This is the shortest day and the longest night of the year and a celebration of the rebirth of the Sun’s new waxing cycle. Make time for stillness and reflection in the dark, for essential rest and renewal. Appreciate all you have in your life. Seek simplicity in pleasure, in simple food and relaxing friendships. Create a Solstice shrine with cloths that sparkle and reflect candle light. Display freshly cut evergreens and living twigs in a big pot of water and watch the buds swell, brining their promise of new growth to come. Light candles every day to celebrate the returning light, for your allegiance to the Earth, for those you love and for all your resolutions and new intentions. Open your heart to a new cycle of trust, hope and healing.
Trees and Plants of the Winter Solstice
Holly ~ Holly is sacred to Mother Holle or Hel, the Underworld Goddess. Holly is one of the native trees favoured by the Druids, part of the Celtic Tree Ogham. The Holly symbolises everlasting life, recovery, goodwill and potent life energy. A tree of death and regeneration, it unites past actions and restores direction in your life. It also helps the heart to open to unconditional love. Red Holly berries of Pagan Solstice decorations represent the red female blood of life, while the white mistletoe berries represent the white semen drops of the life giving male. Holly and Mistletoe are displayed alongside each other to represent the sacred marriage which brings forth new life.
Mistletoe ~ At Midwinter Mistletoe was ceremoniously cut from the Sacred Oak tree, caught in a white cloth so that it did not touch the earth, and laid on the Solstice altar to represent fertility. Hence kissing beneath it.
Ivy ~ Ivy is another plant commonly used for Solstice decorations, and represents the search for the Self and the seach for enlightenment through the freedom to follow your own path. The Ivy is about finding your own inner resources and acting upon them. All evergreens link to the concepts of everlasting life and rebirth so central to Celtic spiritual belief.
Yew ~ the Yew tree is revered throughout the Northern Hemisphere as a tree of regeneration and rebirth. It provides a direct link to the spirit realms and the Ancestors. The ancient Yews to be found in church yards were there long before the churches. In the Celtic past the Yews provided contact with the old wisdom hidden deep inside the earth and ourselves. After festivities are over, keep all the cuttings you have used as decorations for special sacred fires, or lay them back on the earth with thanks and respect. Some say to burn them at the Spring Equinox. Some of the wood can be used for making a wand, Ogham stick, or a talisman. The special qualities they have can be accessed by contagious magick, that is by contact with the wood itself.
Silver Birch ~ The First tree of the Celtic Tree Ogham. The silver Birch is the first tree to colonise new ground, dropping its leaves and twigs to enrich the soil so other trees may follow. It is thus a tree of life giving proparties, vitality, nourishment, signifying a new start, a new beginning, birth, rebirth, new opportunities and inception. The Celts used the twigs of the Birch for driving out the spirits of the old year and considered the Birch to have great powers of purification and renewal. Link with Silver Birch to prepare yourself for a new journey, spiritual or physical. As the Birch sheds its bark, let go of any unhelpful influences and clear the way for the new active phase of the year to begin. The wood from the Silver Birch is very good for carving and was traditionally used for babies’ cradles.
Pine and Fir ~ Originally Pine groves were part of temples to the Goddess or Great Mother. Roman priests called ‘dendrophori’, or ‘tree bearers’, on the eve of the Midwinter Solstice would cut down one of her sacred Pines, decorate it and carry it to the temple. The Fir is the 16th tree of the Celtic Tree Ogham, honoured for its ability to help us develop the perceptions, insights and wisdom to see far beyond the present. It indicates strength and healing learned from past experiences.
Source: Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred.