors with you to help pry things loose. After al of you have brought your finds inside and thawed your numbed fingers, you may want to wash the rocks in warm water to remove loose dirt and bring hem to room temperature.

Now spread them out so everyone can look at them. Pick them up one at a time and really examine them, turning them slowly to savor the complexity or simplicity of their shape and color. Do any rocks remind you of something else? Are there shapes hidden in the stone?

Try this simple exercise: Ask your children to close their eyes and choose a rock at random, and then hold it in their hands without looking. Allow them to sense the rock–does it feel light? dark? heavy? Does it make you feel anything in your body? tingly or slow? energetic or relaxed? Then put the rock aside; choose another and repeat the process, making sure to notice any similarities or differences. Then ask the children to open their eyes. Look at the two rocks and compare them.

Rocks that make your children feel a particular way may be utilized to help relax and ground them, or to energize them when needed. A rock that your child experiences as slow and soothing may be placed near her or his bed to be held before sleep. A small bright-energy stone may be worn in a pouch or carried in a pocket to school.

We have found that keeping special rocks all around the home is a wonderful way to stay balanced and grounded: simply seeing the stones becomes an inner reminder of stillness and serenity.

The stone project is an excerpt from Celebrating the Great Mother, by Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw.

Pumpkin-Praline Pie

Pumpkin-Praline Pie

1 3/4 Cups (397 grams) Cooked and Mashed Pumpkin (about 1 medium pumpkin) or
1 (16 ounce [450 gram]) Can of Pumpkin
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups (360 milliliters) Evaporated Milk
2/3 Cup (151 grams) Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
2 Large Eggs
9 Inch (23 centimeters) Frozen Piecrust
Whipped Cream

With a sharp knife, cut a circular top out of the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and scrape the inside of the pumpkin clean. Cut the pumpkin into pieces and peel it like a potato, using either a peeler or a knife. Boil the pieces like you would potatoes for mashing. When soft, drain and mash the pumpkin.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Beat the pumpkin, salt, milk, brown sugar, sugar, and spices together until smooth, using the low speed on a hand mixer or using a wire whisk. Beat the eggs separately, then add them to the mixture. If you can’t get the mixture to blend smoothly by whisk or mixer, pour the ingredients into a blender and puree’ for 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into the piecrust. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Bake for 35 minutes longer.


1/3 Cup (76 grams) Packed Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup (76 grams) Chopped Pecans
1 Tablespoon (1/8 stick/15 grams) Butter or Margarine, at Room Temperature

To make the topping, mix the ingredients together. Sprinkle over the pie, leaving a circle in the center bare. Bake for another 10 minutes until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. In order to avoid spilling, bake this pie by placing the pie pan on a preheated baking sheet. Refrigerate for 4 hours, until chilled. Garnish the center of the pie with a mound of whipped cream. Refrigerate any leftovers immediately after serving.

Baked Butternut Squash

Baked Butternut Squash

1 Medium Butternut or Acorn Squash
2 Tablespoons (1/4 stick/30 gramd) Butter or Margarine, at Room Temperature
1/2 Cup (120 milliliters) Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice (or juice from concentrate)
Dash of Ground Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds, scraping clean. Place the squash in a shallow baking dish. Dot each half with butter or margarine. Drizzle the orange juice and sprinkle the cinnamon over the squash. Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, or until you can easily put a fork in the squash. Slice each half into 3 equal portions and serve warm.

Apple Scones

Apple Scones

1 Medium-Sized Apple
2 Cups (280 grams) Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
1/2 Cup (112 grams) Raisins
1/4 Cup (60 milliliters) Apple Juice

Peel, core, and mince the apple. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening. Stir in the apples and raisins. Add the apple juice to stiffen the dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough to about 1/2 inch (1.25 centimeter) thickness. Cut into triangles or into shapes with cookie cutter. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 10 minutes or until light brown.

Hot Ginger Tea

Hot Ginger Tea

1 Large Knob Fresh Ginger, Sliced
1 Stick Cinnamon
Several Lemon Slices
Several Whole Cloves, Inserted into the Lemon Slices
4 Cups (1 liter) Water
3/4 Cup (170 grams) Firmly Packed Brown Sugar or Honey (180 milliliters)

In a saucepan, combine the ginger, cinnamon, lemon slices with cloves, and water. Bring to a boil. Decrease heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Sweeten with brown sugar or honey, to taste. Strain and serve hot.

Hot Cranberry Wassail

Hot Cranberry Wassail
­ 2 1/2 qts. cranberry juice
1 qt. grape juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum
1/4 cup orange liqueur
orange slices

Heat juices, water and sugar to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in rum and liqueur and garnish with oranges. Serve hot to keep friends and relatives warm this holiday!

