The Longest Night
The Winter Solstice is an astronomical phenomenon which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. It occurs for the Northern Hemisphere in December and for the Southern Hemisphere in June. This year the Winter Solstice will occur In the USA and some other areas in the northern hemisphere marking the first day of Winter. However, the official date for the first day of Winter varies depending on the country’s climate.( Event Time in Boston, MA, Monday, December 21, 2015 at 11:49 PM EST You can accurately determine the time for your region by visiting Time and Date web site ).
Far more interesting to me than the technical, astrological details is the rich history of lore that surround this event. You can just imagine how the ancients felt as the days got progressively shorter! Was this the great apocalypse and the beginning of armageddon? These ancient pagan rituals permeate many of our holiday traditions to this day and I have found many fascinating posts while researching this topic . One can Google the topic to become immersed in all that has been written by others.
The rich history of this lore always mentions certain favorite plants associated with all the rituals celebrated this time of year. From the Yule of the Druids to our Christian and Jewish traditions these plants are symbolic reminders of man’s close association with the natural world. Indeed, today our homes are festooned with ivy and holly and brightened by the lighted Christmas tree. In an effort to add more light during our darkest days, candles glow from windows and lights drape outdoor trees.
I have included some links to interesting FAQs about the Solstice. I like the Time and Date web site for information related to weather, time, etc. You can download their app for your iPhone or iPad as well . Wikipedia is also another reliable spot for information.
Winter Solstice Quick-facts
Solstice Names Used:
Winter Solstice (Most common name and also known as the ‘shortest’ day of the year)
Southern Solstice (Is in December, when the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere)
First Point of Capricorn
First Day of Winter
The Longest Night
Hibernal Solstice (Latin Name)
Dōngzhì (Chinese Name)
Tōji (Japanese Name)
Dongji (Korean Name)
Đông Chí (Vietname
symbolizing:Continuity of Life, Protection, Prosperity
types:Pine, Fir, Cedar, Juniper, other evergreens
forms:boughs, wreaths, garlands, trees
divinities: Green Goddesses & Gods; Hertha; Cybele, Attis, Dionysius (Pine); Woodland Spirits traditions: Roman, Celtic, Teutonic, Christian
symbolizing:Old Solar Year; Waning Sun; Protection; Good Luck
forms:boughs over portals, wreaths
divinities:Holly King; Old Nick; Saturn; Bacchus; Wood Spirits; Holly Boys
traditions: Roman, Celtic, English, Christian
symbolizing:New Solar Year; Waxing Sun; Endurance, Strength, Triumph, Protection, Good Luck
forms:Yule log, acorns, wood for sacred fires
divinities:Oak King; Oak Spirit; Sky Gods including Thor, Jupiter, Zeus
traditions: Teutonic, Celtic, Christian
symbolizing:Peace, Prosperity, Healing, Wellness, Fertility, Rest, Protection
forms:boughs, amulet sprigs above doorways, kissing balls
divinities:Oak Spirit; Frigga and Balder
traditions: Celtic, Teutonic
symbolizing:Fidelity, Protection, Healing, Marriage, Victory, Honor, Good Luck
forms:crowns, wreaths, garlands
divinities:Dionysius; Bacchus; Great Goddess; Ivy Girls
traditions: Greek, Roman, English, Christian
symbolizing:Sustenance, Abundance, Fertility, Good Luck
forms:grain, straw figures and symbols, cookies, cakes, breads
divinities:Earth Goddesses; Saturn & Ops; Goat Spirit; Fairy Folk
traditions: Roman, Celtic, Scots, Teutonic, Sweedish, Christian
In my research I found some fascinating information about a special red mushroom called amanita muscaria or fly agaric. They are “poisonous plants found in temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere. These cosmopolitan mushrooms are often found in woodlands of birch, pine, spruce, fir, and cedar. In the Northern Hemisphere, red and white mushrooms pop-up during the wet seasons of autumn and winter, but may differ based upon location and climate.” Source. Fly agaric has a rich history in the annals of pagan lore which suggest that most symbols and icons associated with Christmas are derived from shaman traditions of pre-Christian, northern Europe. These traditions include Santa Claus, Christmas trees, flying reindeer, and gift-giving.
Even with all our current scientific knowledge, there is something mysterious and inexplicable about the forces that so profoundly effect our lives. Many of us “suffer” to some degree or other from the lack of this available sunlight. I will save my comments about The “Winter Blues”, a subclinical form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for a later post.
For now let us be comfortable in embracing the changes of the seasons and affirm that in the universe where we find ourselves now, all is perfect, whole and complete.