holly kingwinter_solstice.treesWinter arrives officially today, December 21, 2009 @ 12:47 PM. 

The Winter Solstice has been observed in most cultures since time began.  It signaled the shortest day of the year.  Early people looked on winter as a time of dread.  In ancient times, many people didn’t make it through the winter.  They died or their loved ones died.  They battled the elements, faced starvation, ran out of fuel, and were often ravaged by disease.  Winter was deadly to early people.  Even as late as last century, winter could spell destruction  for people.  Depending on where you live and your circumstances, winter can be deadly even in our modern culture. 


While most cultures celebrated the Winter Solstice, one might ask, why celebrate?   Good question.  All sorts of superstitions and rituals were performed for good luck and to ward off bad things and evil that could happen.  Of all early people, the Celts are probably the group many of us are most familiar with who celebrated Winter Solstice.

In Celtic myth, the Holly king and the Oak king, twins,  were in a continual struggle for  domination.  At the Winter Solstice, the Holly King is overpowered and the Oak King rules until he is overthrown at the Summer Solstice.  Winter Solstice is a time for celebration because it marks the beginning of the days getting longer.  The cycle of the year is represented by this turmoil of continual struggle.  Neither can exist without the other.

Many of our Christmas traditions include pagan ritual involving Winter Solstice.  Yule logs, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, Mistletoe,  the date of Christmas,  holly, all have roots in pagan culture or in other religions.  Religions do not just spring up in isolation.  They merge and infuse and often take the old beliefs and remodel them into newer ones. 

So regardless of your religion or culture, you are sure to find a fit somewhere in the winter holiday season around the Winter Solstice.  Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to throw another log on the fire and sit back and let the winds howl outside.

Seasonal music on the next page

Please check out the howling in the last video.

Pagan Yule

Loreena McKennitt
Sample of Winter Seasonal Music


Paul Winter Consort 2008 Winter Solstice Concert Wolf Eyes

Link to Newgrange, Ireland, site of Megalithic Passage Tomb which was built about 3200 BC.  The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise.  Anyone with an interest in early people will find this place  fascinating.  How did ancient man acqire this sort of knowledge?

16 Thoughts to “Winter Solstice 2009 12/21/09 @12:47”

  1. Firedancer

    Thanks, M-H. You know I appreciate this!! Enjoyed the “howleluya” chorus, too! What a great way to celebrate the solstice. I might use that sometime, if I can ever find a group….

  2. Loreena McKennitt is one of our household favorites! What an angelic voice. (“The Two Trees” was our wedding song, for anyone who cares.)

  3. Having a hard time hearing the words on the Paul Winter Consort.

  4. You just don’t understand howling, Pinko. howwwwwlllllll

    I like Loreena McKennitt also.

    Firedancer, all the solstice threads are done in your honor.

  5. Firedancer

    Thank you, Moon-Howler.

  6. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Loreena McKennitt, huh? She tends to draw a certain type of individual….the SCA folks. Who are the SCA folks? Well, go to the local Renaissance Fair and you’re probably surrounded by them. Nothing wrong with that, mind you….just an observation. Like if you find yourself at an Indigo Girls concert, there’s a good chance you are surrounded by some same-sex oriented females.

  7. You are right, Slowpoke. She is a big hit with the SCA folks. Society for Creative Anachronism for those folks who aren’t familiar the type Slow is referring to. They are the everything medieval people.

    I have dabbled but nothing major. I have had friends who were regular Arthurian camp followers. They weren’t same same sex types though.

    Enya types like her also.

    I loved the moon howling in the third video.

  8. Wolverine

    Moon-howler, you’ve got to be a bit careful with that Yule Log business these days. I hear some guy in Seattle got arrested recently for cutting down a tree in his own yard! I don’t think he was looking for a Yule Log, but nevertheless….

  9. Wolverine

    “Moon howling.” I think that is one of those things which the old timers of yore did not like one bit. All those wolves skulking in the ancient forests at the edges of the manor farm.

    Incidentally, if you want to get a good sense of the blending of the old religion with the new, read the “Fidelma” series. These are novels set in Ireland in the early Middle Ages, written by Peter Tremayne, a recognized expert on the Irish culture of that period.

  10. anona

    My kids are dancing the Winter Solstice dance which involves jumping around the house while wearing your PJs inside out and backwards chanting to the gods “no school please, no school please”. It is a pagan tradition passed down from generation to generation. I myself used it in college when a particularly long term paper was due and I had spent too much time at the local pub instead of the library.

    Fortunately the Oak King was merciful this year. PWC School website just posted NO school for Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning school is out until after the New Year. It is pure celebration in my house!

  11. LOL I love it! You all are great. Anona, glad it worked! I thought they were crazy not to announce the cancellation. I can relate to that term paper and pub dilemma. sigh.

    Woverine, what is the name of the first of the series. That series sounds like something I would really li8ke alot. I have a kindle so I can start on it tonight.

    I think wolves were generally hated. Still are in many parts of the world including the USA. It seems their feeding habits and ranchers are on a collision course.

    I missed the yule log story. If you see a link, please post. I think the western states have some real strange laws about trees etc. i figure if it is on my property, unless it is blocking street visibility or falling on someone else’s property…it is sort of my decision. Show me the flaw…..

  12. Wolverine

    Moon-howler, it’s called “The Sister Fidelma Mysteries.” At least 12 novels, all set in Ireland circa 600 A.D. The first one is “Absolution by Murder.” The main protagonist, Sister Fidelma, is an Irish Celtic nun, sister of the High King of Ireland, and a powerful lawyer or advocate in the Irish High Court . Fascinating portrayal of Irish Celtic life, which includes conflicts between the old pagan religion and the Celtic Catholic Church and between the Celtic church and the Church in Rome. Fidelma’s husband (religious were allowed to marry in those days) is a Saxon monk, so you also get a good picture of conflict between the Irish Celts and the Saxons of early Britain. “Peter Tremayne” is the pseudonym for Peter Beresford Ellis, a prominent expert on the ancient Celts. One of the most striking revelations in these works is the amount of power which could be exercised by a woman in ancient Ireland, especially a woman who had been to “law school.”

  13. Firedancer

    Fear of the power of women led to the creation of religion based on a male deity.

    Wolverine, thanks for the info on the books. I will also check them out.

  14. Thanks Wolverine. It looks like I am going to have to read it the old fashioned way, not via kindle. There is a lot that isn’t make for kindle, I am finding out.

    It sounds very interesting. I will order from Amazon. There will just not be any immediate need satisfaction.

  15. JustinT

    For the first !$&/!$!! time in Tea Party history, I am calling for a Tea Party protest of the result of the Redskins game at %!#$!%! HALF TIME. All those who wish to protest the outcome of tonight’s contest, please attend the Tea Party protest on the Mall in DC. Footage of Mark Moseley’s game winner in the snow will be used to make it look like a movement.

  16. @Slowpoke Rodriguez
    That’s funny. I’ve never been involved in SCA, nor could I afford it.

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