Yule Stollen

Yule Stollen
1 1/2 c Milk; scald/cool to lukewarm
3 1/2 Yeast; dry/envelopes
3/4 cup Water; lukewarm
3 cups Flour; sifted
1/2 cup Eggs; yolks/lightly beaten
3/4 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Butter; softened
Flour; 10-11 cups, as needed
5 cups currants
1 1/2 c Almonds; chopped or slivered
1 cup Citron; chopped
1/2 Lemon; rind only/grated
2 teaspoons Rum
Milk should be cooled to about 100 degrees. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and add 1/4 cup of the
cooled milk and 3 cups sifted flour. Cover the sponge with a cloth and let it ripen until bubbles appear on the
surface and it is about to drop in the center. Pour the remaining milk over the sponge. Add the egg yolks, sugar
and salt and beat until the ingredients are well blended. Add 1 cup flour and beat well. Blend in the butter.
Add more flour gradually to make a smooth dough, or until 10 to 11 cups have been added. Some flours
absorb more liquid than others. Knead in the currants, almonds, and citron, along with the lemon rind which
should be mixed with the rum. Knead the dough until the fruits and nuts are dispersed well through it and it is
smooth. Dust the top lightly with flour and let it rise in a warm place about 45 minutes.
Punch it down and let stand for 20 minutes. Divide the dough in half and knead the pieces until smooth. Let them
stand for 10 minutes longer. Place one ball of dough on a lightly floured board, and with a rolling pin, press down
the center of the ball, and roll the pin to and fro 4 to 5 times, pressing all the time to make an elliptical shape 6
inches long and 3 1/2″ wide.
The center rolled part should be 1/8″ thick and 4 inches long. Both ends should remain untouched, resembling
rather thick lips. Place this rolled out piece of dough on a buttered baking sheet and brush the center part with
melted butter. Fold one lip toward the other and on the top of it. Press the fingertips down near and below the
lips, pulling somewhat apart. Give a pull away from each end, pointing them toward the lips. The shape should
resemble a waning moon.
Repeat the process with the second piece of dough. Let the Stollen rise, covered in a warm place until they double
in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Bake them in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees) for 35 to 40 minutes. Do not overbake
them. Cool them on racks. Brush them with butter and cover with vanilla sugar.

Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland

Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland

by Alexander, Aarcher

Walking in a Winter Wonderland


Pagans sing, are you listenin’,
Altar’s set, candles glisten,
It’s a Magickal night, we’re having tonight,
Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland.


In a Circle we can light a Yule Fire,
And await the rising of the Sun,
It’s the Great Wheel turning for the new year,
Loaded with abundance and great fun.

Blades held high, censer smoking,
God and Goddess, we’re invoking,
Through Elements Five, we celebrate life,
Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland.

Queen of Heaven, is in Her place,
Triple Goddess, now the Crone Face,
Above and Below, She’s the Goddess we know,
Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland.


Now the God, is the Provider,
Supplying game for our Fire,
Above and Below, He’s the Horned One we Know,
Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland.

Later on, by the fire,
Cone of Power, gettin’ higher
It’s a Magickal Night we’re having tonight,
Dancing in a Wiccan Wonderland.

Bright Solstice

Bright Solstice

by Irving Berlin, Willow Firesong

White Christmas


I’m dreaming of a bright Solstice,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
and sing while the sun sets them aglow…

I’m dreaming of a bright Solstice,
just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
and sing while the sun sets them aglow…

I’m dreaming of a bright Solstice,
with every loving card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Solstices be Bright

I’m dreaming of a bright Solstice,
just like the ones I used to know
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Solstices be Bright

I’m dreaming of a bright Solstice,
with every loving card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Solstices be Bright

May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Solstices be Bright

And may all your Solstices be Bright (All your Solstices be Bright)
And may all your Solstices be Bright (All your Solstices be Bright)
And may all your Solstices be
(All your Solstices be bright)
(All your Solstices be bright)

Angels We Have Heard

Angels We Have Heard

by Blake TaylorMixon, Traditional

“(Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Angels We Have Heard On High)


Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, see the sun reborn today.

Angels know that winter’s nigh
Turning seasons of the year
See the old is passing by
Bring the new one in with cheer.

Gloria, celebrate the new year.

All Hail Ye, Simple Pagans

All Hail Ye, Simple Pagans

Author Unknown

“(Oh Come, All Ye Faithful)”


All hail ye, simple pagans
Gather round the Yule fire
Oh come ye Oh come ye
To call the Sun!
Fires within us
Call the fire above us:

Oh come let us adore him!
Oh come let us adore him!
Oh come let us adore him!
Our Lord, the Sun!

Yea Lord, we greet thee
Born again at Yuletide!
Yule fires and candle flames
Are lighted for you!
Come to thy children
Calling for thy blessing!

Oh come let us adore him!
Oh come let us adore him!
Oh come let us adore him!
Our Lord, the Sun

A Holly Jolly Yuletide

A Holly Jolly Yuletide

by Johnny Marks, Susan M. Shaw

Tune: “A Holly Jolly Christmas


Have a holly jolly Yuletide
It’s the best time of the year
I don’t know if there’ll be snow
But have a cup of cheer

Have a holly jolly Yuletide
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
And ev’ryone you meet

Oh, ho, the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me

Have a holly jolly Yuletide
and in case you didn’t hear
Oh, by golly have a holly jolly Yuletide
This year!

The Magick of Mistletoe

The Magick of Mistletoe
by M.L. Benton
Blessed be this mistletoe,
With all the charms it may bestow.
Cut the stem with the gold boline,
As energies rise, its magick is thine.
Never let it hit the ground,
Or evil shall within abound.
Herb of Apollo, Freya and more,
Their will be done as we implore.
With all thy healing properties,
Grant your Blessings; hear our pleas.
Legends and lore of old exist,
Under the mistletoe we still kiss.
Harvest at the Solstice and on time,
During the festival the bells will chime.
Bring us blessings from under the Sun,
As this is our Will, So shall it be done.

