Join together beneath the mistletoe.
By the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven Druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.
Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring Solstice bells.
Ring Solstice bells.
— Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull ©1977
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The precise moment of the 2009 Solstice is today, Monday, December 21 at 12:47 pm, Eastern Standard Time. On this day, the Sun enters Capricorn and Winter begins as the Sun reaches the 270° point on the zodiac wheel, and begins the return towards the 0° point, which will be reached at Spring Equinox.
Winter Solstice, which is also known as Yule, Yule Night or Julblot, Winter Rite, Midwinter, and the Druids’ Alban Arthan, is the longest night of the year, marking the time at which the days will begin to grow longer and the hours of darkness decrease.
This is possibly the most universal and oldest known holy day of all humanity, based on written records of 4,000 year old Mesopotamian rites performed to celebrate the end of the darkening. In addition, there are many ancient structures around the world that were designed to mark the sun’s placement on this day.
For instance, Newgrange, a beautiful Neolithic site in Ireland, is a huge circular stone structure, estimated to be 5,200 years old. It is centuries older than Stonehenge, and older than the Egyptian pyramids. It was built to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on Winter Solstice. Around 235,000 people visit Newgrange and its neighboring passage graves at Knowth and Dowth each year.
Hundreds of other prehistoric structures throughout the world are oriented to the solstices and the equinoxes. The field of archaeoastronomy studies such sacred sites in the Americas, Asia, Indonesia, and the Middle East. Recent research into the medieval Great Zimbabwe in sub-Saharan Africa (also known as the “African Stonehenge”) indicates a similar purpose. In North America, one of the most famous such sites is the Sun Dagger of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, built a thousand years ago by the Chacoans, ancestors of the Pueblo people.
According to astrologer Jon Cainer, in Japan, this is Toji. In much of Asia, it’s known as Dongzh. “Around the world,” he writes, “in very different ways, billions of us mark the moment of the solstice, the turning point of the Sun. Associated deities and festivals include Beiwe (Scandinavia), Chaomos (Pakistan), Goru (Mali), Junkanoo (West Africa), Brumalia (Greece), Lucia (Scandinavia), Meán Geimhridh (Celtic countries), Modranicht (Germany), Rozhanitsa (Russia), Shab-e Chelleh (Iran), Şeva Zistanê (Kurdish), Soyal (Hopi Indians), We Tripantu (Southern Chile) and Ziemassvetki (Latvia). Some even speculate that Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, was also originally a Solstice festival. Yule and Saturnalia definitely were. And Christmas still is!”
The Winter Solstice Sabbat is joyfully celebrated by Pagans and Witches throughout the world, as well as rural and indigenous peoples who still pay attention to the rhythms of the seasons. On this longest night of the year, we celebrate the rebirth of the divine Sun Child, the Oak King, the Giver of Life.
And tonight, we complete our advent magical working (unless you prefer to light your Center candle on Christmas). Gather with love all who are near you, embodied, or perhaps not, for this is a magical time when the veil between the worlds thins. Preferably around sunset, once more call to the Guardians and Elements of East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, and North/Earth. Or if you have assigned other meanings for the four peripheral candles, of course, invoke those energies.
Finally, the time has come to light the center candle, which would be for Spirit, the Aethers, the Cauldron, or Mystery. Or you may wish it to simply represent Rebirth or Hope. Kindle the flame at Center and call upon all your Mysterious Ones, the most holy Ones to whom you are devoted. Speak of your heart’s greatest wish and know that at this magical time, and blessed with the extraordinary good fortune of our Card of the Week today, is shall be done.
Sing. Chant. Dance. Feast. Make merry and rejoice! We have united together across the worlds, with one another and with Love Herself. Thank you to one and all who have given your magic, good energy and loving prayers to this rite. When you are ready to release your sacred Circle of light, do so.
This pause as the Sun comes to a stop is such a holy time of power. This is the emptiness, the space between breaths, where Magic happens. Enter this dark Mystery with your shining candle. No matter what this Winter and the future may hold in store, the promise of rebirth is assured. Our flame shall yet burn brightly and hope is reborn.
May the Lord and the Lady bring you brightest blessings.