Invoking the Holly King

Greenman Comments & Graphics=

Today we do bid Hail to our beloved Holly King
With these ancient carols, we do again sing
He who is called Father Christmas is returning yet again
As the Solstice’s longest night has finally begun
We await you, Santa Claus, Lord of Winter
To honor you on this day that you always were
Saint Nicholas, patron of children on Gaia’s sphere
This invocation, we pray you do hear
Come bless us, upon this season of the Yuletide
Great Holly King as you fly upon your sleigh ride
Whether your gifts to us be physical or spiritual
We know that they will always be most magical
Grateful, because we know your blessings’ great worth
We offer a blessing of our own — Peace on Earth!

by Ginger Strivelli

Gypsy Magic

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The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

Early Solstice Celebration

The original reason for the season is the Winter Solstice. Solstice is a word from the Latin that meaning “stands still”. For six days at this time, the sun appears to stand still on the horizon. This was a time of uncertainty and mystery as people wondered if indeed the sun would return. When it did year and year again, festivals grew up in just about every place and culture. Even today in our modern indoor society the Solstice continues to be a time of celebration across the world. The theme of light emerging from darkness is universal at this time of year.

In primitive societies the priests and shamans were most certainly the astronomers. Knowledge of the mathematical calculations needed to calculate the time of the Solstices would be seen as high magic in these cultures. From New Grange in Ireland to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, to the great solar temples of Egypt, peoples developed elaborate sacred sites to track the movement of the Sun across the sky and to note the times of the Solstices. Stonehenge is the most famous of the solar calculators and its construction is one of the great unsolved mysteries.

The celebration of Horus or Ra the Sun in ancient Egypt involved decorating with greenery especially palm branches with twelve fronds and directly linked the Sun God to the natural rhythms of the Sun in the sky.

The Solstice time in Babylon was Zagmuk. The Babylonians incorporated their Sun god Marduk who defeated the Monsters of Chaos during this dark and shadowy time. This holiday introduced the idea of the struggle between good and bad; continued today in the magical persona of a Santa Claus who uses the granting of presents or coal and switches to judge children.

The festival of Sacaea continued this theme. The Persians and later the Greeks celebrated the reversal of order that was stirred up by Kallikantzaroi, mischievous imps who roamed about during the twelve days of Sacaea. These imps had a darker side than the elves Santa associates with today.

In Rome the major festival for this time of year was Saturnalia, the birthday of the Roman God Saturn. This festival was celebrated from December 17-24. This holiday included pig sacrifice and gift exchange and was followed by the Kalends an early January celebration of the New Year where houses were decorated with greenery and lights. Both of which are usually still up on New Year’s Day in modern America.

The Norse, largely independently arrived at a similar holiday that bears the closest resemblance to the modern celebrations and unlike the Celts and many others, made this a major holiday. We can thank them for the word Yule that still is used interchangeably with Christmas by many contemporary persons. We can also thank them for the traditions of caroling, the Yule log and the first custom of bringing an entire evergreen into the house. It is fitting that this would be a major holiday for those who lived so far north that the winter nights literally swallowed the days in the time directly before Solstice.

Modern Solstice Celebrations

Christmas: The earliest record of a Christmas celebration was in Rome in 336 CE. Pope Liberus in 354 CE placed the holiday on December 25. The Armenian Church still celebrates on Jan 6. The holiday remains an almost universal celebration around the World. Many people participant in the cultural elements of Christmas to a much greater extent than the religious. Unfortunately Christmas has come to represent consumerism in our society with many stores and businesses dependent on large sales this time of year. Many Christians are trying to reestablish the religious aspects of the season by moving away from large scale elaborate gifting and returning to homemade and personal services gifting. Many see this as an environmental imperative as well as a religious one. There is also a movement towards joint celebrations with many other spiritual seasonal celebrations to allow us all to experience the diversity of spiritual experience as well as the Christian teachings of peace and good will towards all.

