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!

Astrology and Tarot

December 20 – 26, 2018: Death

Life has been so crazy, that I missed my blog last week! With trying to wrap up the semester and the work year, preparing for the holidays, something had to give. Well, besides my sanity. And so this week brings the Death card.

This is actually one of my favorite cards in the deck because it’s all about, “out with the old; make room for the new.” A skeleton knight rides in on his white horse to take the life of the king. This is a reminder that death comes for all walks of life: rich or poor, bad or good, young or old. The skeleton represents the strongest part of the human body, the only part that remains after death. The armor makes death invincible, nothing can stop him. In the distance is a beautiful sun scape and you can see the towers from the moon card, as though from the other side.

The Death card means that a chapter or a situation in your life is coming to and end and there is much potential to start anew. Remember that death is just as much a part of life as birth, as we usher in the full moon in Cancer on Saturday, December 22nd.

The full moon is a time to slow down and fill your cup. Give gratitude for your blessings. The energy of Cancer in this context will help you balance your heart and mind. You will be in the mood for spending time with family and friends, which is perfect because this week we also celebrate the holidays.

Many people will celebrate Christmas, which actually carries a lot of the same traditions as Yule. Yule is the winter solstice, also called Christmastide. This year it falls on Friday, December 21st. This tradition is traced back thousands of years to Germany and Scandinavia, as late as the 4th century.

Although most of the Yule traditions were absorbed into Christmas, many Neo Pagans and Wiccans still celebrate. Some of these traditions include bringing various winter-hearty plants into the home, like evergreen, holly, birch, mistletoe and pine. This was a type of sympathetic magic, meant to guard the essence and spirit of the plant. A wild boar was sacrificed for the feast, although today a ham is more commonplace. The Viking God Odin was called the first Father of Christmas; he was known to disguide himself as a wanderer with a long white beard.

Yule is celebrated on the night of the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. And the celebration is all about light in any form: candles, bonfires, burning the yule log, etc. Many holiday traditions are centered around light: the star of Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and more.

I think that Death was actually a fantastic card to represent this week. The year is winding down; I’m taking the time to slow down and I have some pretty big plans to reveal in my life in 2019. Sometimes the hardest part of growing, is saying goodbye to the old you. It’s also a reminder not to take life too seriously! To keep your loved ones close, because your time with them is limited. I feel a stirring of change, growth and new beginnings for the new year. Death to the same boring old comfort zone!

 

Here are some excellent sources that I consulted for this blog!

https://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/major-arcana/death/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/winter-solstice-pagan-yule_us_585970abe4b03904470af4c5

https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-yule-2562997