Winter Solstice!

Winter begins (in the northern hemisphere). The Sun is at its lowest point in the sky and it will be the shortest day of the year. Sun enters sign of Capricorn (the Goat). This is a time to celebrate the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter in the northern hemisphere. The ancient pagan custom began the day with a sunrise ritual, with the ringing of bells or chimes, then visits with friends and family to exchange warm greetings and gifts. It is a joyous, colorful festival accented with singing, feasting, evergreen wreaths, candles, Yule trees, mistletoe, holly, and burning Yule logs. A celebration of the darkness with dancing near the hearth fire.

Yule is important not only for its spiritual and symbolic meaning but also for its social activities. Before modern communications the time around Yule was a period when travel was easier. The demands of harvest are over and there is now little work on the land, so people now have time to travel between hamlets. It is also the time of the first hard frosts of winter, turning paths made muddy by autumn rains into hard going that could be easily walked, whilst still being too early for the heavy snow that would make such paths impassable. So the season of Yule was a season for visits between covens and the giving of gifts and tribute.

The key meaning the winter solstice festivities for Pagans is that this is the time of celebration for the rebirth of the Sun God. Paganism embraces an animistic Gnostic belief. An important aspect of this is the concept of the Godforce that pervades all natural things. This means all natural things contain something of the sacred, there is some aspect of the lifeforce within them. It is broken down into manageable units that display distinct personalizations that we can relate to. At the top of this hierarchy is the Goddess and the God, the All Mother and the All Father. Of these, it is the Goddess that all life comes from - the female form. Lesser aspects of the Goddess and the God are seen in all aspects of nature and the natural cycle. At Yule it is the Year God, as personified in the sun, whose rebirth is celebrated. Yule is the end of the reign of the Dark Queen. Her period of ascendancy started with the Pagan new year, Samian, the Feast of the Dead. The feast starts on the 31st of October with the Rites of the Dead. The god is dead and we await his rebirth at the winter solstice. This is the point in the solar cycle that the hours of darkness are at their longest. After this the days start to get longer, the god is reborn. In this cycle of the sun is represented the circle of reincarnation, of birth, death and rebirth. The concept of reincarnation is an important point of Pagan belief. Yule is a celebration of the cycle of rebirth. It is this triumph of life over death that is core to the Pagan celebration.

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