But even as Christmas seems to be everywhere it is important to remember that other solar festivals remain and new ones have been established.

Pagan Yule: The word Yule is from the Scandinavian word Jul meaning ‘wheel’. Many pagans honor the turning wheel at this time. Many Wiccans honor the theme from the Celts: they see Yule as the time of battle between the aging Holly King and the young Oak King. Others may use the Greek myth of Persephone and the Underworld to enact the theme of dark giving way to light. Still others see the waning God passing to the waxing Goddess.

For many Wiccans Yule is a lesser Sabot: with Beltane and Samhain being more significant. Common celebrations involve all night bon fires, Yule log rituals, and rituals celebrating the return of the light with large numbers of candles. Drumming, chanting and ecstatic dancing are often a part of these rituals as they tend to be in all Wiccan and Neo-Pagan rituals. Many Norse Pagans or the other hand see Yule as the major festival, a time for swearing oaths, toasting and boasting.

Solstice/ Midwinter Night: Celebrated by many neo-Pagans, New Agers, and even by some atheists we see new traditions are arising out of the old. They may borrow liberally from many older traditions and add to them with new traditions. It may be elaborate ritual or a simple bonfire to celebrate the returning sun. It may have religious or spiritual connotations or it may just be a cultural celebration. People are finding old and new ways to celebrate with friends and family.

Hanukkah (Chanukah) : This eight day festival of lights celebrates a victory by a small Jewish army, led by Judah Maccabee over the Assyrian Greeks in the second century BC. After regaining their right to worship in the temple they had only enough sacred oil to last a short time. Myth has it that the oil miraculously burned for eight days straight. The festival is celebrated by lighting the menorah candles each night until all are lit. Gifts are exchanged and seasonal food shared. Gelt, which is chocolate or real money, is often given. A dreidel or four-sided top is also a popular gift and game to be played. Latkes or potato pancakes are often served.

Kwanzaa. This modern holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an American academic to celebrate the African roots of Afro-Americans. The word is from Swahili and translated to ‘first fruits’. Seven candles, one black and three each of red and green are lit each night for the seven principles of Kwanzaa. These principles are Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Other symbols are the colors of red (struggle) black (unity) and green (future) from flag created by Marcus Garvey at the beginning of the century, the unity cup, the candleholder for the candles, which is called the Kinara

Common Elements of Solstice Celebrations

Child of Wonder, Child of Light

A great many of the winter solstice festivals celebrate the birth of a wonder child. The child, especially a magical child represents hope and rebirth embodied.

The child is almost always a male and is often the result of a non-ordinary birth. The divine feminine is usually embodied in the birth and the Madonna/goddess image of fertility is often a part of the symbology.

Osiris, the Egyptian Sun god underwent death, dismemberment and resurrection yearly with the travels of the Sun and the rise and fall of the Nile River and thus the fertility of the area. In his guise as Horus he was the sun as well as the son. Pictured sitting on the lap of his mother Isis, his portrait is very reminiscent of the Christian Madonna with child images and is one of the earliest children of promise.

In ancient Greek myth the son god Attis was born in a cave around the time of Solstice and was the son of the Goddess Cybel or Isis. Attis grew to full strength with the sun and was yearly cut down to be reborn.

While Saturn was the sun god for whom Saturnalia, the great Roman solar festival was celebrated for, another god Mithras who was worshiped well (6th Century BC) before but then contemporarily (second century BC to fifth century CE) with Jesus. Mithras was also born in a cave of a virgin and later went through death and resurrection. Because Mithras was worshiped by Emperor Constantine before his conversation to Christianity he may be a more direct influence on the Christian story as well as the date since Mithras’ birthday was celebrated on December 25.

Even in North American among the Huron along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, a child of wonder named Deganawidah was born of a virgin. This child was sent by the Great Spirit as a messenger to bring peace to humankind. He traveled among the tribes and is credited with founding the Iroquois Confederacy. It is believed that he too will return to Earth at the time of greatest need. This is a clear parallel to the return of King Arthur and the Second Coming of Chris and would indicate that the story is an archetypal myth shared by humans all around the world.

