When the days grew colder and the nights grew longer, people of ancient times would light candles and gather round fires to honor the return of the Sun in Spring, and set an energetic stage for manifestations of abundance and health. Traditionally, they would also commune to share gifts, as well as enjoy feasts and an array of festivities. Dances were danced and songs were sung and all would delight in decorating their homes and villages with garlands made from Mother Nature.
One of the most famous celebrations of Winter Solstice in the world today takes place in the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of Druids and Pagans gather there to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise, a ritual of gratitude for our Source of Light and Life. Druids, a pagan religious order dating back to Celtic Britain, believe the sacred geometric grid of Stonehenge has been an altar of spiritualism for the last 2,000 years.
“In connecting with the natural world in a way that honors the sacred immanent in all things, we establish a resonance with the seasons. Ritual helps to shift our consciousness to reflect the outer world inside our inner landscape: the sun stands still within us, and time changes. After the longest night, we sing up the dawn. There is a rejoicing that, even in the darkest time, the sun is not vanquished. Sol Invictus — the Unconquered Sun — is seen once again, staining the horizon with the promise of hope and brilliance.” -- Pagan author T. Thorn Coyle from her book "Evolutionary Witchcraft."
Global Photographer Charles Freger published this beautiful exhibit of photos titled "Wilder Mann" in the National Geographic this year in honor of the ancient traditions, and explained the transformations of humans into beasts that had been witnessed in 18 European countries during this time, as they were celebrations of fertility, life, and death and symbolized the complicated relationship between mankind and nature.
Yule comes from the old Norse jól and Old English géohol which was a season of hunting after the harvest was done. This fell in what we now call December so it eventually became associated with the Christmas holiday. The first recorded use of the noun Yuletide, according to Wikipedia, was in 1475. The Yuletide season lasted from the end of November to the beginning weeks of January but the feast of Yule lasted three days over the Winter Solstice and marked the beginning of the new year.
Yule Tree: An Important Holiday Symbol
The Yule Tree was and remains an important symbol for this Solstice. Originally, it represented the Tree of Life or the "World Tree" among early pagans. In ancient times it was decorated with gifts people wanted to receive from the gods. It was adorned with natural ornaments such as pine cones, berries and other fruit, as well as symbols sacred to the gods and goddess. In some holiday traditions, garlands of seeds and berries were strung around the tree so that visiting birds could feed off the tree as well.
We continue to bring evergreens indoors to symbolize this life, rebirth and renewal. Evergreen trees were thought to have power over death because their green never faded, and they were used to defeat winter demons and hold back death and destruction. Because of their strength and tenacity, they were also believed to encourage the Sun’s return.
The Yule Log: For Honor and Protection In the Home
The custom of burning the Yule Log began with the ancient Scandinavians who burned a huge log, which had fallen from an Ash tree, to honor their god Thor. In the Celtic tradition, a continual hearth fire was kept to prevent spirits from entering the home. In order for the fire to keep burning, a large Oak tree was brought to the ground and into the home where the tree was placed trunk first into the hearth, with the last remnants set aside to burn with next year’s fire. It is common today to use a shard of the yule log from the previous year to ignite the fresh Yule log.
Wreaths were also traditional in ancient times for they symbolized the wheel of the year and the completion of another cycle. They were made of evergreens and adorned with cones and berries and hung as decoration throughout the home. They were also given as gifts to symbolize the infinity of goodwill, friendship and joyfulness. 🤗
Bells were often rung during the Winter Solstice to drive away demons and all negative manifestations that surfaced during the dark time of the year. They were rung in the morning as everyone began to wake to chase away the darkness and herald in the warmer, brighter days following solstice. At the Dragon Herbarium, there is a unique selection of bells and decorative hanging garlands to choose from to bless your home this holiday!
