The Winter Solstice

December 21st marks the shortest day of the year. The Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun. This results in less light, and cooler temperatures. It is also the longest night of the year.  After the Winter Solstice, daylight and sunshine will increase  day by day, week by week, and month by month, until finally, the summer solstice arrived. The word solstice originates from Latin and means “sun stands still”. There are two solstices annually. The seasons and solstices are reversed, in the Southern Hemisphere.

In ancient times, the celebration of Yule fell during this time. The Wicca Wheel of the Year designates  the solar year is ruled by two opposing forces. The Oak King rules the waxing year from December 21st until June 21st, as the daylight hours increase. The Holly King prevailed  from June 21st until December 21st, during the waning year, as daylight hours decrease.  Legend reveals during each Solstice, the Oak King and the Holly King  battle for the hand of the Goddess. Each King rules the land in during the His official season.

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It is no coincidence that evergreens and holly are symbols of the winter season. The Pagan cultures of Northern Europe observed a twelve day festival known as Yule. At the start of winter, livestock was slaughtered because food was scarce during the colder weather. In this way, a herd would not have to be fed and maintained over the winter. Many Christmas  traditions evolved from the Yule Celebration. The Christmas Tree, the Christmas Wreath, and the Yule Log are evidence  of this.  The celebration of Yule allowed people an opportunity to turn inward.  A theme of rebirth and renewal was emphasised with the return of the Sun. Divination and Dream Work became the focus of long and cold winter nights. Visiting with family was important for survival. Communities celebrated by gathering for meals.

Herbs for the Winter Solstice

In an era before pharmaceutical intervention,   a knowledge of herbs and spices was crucial to survival. The traditional Winter Solstice herbs held many medicinal properties. This would have been helpful as winter progressed. Many of herbs were typically prepared as an infusion, or a tea.  There is a return to the use of natural herbs and spices. The popularity of essential oils is wonderful to witness.

Remember to consult a doctor if You require medical attention. In this way, You will recieve a proper diagnosis for a condition. Your doctor may also suggest lab tests or x-rays. When working with herbs and essential oils I recommend using a reference book. The book I recommend is The Complete Book Of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy. This book is a wonderful resource.

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The Complete Book Of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy

The information in this book is extensive It includes  information and recipes for  health and healing, beauty and cosmetics,  as well as household cleaners. With the renewed interest of essential oils this is a perfect reference book.  I have personally  used this book for years – I highly recommend it,

The following herbs were used during Yule celebrations:

  • Holly
  • Cedar
  • Mistletoe
  • Juniper
  • Bay
  • Ash
  • Frankincense
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The Magic of Halloween.

Halloween is a festive event. Handing out candy to all of the children in the neighborhood allows Me the chance to admire the adorable costumes. I make a point of preparing a pumpkin soup  to add to the splendor and excitement of the season. Neighbors decorate their  front windows, doors and porches with witches, pumpkins, ghosts, and skeletons. I’ve always felt a crisp and wonderful energy – Halloween is a time of magic.

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Have You ever wondered about the ancient roots of Halloween. Often Our traditions predate Christianity. The ancient festival of Samhain  was observed through out the  Celtic lands , in Ireland, Scotland and Isle of Man, from October 31 until November 1st. The date  falls at midpoint between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter solstice. For this reason, Samhain is  classified as a cross quarter date on the Wheel of the Year of The Celtic Calendar.  On this day the veil between our world  and other dimensions blur, as energy surges . It is said at this time Souls return through this veil to visit. Many  important events  recorded in Irish  Literature and Mythology are set during Samhain.   Feasts were prepared, with place settings and food set aside for departed souls. Ritual bonfires were lit for protection of homes, livestock and farms. Divination rituals were important at this time. People went door to door in costumes, or disguises, reciting verses in exchange for food. Samhain officially marked the conclusion of the harvest season, and signaled  the beginning of winter. In an agrarian society this involved preparing for the cold weather ahead. November 1st marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year.  Samhain evolved into All Hallow’s Eve. Many other European cultures developed similar traditions. The Ukrainian people celebrate Malanka, the second week of January. People dress up in costumes, and visit friends and neighbors door to door, singing and caroling. The event involves dressing in masks and costumes.

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By the 9th century, The Catholic Church  proclaimed  All Saint’s Day on November 1st, and All Souls Day on November 2.  Eventually Samhain, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day evolved  into the current observance of Halloween. In Mexico and Europe All Saints Day is observed on November 1st. Today, Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans observe Samhain. It is celebrated as a spiritual event incorporating the many of the original traditions and rituals  of the season.

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No discussion of Halloween would be complete with out the mention of  black cats.  During the middle ages,  cats were believed to have evil powers. Cats across the European Continent were killed in large numbers. Black Cats were thought to be exceptionally evil.  As soldiers and knights returned from the Crusades, rodents also boarded  the ships carrying the deadly Bubonic Plague. Because the cat population was almost exterminated, the Plague spread faster and faster, through out Europe. Often people who dared to own a cat would avoid death. The extermination of cats was halted. Cats were brought back in to the farms, villages, towns, and cities. Cats played an important roll in eliminating the Plague in Europe.

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