Tag Archives: Winter Solstice

Midwinter, Minoan Style

x-knossos-throne-room-3

Minoan civilization lasted for a solid thousand years. As you might expect, their religion changed over that long period. Like their trading partners the Egyptians, the Minoans added new layers over time, creating an extensive and complex religious system that spanned the agricultural cycle and the calendar year. One of the sacred festivals that came later in Minoan times is the Winter Solstice.

In the earliest times, the Minoans celebrated the New Year around the Autumn Equinox, the beginning of the agricultural cycle in the Mediterranean – the time of plowing the fields and planting the crops, which grow throughout the mild winters in that region and are harvested in the spring. But eventually the Winter Solstice became its own kind of secondary New Year celebration. Instead of celebrating the cycle of the green growing things, it celebrated the ending and beginning of the solar year, which was embodied by Dionysus as the solar year-king who was annually reborn at Midwinter.

Yes, I know, Dionysus was originally an ecstatic vine-god, the spirit of the grape and the wine as well as a psychopomp for his people. But as I mentioned, the Minoans added layer upon layer to their religious beliefs and practices over the centuries. So the vine-god who died each year at the grape harvest in the late summer wasn’t considered to conflict with his face as the solar year-king who was born each year at the Winter Solstice. These were just two different aspects of a complex god.

Let’s not forget the other half of the Midwinter story. For a baby to be born, there must be a mother. For the Minoans, this was their great mother goddess Rhea, who was the sacred spirit of the island of Crete itself – their Mother Earth who rose up out of Grandmother Ocean at the beginning of time. Rhea has both a sacred birthing tree (a fir or pine tree beneath which she gave birth, with a star appearing in the sky above it as the infant Dionysus entered the world – this is also Dionysus’ sacred tree) as well as a sacred cave where she gave birth and where she hid her infant to keep him safe. Her sister, the goat-goddess Amalthea, nursed him while the Kouretes (probably originally a Minoan priesthood of Dionysus) guarded the cave, danced for the baby, and drowned out the sound of his cries with the clashing of their spears on their shields.

The Minoans didn’t have TV or movies, and most people probably didn’t own any kind of reading material, so their experience of religion came from public rituals and Mystery plays at the big temple complexes as well as their own private devotions at their home shrines. A few lucky people would have been invited to the Knossos temple complex to witness the Winter Solstice ritual there each year. It turns out, that chair in the “Throne Room” isn’t a throne at all, but a sacred seat where a priestess sat, playing the part of the goddess in rituals at Midsummer and Midwinter. At Midwinter, that seat (which was originally painted red) became Rhea’s birthing chair. The Midwinter sunrise cast a natural, magical spotlight on it as the infant Dionysus was born. That must have been an amazing experience, to be allowed to witness that ritual.

So each year, when I celebrate the Winter Solstice, I view our family’s Christmas tree also as Rhea’s birthing tree. And I look forward to the rebirth of the year-king with the first glimmers of sunrise on Midwinter Morning.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Winter Solstice/Christmas

Winter Solstice (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20 in the Southern Hemisphere) is the shortest day of the year and was also celebrated as Midwinter, Yule and later as Christmas.

I cannot help but wonder how the ancient people felt when the days grew shorter, the nights longer. They looked up in the sky, wondering at the sun’s great power to bring life to the earth and related it to a god. Without the scientific knowledge of how the earth rotates around the sun, it must have been frightening to think the sun might never reappear. It’s no wonder they created rituals on the shortest day of the year to bring back the Sun god.

Some of the earlier rituals involved animal, and possibly, human sacrifices. They also celebrated with holly, ivy, pine boughs, lighted trees (candles), warm beer and spiced wine drinks (wassail), roasted pigs, large Yule logs and large bonfires, songs and gifts in the hope that the sun would rise earlier and banish the cold, harsh winter. The traditions are still celebrated all over the world.

Later, Christianity incorporated the birth of Jesus into the celebration, naming him the new Sun god even though according to some historians, Jesus was most likely born in March or April. Here in the United States most people celebrate Christmas using some of the traditions of Winter Solstice.

In my house, we celebrate a combination of Winter Solstice and Christmas. I put up a Christmas tree and my Pagan Santa with his green cloak, staff and antlers. For me, this is a time to spend with family and friends, a time for sharing and a time for reflection. Each December I look forward to the end of winter and the beginning of a new season. Every ending is a beginning.