Santa and other Father Winters

Is Santa a Shamanic concept? Many pictures of northern Shaman are very similar to woodland Santas — both ancient and modern. He appears in long fur robes, often with Bells and is often an older man. The Shaman works both in the spiritual realm and in the material sphere. The Shaman climbed the world tree to bring back gifts of spiritual knowledge as well as calling the herds to supply food and materials for the material lives of his people. Often he went up the smoke hole, the early chimney at night probably in trance, possibly with the herd of reindeer that supported his clan.

Like the Shaman, Santa embodies magic and mystery, the spirit of nature as well as universal human values of caring and generosity. The word Shaman is a Siberian word and this is the land of the reindeer. In his Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell describes a legendary Shaman who received his enlightenment in the nest of a winged reindeer in a tree, which was thought to reach the heavens.

There were also Goddesses who rode sleighs and delivered gifts. The Norse goddess Freya rode a chariot pulled by stags.

The life and legends of the Christian St. Nickolas continues the magic of the Shaman. As a young man St. Nickolas traveled to the holy land and on his way back was blown around in a storm and ended upon the coast of Lyca near Myra. He went to pray at the nearest church where the bishop was retiring. One member of the convocation (committee) to choose a new Bishop had had a vision that the new Bishop would be coming to the church and his name would be Nickolas. Arriving as he did the boy was made Bishop of Myra. After serving a prison term under the Romans, young St. Nickolas participated in the decision of Pope Liberus to make Dec 25 the official date of the birth of Christ and the celebration of Christmas. He was a generous man who gave much to the poor of Myca through out the year but especially around Christmas. He was also a Christian Shaman whose miracles that lead to his sainthood was bring back to life and form three boys who had been chopped up and boiled in a pot for stealing.

Modern Santas: Our modern image of Santa in a red suit can be traced to Thomas Nast, an amazing commercial artist of the 19th century. He developed Santa for President Lincoln as well as the Donkey and Elephant of the Democrats and Republicans. His illustration was used in New Yorker publication of Clement Moore’s famous poem, T’was the Night Before Christmas.

Coca Cola: Haddon Sunblom popularized most common image of the modern global culture in 1931.

Contemporary Santas: Even today the image of Santa grows and expands to fill hopes and dreams of all children. Modern Santas of all races and nationalities join woodland and other artist Santas to adorn homes and businesses. Woodland Santas stand on store shelves beside Santas who play golf, surf, and just about any activity you can imagine. Some even have electronic movement and sound.

Evergreens: The obvious symbol of eternal life, green when all else is barren and brown. Evergreens were probably held sacred very early in human prehistory. Again the palm fronds in Egypt and the greening during the Kalends are recorded examples.

The Christmas tree: In the sixth century it is said that the Christian St. Boniface cut down a sacred oak to spite local druids. As the tree fell, it crushed everything in its path except one cedar. He declared it a miracle and that the tree belonged to the Christ child. This is often cited as an example of cultural assimilation of Pagan religious symbology for political purposes.

Hanging of the greens: Decorating with evergreens was first noted in Egypt. It was also popular during the roman Saturnalia and Kalends. The Norse also brought in evergreens for decoration during the long snowy winters. Where Christmas is celebrated, the evergreens are often used to mark the start of the season, which is longer than any of the preceding cultures, now beginning shortly after Halloween and withering out sometime in middle January, marked mainly by clearance sales.

Holly: A symbol from the Celts, the male symbol of rebirth is again an evergreen, this time with red berries. A plant of protection, holly is the symbol of the god of the dark year.

Mistletoe: Mistletoe may have first been used in the Greek winter ceremonies. The Norse legend said it was blessed with luck and fertility by the goddess Frigga after Balder, her son, was shot by Loki, the dark and mischievous imp god, with an arrow of mistletoe. Her tears restored him to life and fell also on the mistletoe giving it magical properties. Mistletoe was also sacred to the Druids. As it dried, it became the golden bough, symbolic of both sun and moon, of the male and female mysteries.

