Tag: pagan calendar

Dec 21

Why This Winter Wimp Celebrates the Solstice

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the winter solstice! You know what that means, right??? The downward, darkward slide we’ve been experiencing is about to begin ratcheting uphill again, minute by minute, towards the light.

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Granted, the cold, dreary, loooong march of winter is just getting underway, but the darkness is gathering its skirts and trotting on out. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against darkness, in general. In fact, I love the night. …Except, to me, the winter’s bleak nighttime hours simply can’t compare to those of spring, filled with the restless chirps of peepers… or the drowsy rise and fall of cicada song on warm summer nights. Personally? I see it as a quality over quantity thing.

I’m pretty sure the ancient Celts agreed, too. At the winter solstice, they marked the rebirth of the sun by celebrating Yule (originally called Alban Arthuan or “Light of Arthur”— as in the king). It was a big deal, Yule; it predates Christianity and is one of the oldest winter celebrations of them all.

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For the Celts, Yule was all about light and life.

Ceremonial fires were lit to celebrate the sun’s turning point. A Yule log was burnt to bring good luck and drive back the darkness of midwinter. It was kindled from the remains of the previous year’s log and allowed to glow and smolder for twelve whole days, owing to the Celtic belief that the sun stood still for a dozen days at solstice-time.

Evergreens, plants which lived while others died back, were used to decorate the interiors and exteriors of homes. Holly and ivy were believed to keep dark energy at bay, while giving nature spirits a safe haven to retreat to inside the home. Mistletoe was carefully harvested from oak trees by Druid priests and used to ward off dark spirits and promote fertility. Some believe the ancient Celts decorated trees with stars and suns and moons to honor their gods, and offered gifts to show gratitude for their blessings.

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Just as these and other ancient practices have persisted into modern tradition, so should the power of the solstice. Yes, we have many more days of cold ahead and, no, I’m still no fan of winter—save for the beauty of the snow, the fun of sledding, and the roaring-fire-wrapped-up-in-coziness factor. Regardless, the winter solstice, for me, is wholly and thoroughly and utterly deserving of celebration.


Simple: it reminds me of the value of hope.

Every year, without fail, the winter solstice teaches this single, all-important lesson: even at the end of the longest night, light returns.

Image via Unsplash/Aaron Burden

Happy Solstice to you and yours! I sincerely hope you make the best of the light.

Sep 22

Mabon: Darkness and Light

I wasn’t planning to write a blog post today, but then I discovered it was the autumnal equinox. So, here I am, wishing you a Happy Mabon!

This, my friends, is an important day: it’s one of two times during the year when light and darkness are in balance.

Image via pixabay/Alois_Wonaschuetz

Mabon marks the second harvest (following Lughnasadh–which I totally missed mentioning and will have to catch next year), to be followed by the third and final harvest, Samhain. Now is when much of the fields’ bounty has been collected and stored, preparing to feed us over the coming winter. Mabon is a time of plenty, a time to reflect upon all that we have created and received; it is a time to share our abundance with others.

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For me, though, there’s more to Mabon. It’s always about this time of year that something awakens inside me that has slept–tangled up in cool, cotton sheets, drowsing lazily–through the long, hot days of summer. There’s an energy in the air; I feel it whenever the wind passes over my skin. It calls to something deep within my spirit, something that stubbornly refuses to give up its innate wildness. Honestly, at times, it’s all I can do to hold myself back from running off into the forest and becoming newly feral. (*It should go without saying that I’d be dragging my kids right along with me into the great wide open. I’ve often referred to them as “children raised by wolves”–we’ve always had dogs–so the way I see it, they’re already halfway to wild.)

With the pendulum poised as it is, ready to begin its swing towards cooler days and longer nights, it’s likely a time that tugs at many of us. Change is afoot. In pagan traditions, the goddess is entering her crone aspect (having already moved from maiden to mother); the god himself is preparing to die, only to be reborn again through the goddess, come spring. Even while some part of me wants to resist this–the leaving behind of warmth and growth, the approaching time of hibernation–the coming darkness thrills me.

You feel it, don’t you? Mabon is like that moment of anticipation, at the top of a great big slide. Everything stops…and waits. Soon, we will slip downward together, into the longer nights, the time when mysteries call to us on the wind. They’re whispering already; I can just about hear them. Shh, listen with me.

Image via pixabay/damesophie

So, then. How do we celebrate such a time, when life hangs in the balance between light and dark? Go ahead and slice yourself a piece of apple pie or enjoy that pumpkin coffee. Bring in any last vegetables from the garden, freeze some fresh herbs to add brightness to your winter meals. We should be cherishing any time spent outdoors; nature is beginning its retreat and has become precious. May I also recommend taking a few minutes to meditate on your own, personal abundance? A run in the forest might be really nice, too; I could always meet you out there, if you’d like.

Whatever you do, remember: the darkness that’s about to rise up? Don’t be afraid; it’s only the other side of the light.


Sources and recommended reading: