Pagan Origins of Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice or Yuletide is one of the four main quarterly festivals in the Wheel of the Year (Pagan calendar).  It takes place around the 21st/22nd December, which is known as the first day of winter. This holiday is also known as Midwinter because we have reached the point of the year where darkness reigns. This day consists of the shortest amount of sunlight during the day and the longest amount of dark hours during the night.

Today is the day where the battle between dark and light takes places and the sun takes its victory. From hereon the sun begins its ascent into the sky once again, where the days will get longer, brighter and stronger until the sun reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.

Winter Solstice is all symbolising the return of the sun with candles and firelight. To use the warmth in winter as strength and to entice the sun to return as soon as possible. Yule is a celebration of the light returning, that once darkness has been overcome there can be rebirth and new beginnings.

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Yule:

Colours – 

Red, green, gold, orange, yellow, silver and white.

Herbs, Spices and Flowers –

Pine, bayberry, thistle, cedar, cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, ginger, frankincense, myrrh, holly, sage, cloves, rosemary, sandalwood and spruce.

Food – 

Apples, oranges, fruits, squash, nuts, chestnuts, ginger, cakes, breads, soups, tea, cider and wine.

Crystals – 

Emerald, Diamond, Bloodstone, Ruby and Garnet.

Decorations – 

Yule log, pine trees, pine cones, evergreens, garland, mistletoe, holly, ivy, wreaths, witch balls, candles, fire, stars, snowflakes and bells.

Spell Work – 

Love, harmony, peace, happiness, gratitude, new beginnings, fertility, good health, good luck, growth and divination.

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Traditions and activities for Winter Solstice

Decorate your altar or home. 

As this time of the year the days are short, cold and dark, especially since the darkness onsets from late afternoon in winter time, it can almost feel like living in a black hole. What kind of way is great to combat darkness? To fill your home with as many multicoloured, sparkling bright lights as possible. Any kind of light that will entice the sun back and offer up a beacon of hope during the dark winter days. Log fires, gold and red candles are favoured at this time of the year, hang lights from your tree, mantlepiece, altar or even outdoors on your porch.

Trees, Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy. 

Evergreens are a representation of fertility and life, they are the only plant that grows all year around while still looking green and full of life even in winter when everything is cold, bare and lifeless. Pine trees are used at winter as a symbol of welcoming in light, life, love, fertility and preparing for the oncoming spring time.

To place a pine tree inside the home is also said to honour the many woodland spirits by giving them a home for winter. Fairies are known to grant wishes, so appease them well and you just might be in luck!

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Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy are all fertility symbols. Mistletoe is especially a symbol of fertility, love and peace. To kiss under the mistletoe is a promise of marriage, it also brings good fortune, goodwill, happiness, health and longevity.

Wreaths made from evergreens represent the wheel of the year.

Witch Balls and Tree decorations. 

A Witch ball is a bauble shaped charm that is traditionally hung in the window or entrance way to your home. The reflective nature of this ball is said to trap inside any evil spirits, ill-wishes from others or negative energy and therefore prevent it from entering into your home. This charm is often filled with various herbs, spices or natural elements to bless the home or give added protection. At Yule time witch balls began to be hung from the tree and therefore developed into baubles.

Winter food like nuts, berries and dried fruit were hung from the tree to signify the want for a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year and to entice the return of spring quicker in order to plant and grow crops.

Bells are also placed on the tree in order to repel negative spirits and energy, while a Pentagram is placed on top.

In some tales it’s said that the woodland spirits that inhabit the tree for winter will eat the food that’s been placed on it and all satisfied spirits will ring the bells in order to show their appreciation.

Yule log and candles. 

All fire during wintertime represents the sun and the impending need for it to return, as the fire is said to give strength to the sun. The Yule log is a specially selected piece of tree that has to be foraged from the land or given as a gift, but in tradition it cannot be bought. The piece of wood is continuously burnt down until only a small remnant remains. That piece is then saved until next year and is used to start the fire that will burn the new log. Any ashes that are taken from the fire can be used in amulets to promote fertility.

A modern day Yule log is now used from a piece of wood that has candles placed inside small holes. Candles promoting light and the sun were traditionally placed on the tree.

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Lighting a candle on Winter Solstice and letting it burn through the twelve days until the new month is said to bring good luck and good fortune. If the candle was blown out, moved or touched by anyone else it’s said to be an omen and to bring bad luck into the household.

Carol singing and mulled wine.

Both these more modern traditions have developed from a festivity called wassailing. The old Pagan custom was to visit all your neighbour’s houses with a bowl of wassail and there together you would sing songs with each other. This is essentially spiced cider and this ritual is a method of caring and sharing, in order to invoke a community spirit. Sharing some wassail is thought to bring good wishes and fortune onto your neighbours and community.

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Yule is all about invoking the spirit of togetherness, whether it be with your family, close friends or a wider community. It’s time to celebrate and put together a feast from the food that was harvested all throughout earlier in the year. Spices, fruits, nuts, baking cakes, biscuits and wine. This is the feast to celebrate the fruits of all the labour.

Spend some quality time with your family, spread love and gratitude, offer a kind gesture and act from the heart. Be thankful for what you have, rather than wasting time thinking about the things you don’t have. It’s time to slow your pace at Yule, have some inner-reflection and aline your rhythm with that of Mother Earth and nature.

Blessed Be )O(

 

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