Holidays, India

Goddesses, Mothers, Gods, and Kings of Winter Solstice

The winter solstice translates to, “the sun stands still;” it is the longest night of the year. From this point forward, the light returns as days grow longer into Spring. Learning about ancient beliefs and archetypes makes me feel more connected to the season, and it can help us understand where some of our long-standing traditions come from. Did you ever wonder why we kiss under the mistletoe or why there are twelve days of Christmas? The answers are in our ties to ancient Roman, Greek, Celtic, and Norse mythology.

Setting the stage – Yule and the Winter Solstice

Yule descends from the Old English word geól and may refer to Christmas Day or Christmas tide. It is also connected to the Norse word jól, a heathen fast lasting twelve days, while Odin and his ghostly hunters swept through the dark forest. Since the mid-1800s, the word is widely used as an informal term for all Christmas festivities meaning joy or jolly.

The Romans recognized Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, the Solar God Mithras. In the 4th century, the Church, in an attempt to promote Christianity, substituted the birth of the sun with the birth of the son. Some believe this to be the reason that we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, even though he was more likely born in the Spring.

Goddesses, Mothers, Kings, and Gods of Winter Solstice

The solstice is a very maternal time of year, referred to as “The Mother Night” in some cultures. Women are often credited with the birth and death of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and the balance of life itself. Men are shown as heroes, battling adversity or ensuring that proper cycles continue, so life can be sustained. They sometimes represent the sun itself.

Celtic Goddess Cailleach

Cailleach translates to “the veiled one.” She is the crone, the old one, the Queen of Winter. She is part of the triple goddess symbol of the child, the maiden and the crone. The maiden, Brighid, rules from Beltane in the Spring, until Samhain in the Fall, but Cailleach rules the Winter months.

There was a tradition in Ireland and Scotland, where farmers competed to bring in their crops. The first farmer to harvest his fields would create a corn dolly to represent Cailleach, and he would toss it into the unharvested field of another farmer. As each farmer finished, the dolly would be found and passed along, until the last farmer to finish the harvest would have to look after Cailleach for the Winter. The dolly would be burned on Beltane to release the Crone and welcome the Maiden. It was a heated competition, no one wanted to get stuck with the Crone in their home for the Winter.

Greek Goddess Demeter

Demeter is the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and sacred law. She presides over the cycle of life and death. She is a mother goddess. Her daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades and tricked into staying in the underworld with him for six months out of the year. Demeter’s grief causes the earth to die for those months until Persephone returns in the Spring. She controls the balance of the harvest, which was the source of life for people at the time.

Norse Goddess Frigg and God Beltur

Frigg is the Norse Goddess of Winter. It is believed that on the longest night of the year, she labored the birth of the sun into the world. This was called “The Mother Night.” Frigg is Odin’s wife, also associated with marriage and fertility. Friday is named after Frigg. She gave birth to two sons, Beltur, and his blind twin Holdr.

Frigg asked all of nature not to harm her sons, but in her haste, she forgot about mistletoe. Loki, a trickster God, fooled Holdr into shooting Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe. He was later brought back to life, and Frigg was so delighted that she declared mistletoe as a symbol of love and vowed to kiss anyone beneath it. It is poisonous though, so don’t let anyone eat it!

The Oak King and the Holly King

In Celtic tradition, the day of the Winter solstice is the day when the Oak King wins the battle against the Holly King. It is the battle of light and dark, of life and death, of Winter and Summer. And cycle that must continue for life to endure. The Oak King will win and the nights will grow shorter until the Summer Solstice when the Holly Kings wins his battle and brings us back to Winter. People would burn fires through the night and sing at dawn to midwife the birth of the sun and celebrate the victory of the Oak King.

Greek God Apollo

In the 10th century BCE, the Roman Emperor Augustus installed Apollo as the reigning version of the solar god. Games and festivities were held in his honor around the winter solstice. He was later superseded by the Persian deity Mithras. Mithras’ birthday just so happened to be December 25th, but scholars seem to agree that there is no connection to Christianity and the cult of Mithras.

