Posts Tagged ‘Holly King’

A Christmas Carol

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To share a slightly different outlook on the Christmas Festival I wrote a short song modeled after Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but inspired by the earlier Pagan traditions of the Season.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Hutton argues that Dickens reconstructed Christmas as a family-centered festival… in contrast to the earlier community (and church)-based observations which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Most of our actual British Christmas customs the tree, the turkey, the stocking, the cards and Santa Claus have only appeared since 1840.

This season was always however a time for community, charity and sharing, as the poorest, oldest and feeblest members of a community would become physically vulnerable to hunger and cold. Their morale would take a further dent if they saw their neighbors making merry all round them and were unable to share in any of it. If they then died, this would not be good for the consciences of their survivors; if they lived, they could bear nasty grudges. Hence, from the time that evidence survives, midwinter was a great time for the giving of food, drink or money to the less fortunate. In the Middle Ages people known as Hogglers or Hognels would often volunteer to collect and distribute them. In addition, poor women and children would go from door to door asking for such gifts, a custom known, according to your region, as Thomasing, Gooding or Mumping. The fitter men from the poorer families would visit their wealthier neighbours with plays, dances or songs, and earn the goodies in return; that is why customs such as mummers’ plays, sword dances and carols are so important at this time. So when your doorbell rings and you find a choir yelling ‘Good King Wenceslas’ outside while a collector holds out a tin for a good cause, you are sharing in (a tradition)… thousands of years old.
(Ronald Hutton, Stations Of The Sun)

Whilst the trappings of the modern Christmas are relatively recent, this festive season has been celebrated since history began.
In Ancient Northern Europe the mid-winter Solstice (between 20th/23rd of December) was called ‘Modranicht’ or ‘Earth Mother’s Night’ and as the shortest day of the year it effectively represents the turning point of the season.
In Northern Europe the winter festival was called the Yule (Juul). As the people thought the Sun stood still for twelve days in the midwinter, plunging Mother Earth and all her growing things into the dark, coldness of death, it was thought that spring could not come without their celebration of midwinter.
More on the Yuletide here.

Of Father Christmas, mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber suggests the Northern traditions indicate Santa as the Norse god Thor. Contrastingly from Iceland the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda poems
describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (Santa originally had eight reindeer, Rudolph was nine) .
More on the origins of Santa Claus here.

Further, that the three greatest Neolithic monuments of Ireland, Scotland and England the massive tombs of Newgrange and Maes Howe, and Stonehenge itself are all aligned on the midwinter sunrise or sunset, shows how important this festival was even in the Stone Age.

With an eye to current world affairs and the rise of Global Corporatism, I have included a protestors scene, with a call to Occupy Christmas as an opportunity to reconsider what the festival may mean now.


✻ ✼ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉ Occupy Christmas ✻ ✼ ❄ ❅ ❆ ❇ ❈ ❉
to learn about the causes of Occupy I recommend Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine
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I replaced Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future with a mischievous Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws who finally gets his Christmas mission right, after a fashion), and instead of the more usual three visits through time in the life of Ebeneezer Scrooge, my character ‘Scourge’ is given 3 visions instead, to the Three Realms of Celtic mythology;

The Celtic view of the Otherworld consisted of three distinct realms, these being Sea, Land and Sky, their counterparts being Underworld, Earth and Otherworld.

Tir Andomain, Realm of The Underworld and the Sea.
This is the realm of the Ancestors and Gods and Goddesses responsible for the cycle of life, death and rebirth, the realm of the past.

The Meath, Realm of the Land (Earth) represents the present and the physical. We are beings of this realm that we share with the animals and the nature spirits.
Here we see the poverty of Dickens’ London as families live in sheds and children carol sing not for pocket money or treats but for essential foods.

The Magh Mor, Realm of Sky and the Otherworld.
This is where most of the Gods and Goddesses dwell, the realm of the future and the place that grants inspiration, creativity and wisdom. The realm of sky is the pathway of the Sun, Moon and constellations, as well as the wind and weather. Many Gods and Goddesses have influence in all three realms, just as the Land has it’s influence on the other two realms; caves, burial mounds, wells and springs are entrances to the underworld, while trees which exist in our realm are viewed as linking all three together. Represented here as a Celtic Afterlife peopled by Four Elemental Spirits of Air, Fire, Earth and Water.

