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Here I feature posts on how and when we can mark and celebrate The Wheel Of The Year

Read how the most primal and ancient of our traditions still connect to our 21st Century lives


December 21st

Out Of Darkness Comes Light

The Winter Solstice- on the 21st December in the Northern Hemisphere -is that wonderful time on the Wheel of the Year when The Sun returns to the world. From out of the darkest day of Winter comes the rebirth of the light.

Ancient cultures have always marked the Winter Solstice with rituals and celebrations. On this shortest day of the year our ancestors would gather to light fires and perform rituals to honour The Sun and welcome it’s return to us. Many of us continue to do so, and at the most famous spiritual sites here on Earth, gatherings will still be held to mark the Winter Solstice.

Pictured here is the 5000 year old Burial Chamber at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland. 

It was built so that at dawn on The Winter Solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 metre passage and right into the chamber. 

As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated.

Modern celebrations of this time are deeply rooted in ancient and primal ritual. Our ancestors would gather together to mark Samhain, despite the very real fears about physical survival that would inevitably arrive with the onset of Winter.

Christmas And The Winter Solstice

The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated on December 25th or Christmas Day all around the world. A theory is that this date was actually chosen after early Christian scholars debated when this should best be marked to gain more widespread attention and to embed into society

Some theories suggest that Christians co opted existing and already powerful  times of the year to mark it for their own religious needs. The Romans were already celebrating the festival of Saturnalia on The Solstice and in Northern Europe, Pagans marked the Winter Solstice itself. Yule the ancient name for Christmas, comes from the Scandinavian word Jol

This time of year has always been celebrated

The Romans held the week long festival of Saturnalia at the time of the Winter Solstice. 

This was held to honour the god Saturn and involved extensive, lavish feasts and gift-giving. At this time the Ancient Egyptians honoured the rebirth of Ra, God of the sun.


The Yule celebrations of Northern Europe also contain  the ancient tale of the eternal battle between the Oak King, who symbolises all the warmth and light of the Summer months and the Holly King, who represents the cold and darkness of Winter

The Druids And The Mistletoe

Here in The British Isles, celebration of Winter Solstice involved the Druid tradition of gathering mistletoe. Mistletoe is the symbol of fertility and the seed of life. The ancient Druids believed mistletoe to be an indicator of sacredness. On The Winter Solstice, the Chief Druid would cut some  mistletoe from the sacred oak, using a golden sickle. A cloth would be held below the tree to catch the sprigs of mistletoe as they fell- as it was believed that it would have profaned the mistletoe to fall upon the ground.

Having no roots, and no connection to the earth, it was considered the sacred plant of the sun. A tree that hosted a mistletoe plant was marked for ritual. It was then divided and distributed to the people, who then hung the branches over doorways as protection and to attract fertility. With its golden colour and by growing high off the ground without roots, it was naturally associated with the sun.

It was considered to be the seed of the solar deity and carried with it the promise of the rebirth of the Sun God

So as mistletoe was considered a sexual and fertility symbol the tradition of finding or connecting with a lover by‘kissing under the mistletoe’  is carried on right into the present and no doubt will continue far beyond….

   'Santa Claus’ and his multicultural roots

The figure of modern 'Santa' embodies some of the characteristics of Saturn- as in connection with the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia. He also has links with Chronos –a figure of ancient Greek myth, known as Father Time.

From ancient western culture we also see echoes of The Holly King, the Celtic god of the dying year and from Russia the folk figure of Grandfather Frost. 

'Santa and his sleigh' are an obvious reference to the Norse God Thor, who rides through the sky in his chariot drawn by goats and also to Odin/Wotan, the Scandinavian ‘All-Father’ who rides the sky on Sleipnir , his eight-legged horse

There is also the Tomte, a Norse land spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time.  As well as connecting to Thor's goats, ‘Santa’s reindeer’ can also be viewed as forms of Herne or Cernnunos, the Celtic Horned God

Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr pull Thor's chariot through the sky whilst Odin rides on Sleipnir, his eight legged steed

The Celtic Horned God Cernunnos manifests in images of reindeer. In the festive colours of red, green and gold that are all around us, we can see the elements of earth and fire and -of course – The Sun itself. 

At this time of year we give gifts to one another and hold great feasts while a Father Figure continues to bestow bounty on us from above as he rides high up in the sky……

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The Ancient And The Present

So for us in the 21st century, many of these ancient Winter Solstice traditions still appear and persist- whether we are aware of this or not.

Evergreen plants are brought into the home in the form of trees, holly and mistletoe, to remind us that life grows and continues. Every supermarket purchased chocolate Yule Log is the modern- and edible- version of the dressed Oak or Birch log. These logs would carried or dragged into the home, with celebration and then placed on the great fires of our forebears. As we saw the old year burned away -symbolised by the Yule Log- a piece of it was kept to place on the fire of the following year.

Winter Solstice celebrations don’t need to be complex. It’s truly a time to celebrate and enjoy the awakening of the world again… remembering that all is birthed anew. 

Light comes back in the midst of darkness and as we celebrate life we also set our intentions and wishes for the coming year. It’s the perfect  time to write out a list of all the things you would most like to manifest in your life.

Wishing You A Wonderful Winter Solstice

Copyright: Martine Alexis 2017

All Articles Copyright: Martine Alexis Clairvoyance 2017

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