The Winter Solstice – with Laura Daligan
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. It is an astronomical event that falls every year around the 21st of December and is celebrated by many pagans and those who love to connect with the cycles of the earth, all over the world.
The word solstice means ‘Sun standing still’ as at the solstices the sun appears to stop in its path across the sky. The Winter Solstice marked the seasonal death and rebirth of the Sun King, and the rebirth of light, it was a hugely important festival to our ancestors, and it is still celebrated today.
The Magic of the Winter Solstice
After the longest day, way back at the Summer Solstice, the Sun slowly began to wane and lose its warmth and power. Six months later, we arrive at Midwinter, the deep heart of the dark part of the year. To those who live in the northern regions of Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle, there is little to no light at this time of year as they are plunged into an almost permanent dusky darkness.
As the Summer Solstice contains within it the seeds of the Winter, the Winter Solstice contains the embers of the year to come.
The Season of Yule and Midwinter is a time of stillness, introspection, gathering strength, and celebrating light and life where and when we find it. With this in mind, there are many festivals and traditions all over Europe which celebrate and honour the power of this time of year. In fact, the pre-Christian ritual calendar would get pretty booked up with Yule seasonal celebrations.
The lunar and solar activities would have been marked and celebrated with great reverence to usher in the warming, returning Sun. Before central heating and electric lights, this time of year would have been fraught with genuine danger and discomfort. So it was important to gather with the community, share resources, and fill the long nights with stories and rituals to encourage life and the return of the light.
There are a wealth of Goddesses and folkloric characters who roam the dark winter months of myth and memory. Not all of them are quite as benevolent as our more modern Santa Claus! We may have heard of the horned goat-like being called ‘Krampus’, from more modern Christmas themed scary movies, but Krampus has been running wild for centuries, striking fear into the hearts of naughty children. He is perhaps a demonized version of the old Pagan Yule Goat/Julbokk, who used to be a Scandinavian symbol of Yule.
An Astrological Story
There are so many fascinating Midwinter traditions, and I would be here till Midsummer talking about them all! But I will share one of my favourite stories I heard recently about the Norse Solar Goddess Lusse (now called St Lucia). According to the academic and author Maria Kvihaug, Lusse would walk across the land in December, asking all the animals, wild or tamed if they had been treated well by their human owners/neighbours over the year. If the answer were yes, she would bestow blessings upon the humans involved. If the answer was no, then let’s say those folk were in trouble! Ancient animal activism at its best!
So how do we celebrate the Winter Solstice now? Especially in these times when it isn’t so easy to gather with people and share the winter nights. Fortunately, there are many ways of celebrating Midwinter, and hopefully, some of these ideas will inspire your Solstice celebrations.
Welcome the Rising Sun
You may remember this from my Midsummer blog, but Solstices usually involve us getting up early to watch the rising of the Sun! Even though it may be more tempting to stay in the warmth of our beds, at least the Winter Solstice Sunrise is around 8 am (unlike the 4 or 5 am alarm call of the Summer Solstice!)
Go to a place that is sacred and special to you (and yes that can be your back garden!) and watch the rising Sun. Know as you do that this marks the beginning of a period of rebirth, life, and light slowly returning to the world.
Make a wish as the sun pierces the horizon.
The Yule Star Conjunction
This Yule has an extraordinary alignment between Jupiter and Saturn. This is creating great conjunction that hasn’t been seen for around 400 years! This conjunction will create a bright ‘Yule Star’ which will be wonderful to witness on the longest night of the year.
Gifts & Gratitude
As we know, the Christmas season has become overly commercialized. Still, it’s good to remember the origins of this tradition lie within the rebirth of the Sun/Son. The generosity of spirit which keeps us going through the harder months of the year. It doesn’t cost anything to share your own gifts with the world, make offerings to the spirits of nature, or show gratitude to those who have shown you love and kindness this year.
Honour the Spirits of Nature
The tradition of Christmas trees stems from the ancient idea of bringing a live tree into your home. This is to keep the nature spirits alive and warm in the winter months. Gifts and food were hung on the tree to nurture and keep folk happy until the first signs of spring.
In this time of darkness, we light our homes with candles to spark the warmth and brightness within. To encourage the returning light of the Sun’s strength. A beautiful way to celebrate the Winter Solstice is to decorate your hearth or altar with evergreens and beautiful candles.
I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about the celebrations of the Winter Solstice. Remember, whatever time you wake up on the 21st, acknowledge the return of the Sun King and make a special wish.
Laura Daligan x
Connect with Laura Daligan
Laura Daligan is known for her insightful readings, compassionate style and giving nature. She’s also an inspirational colour healer, using her natural artistic skills to help people find the right colours for their wardrobes, homes and personal style. She makes regular appearances on Psychic Today. Laura would love to give you a psychic reading too! Contact her right here!
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