As Air; Dian Cecht, Psychic Guardian and Healer of the Tuatha Dé Danann ~ The Hawthorn was a symbol of psychic protection due to its sharp thorns. Spirits were believed to dwell in Hawthorn hedges, which were planted as protective shrubs around fields, houses and churchyards. The Goddess Brighid was also associated with the Hawthorn, which is one tree which has managed to breach the divide between Paganism and Christianity and Dian Cecht was Brigid’s male counterpart.Hawthorn individuals are represented by a Masculine polarity and the color purple.

As Fire; Aibheaog is an Irish deity who represented fire, and yet she had a magical well which promoted healing. She is associated with wells and the number 5. Rules Over: Healing, Midsummer well rituals.

As Earth; Cernunnos. Although Cernunnos is a Gaulish horned god, his worship was widespread in the Celtic era, and he was venerated over the channel in Britain in various similar forms.
In appearance he had stag antlers sprouting from his head, wore a torc around his neck, and was depicted with a ram headed serpent. He may have been seen as lord of the animals, and the spirit of the woods, a powerful archetypal nature spirit and male partner of the earth mother. Later, in Christian times his image was transposed on to that of the Devil, who also appeared with horns.

As Water; Coventina, a Celtic river goddess known for healing, also associated with renewal, abundance, new beginnings, life cycles, inspiration, childbirth, wishes and prophecy. In worship to her coins and other objects were tossed into the wells as offerings for sympathetic magick. These wells represent the earth womb, where the Celts felt her power could be most strongly felt. Her symbols are the cauldron, cup, water, coins, broaches and wells. From Scotland comes her association with the underworld, where she was the Goddess of featherless flying creatures which could pass to the Otherworld. Being a river goddess she is connected the ebb and flow of time.

With a hope that this film may remind us to think of more than just family gatherings and presents, that it may be a magical time to think with our hearts and consider the wider picture.
To focus upon the whole rather than any portion, to live more meaningful lives, we may honor these the Three Realms and each-other throughout our daily lives.

A Yuletide Carol by celestialelff

Tis the Modranhit of Midwinter,
To the Three Realms we will go,
Through the portal to Tir Andomain,
Through the Silence beneath the Snow.

Deep within the center,
With the Ancestors in the past,
See the Joy of their Yuletide,
Beyond Time’s Oceans Vast.

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle is ever clear.

And look now upon the Earth Realm,
To the Meath beneath the Sky,
See the people in their families,
From their community awry.

Hear the Thomasing and the Gooding,
And the Mumping of the Children,
Both Ignorance and Want do Cry Out,
No more Cup Of Memory here….

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle now Draws Near….

Come beyond now to the Magh Mor,
Beyond the graveyard in the Sky,
To the Afterlife of the Otherworld,
Once again the Joy does fly…

Be Blessed then by this Vision,
Of the Three Realms you have made,
Join the Circle of your past life,
To your Future, Present saved…..

The Rising of the Sun,
The Running of the Year,
The Setting of the Sacred Moon,
And the Circle has come Here.

c Celestial Elf 2011.

Merry Christmas!

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Glad tidings for Yule! (mid-winter Solstice 21st December)

In Ancient Northern Europe the mid-winter Solstice (between 20th/23rd of December) was called ‘Earth Mother‘s Night’, and as the shortest day of the year it effectively represents the turning point of the season.

The Romans called this Sostice the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
The Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia (17-25 December) celebrated Saturnus (god of fertility, harvest and time) & his wife Ops (Mother Earth). Whilst Temples and homes were decorated with stars and suns and evergreens symbolizing life’s continuity, Processions of people with masked or blackened faces symbolizing the dark of winter danced through the streets, which has survived in the custom of ‘Mummer’s Plays‘.
Masters also feasted with their slaves and a ‘King’ was appointed from their number to take charge of the revels
giving rise to the ‘Lord of Misrule‘ of medieval Christmas festivities, which tradition survived into the 17th Century.”