With all the mystical legends and lore of the herb mistletoe, unfortunately
the origin of its name is not so magickal. The common name of this herb is
derived from the belief that mistletoe comes from dung or bird droppings.
The principle of this ancient belief stems from the appearance of mistletoe
on branches where bird droppings had been splashed. “Mistel” is the
Anglo-Saxon word for dung and “tan” is the word for twig, so in translation,
mistletoe means “dung on a twig.”
Botanically, mistletoe is considered a parasitic plant, It grows on branches
or the trunk of trees and will bore and root into the tree for its
nutrients. Mistletoe is however very capable of living and growing
prosperously on it’s own accord and provide it’s own food and nutrients
through photosynthesis. As the plant spreads however it seems to be
perfectly content growing as a parasitic plant. There are two types of
mistletoe. The first is found in North America, (Phoradendron Flavescens)
this type is better known as the parasitic plant and is most common for
harvesting for the Christmas and Yule celebrations. These can be found on
the East Coast regions from Florida to New Jersey. The second type is found
in Europe, {Viscum Album} This version of mistletoe is grown as a green
shrub with tiny yellow and white flowers, and sticky berries which are
considered poisonous. It is known to grow on the apple tree but believed not
to grow on an oak tree.

The virtues of mistletoe come from the earliest of times and are just as
mystical and mysterious, as it is magickal. The Greeks believed that
mistletoe had mystical powers and through the centuries it became associated
with many folklore customs. In European history, mistletoe is one of the
most sacred plants. With the many properties of this sacred herb, it was
believed to bestow life and fertility would be prosperous. It was considered
a protector against poisons and a passionate aphrodisiac.

The ancient Druids considered the mistletoe their most sacred herb. They
believed that mistletoe growing on oak trees possessed magickal properties
and considered it an all-heal, which would protect against all forms of
evil. In Celtic traditions, on the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid
priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle or boline. They
would then sacrifice two white bulls while reciting prayers that the
recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. As time went by, the ritual of
cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the
old King by his successor. Mistletoe symbolized both a sexual emblem and the
“soul” of the oak. Because of this sacred belief, the herb was gathered at
both mid-summer and winter solstices. The custom of using mistletoe to
decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other
pre-Christian traditions.

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings
to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over the house and
stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that
the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier
belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of
lightning. The traditions, which began with the European mistletoe, were
rationalized with the North American plant with the process of immigration
and migrating.

Today the belief is, in order for the mistletoe to be effective in magickal
spells, the herb must be cut with a single stroke of a golden sickle or
boline on the Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice or the sixth day after a new
moon. However you must take care not to let the herb touch the earth or the
herb will lose its magickal potency.

Mistletoe is known to have several names including, “all heal, devil’sfuge,
golden bough, and Witch’s broom. This magickal herb also is believed to be
sacred to the gods and goddesses, Apollo, Freya, Frigga, Odin and Venus. The
mystical powers of mistletoe have long been at the center of much folklore.
One is associated with the Goddess Frigga. The story is told that Mistletoe
is the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the
god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death that greatly alarmed his
mother, for if he died, all of life on earth would end. In an attempt to
keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to the four elements air,
fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no
harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be harmed by any deed from
this world or below it. Balder did however have one enemy. Loki, the god of
trickery and confusion. Loki knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in
her excursion to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under
the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was the beloved mistletoe. Loki
made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, he then gave it to Hoder, the blind God
of winter, who shot the arrow striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all
things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element
tried to bring Balder back to life. Frigga, the goddess and his mother
finally restored him. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into
the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed
everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a
decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should
befall them, only a kiss, a token of love. It is believed that this was the
core for the translation of the old myth into a Christianized way of
thinking and acceptance of the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which
conquers Death. Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it
a just emblem of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing
of the nations and draws parallels to the Virgin birth of Christ.

Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek
festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They
probably originated from the belief that it has power to bestow fertility.
It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe grew possessed
“life-giving” power.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which
enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later,
the eighteenth-century English credited with a certain magickal appeal a
device called a kissing ball. At Christmas time a young lady standing under
a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and
ornaments, could not refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep
romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed,
she could not expect to marry the following year.

In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the Twelfth
Night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry. If a
couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a
promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In
France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year’s Day: “Au
gui l’An neuf” (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged
under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.

Holiday Spot
Herbal Magick by Gerina Dunwich, New Page Books
A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieves

Submitted By Raven

Our Yule Log

Our Yule Log by Bendis

The Yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun. The Yule log can be made of any wood. Each releases its own kind of magic:

  • Aspen: invokes understanding of the grand design.­
  • Birch: signifies new beginnings.
  • Holly: inspires visions and reveals past lives.
  • Oak: brings healing, strength, and wisdom.
  • Pine: signifies prosperity and growth.
  • Willow: invokes the Goddess to achieve desires.

