Love is the vital essence that pervades and permeates, from the center to the circumference,the graduating circles of all thought and action. Love is the talisman of human weal and woe — the open sesame to every soul.
— Elizabeth Cady Stanton
For our magical working, you will need a wreath and five candles. The wreath is a very old and sacred symbol, for it is the holy Circle of Life and the Divine Feminine, which I discussed at length yesterday. A wreath can be made of flowers, leaves, fruits, cones, twigs, and other materials.
Germanic tribes used wreaths in the winter and decorated them with small candles. This was to encourage the onset of Spring – the circular wreath representing the turning seasons and the candles representing the warmth of the Sun.
The ancient Greeks used a wreath made of laurel or olive leaves as a winner’s crown in the Pythian Games, forerunner of the Olympic Games. This tradition continues to this day in our own modern Olympics. Wreaths were also worn like a crown by the Romans to celebrate various festivals. Like the Greeks, they favored the evergreen leaves of laurel, which became symbols of victory and were worn by officers in military parades. Even today, wreath designs are used on heraldry and high ranking military officers’ uniforms in Europe and the Americas.
Evergreen leaves of all sorts symbolize life that survives even the cruelest winter. This is one reason that wreaths are frequently placed in cemeteries and featured at funerals. Also beloved symbols in weddings, they signify eternal love, faithfulness and the ring that promises undying love.
As you choose or make your wreath for the first part of our spell this Sunday, consider what you’d like it to represent. In Christian traditions, it is an Advent wreath, or you might call it a Solstice Sunwheel, using the ideas of the wonderful book by Helen Farias, The Advent Sunwheel.
While evergreen boughs of fir or pine are very traditional and will fragrance your home throughout the working, you might prefer an intertwining of holly and ivy.
According to historian and master gardener Dr. Leonard Perry, ancient Pagans fashioned ivy “into wreaths and garlands for decorations during the winter months.” Ivy had close ties with the Roman God of wine, Bacchus. Holly was sacred to the God Saturn and was used extensively in the Roman celebration of the Winter Solstice festival of the Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was a hugely popular celebration, with revelry, societal role reversals, and gift-giving that the early church was powerless to banish, until they decided to use it as the feast day of the Christ.
Among the Celts, holly already played a major role in Summer and Winter Solstice observances, so it was a natural fit as, first the Roman influence, and then the Christians impacted the folk ways of the population.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a little more about the meaning of the intertwining holly and ivy and some other magical plant lore to help you select or make your wreath. Plus, I’ll make a few additional suggestions about how to prepare for our first ritual together this coming Sunday.