I’ve been delving into some Celtic traditions, well scratching the surface of them, of late, and its drawn me to looking into the traditions of this Winter Solstice time.
The festival itself runs 20-12 December, and literally translated from Latin Solstice means “the sun stands still”, hence the Winter and Summer Solstices at the longest and shortest days.
Of course this season is widely celebrated – the Romans celebrated the Sun God Sol Invictus on 25th December, Christians celebrate Christmas (“Christ’s Mass”), and of course its a secularised time of family celebration world wide.
In Celtic traditions the Winter Solstice represents a pivotal point in the wheel of the seasons; a time for letting go, stillness, forgiveness, peace, rest and relaxation, moving towards renewal and rebirth of spring time.
The Holly King is the ruler of winter, sometimes represented as the green man.
A seasonal contemplation
An invocation to the Holly King
Holly King, lord of winter, I call to you.
Here in this place I feel winter’s chill, but I also know the heat of the eternal fires you keep.
I give thanks to you for all your blessings and for the challenges you teach me to overcome.
Hasten to my aid!
Lend me strength to endure and shine bright, and let life return to me.
Come to notice the breath, and bring the awareness to the depths of sleeping earth, the cold frosty surface, the warmth at the heart of the planet.
After a while let the awareness move to the bareness of landscape around, the trees largely without leaf, the hedgerows and crops dying back, yet notice the green around, the grass, the winter trees and bushes, of course the Holly.
Bring awareness to animals in nests, burrows and dens, hibernating or sleeping, getting ready for spring, and then to the dormant seeds and bulbs and roots in the damp and warm soil, resting ready to grow and sprout in the spring.
In time let the attention move to the roots of our own being, nurtured this season in their own soil of stillness and inwardness – grounding, earthed –
a time to be still and nurture before the growth of spring. Let that awareness move to the dark void behind and around the heart space, lit by the light of heart space. Feel the pulse and rhythm of the body in tune with the season.
(based on suggestions in The Magical year – Danu Forest)