On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log. Burn the log to release its power. Save a piece of this year’s Yule log for kindling in next year’s fire. You may also wish to decorate the log with greenery, flowers, ribbons and herbs for magickal intent. Some choices might be:

  • Carnations: protection, courage, strength, healing, increases magical power, vitality
  • Cedar: wealth, protection, purification, healing, promotes spirituality
  • Holly: dreams, protection
  • Juniper: Exorcism, protection, healing, love
  • Mistletoe: a catalyst, fertility, health, success, protection, banishing evil
  • Pine: healing, wealth, protection, purification, exorcism, exorcism, fertility, wealth
  • Rosemary: health, love, protection, exorcism, purification, increase intellectual powers, peace, blessing, consecration, very powerful cleansing and purifying
  • Roses: love, courage, luck, health, protection, beauty

Ribbons can be used according to their color magic correspondences. Each year my family gathers to decorate and burn the Yule Log. We have collected what we wish to use for days and we all have an assortment of colored ribbons, fresh sprigs of pine and holly, anything to make it merry! We have little slips of paper and once we have decorated our log, we each write down on those papers all of the things we wish to banish, let go of or remove from our lives; those things that are simply in the way or no longer useful. Then on more scraps of paper we write all of our wishes, all of our dreams, our hopes – what we want to manifest in the coming year. All of these tiny scraps of paper are then tucked in amongst the decorations to be offered to the fire. Then we turn on some good dance music, something that will induce trance and we all dance, keeping our focus on that which is yet to come, igniting the spark of creativity within us. When the music ends we gather around the Yule Log and together we toss it on the fire. My daughter has prepared a mix of powdered coffee creamer and glitter and all of us sprinkle or toss this onto the fire. It ignites into many sparkles of light. Shouting with glee we all stand transfixed as our log burns and as we see our dreams in the fire.

May your holidays be as blessed!!!

Anglo-Saxon Yuletide

Anglo-Saxon Yuletide by K. A. Laity

­­The Anglo-Saxons settled Britain in the early fifth century, giving their name to the land now known as England. Very little remains of the native culture of the Anglo-Saxons. We learn from the Venerable Bede, a seventh century Christian historian, that the months we now call December and January were considered “Giuli” or Yule by the Anglo-Saxons. According to the historian, his Anglo-Saxon ancestors celebrated the beginning of the year on December 25th, referred to as “Modranect”— that is, Mothers’ Night. This celebration most likely acknowledged the rebirth of Mother Earth in order to ensure fertility in the coming spring season. An Anglo-Saxon charm for crop fertility, recorded in the eleventh-century and known as “Aecerbot,” refers to the Earth as “Erce, [the] Earthen Mother” and contains the following praise poem for her:

Hale be you, earth,
mortals’ mother!
May you ever be growing
in god’s grasp,
filled with food,
useful for folk.

It could be that the poem refers to Nerthus, the earth goddess the Roman historian Tacitus identified as venerated by the continental Germanic tribes, but we will probably never be sure.
Many scholars have suggested that the mother goddess Friga (Frigg in Old Norse) played a central role in the Yuletide observances, although no records remain of specific celebrations for Mothers’ Night. Chief of the goddesses and the consort of Woden, Friga ruled over childbirth and marriage and inspired the naming of several English towns like Frobury and Fretherne, as well as the English word for the day of the week, Friday.

It is very likely too that the Yule celebrations also included honors for Freyja, who governed love and fertility. Both she and her twin brother Freyr were associated with the boar, the primary animal represented in Yuletide customs and indeed in Anglo-Saxon culture in general. Scholars first discovered the importance of the fierce wild boar through warrior poetry like the epic Beowulf. Beowulf’s men wore boars on their helmets both to protect their own heads—and to intimidate their opponents. But it is not only in literature that we find the boar motif. Twentieth-century archeological discoveries like that of Sutton Hoo (a dig containing a royal burial and many different artifacts) have revealed the truly widespread significance of this totemic animal, even into the Christian era. The boar continued to ornament brooches, bowls and jewelry as well as more military objects for centuries.

The boar’ significance as the center of the Yuletide celebration outlived not only the conversion to Christianity, but even the disappearance of the creature itself from England. By the late Middle Ages, the offering of the boar’s head had lost its religious significance, but it continued to be the centerpiece of the Christmas feast, and indeed the Yule procession. Along with songs honoring the traditional holly and ivy—often said to fight with each other for prominence in the hall—the songs to accompany the boar’s head still convey the joy its arrival would bring and the twelve days of merriment this first course promised, as this fifteenth-century song attests:

The boar’s head I bring,
Singing praises to the lord. [chorus] 

The boar’s head in hand I bring,
With garlands gay and birds singing!
I ask you all to help me sing,
Who are at this banquet.

The boar’s head, I understand,
Is the chief service in all this land,
Wherever it may be found,
It is served with mustard.

The boar’s head, I dare well say,
Soon after the twelfth day [of Christmas]
He takes his leave and goes away—
He has left the country.


The second course, according to another contemporary song, was cranes, herons, bitterns, plovers, woodcocks and snipe. Then came the larks in a hot broth, almond soup—to say nothing of the sweet wine, good ale and brown bread—and then venison, capons, dove entrails, currant jelly…and the list continues. At Yuletide in Medieval England, no one in the hall was going to go hungry.

A Hinge in the Year: the White Solstice

A Hinge in the Year: the White Solstice by H. Byron Ballard

Homer used “rosy-fingered dawn” to describe the rising of the sun, and here in the mountains of western North Carolina the dull gray of morning twilight gives way to a fresh bright pink. If the weather holds, this is the sight that will greet Pagans as we celebrate our next holy day on the Winter Solstice.

My daughter and I will rise in the darkness, put the kettle on the stove and bundle up to stand in the back yard with warm drinks in gloved hands. When the gray smoothes to pink, we will sing some songs and welcome the sun’s “return.”

Though our simple celebration is colored with the trappings of modern life we are following an ancient impetus and performing a ritual of thanksgiving that harkens back to the earliest human times. How often do we think about the life-giving properties of our nearest star? We wear sunscreen and dark glasses to protect us from the power of its rays and the gardeners among us may squirm uncomfortably when the rainy days of early spring delay planting.