Saturnalia and a personal reflection

Another connection to winter gods is the Roman festival Saturnalia, in honor of the agricultural god Saturn, from December 17-23. It was a time of feasting, gift-giving, offering sacrifices, and a special dinner where masters served their slaves.

In late December and early January of this year, I was at the Temple of Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra, India. The entire village is dedicated to the Hindu God of Saturn. They go to temple and make offerings every day. No one in the village locks the doors on their homes because they trust that they are protected and no one will do each other harm.

The village was humble, and the people were so friendly. I had the best cup of chai of the entire trip and I picked up an ornament there, which I was excited to place on my Yule altar this season. The extra excitement is over the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn today (12/21/20201) as I write this on the Winter solstice. Check out my astrologer friend, Carter’s blog about this! Learn more about the Christmas Star.

My year started and ended with Saturn, the sun, incredible magic, new experiences, and new friends. I am filled with gratitude.

I hope this brief introduction to some archetypes associated with this time of year inspires you to learn more! If you feel drawn to any of these characters, I encourage you to research them and honor them with your yule decorations. This is a good time to clean and organize, to reflect and learn lessons from the past year, and to envision your new future. As the sun is reborn, you can start fresh too. Blessed be!

If you like learning about folklore and magic, sign up for my newsletter for more blogs and workshops!

Sources

Books

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Pesznecker, Susan. Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice. Llewellyn Publications, 2015. 

Websites

https://www.britannica.com

https://www.learnreligions.com

Astrology and Tarot, Personal Quips

How a pomegranate lead to personal growth

Monday morning’s new moon and solar eclipse in Sagittarius had me wide awake in the early hours, thinking about the past year. The lesson that came to mind was a lightbulb moment sparked a pomegranate that arrived by surprise in my produce subscription box (Misfit Market – here’s a coupon).

Pomegranates are powerful little fruits! They are packed with antioxidants and rich with symbolism. Pomegranates represent fertility, the womb (ovaries), abundance, and new possibilities. In the tarot deck. The High Priestess has pomegranates on her tapestry, and the Empress has them on her dress, to capture their creative, reflective, feminine energies. Some say that the “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate (learn how it became the apple). 

As a kid, my first encounter with a pomegranate was in a holiday fruit basked that arrived at our house. My stepfather cracked it open and we picked out the seeds with our fingers, juice squirting as they burst, our fingers turning pink. It made quite the mess. I got the message from my parents that they were too messy and kind of a pain in the butt to eat! As an adult, I love pomegranate juice (especially in mimosas) and I buy prepackaged pomegranate arils. But never the whole fruit, too much work.

Anyway, here I am with an uninvited pomegranate in my possession, and with the power of the internet now in my hand, I found a great hack video on how to eat pomegranates really easily. You scour the four corners and crack it open into a bowl of water. As you work out the seeds with your fingertips, the water helps prevent them from bursting, and they sink to the bottom. The pulp floats to the top, you drain it off, and done! So easy, so much better than prepackaged, and I will never hesitate to buy fresh pomegranates again!

For so long I stayed away from this amazing fruit or I bought processed versions because I thought they were hard to eat. What other self limiting beliefs have I carried into adulthood that are completely wrong?

Things that “I’m bad at,” or things that, “always happen to me.” What I think I am or I think I’m not. Subconscious limits that I set on the boundless opportunities that life has to offer, based on outdated knowledge, tools and experiences. This year, I have only started to scratch the surface of my ego. It started with a pilgrimage to India and ended in the pandemic. I received the gift of some serious down time, and invested that back into learning and creating new things.

The Winter Solstice comes on Sunday, and Yule season is here. Ancient pagans believe that the sun was reborn on this day, the shortest day of the year. As the sun is reborn, it is also a chance for us to start with a blank slate. The practice we foster in the darkness of these months will move us to the light in sync with the sun. 

