The Winter Solstice was important to many different cultures in times past. It really marked the passage of seasons and marked a time of celebration for the winter months, it was finally the time to rest at least in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it marked the time of summer and sunshine filled days.
The Solstice celebrations are a hard thing to put a time line on without knowing the exact date the Earth was born. But as far back as recorded history goes, the Winter Solstice, no matter which hemisphere you lived in, was an important event. For our purpose here, we will focus on what many pagans will participate in or have participated in for their celebrations around the world.
For many cultures of pagans, divination is a fun way to celebrate the Solstice. This was a popular activity in years past. Some of the methods of divination in years past might include scrying. With so many lakes and ponds freezing, they acted as a perfect “mirror” back in the day, especially when scrying under a full moon in the dead of night.
Many cultures used fire or candles to celebrate the coming of Winter. Once mirrors were created, two candles could be set to reflect their flames and enlightenment could be found by sitting and observing the reflections. Another way to celebrate the return of Light to the world, after the first early days of Winter, was to light a Yule log which was brought in from the woods many months ahead of the celebration. It was believed to help bring protection from harm to the family that had a Yule log within their home.
Some cultures would put their shoes lined up in a row together to signify harmony throughout the year. Others still would created an alter to their gods and goddesses and look for guidance for the coming year in dripping wax, or the drifting smoke of candles or bon fires. Some considered it bad luck to allow the candles or fires to burn out.
In the most ancient of times, the changing of seasons became a beacon of hope. During the winter cold it was a bleak hard time for peoples living so long ago. When the sun came up on the day after the Solstice it was a signal for hope that warmth and the growing of plants and foods would indeed return after the time of rest.
How did you celebrate your Solstice this year? Did you mark the day with presents? Did you celebrate the sun returning? Have you stored enough to last through the winter months? For pagans, it is an important time to recognize the need to relax and rest and celebrate the seasonal changes but also the time of rebirth. For magical practitioners of all cultures, it was and continues to represent a time to let go of old ways of thinking and living, and start new ways. Many celebrations will incorporate magical ritual to help people change their old ways and adopt new, more enlightened ways.
I hope everyone had a truly wonderful, loving holiday time with family and friends, without stress and worry, with good health and prosperity for all.