But our ancestors knew the rhythms of the seasons because they lived close to the land. They waited for the strengthening sun to warm and dry the soil in the spring. They watched tender shoots grow thick in the heat of summer and observed the daylight lessen day by day after the celebrations of Midsummer. Harvests and animals were brought in and preserved against the dark and cold of winter. And after an enforced time of rest and conservation, the lengthening daylight following the midwinter holy days was a welcome sign of nature’s continuous nurturing cycle.

The burst of light at the Winter Solstice is reflected in so many religious observances at this holy time that we can easily recognize how our ancestors felt about the sun’s return. In the contemporary Pagan community, the celebration of the Winter Solstice is less intense than Samhain, less flashy than Beltane. It is generally an intimate holiday that features good food and song and bright hearth-fire. We honor our biological and intentional families and share tales of times past and plan the months to come.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted by the same three spirits that challenge each of us at this time of the rolling year: the dreamlike past, the delicious present and the unknown yet-to-come. The Winter Solstice is a hinge in the year when we may, like the Roman Janus, look both forward and back. In the dark and long nights of winter, let us find some time to rest and reflect, to share a story and a song. The sun’s returning will bring the warmth of May and the glare of August but for now, it is the promise of the coming harvest that motivates us as we rise in the dark, wait through the twilight with our fragrant steaming mugs and sing a lullaby to the young sun.

Joyous Solstice!

Solar Creatrix

Solar Creatrix
By Mama Donna Henes

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day, the longest night of the year, the culmination of the gradual withdrawal of the sun. By mid fall, there is no denying the apparent disappearance of solar light. It is most definitely getting darker and darker. And the rays of light are becoming ever more indirect, their energy and warmth barely reaching us below. Their glow is weak and wan, a diluted wash. Insipid. Depressing. All season long, the sun continues on its wayward course away from us, slithering ever further south. Further and further away from us. Until we are left standing here alone in the dark.

Wrapped in the dark womb of the weather, it is not difficult to imagine the terrifying prospect of the permanent demise of the sun and the consequent loss of light, the loss of heat. The loss of life. Without the comfort of the familiar cyclical pattern, the approach of each winter with its attendant chiaroscuro would be agonizing. The tension intensified by the chill.

With the death of the sun, the world would be cast back to the state that it occupied before creation, the classical concept of chaos. The black void. The Great Uterine Darkness. It is from this elemental ether that the old creatrix goddesses are said to have brought forth all that is. Tantric sages refer to this as the condition of the Great Goddess in Her aspect of “Dark formlessness when there was neither the creation nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the Earth, and when the darkness was enveloped in the Darkness, the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was. . .The Absolute.”

This sacred spark of creative potential that is contained within the primordial womb is one of humanity’s oldest concepts. The visual symbol which represents it, a dot enclosed within the circle, is also extremely ancient. Still in common use today, it is the astronomical notation for the sun.

Among the most archaic images of the sun is the brilliant radiance that clothes the Great Goddess. The great Mother of the pre-Islamic peoples of Southern Arabia was the sun, Atthar, or Al-Ilat. In Mesopotamia, She was called Arinna, Queen of Heaven. The Vikings named Her Sol, the old Germanic tribes, Sunna, the Celts, Sul or Sulis. The Goddess Sun was known among the societies of Siberia and North America.

She is Sun Sister to the Inuit, Sun Woman to the Australian Arunta, Akewa to the Toba of Argentina The sun has retained its archaic feminine gender in Northern Europe and Arab nations as well as in Japan. To this day, members of the Japanese royal family trace their shining descent to Amaterasu Omikami, the Heaven Illuminating Goddess.

According to legend, Amaterasu withdrew into a cave to hide from the irritating antics of Her bothersome brother, Susu-wo-no, the Storm God. Her action plunged the world into darkness and the people panicked. They begged, beseeched, implored the Sun Goddess to come back, but to no avail. At last, on the Winter Solstice, Alarming Woman, a sacred clown, succeeded in charming, teasing and finally yanking Her out, as if from an earthy birth canal, and reinstating Her on Her rightful celestial throne.

Other cultures see the Goddess not as the sun Herself, but as the mother of the sun. The bringer forth, the protector and controller, the guiding light of the sun and its cycles. According to Maori myth, the sun dies each night and returns to the cave/womb of the deep to bathe in the maternal uterine waters of life from which he is re-born each morning. The Hindu Fire God, Agni, is described as “He who swells in the mother.”

It is on the Winter Solstice, the day when the light begins to lengthen and re-gain power, that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to the sun who is Her son. The great Egyptian Mother Goddess, Isis, gave birth to Her son Horus, the Sun God, on the Winter Solstice. On the same day, Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo and Demeter, and the Great Mother Earth Goddess, bore Dionysus. The shortest day was also the birthday of the Invincible Sun in Rome, Dies Natalis Invictis Solis, as well as that of Mithra, the Persian god of light and guardian against evil.

Christ, too, is a luminous son, the latest descendant of the ancient matriarchal mystery of the nativity of the sun/son. Since the gospel does not mention the exact date of his birth it was not celebrated by the early church. It seems clear that when the church, in the fourth century AD, adopted December 25 as his birthday, it was in order to transfer the heathen devotions honoring the birth of the sun to him who was called “the sun of righteousness.”