If you want to practice manifestation, raise your vibe, and work with the magic of the season, join me for an online Winter Solstice Celebration. Carter from Success in the Stars Astrology is going to tell us all about the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the “Christmas Star” that you might be hearing about. She will share insights into the energies at play in now and in the future. Check it out.

You can also give some else the gift of tarot – book a group reading or ask about gift certificates! Learn more.

Holidays

Online Yule Celebration: Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year (and the longest night); solstice meaning, “sun stands still.” From this point on, the days will get longer. Ancient Pagans believed that the sun was reborn on this day, and they celebrated the light of the world. The same sun that warms the earth and makes it possible for us to survive today.

This time of year is associated with powerful Goddesses and Gods. In Celtic theology, this time of year is ruled by the Crone, Cailleach, who rule’s the Winter’s half of the year between Samhain and Beltane. The Oak King is winning the battle against the Holly King, but the tides will turn again in summer. These ideas focus on the dualistic battle between light and dark, characterizing it as a cycle that must be maintained in order for life to continue.

On December 21st, 2020, a “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn will occur, meaning the two planets will appear just 0.06º apart right after sunset. It’s not happened since the year 2000 and won’t happen again until 2040.

There have been a number of powerful conjunctions in 2020, and the more exalted planets and constellations that are in conjunction at the same time, the more influential the energies will be for us.

For this reason, I invite you to join in an online celebration of celestial energies at play!

During this event, you will:

  • Enjoy seasonal recipes, crafts and folklore
  • Meet the Gods and Goddesses associated with this time of year
  • Learn about ancient ways of celebrating
  • Hear more about astrology
  • Participate in a dancing meditation
  • Receive long distance healing energy
  • Have your tarot cards read

Register early for a discount. Bring a friend!

Holidays

A Beltane Spell

Happy Beltane to you, blessed be!

Beltane is a springtime festival, traditionally celebrated with fire. The word Beltane originates from the Celtic God “Bel” meaning “the bright one,” the Sun God Belenus. Beltane is the half way point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It honors life and birth.

Historically observed throughout Ireland and Scotland, it marks the time of year when cattle were driven out to pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle and the crops for the summer. Special bonfires were lit, and it was believed that the smoke had healing powers. People would jump through the flames for protection, and they would even drive their cattle through the bonfires.

Hearths in each home would be put it out, and then re-lit, with the communal Beltane fire. People would decorate their floors and windows with May flowers. The would decorate branches with ribbons, feathers, and shells, and bring them inside for display. Dinner would be a feast, with lots of mead and cakes. Offerings are left out on the doorstep to appease the fairies. It also became customary to decorate a may bush in the community, burn it at the end of the festival, and dance around it.

The morning after the feast and the fires, it as believed that the first water drawn from the wells had special protective powers. Maidens would roll in the morning dew and rub the dew on their faces for beauty and youth. People would collect the ashes from the sacred fires, and bless themselves by dabbing their faces with the ashes. They would sprinkle the ashes on their cattle and livestock.

3 Ways to celebrate Beltane today

  1. Start your garden! The best way to honor Beltane is by making things grow, whether its a planter on your window, a vegetable garden, or some beautiful landscaping.

2. Make an altar. Pick a small space in your home, and set down a cloth. Decorate your altar with flowers (even dandelions), a candle, and symbols of fertility such as seeds, horns, or blossoms. You can add a mother goddess symbol, or draw a sigil on a piece of paper. Check out my Pinterest board on sigil magic here.

3. Have a fire. If you have a fire pit outside, have a fire under the night sky. You can even just bring a candle outside. Sit by the flame/s and mediate on mother earth and the coming of summer. Put your toes in the grass. What are you going to grow in this season? What are you going to prune out of your garden to make room for your expansion?

Let me know how you are celebrating Beltane. Until then, merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!