Winged Goddesses, Angels and Elves: These range from representations of the Goddess Iris to the Catholic Holy Spirits. From the many spirits of the holy host to Santa’s magical elves these winged fairies bring another element of the mischievous imps to our Solstice season.

Madonna: The female remains firmly in the season, firmly eternal throughout the turning of the wheel, the force of nature herself. Her consort, son, partner going through continual birth and rebirth is the wonder child.

Yule log: This harks back to the importance of fire during the darkness of winter. A whole tree was burned during the Greek festival of Sacaea to scar away the Kallikantzuroi (mischievous imps) . The familiar Yule log was a Norse tradition adopted by the Christians. In early America there was a custom “freedom of the Yule, ” a week off for slaves and savants while the Yule log burned. “Firewood as wet as a Yule log” was a saying that this custom generated.

These are many of the ancient legends of the Solstice, which have been important in the development of our modern holiday celebration. As modern spiritual seekers we are borrowing from and saving the old ways while we create new ways. We take what is significant to us and add to it, creating personal, family and community traditions. There are kids, stories, and magick as the Sun and Son once again returns!

Drawing Down the Power of the Sun Goddess or God

Drawing Down The Power of the Sun Goddess or God

 

In witchcraft, as you know, there is a ceremony known as ‘drawing down the moon’ in which the High Priestess takes into herself the power and wisdom of the Moon. In some traditions the power of the Sun is called down by the High Priest at the beginning of the Esbat or monthly celebration and on other major seasonal ceremonies into the Priestess. There is another ceremony where Sun power is called down into the Priest by the High Priestess or into herself, especially at seasonal solar change points such as the Equinoxes or Solstices.

However, in both cases, whether you work alone as a witch or in a coven or practice less formally, you can at any time of the day or year call into yourself the strength, fertility and joy of your chosen Sun God or Goddess.

At dawn:  Draw down the powers of the rising Sun for a new beginning or for a fresh approach or for optimism or inspiration

At noon:  Plug into the rush of pure life and light force for a make or break situation or to spur yourself on if you are tired or dispirited – or for sudden illumination.

At dusk.  The Sun consoles, heals and harmonizes desperate demands or people and draws gentle abundance to you.

How to Make a Yule Log

How to Make a Yule Log

By , About.com Guide

 

As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the days get shorter, the skies become gray, and it seems as though the sun is dying. In this time of darkness, we pause on the Solstice (usually around December 21st, although not always on the same date) and realize that something wonderful is happening.

On Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days, it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place… and then the amazing, the wonderful, the miraculous happens. The light begins to return.

The sun begins its journey back to the north, and once again we are reminded that we have something worth celebrating.  In families of all different spiritual paths, the return of the light is celebrated, with Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, bonfires, and brightly lit Christmas trees. On Yule, many Pagan and Wiccan families celebrate the return of the sun by adding light into their homes. One of our family’s favorite traditions – and one that children can do easily – is to make a Yule log for a family-sized celebration.

A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

Because each type of wood is associated with various magickal and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.

In our house, we usually make our Yule log out of pine, but you can make yours of any type of wood you choose. You can select one based on its magickal properties, or you can just use whatever’s handy. To make a basic Yule log, you will need the following:

  • A log about 14 – 18” long
  • Pinecones
  • Dried berries, such as cranberries
  • Cuttings of mistletoe, holly, pine needles, and ivy
  • Feathers and cinnamon sticks
  • Some festive ribbon – use paper or cloth ribbon, not the synthetic or wire-lined type
  • A hot glue gun

 

All of these – except for the ribbon and the hot glue gun — are things you and your children can gather outside.  You might wish to start collecting them earlier in the year, and saving them.  Encourage your children to only pick up items they find on the ground, and not to take any cuttings from live plants.