My latest release is a short, sweet, contemporary/paranormal romance called A Winter Solstice Kiss, which is part of the Winter Kisses anthology from Noble Romance.
Noble Romance Publishing http://www.nobleromance.com

Blurb: When Brianna decides to attend the Winter Solstice masquerade ball, she never thought she would end up kissing a handsome knight beneath the mistletoe, but they part without exchanging names and phone numbers–how will they find each other again?

Excerpt: She followed his gaze to mistletoe hanging from the low ceiling, glimmering with a tempting glow. Her breath caught in her throat. Captivated by his nearness, she imagined those masculine lips touching her. “I . . . .” Her feet froze to the floor. He had the most amazing blue eyes.
“It’s tradition,” he said, dipping his head and pressing a kiss to her trembling lips.
She couldn’t move her mouth at first, allowing his lips to capture her mouth in a thrilling crush. His forceful yet tender kiss awakened something inside her. She forgot who she was or that she was allowing a stranger’s lips to caress her. Her head spinning, she surrendered to him.
His hand cradled the back of her head and she was aware of the slight scratch of stubble tickling her face. The kiss grew more passionate and she almost dropped her cup, the only thing keeping their bodies from touching.
The heat from his skin sent a flush to every part of her body. Her breasts heaved and tingled. Excitement spread through the rest of her body, quickening her pulse. She wanted to stay there in his embrace, feeling a man’s lips giving her so much pleasure again.
“Okay guys, get a room already.” A reveler laughed and ducked into the bathroom.
She stepped away from the stranger, the magical moment broken. Blushing, she avoided eye contact with him.

Happy Yule, Winter Solstice, Midwinter and Christmas!

Kelley Heckart
‘Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic’
http://www.kelleyheckart.com
http://kelleysrealm.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/CelticChick
http://www.goodreads.com/kheckart
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelley-Heckart/111838455604
http://www.myspace.com/phantomqueen3
My book page at Awe-Struck
http://www.king-cart.com/Awe-Struck/category=Kelley+Heckart/exact_match=exact

Pagan Holiday for December 21, 2009

Pagan Day for Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday (moon day) is the day of the Moon Goddess, Selene, Luna, & Mani.

~

Mondays are an awesome day to take care of matters or magical rituals and spells concerning:

Traveling, memory, one’s instinct, sharpening or increasing Psychic abilities, dreams, healing, home, ancestors and of course, family.

~

Monday belongs to the Moon and the Element of Water

3 More days until Christmas…but hold onto your hats Pagans because there is ALOT to celebrate today…

Today we celebrate:

Winter Solstice which is the shortest day of the year.

The Norse gave us Yule, so many will be celebrating that. Yule marks the turning point of Winter. It also brings an end to the past year. Have you ever heard of a Yule log? Well today, its lighted but from the fire from this year’s past. Its symbolic and very important. It means that Winter’s darkness is making its journey towards the light of Spring.

Now, listen close because we learned how the Norse gave us Santa and we learned about how they gave us the whole tradition of decorating the Christmas or Yule Tree…now listen to how they gave us mistletoe and that whole ‘kissing thing’.

On this day, a Norse woman could proudly and loudly speak her intensions…her hearts desire…telling all the name of the lover she wanted. She would do this by standing under the mistletoe by calling him forth.  It is my guess that her words would be sealed with a kiss. *winks*

Now don’t run off yet because we have more CELEBRATIONS!!!!

On this day the Druids would celebrate their festival Alban Arthuan

Also known as Arthur’s Light, we see the birth of the spirit of giving. Yes, on this day Druids would give gifts to the less fortunate— (recognize that one?) While this was also believed to be Arthur’s birthday, it was also a beautiful day filled with traditions that we see or hope to see during our own present time.

Today is also the Fourth Station of the Year which means—a time of enlightenments, when the light is born in the darkness of the womb.

I hope everyone is noticing the pattern this month with all of our Ancestors celebrations and can connect that with the world known beliefs and myths adopted by Christianity, etc? If you didn’t catch this one…think the birth of Jesus who was believed to be the light of the world…a light from the darkness (womb). it also falls back to the whole Geneses thing when the Christian God takes the light from the darkness etc.

And last but certainly NOT least, Egyptians will hold a celebration for Isis & Osiris. Why?

Because on this day, Osiris returns to the world…resurrecting…Osiris—light—death—darkness—resurrection—reincarnation—birth of Jesus—soon to be the birth of Horus—Osiris’s son given to the world—in some minds—the reincarnation of Osiris himself– will come about on December 25th. Oh I could connect this stuff forever lol.

Despite that, may I wish you ALL (Pagan or non-Pagan) a Blessed Yule, & a wonderful Winter Solstice!!!!!!!

From all of us here at The Pagan & the Pen!!!!

C.H. Scarlett