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Marking Midwinter’s day, Pagan beliefs – Gods the Goddess of the winter solstice

Midwinters day 2016 Nigel Borrington

Midwinters day 2016
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.

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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.

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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.

Other Gods

Saturn (Roman): Every December, the Romans threw a week-long celebration of debauchery and fun, called Saturnalia in honor of their agricultural god, Saturn. Roles were reversed, and slaves became the masters, at least temporarily. This is where the tradition of the Lord of Misrule originated

Alcyone (Greek): Alcyone is the Kingfisher goddess. She nests every winter for two weeks, and while she does, the wild seas become calm and peaceful.

Ameratasu (Japan): In feudal Japan, worshipers celebrated the return of Ameratasu, the sun goddess, who slept in a cold, remote cave. When the other gods woke her with a loud celebration, she looked out of the cave and saw an image of herself in a mirror. The other gods convinced her to emerge from her seclusion and return sunlight to the universe.

Baldur (Norse): Baldur is associated with the legend of the mistletoe. His mother, Frigga, honored Baldur and asked all of nature to promise not to harm him. Unfortunately, in her haste, Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, so Loki – the resident trickster – took advantage of the opportunity and fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hodr, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe. Baldur was later restored to life.

Bona Dea (Roman): This fertility goddess was worshiped in a secret temple on the Aventine hill in Rome, and only women were permitted to attend her rites. Her annual festival was held early in December.

Demeter (Greek): Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother in winter. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter’s grief caused the earth to die for six months, until her daughter’s return.

Dionysus (Greek): A festival called Brumalia was held every December in honor of Dionysus and his fermented grape wine. The event proved so popular that the Romans adopted it as well in their celebrations of Bacchus.

Holly King (British/Celtic): The Holly King is a figure found in British tales and folklore. He is similar to the Green Man, the archetype of the forest. In modern Pagan religion, the Holly King battles the Oak King for supremacy throughout the year. At the winter solstice, the Holly King is defeated.

Horus (Egyptian): Horus was one of the solar deities of the ancient Egyptians. He rose and set every day, and is often associated with Nut, the sky god. Horus later became connected with another sun god, Ra.

La Befana (Italian): This character from Italian folklore is similar to St. Nicholas, in that she flies around delivering candy to well-behaved children in early January. She is depicted as an old woman on a broomstick, wearing a black shawl.

Lord of Misrule (British): The custom of appointing a Lord of Misrule to preside over winter holiday festivities actually has its roots in antiquity, during the Roman week of Saturnalia.

Mithras (Roman): Mithras was celebrated as part of a mystery religion in ancient Rome. He was a god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.

Odin (Norse): In some legends, Odin bestowed gifts at Yuletide upon his people, riding a magical flying horse across the sky. This legend may have combined with that of St. Nicholas to create the modern Santa Claus.


A weekend Celebrating the Spring Equinox 2016 at Newgrange, Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland.

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Happy Spring Equinox 2016 to everyone …..

Yesterday Marked the start of spring time, so over the weekend I spent sometime visiting both Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Both perfect locations to gain a little understanding as to how our European pagan ancestors both recorded and celebrated the movement of the sun and universe they lived in.

It was exactly, one quarter of a year that had passed since the shortest day of the year, the day when at Newgrange the rising sun can be seen to travel all the way into the passage tomb at the centre of the monument.

The Spring equinox 2016 celebrating

Yesterday marked the arrival of spring, the date of the vernal equinox, or spring equinox as it is known in the northern hemisphere. Spring equinox. During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the sun. (Ref :Wikipedia)

This means the sun will rise exactly in the east and travel through the sky for 12 hours before setting in the exactly west.An equinox happens twice a year around March 20 and September 22 when the Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the sun.

For those in the southern hemisphere, this time is the autumnal equinox that is taking people into their winter.

Druids and Pagans like to gather at Stonehenge early in the morning to mark the Spring Equinox, to see the sunrise above the stones.

The Pagans consider this is the time of the ancient Saxon goddess, Eostre, who stands for new beginnings and fertility. This is why she is symbolized by eggs (new life) and rabbits/hares (fertility). Her name is also where we get the female hormone, oestrogen.

From Eostre also come the names “Easter” and “Esther” the Queen of the Jews, heroine of the annual celebration of Purim which was held on March 15. At Easter, Christians rejoice over the resurrection of Jesus after his death, mimicking the rebirth of nature in spring after the long death of winter.

It is also a time to cleanse your immune system with natural remedies. In Wiltshire and other parts of rural Britain it used to be tradition to drink dandelion and burdock cordials as the herbs help to cleanse the blood and are a good tonic for the body after a harsh winter.

Newgrange a Gallery

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The Autumnal equinox 2014 (Mabon)

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autumnal equinox 2014 over Slievenamon, County Tipperary
Irish Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

What is the autumnal equinox

Our year is divided into four season’s(Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn), the starting date of these seasons is determined by the movement of the sun as our planet orbits around it with a little help by the tilt of the earth’s axis.

On the autumnal equinox, day and night are equally 12 hours long . As the Sun crosses the celestial equator going southward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.

From tomorrow we start the slow movement towards the winter season, marked my the shortest day , the 21st of December.

Autumnal equinox in the Pagan world.

The holiday of the autumnal equinox, Harvest Home, Mabon, the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed (in Neo-Druid traditions), is a Pagan ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and the God during the coming winter months.

The name Mabon was coined by Aidan Kelly around 1970 as a reference to Mabon ap Modron, a character from Welsh mythology. Among the sabbats, it is the second of the three Pagan harvest festivals, preceded by Lammas / Lughnasadh and followed by Samhain.

Ref : Wheel of the Year