Begin by wrapping the log loosely with the ribbon. Leave enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon. In our house, we place five feathers on our Yule log – one for each member of the family. Once you’ve gotten your branches and cuttings in place, begin gluing on the pinecones, cinnamon sticks and berries. Add as much or as little as you like. Remember to keep the hot glue gun away from small children.

Once you’ve decorated your Yule log, the question arises of what to do with it. For starters, use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table. A Yule log looks lovely on a table surrounded by candles and holiday greenery.

Another way to use your Yule log is to burn it as our ancestors did so many centuries ago. In our family, before we burn our log we each write down a wish on a piece of paper, and then insert it into the ribbons. It’s our wish for the upcoming year, and we keep it to ourselves in hopes that it will come true.

If you have a fireplace, you can certainly burn your Yule log in it, but we prefer to do ours outside. We have a fire pit in the back yard, and on the night of the winter solstice, we gather out there with blankets, mittens, and mugs full of warm drinks as we burn our log. While we watch the flames consume it, we discuss how thankful we are for the good things that have come our way this year, and how we hope for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next.

 

About.com Guide

 

Welcome, Darkest Night

Welcome, Darkest Night

by Janice Van Cleve

 

I love this season of growing dark. The night starts earlier to cast its blanket of quiet and peace upon the land and calls me to wrap up what I am doing. Early darkness coaxes me to sit down to supper at six o’clock instead of nine, so I can digest properly before I go to sleep.  Longer nights delay the prodding light of morning, so I can grab a few more winks. It encourages me to work more efficiently with the daylight that I do have. The dark time of the year is a healthy time for me.

It is a healthy time for plants and animals as well. Perennials focus on building up their root systems during the dark time, and annuals spread their seeds. Leaves fall to the ground to be leached and composted into next year ‘s soil. Animals feast on the yield of crops and orchards and store up surplus to see them through the winter and spring. In the dark time, all nature refocuses on renewing itself, sloughing off that which is no longer necessary and nurturing the best for the new year.

For northern tribes who lived where night falls longest and deepest, the dark time of the year was a time of great creativity. Bards honed their songs and added new verses for the entertainment and education of their audiences. Farmers turned to woodworking to fashion furniture or to decorate the interiors of their homes. Tradespeople made cloth, tools, jewelry, clothes and other goods to sell the merchants when they returned in the spring. Cooks became more and more inventive as the darkness lingered and the variety in the larder grew more limited. Even today, most school and university classes are scheduled for the winter months. In the business world, new product releases from software to movies to automobiles are debuted during this time.

In short, the dark time of the year is a busy, industrious and very creative time for nature and for human activity. So why in modern society does it get such a bad rap? The ancients certainly figured out that spring followed winter every year, and they used their skills to create solstice calculators like Stonehenge to predict how much more winter they had left. Were they really immobilized in fear of the dark, waiting for solstice to give them hope of spring? Or, on the other hand, did they grumble at solstice that they only had a few more months to play, eat, sing and finish their carvings before they had to get back out and work the farm again? Ancient peoples, after all, did not create surpluses for profit or a year-round global economy. They simply raised enough to sustain themselves so they could devote their time to crafts and play.

Perhaps it was the new religion of Christianity that tried to separate light from dark, exalting the former and disparaging the latter. Perhaps it was Christians’ idea to create fear of the dark so they could make light seem like a sort of salvation. However, nature doesn’t seem to need saving from anything, except from human greed. Nature goes on, year after year, with summer and winter alternating appropriate to the latitude. Nature values the dark time as much as the light and uses both to its advantage. The dark time is healthy and wholesome. It is as necessary for life as rain and sun, decay and bacteria.

And so it is appropriate that our pagan new year starts with Samhain, the beginning of the darkest time of the year. We rest before we work. We focus inwardly before we focus on the wider world. We sleep, we feast, we meditate, and we renew ourselves so that when spring’s light returns and calls us to next year’s work we can respond with new health and strength. These are gifts of the dark time. We are fortunate to have them!

