Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Midwinters day and the pagan goddess of the winter

Midwinters day 2013
The stone circle at Castlerigg
Landscape photography: Nigel Borrington

Today is Mid winters day or the Winter Solstice.

History and cultural significance

The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

That sun on Midwinters day 2013
The Solstice Sun set.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay’s redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia’s slave and master reversals.

Midwinters day 2013 CAILLEACH BHEUR

CAILLEACH BHEUR : The Celtic Goddess of winter

CAILLEACH BHEUR : Scottish, Irish, Manx, Great Goddess in her Destroyer aspect; called “Veiled One”. Another name is Scota, from which Scotland comes. In parts of Britain she is the Goddess of Winter. She was an ancient Goddess of the pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland. She controlled the seasons and the weather; and was the goddess of earth and sky, moon and sun.

19 responses

  1. You have extracted a whole wide range of tones in the stone circle picture. Simply marvelous. πŸ™‚

    December 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    • Hello πŸ™‚

      Thank you , The weather was just perfect to get some moody light and tones , Very pleased that you enjoyed !!! πŸ™‚

      December 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm

  2. I would love, some year, to be in Ireland on this very day. For this very reason.

    December 21, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    • Hello CM πŸ™‚

      You would be very welcome here and enjoy all the wonderful places Ireland has to offer, If you do plan to come I would be more that happy to help you with places to visit πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      December 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      • How wonderful of an offer! Thank you! We have been fortunate to be there before. Never on the solstice though. Our first trip we planned to the very hour. But after being there for a mere few hours we gave up on the plan and have just followed our hearts when there. We find it difficult to drive by anything that peaks our interest on the way to something else. We stop at EVERY THING! πŸ˜‰

        It would be wonderful to have someone who could show us the beautiful sights and secrets. πŸ™‚

        December 22, 2013 at 1:50 pm

  3. johanstellerphotography

    Perfect shot Nigel, love it!

    December 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    • Hello Johan πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you, Very pleased that you enjoyed and commented πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      December 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

  4. What a wonderful post Nigel – nicely done for the date. Stunning images – I particularly love that first one – just awesome, and really interesting information.

    December 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    • Hello Anne πŸ™‚

      Thank you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Very pleased that you enjoyed and found the post interesting , thank s for such a great comment πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      December 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

  5. This is just so good – perhaps some hdr but it is so difficult to get a good shot here with all the stones spread out –

    December 21, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    • Hello Diana πŸ™‚

      Thank you , very Happy that you liked the post!!!

      NO , No HDR !!!

      I don’t like it to be honest , I use old dark room printing method on the single raw file, but in Photoshop, using layer masks to select different area of the images by using the curves tool to get the exposure I want !!!

      Very pleased you like the post Diana, that you for your comment !!!

      December 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  6. I love how the Celtic Goddess of Winter is depicted. Informative post!

    December 22, 2013 at 12:33 am

    • Hello Elen, πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank’s for you like and comment πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Yes , great picture isn’t it !!!

      xxxx

      December 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  7. Beautiful images Nigel – the stone ring tones are fantastic. Very interesting history, too! Happy solstice to you!! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    December 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    • Hello Sharon πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you very pleased that you enjoyed and commented πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      xxxx

      December 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm

  8. Interesting post Nigel. Love the Castlerigg photo, have been there in the winter months, a very atmospheric and beautiful place.

    December 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm

  9. M. R.

    Nigel! – simply magnificent! Comhghairdeas!

    December 23, 2013 at 7:18 am

  10. Reblogged this on hocuspocus13.

    December 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

  11. Inese Poga Art plus Life

    Many of your pictures are incredibly beautiful!

    December 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm

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