Mistletoe, which is often described as embracing the female element of nature, holds much importance as it was traditionally used by Druid priests in special ceremonies during the Winter Solstice. They believed that its green leaves represented the fertility of the Mother Goddess, and its white berries, the seed of the Forest God or Oak King. Druids would harvest the mistletoe from sacred oak trees with golden scythes and maidens would gather underneath the trees to catch the falling branches, preventing them from falling to the ground; for if this happened, it was believed that all sacred energy in the plant would pour back into the earth. The branches and sprigs were then divided and distributed to be hung over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. Mistletoe was especially hung in the home at Yule tide, and all Souls passing under are called (sovereignly, of course) to exchange a kiss of peace! Dragon Bob was lucky enough to happen across some fresh Mistletoe this Solstice, and has blessed us with a beautiful gift at the shop for all of us and our customers to share in the magic! We also sell organic Mistletoe here at the Herbarium if you would like to make a Mistletoe tea or tonic for its medicinal characteristics! 🌿🙏
Herbs for Winter Solstice
Herbs of Winter Solstice traditionally are Cedar, Bay, Blessed Thistle, Chamomile, Frankincense, Holly, Juniper, Mistletoe, and Pine. Belief in magic was an integral part of spiritual beliefs- as it still is in many places today, especially at the Dragon Herbarium. any of these herbs have been described to have a higher consciousness of nature embedded within their essence. Belief in magic was an integral part of spiritual beliefsa, as it still is in many places today, especially here at the Dragon Herbarium. ✨🕯🔮
Cedar leaf was placed strategically about the hearth and home. It was also taken as a tea for cough and weakness of the heart.
Bay brought the light of summer into the darkest days. Bay leaf and berry was made into salves for healing and into teas for bathing.
Blessed Thistle was used for protection. As utilized today, It has also been known to support liver function.
Chamomile Flowers have and continues to bring the power of the sun to our minds, bodies, and Souls. Chamomile tea, soothes the digestive system as well as calms the nerves and muscles. We sell a lovely blend by Mountain Goddess Herbs, called Sleep Well, an employee favorite for relaxing both the body and the mind.
Frankincense “tears” are the resinous drops from the Boswellia tree, which were traditionally burned for protection and purification. Frankincense powdered and in tea was used for helping to control fevers, vomiting and dysentery.
Juniper was also used to purify and protect, such as with many of these herbs. Diuretic effects of Juniper berry in tea, jam, or syrup have aided with digestion and inflammation.
Pine boughs festooned the doors, halls and hearth. Evergreen, the Pine was the “tree of peace.” High in vitamin C as well as a broad spectrum of beneficial terpenes. Terpenes give each herb, flower, and plant its unique smell and taste as well as enhance the health effects by influencing how we process certain medicinal compounds. Pine syrup has been used to alleviate respiratory problems for many years. Pine oil as well has proven to be useful for painful joints and for chest colds.
Stones for Solstice Support
A few of the gemstones traditionally associated with this holiday are Rubies, Bloodstones, Garnets, Emeralds, Snowflake Obsidian, and Snow Quartz, all of which can be found on the gem wall at Dragon Herbarium. 💎
Bloodstone: A powerful healing stone, Bloodstone is known for grounding properties. Holding a wide range of color frequencies between red and green, this stone can be helpful for enhancing our courage as well as higher love into any situation.
Garnet: A stone of fire and vitality, Garnet has also been used in Winter Solstice celebrations for a long period of time. An ancient talisman, Garnet is a stone that helps one to use their creative energy to create new life, to complete goals with enthusiasm.
Ruby: A traditional stone that has been used as part of the Winter Solstice celebrations for millennia, Ruby is a stone of passion, prosperity, and protection. A good stone to manifest intentions for the upcoming New Year.
Snowflake Obsidian: A stone that will help you to find a balance between light and dark, especially for those who have difficulties with the long nights of winter. This is also a stone that helps with inner reflection and helps by bringing things to the surface that must be addressed so you can move forward in your life.
Snow Quartz: Representing the purity of winter, Snow Quartz is Known for its ability to foster soothing energy and bring about calm, and is often used to help with purification on a spiritual level.
💕 However you, your family and friends may choose to celebrate this holiday season, we wish you all the best in health and happiness that life may offer! Merry Solstice! 💕
1. Ellen Evert Hopman, "A DRUID’S HERBAL" (sold here at the Dragon Herbarium!
2. Daniela Masaro, "Traditions and Symbols of Yule" Sacred Earth Journeys, Dec 22, 2011
3. T. Thorn Coyle, "Evolutionary Witchcraft," Tarcher Publishing, October 7, 2004