Calendar of the Sun for June 22

22 Lithemonath

LITHA – SUMMER SOLSTICE

Colors: Yellow and gold
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon cloth of yellow and gold light eight yellow candles, incense of cedar and bay, many yellow flowers, a golden chalice of mead, another of citrus fruit juice, and as many figures of the sun as you can find or make. A great sun on a pole should be brought in procession, and one man should stand before the altar with it, and read the call and response.
Offerings: Open the House to others to share the ritual, or take it elsewhere. Like all the great high holidays, this ritual should be shared with the greater community.
Daily Meal: Yellow and orange food of any kind.

(Four who have been chosen to do the work of the ritual come forward and cast the quarters.)

North Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the North,
Guardian of the Earth!
Whose name is the Great Bear,
Whose name is Midnight Star,
Whose name is Sleep of Winter
Whose name is Constancy.

West Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the West,
Guardian of the Waters!
Whose name is the Salmon of Knowledge,
Whose name is Edge of Twilight
Whose name is Autumn Rain
Whose name is Yielding.

South Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the South,
Guardian of the Fire!
Whose name is the Coiled Dragon,
Whose name is High Noon
Whose name is Summer Solstice,
Whose name is Fervor.

East Caller: All hail the Standing Stone of the East,
Guardian of the Air!
Whose name is Hawk in Flight,
Whose name is Light of Dawn,
Whose name is Equinox,
Whose name is Wanderer.

One steps forward and pours a libation of mead onto the ground, and says:

Accept this offering, O sun above us, whose golden rays pour down and give us Life, and yet can give Death if we do not take care. Teach us to glory in your generosity and yet respect your power. Do not desert us, but burn forever in our souls.

Call and Response:
All Hail the longest day!
We have slept away the shortest night,
We have watched the wheel turn
From early darkness to early light.
All hail the highest moment of the year!
Come forth Sun and shine upon us!
Let nothing cloud your brilliance!
Let nothing cloud your light!
Let all your veils of rain be cast away!
Come forth and give us life, O Sun!
We stand where our ancestors stood,
We hail you on the day they hailed you,
We follow in their footsteps!
Hail Apollo of the golden chariot,
Hail Lugh Sun-Face of many talents,
Hail Ra who battles serpents each night,
Hail Amaterasu Omikami, mother of emperors!
Take joy in the morning rays!
Take joy in the noon heat!
Take joy in the sunset colors!
Take joy! Take joy! Take joy!

(One steps forward and says:)

Never forget that we live because our world, our green Gaea, is the right distance away from the Sun’s power. Further away and we would be robbed of its lifegiving rays; further in and we would be burned to death by them. Never forget that life depends on the right amount of closeness and distance. Ponder this as you go your ways, and remember it every time you look up at the Sun above you.

(Another steps forward and says:)

For this is the time of the Sun’s highest glory, and like Him, we will fade and decline, and then be reborn new. For this is the way of the Universe: unending cycles within cycles. Rather than praying for an end to things, see it rather as a source of comfort that all dies and is reborn, and so nothing truly dies forever, and so nothing ever truly ends.

Song: Oak and Ash and Thorn

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Daily Feng Shui Tip for June 20 – ‘National Daylight Appreciation Day’

It figures that ‘National Daylight Appreciation Day’ would fall on the same day as the Summer Solstice, the one day of the year when the sun is at its zenith. This is also considered a magical night when maintaining your own blaze can bring plenty of blessings to your household. Many years ago, huge communal solstice fires were lit to celebrate the lingering light of the day. On this night you can light up your own life by literally burning the midnight oil or an orange or yellow candle. Burn until the clock strikes twelve in order to get the most of the magic. This is also considered a fine night for mining mystical messages in your dreams. One way to do that is to pick nine flowers and place them under your pillow. Ancient lore also says that you can sleep with mistletoe under your head if you want your sweet dreams come true. You will still be able to receive important messages on this night even without flowers or herbs, so keep a pad and pen handy and then sleep perchance to dream on this midsummer night!