The return of the retreating sun, which retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe, the first birth of the sun. The Winter Solstice is an anniversary celebration of creation. Since the earliest of human times, it has been both natural and necessary for folks to join together in the warmth and glow of community in order to welcome the return of light to a world that is surrounded by dark. And through the imitative gesture of lighting fires, like so many solar birthday candles, we do our annual part to rekindle the spirit of hope in our hearts.

DONNA HENES, Urban Shaman, has been a contemporary ceremonialist for 30+ years. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, is the author of four books and a CD. She writes a weekly column for UPI (United Press International) Religion & Spirituality Forum and publishes the highly acclaimed quarterly journal, Always In Season: Living in Sync with the Cycles.
In addition to teaching and lecturing worldwide, she maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, New York, Mama Donna’s Tea Garden And Healing Haven, where she works with individuals and groups to create personally relevant rituals for all of life’s transitions.


About Yule

About Yule

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: December 21-23 (usually, the date of the calendar winter solstice).

Alternative names: Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, Meán Geimhridh, Midwinter, Christmas.

Primary meanings: Renewal and rebirth. The dark force, which the sun battles all winter, gives way. People celebrate the shortest night and anticipate the return of the light and warmth. Yule or Winter Solstice celebrates the rebirth of the Sun Child.

Symbols: Mistletoe, holly, ivy, Yule logs, strings of lights, wreaths, candles and gingerbread men.

Colors: Red, green, white, gold and silver.

Gemstones: Cat’s-eye and ruby.

Herbs: Bay, cedar, holly, ivy, juniper, mistletoe, rosemary and pine.

Gods and goddesses: All newborn gods and sun gods, and all mother goddesses and triple goddesses. Gods include the Greek Apollo; Egyptian Ra, Osiris and Horus; Irish-Celtic Lugh; Norse Odin; Native American Father Sun; and Christian-Gnostic Jesus. Goddesses include the Irish-Celtic Morrigan and Brigit; Egyptian Isis; Greek Demeter, Gaea, Pandora, Selene and Artemis; Roman Juno and Diana; Middle-Eastern Astarte; Native American Spinning Woman; and Christian-Gnostic Virgin Mary.

Customs and myths: Light a Yule log or candles; bring light into the dark! The Yule log is ceremonially burned in the main hearth, kindled with a piece from last year’s fire and allowed to smolder for 12 days before being ceremonially put out. The log must come from your own land or be given to you as a gift. Decorate it with greenery, and douse it with cider or ale. Sing and be merry! The seasonal Santa Claus, or Kris Kringle, comes from the Norse traditions. During the Yule season’s stormy nights, Odin rode his eight-footed horse throughout the world bestowing gifts on worthy people and dispensing justice to wrongdoers. Kris Kringle (“Christ of the Wheel”) is the title of the Norse god born at Winter Solstice. Our ancestors believed that by decorating with evergreen plants such as holly, mistletoe and ivy, they were helping to bring the Sun through a dangerous time of diminished light.

Santa’s Many Faces: Shaman, Sailor, Saint

Santa’s Many Faces: Shaman, Sailor, Saint

Holly, Jolly Old Elf, Other Traditions Show Solstice’s Mongrel Past

by Kathie Dawn

Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice is a tradition with its roots in the ancient past, twining from hunter-gatherer cultures through the Old Religion of Europe, influenced by the rise of Christianity from the Middle East. A look at some of the history can help you design your personal Solstice traditions.

Santa the Shaman

For tens of thousands of years, we humans have celebrated the seasons, the lunar and solar cycles and other natural events. While our bodies are not as strictly regulated as animals’ regarding mating, migration or hibernation, we are deeply affected by our circadian rhythms, the lunar pull and our hormones, which interact with the sun. According to Jeremy Rifkin in Time Wars, “Chronobiology provides a rich new conceptual framework for rethinking the notion of relationships in nature. In the temporal scheme of things, life, earth and universe are viewed as partners in a tightly synchronized dance in which all of the separate movements pulse in unison to create a single organic whole.”

Our ancient ancestors felt this connection without benefit of scientific explanations. Following their hearts and beliefs, they played their part in that dance. “Our holiday celebrations evolve in a cycle. We even refer to it as ‘The Wheel of the Year,'” notes Richard Heinberg in Celebrate the Solstice. “Being aware of the different cycles in life, and understanding our place in them, were a part of our development as humans.” In this cycle, in northern regions, Winter Solstice is often seen as the ending of the old year and the beginning of a new year.

In the early European cultures, a shaman of the Herne/Pan god led Winter Solstice rituals, initiated the new year, rewarded the good, punished the bad, officiated at sacrifices and headed fertility rites, according to Tony van Renterghem in his book When Santa Was A Shaman. This Herne/Pan god went by many names, always portrayed as dark, furry or wearing animal skins, with antlers or horns and – up to the seventeenth century – with an erect penis. Van Renterghem asserts “these (Herne/Pan) shamans sang, danced, jumped over fires in sexually symbolic fertility rites, some involving the besom, the broom-like phallic rod.”

Shamanic traditions survived into historic times. Leaders and kings who wanted to see themselves as divine priest-kings – such as Moses and Alexander the Great – were depicted with shamanic horns. Shamanic horns on Moses shows an overlapping of pagan and Judeo-Christian beliefs that also appears in celebrations at Solstice.

Santa as a Christian and a Sailor

“(Christmas) was a seeming Christian answer to the pagan festival Natalis Solis Invicti, which carried with it the flavour of merrymaking of the Roman Saturnalia,” Vivian Green writes in A New History of Christianity.

