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Celebrate the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the Sun and our dreams will now grow with the light, as we journey towards becoming more active again.

Winter Solstice is an invitation to slow down and move inwards. Animals are already hibernating: ants and ladybirds burrowing deep into tree trunks to find rest; badgers, squirrels and hedgehogs gathering resources together to go deep underground. Every season has its own intelligence and as we move towards the darkest time of the year, we are invited to witness these changes, like the bare trees standing still, silhouetted against the winter sky. The Earth is steady and stable, the root energy is being strengthened. It’s a time to get grounded and feel safe and secure. You can really experience this stillness, especially when the weather is cold, as ponds and lakes begin to freeze over. Everything feels just a little quieter in the natural world. Yet animals still follow their cycles, geese fly home to their evening resting place a little earlier every evening, just before the light fades. The Earth and all its creatures are wintering.

Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals celebrated by the Saxons and Vikings. It’s a time to celebrate the return of the light, a natural part of the wheel of the year, which never stops turning. The ancient people understood instinctively that cycles of life are deeply embedded into our existence and the old must die for the new to be reborn. In many cultures, this means that the god who ripened the harvest at must now be sacrificed back to the land, to Mother Earth. Fire was also important to keep the light and warmth going on the shortest day of the year. Logs of ancient oak, sacred native trees, were placed on the fire to burn slowly. Oak is said to represent courage, endurance, and a doorway to inner strength. Rituals help soothe us and can be beneficial to both heart and mind. Perhaps this year as you are watching the fire, you might observe the flames and enjoy their brightness and warmth. Think what you would like to burn away from the last year; thoughts, feelings about past events. Release them into the fire and let them burn. You could also write on small pieces of paper and put these in the fire, to clear space and make room for what you would like to bring in in the New Year and restore direction in your life.

I also love the stories of the holly and the ivy, both evergreens. These native trees have long been part of Yuletide and Christmas mythology. The holly represents life, recovery, restored direction and goodwill, whilst ivy trails and goes where it will, representing the search for the self and the freedom to follow your own path. They are twisted together into wreaths, with the holly’s red berries reminding us that, though we slow may down in winter, we are alive. Evergreen holly is a powerful symbol of strength, justice and steadfastness and the Holly King is said to protect the natural world when it most needs it. Holly is also said to bring transformation. Its element is fire, the power of the will to change for the good of all. Ivy is said by some to represent peace, perhaps because it can bind different kinds of plants together. It is said to have grown around the altar of Hymenaios, the Greek god of Marriage and was often presented to the bride and groom as symbol of everlasting life, devotion, fidelity and loyalty.

As you look into the fire, maybe pondering on old myths and stories that still resonate today, it is time to dream a new dream and focus on what good has come from this year. It’s a time to pause, look back and reflect, as the wheel also appears to pause. The solstice will last for 3 days of long nights and darkness but soon we will be moving back into the light. Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the Sun and our dreams will now grow with the light, as we journey towards becoming more active again.

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