The Winter Solstice . . . A Time
Winter Solstice is a magical season . . . one that marks the
journey from this year to the next, journeys of the spirit
from one world to the next, and the magic of birth, death, and
rebirth. The day following the longest night of the year
(December 21 in the Northern hemisphere) is the start of the
solar year and is accompanied by festivals of light to mark
the rebirth of the Sun gods.
Throughout the world gods and
goddesses of light were being born during the Winter Solstice.
Egyptian goddess Isis delivered Horus whose symbol was the
winged Sun. Mithras, the Unconquered Sun of Persia, was born
during the solstice, as was
Amaterasu, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun. Sarasvati,
Queen of Heaven in India, is honored during Yule-tide.
Just as Mary (oft regarded as a
goddess in her own right) bore the infant Jesus, Rhea gave
birth to Saturn (the Father of Time), and the
Greek goddess Hera conceived Hephaestus. Qetzalcoatl and
Lucina ("Little Light"), also celebrate birthdays at this
time. Saint Lucia, called the Goddess of Light, is honored
from Italy to Sweden, crowned with candles to carry us through
Frigga, Fate, and the Yuletide Season
In ancient Europe, the Winter Solstice
grew from the myths of the Norse goddess Frigga who sat at her
spinning wheel weaving the fates, and the celebration was
called Yule, from the Norse word Jul, meaning wheel. The
Christmas wreath is a symbol of her "Wheel of Fate", reminding
us of the cycle of the seasons and the never-ending continuity
The longest night of the year is
called "Mother Night" for it was in darkness the goddess
Frigga (also called the All-Mother) labored to bring the Light
into the world once more. The Young Sun, Baldur, who
controlled the sun and rain and brings fruitfulness to the
fields, was born that night. Frigga's blessing is invoked for
all birthing women, and a white candle that last burned on the
winter solstice is kept as a charm to provide a safe
experience during the woman's next delivery.
more about the
goddess Frigga, Baldur, and how their relationship created
the legend of
That the timing of the Christian
celebration of the birth of Jesus occurs in the Yule season is
no coincidence. Christmas was once a movable feast, celebrated
many different times during the year.
The decision to establish December 25
as the "official" date of Christ's birth was made by Pope
Julius I in the fourth century AD, hoping to replace the pagan
celebration with the Christian one, since this date coincided
with the pagan celebrations of Winter Solstice with the Return
of the Sun Gods occurring throughout the world.
Numerous Christmas traditions derive
from the earlier pagan celebrations. Yule, celebrating the
birth or rebirth of a god of light, made use of fire, both in
candles and the burning of a Yule log.
The Christmas tree has its origins in
the practice of bringing a live tree into the home so the wood
spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter
months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell
when an appreciative spirit was present. Food and treats were
hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed
star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed
atop the tree.
The Solstice is also a time of plenty.
The Hopi Kachinas return to the Earth during the solstice, and
the Deer Mothers dance for the fertility of the earth.
The hearth fires of the
Greek goddess Hestia (known as the Roman goddess Vesta)
are quenched and then rekindled. The "first fruits" festival,
Kwanzaa, is held to honor the seven major deities of Yoruba,
And Winter Solstice is a time for
Rhiannon, a Welsh incarnation of Epona, the Celtic Mare
Goddess, rides through the dreams of her people by night,
transporting them to the place between the worlds where they
can create their own visions, giving them a gift of what they
need most, helping them to make real their dreams. In
Scotland, the last night of the year is Wish Night, a holiday
when wishes made for the coming year are at their most