Christianity grew up with paganism, specifically Roman paganism. The Roman Empire ruled the land where the cult of Christianity was formed. The beliefs of this new religion were radically different from most pagans’, and many people assumed the group would quickly die, as do many fads. But within 300 years, the cult was considered an unlicensed religion within the Empire. While the Romans had a long history of assimilating the gods of the conquered peoples into their own religion as a way of easing the transition, this was not easily accomplished with Christianity. There were a couple attempts to wipe out the religion, but the Christians maintained their foothold in the Empire by appealing to the lower classes and the illiterate.

Constantine called the Nicean Council of 325 after he reunited the faltering Empire. Having converted to Christianity, he wanted to bring unity and a single leadership to the faith. The emperor was openly hostile to pagans. Peter Partner, in Two Thousand Years-The First Millennium: The Birth of Christianity to the Crusades, tells us that “although pagan beliefs were not in themselves made illegal, many of the institutions that supported pagan worship were in effect proscribed.” A semblance of the Old Religion was allowed to continue, but only lip service was paid to religious tolerance.

As Christianity marched on, entire tribes were converted. Charlemagne instituted a “baptize them or kill them” campaign against the “barbarians” on his borders. The conversion of Germanic peoples to Christianity changed the texture of the Roman Christian church.

Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, circa 590, and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, circa 720, both expressed anxiousness about the wealth and privilege the church received as rulers and great magnates were converted. The church had to absorb these rulers’ values and culture, with the end result that “Christianity had been successfully assimilated by a warrior nobility,” according to John McManners in The Oxford History of Christianity. This was a “nobility which had no intention of abandoning its culture or seriously changing its way of life, but which was willing to throw its traditions, customs, tastes and loyalties into the articulation of a new faith.”

The mass conversion “did not sweep away pagan culture in a few moments,” writes McManners. “We are reminded every year by the feasts of Christmas, the Winter Solstice celebration of the northerners for which the nativity of Christ is a cheeky Christian misnomer, and of the New Year, in Roman usage the great pagan feast of Lupercalia. In Rome the ancient fertility rites of Carnomania were still celebrated annually in the presence of the pope, as late as the eleventh century.”

Pagan customs persisted within the heart of Christianity, and both faiths coexisted at the outer borders of the new religion’s territory. While many people assume Christmas celebrations have a dark, distant pagan origin, it would be more accurate to say the two grew up together.

As Charlemagne began his conversion process, the legend of St. Nicholas was born. He was said to have been the Bishop of Myra in Lycia, now Turkey. According to “The Origin of Santa Claus” at http://www.religioustolerance.org, “He is alleged to have attended the first council of Nicea; however, his name does not appear on lists of attending bishops.” http://Www.religioustolerance.org calls him a “Christianized version of various pagan sea gods – the Greek god, Poseidon, the Roman god, Neptune, and the Teutonic god, Hold Nickar.” Crichton dates St. Nicholas even earlier, claming he was imprisoned in 303, during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s effort to return the Empire to the worship of its old gods. Later, Constantine supposedly released him.

Nicholas was credited with many miracles, including aiding sailors at sea, providing dowries for young women who otherwise could not marry and using prayer to resurrect three little boys who had been killed and pickled in brine. He performed miracles even after his death on December 6, 342; a mysterious liquid dubbed the Manna of St. Nicholas was collected annually from his tomb and used to heal the faithful. The tales of St. Nicholas spread to Russia as Christianity converted the Eastern world. He became known as “Nikolai Chudovorits,” the Wonder Worker.

By the seventeenth century, the patron saint reached Siberia, where tribes of nomadic horsemen lived. These tribes lived in tents during the summer, but north of the Arctic Circle, they needed something sturdier during winter. Their timber huts became buried in snow, with the only way in or out being by ladder through the smoke holes in the roof. Their annual renewal ceremony, according to Crichton, took place with their shaman entering a trance and climbing on a symbolic journey through the smoke hole. Christian tradition overtaking the indigenous religion, Nikolai became a Super Shaman, acting as a “mystic go-between for the people and their new Christian God.” He would descend the smoke hole, another way of jumping over fire, to deliver gifts.

Nicholas traveled other directions as well, to reach the Normans, who as well as conquering England in the eleventh century engaged as traders and mercenaries in lands they did not control. They ruled the seas, and learned about St. Nicholas at Myra. As they had done with other saints elsewhere, the Normans accepted St. Nicholas into their belief system. Traveling with the Normans, St. Nicholas spread up the rivers and into the towns. A basilica was built in Bari, which became a great shrine to Nicholas. During the Crusades, countless people passed through Bari, making their obligatory stops at the shrines. From there, St. Nicholas traveled throughout the continent and beyond.

Dutch Santa and His Moorish Slave

In the fifteenth century, the Netherlands became a Spanish territory. Trade with the Indies and Americas made the Netherlands an important area. Spaniards filled the government and religious offices, and they brought St. Nicholas with them. To this day, the Dutch “Sinter Klaas” arrives by boat from Spain, dressed as a bishop with the tall hat and miter, riding a white horse. As was fashionable at the time during the Spanish Empire, Sinter Klaas had a Moorish slave who became known as “Zwarte Piet.”

In Crichton’s book, we find that “many of the customs surrounding Sinter Klaas are vestiges of an older, pre-Christian religion. Checking up on naughty children, riding a white horse, and leaving food out at night, can all be traced back to Woden or Odin.” In Finland, St. Nicholas “assumed human form, adopting the older name of ‘Joulupukki,’ which literally means Yule Goat, and again harks back to Odin and the Old Norse customs.”

