by Gemma & Alex Hughes
The Male altar at Yule
The traditional feasting of yule is represented in the light box scene surrounded by mistletoe and holly. This greenery represents life in these dark days indicating good things to come and some traditions believe mistletoe represents / enhances male fertility.
The Female altar at Yule
Mistletoe is believed by some to have healing and protective qualities, and for this reason it adorns the head of the goddess statue. This plant has long been revered by Druids and other traditions as magical and sacred, borne between the earth and the heavens. During the cold winter months its vibrant green leaves and dazzling white berries grow in the bows of leafless trees. Many people hang mistletoe in their home all year round to ward off evils spirits, burning the old sprig and replacing it with a new one each Yule.
The winter solstice is not only the shortest day but also the longest night. In celebration of the night the spiral doll honours the moon goddess. Above her head she holds a moonstone and on her back the dark swirls represent the shadows on the other side of the moon.
The smudge fan represents the element of air, which Is honoured at this time of year by the Wheel of Avalon goddess tradition.
by Ruth Parham
The longest night, the shortest day. The still point of the darkest hours of winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to pause for three days at the southernmost stage of its journey along the horizon, before beginning its slow path back northwards, giving us an increase of light each day. At the moment of the Winter Solstice – which this year is at 21:47 on Wednesday 21st December – the North Pole of our planet is at its furthest from the sun.
Druids celebrate this moment at the festival of Alban Arthan, when the Sun Child is reborn. In the Goddess tradition, we honour Danu, Mother of Air, as well as the Cailleach or Veiled One – aspects of the Divine Feminine that express the awe of the deep starry sky, the dominion of winter and the duality of death and rebirth, creation and destruction. For thousands of years, as their monuments of stone bear witness, our ancestors watched, waited for and presumably celebrated the Winter Solstice as the rebirth of the sun.
They would have known that spring follows winter as surely as day follows night. Today we put up our small lights to brighten the darkness and bring the evergreens indoors to remind ourselves that the green flame of growth never truly dies. Warmth and light will return to the earth!
And yet, let’s not ignore the teachings of the darkness and the act of wintering. All of nature – which includes us – needs a time to slow down, pause, rest and restore itself, gathering energy for the active time of spring and summer. Finding a way to sit and watch a flickering fire, walking in your nearest open space and noticing the winter with all your senses, lighting a candle in a dark room and watching the interplay of light and shadow, or just allowing yourself to do less, when you can, and giving yourself that time to sit with your thoughts and notice what wants to come up… these are just a few ways in which to honour the cycles of nature in our own lives.
Come and visit us at Bristol Goddess Temple to connect with the sacred and yourself in our beautiful, warm space. All are welcome.
We wish you a blessed Winter Solstice, Yule and Christmas.