In Northern Europe the winter festival was the Yule (Juul).
As the people thought the Sun stood still for twelve days in the midwinter, plunging Mother Earth and all her growing things into the dark, coldness of death, It was thought that spring could not come without their celebration of midwinter.
During this time the Druids began the tradition of burning the Yule Log to conquer the darkness and to evoke the return of the Sun for the new year, the Suns divine male energy was needed to return and quicken the Earths sacred female energy for the Rebirth of spring.
A Yule Tree was also illuminated with candles, to further this effort to attract the Sun.
Therefore ‘Yule’ is the midwinter festival of light, as the length of daylight progressively increases after the winter solstice.

Along with the Evergreen, the Holly and the Ivy and the Mistletoe are important plants of this season, symbolizing fertility & everlasting life.
Mistletoe, also known as The Golden Bough (& called Allheal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills) was held sacred by the Druids and Norse people, who cut it with a golden sickle (symbolic of the Sun) on the sixth night of the moon.
Both Druids and Romans hung sprigs of mistletoe in their homes and places of celebration to bring good fortune and peace & the Scandinavians would halt and call Truce in battle if they came across mistletoe in their Forests.
In addition, its fertility endowing powers have by tradition created its modern role as a symbol of love (a man should pick a berry when he kisses a woman beneath the mistletoe, when the last berry is gone there should be no more kissing!).

The myth of the Holly King/Oak King probably originated from the Druids to whom these two trees were highly sacred.
The Oak King (Lord of the Waxing Year) kills the Holly King (Lord of the Waning Year) at Yule (Winter Solstice).
The Oak King then reigns until Litha (Summer Solstice) when the two fight again and the Holly King is victorious.
The Holly King is still seen in some representations of the modern Santa Claus.”

The Nordic Yule began in the evening of winter solstice 20th-23rd December, with the sacrifice of a wild pig (boar) to Mother Earth.
This gave strength to Mother Earth (Freja), so that she could give birth to her Son (Balder) on 24th of December who represented both the next generation and most imporatntly, light ie the New Sun (which was also echoed in the Rebirth of the Persian Sun God Mithrais {as well as the Greek Apollo} on 25th December, a significant date later co-opted by the Christian Church…)
The ham as the Yule dish is particularly significant because in ancient times the pig was considered a holy animal and personification of Mother Earth, symbolizing her fertility.
Thus the Yule ham is Mother Earth herself.

Regarding such Sacrifices in these Ancient traditions;
As they held that Divinity was inherent in all creatures as an expression of the God’s powers within nature,
so the most powerful of these rituals was when a God was sacrificed to share their divine energy.
Those who ate of such sacrificial feasts received a part of the Deities divine power,
just as the death of one creature gives life to others.
For the ancient people such traditions were completely normal as they ‘sacrificed’ the seed in spring to earth, where it ‘died’, & later rose again to give life to many new seeds which in turn would both feed many people and beget many more new seeds.
(These principles are similar in theme to the Christian atonement sacrifice of Christ, the ritual of Eucharist and the Ascension)

Be that as it may,
I share with you now Bright Yule Blessings:

Yule Blessings.

Blessings to you from the Earth Mother.
She is the Moon.
She watches over all of us by.
The light that she casts over the blessed earth.
Walk her night lit path
And happiness you will find at every turn.
Blessed be!

Blessings to you from the Sky Father.
He is the Sun. He holds us up
And brings us strength. Carry his sword
To cleave the evil from your path
And you will be unmolested.
Blessed Be!

Blessings to you from the Great Spirit.
It binds us all together:
Man to womyn; beast to beast; all.
We are it and it is us.
Blessed Be!

May you have a wonderful Holiday.
The time has come for the sun to be reborn
He lies in his Mother’s womb waiting…
Awaiting his reappearance on this plane.
Let us all rejoice in his rebirth and ours.
Blessed Be!

(by yusef)

Merry Solstice, er…Happy Yule…

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