In van Renterghem’s work, we see that the Herne/Pan side of St. Nicholas was further restored. In 1581, the Dutch declared independence from both the Roman Catholic pope and the Spanish monarchy. Zwarte Piet, Sinter Klaas’ dark servant, was returned to the fore as their shaman-god. When the Church tried to denounce Zwarte Piet as a devil, the Dutch retaliated by drawing him as a Spanish-looking devil, further aiding the Dutch cause. Children were encouraged to be good, or they would be carried off in Zwarte Piet’s bag to Spain.

As the legend of St. Nicholas grew, he often had helpers who were easily traced to pagan roots. According to WorldBook, examples of these helpers include Knecht Ruprecht in Germany, Pere Fouettard in parts of France and Hoesecker in Luxembourg.

The Protestant Reformation ended the religious observance of Christmas temporarily in some places, more permanently in others such as England. This sparked several inventions that seemed even more pagan-oriented than the newly outlawed Christmas. In Germany, the Protestants invented “Christkindl,” “a Christ child figure often played by a girl in a white robe with a veil and a star on her head – another legacy from the Roman Festivals,” from Crichton’s perspective. In Hungary, where Catholicism again replaced Protestantism, “the religious St. Nicholas, the secular Christkindl and the fur-clad Weihnachtsmann (Christmas Man) all exist side by side.”

In North America, the Puritans made it a punishable offense to celebrate Christmas. But when Dutch settlers sailed to Manhattan, the figurehead on the flagship was none other than Sinter Klaas. Gradually the name was changed to Santa Claus.

In England, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert helped re-invent Christmas, and Santa was reintroduced to England around this time. As a British gift-giver, Santa Claus had many rivals including CheapJack, The Lord of Misrule, Knecht Rupert and Father Christmas.

In the United States, Santa Claus was further refined in literature and illustration. In 1822, Clement Clark Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas. In 1863, Thomas Nast used childhood memories of a small fur-clad fellow to create images for Harper’s Magazine. In the 1930s, Santa hawked Coca-Cola, and in 1939, Robert L. May added Rudolph to the reindeer herd. By the 1960s, Santa had become quite commercial. During Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church concluded that St. Nicholas had never been officially canonized, recognizing the probable source of his notoriety as being pagan gods and legends.

Many other modern Solstice traditions have such pagan origins. Mistletoe was sacred to the Greeks and Romans as well as to the Celts, who according to When Santa Was A Shaman, “called this mistletoe ‘Thunder-Besom’ (from the besom, or broom, an ancient sexual symbol of male and female organs)” – which besom dates back to the Herne/Pan shamans. “The Germanic tribes believed that all who passed under the mistletoe were kissed (blessed with sexual power) by Freya, their goddess of fertility.” The modern practice of a kiss beneath the mistletoe could still be seen as a minor fertility rite.

Whether performing in a pageant or dressing up as the jolly old elf for the kiddies, putting on Winter Solstice costumes also has ancient origins. Crichton notes that “in all primitive religions when a player dons a mask he is deemed no longer an ordinary man. For himself and those who take part in the ritual, he embodies the spirit he is impersonating.”

It should come as no surprise that we continue with rituals and practices that some believe are 10,000 years old. Children still play with toys from the 5000-year-old tale of Noah’s Ark. We still use the names of 2000-year-old Germanic and Greco-Roman pagan gods and festivals to identify the months and the days of the week. So too, we keep Santa in his many masks.

How Pagans Can Renew the World

Winter Solstice in northern climes is often a time of world renewal and the New Year. Theodor H. Gaster’s New Year: Its History, Customs, and Superstitions outlines the rites of nearly all ancient New Year and world renewal ceremonies as following the same four steps: mortification, purgation, invigoration and jubilation.

In mortification, whose root-word “mort” means death, it is easy to see death symbolized in how the life of the people and the land slowed down. Often during this time, no business was transacted. The king was either ritually or actually slain, depending on the custom. Sometimes this involved mock combat between Life and Death, or Old Year and New Year. His death paid for the evil of the past year.

Next, the community purged itself of all evil influences through fires, ringing of bells and cleansing with water. Life was then invigorated with positive steps that symbolized renewal. The people and the land were made fertile and productive again by a deliberate release of sexual energy. Then, in jubilant celebration, feasts and other merriment were enjoyed. Life had prevailed. Nature and the community would continue for another year.

Drawing on this outline and the superabundance of Solstice ideas and examples, today’s pagan can create a personal tradition. To gain a deeper connection between you and the cycle of Solstice, try adding something new. Visit a sacred site, or spend time with the land where you live. Visit a place where you can observe wild animals. Where possible, plant a tree, or some green plants indoors. Watch the sunrise and the sunset on Solstice Day, and feel a connection with your ancestors. Play the Super Shaman for your friends and family. Attach a note to each gift you give with something amusing about the person, and have everyone read the note aloud.

Food and drink can play a part. Adopt a certain dish to be made only at this special time of year. Or pass around a large chalice, reminiscent of the English Wassail bowl, pronouncing blessings or words of jest to the person who receives it from you.

However you do it, make the Solstice holiday a time of getting rid of that which weighed you down in the past and tying up the year’s loose ends. Find ways to symbolize the renewal that the New Year brings, and mark the time most joyously. Whether you celebrate alone, in a small close-knit group or as one of thousands, have a happy Solstice.