TWH – The December solstice occurred this morning at 10:02 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and with it many celebrations. Today, many Pagans, Heathens, and Polytheists in the Northern Hemisphere are marking the Winter Solstice with celebrations, feasts, and rituals. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere marked the Summer Solstice with equal fervor and merriment.
Like equinoxes, the solstices remind us of the great balance of our world as the sun seemingly moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn.
For the Northern Hemisphere, it is a joyous time of the year, celebrating the cessation of the growing dark and the promise of the returning light.
The ancient Pagan Romans celebrated Saturnalia, which typically ran from Dec. 17 through Dec. 23. The festival honored the god Saturn and featured lavish parties and role-reversals. From Saturnalia, we can see the traditions of exchanging gifts and decorating evergreen trees indoors. These were eventually adopted as Christmas traditions.
Following Saturnalia and Kronia, there were birth celebrations honoring Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun) and Mithras both held on Dec. 25. The solstice festivals merged to become the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the days of the birth of the unconquered sun.
Yalda Night is an equivalent Persian festival. Today is the beginning of the Dōngzhì Festival (冬至) or Winter’s Extreme in many East Asian cultures.
The ancients rejoiced in the returning light.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the time of the Summer Solstice, considered the longest day and shortest night. Those in the Southern hemisphere will honor the wealth of sunshine, many cultures have celebrated with outdoor festivals well into the “night” and building bonfires along with dancing and music as part of both traditional religious rituals and secular celebrations.
In the south, the power of the plentiful light is a reminder to enjoy the moment, for the light begins to wane as we turn to the dark. Similarly, for the north, the solstice is a reminder that despite the darkest night, the light remains unconquered.
Some Pagans, especially those honoring Celtic traditions, see the solstices as the biannual battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak King is at his zenith of power in the north while the Holly King is within his peak in the south.
From all of us at The Wild Hunt, we thank you again for all your support. Our readers make our work possible through your sharing of our stories, your comments and criticism of the stories, and, of course, your donations (there’s a link at the top of the article if you feel so motivated). Most of all, we are grateful for your visits and for our community.
Whether it breaks through the deepest dark or at the height of abundant light, may the break from the rising sun bring many blessings to our worldwide community.
At TWH, we are in the northern hemisphere, just a hundred and fifty miles from the Tropic of Cancer. So, we leave you with a few links to some songs that we enjoy at this time of year.
Damh the Bard starts us off with “Midwinter’s Day”.
Sung by amazingly talented Eivør Pálsdóttir, Dansaðu Vindur [Dance Wind] is amazing.
SJ Tucker sings “Solstice Night.”
Daridel paganfolk released “Yule” just a few days ago.
From FAUN, “Diese kalt Nacht” [This cold night]
From Frondom, Yggdrasil
An excellent instrumental by Audiomachine titled “Sol Invictus”.
As we close this very difficult year, Remember to Breath by Seeming from their album “The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Atrocity.”