Our home is no exception for this Winter Solstice Rite celebration. We light up the house and decorate it to mark the change in the season. The Winter Solstice is not a fire festival as you might think (that is, lighted trees, Yule logs), unless you consider the spark of new life as a fire. It is a water festival celebrating the birth of the new Goddess from the primeval waters.
Place a large bowl of water at the north-eastern area of the Circle, surrounded by candles. Place one each at the North, East, South and West. The High Priestess directs the Witches to follow her to the bowl of water. She says:
BEHOLD THE MIRROR OF MORTALITY
CAST YOUR LIGHT UPON THE WATER
Have each Witch in order of age, youngest first, look at her reflection in the water and then take a sip after saying what water means for her in her life, such as:
During the birth process of my first child, the water came out of me involuntarily. I thought at first that I had urinated on the bed but realizing what it really was I was happy. Then I was afraid. This huge thing inside my belly that I had been carrying around with me for the past nine months was going to come out of me any second now.
I asked myself: "Will it be all right?" I remembered all the horror stories I'd heard about monsters being born, and then the stories about the geniuses. I was proud. I was soggy.
Continue the Circle at the Dance.
Gift giving starts at the completion of the Circle on the Eve of the Solstice, and at the completion of dancing and dinner with its many libations. Gifts had been mysteriously appearing in the Temple at the base of the Altar since we started decorating the house.
At midnight the youngest Woman hands someone a gift. Everyone admires the gift and gives thanks. The next youngest Woman hands someone a gift, and so on. During the sharing of gifts we talk about the bright loving events that have happened to us during the year. We talk also about what we would like to have happen to us in the year to come.
Hindu: Shiva, Vishnu (as Buddha Avatars), Akasha
(as matter), Lingam (cord), Indra, Brahma, Hanuman.
Scandinavian: Odin, Wotan, Loki.
Greek: Athena, Uranus, Poseidon, Hermes.
Roman: Jupiter, Mercury.
And I am Pasiphae
All life erupts from my waters
I am the Sea of All Births
Winter is the season between autumn and spring in the northern hemisphere. Winter is usually considered the months December, January, and February by most people or astronomically from the December Solstice to the March Equinox.
Solstice: See explanation at the beginning of the Holidays.
Yule: See Christmas.
In the Christian Church, Christmas, an annual festival, held on December 25, to celebrate the birth of Christ. The origin of this festival is unknown. In part, scholars believe that it is derived from rites of the pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic tribesmen. These rites enacted to celebrate the winter solstice. Generally observed by Christians since the 4th century, Christmas festivals would incorporate pagan customs, such as the use of holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, and wassail bowls
An evergreen trimmed with lights and other decorations, the Christmas tree, comes from the Paradise tree, (garden of Eden). The tree was used in German mystery plays and its wide spread use began early in the 17th Century, in Strasbourg, France. It spread from there through Germany and then into northern Europe. In 1841 Albert, Prince Consort of Victoria Queen of Great Britain, introduced the Christmas-tree custom to Great Britain. From there it traveled with the immigrants into the United States. At the same time, Dutch settlers brought to America the custom of celebrating Saint Nicholas' Day on December 6, and especially St. Nicholas' Eve. On St. Nicholas' eve gifts were given to children, of whom the saint was a patron. British settlers took over the tradition as part of their celebration.
"Santa Claus" is a corruption of the Dutch "sint Nikolass".
Hanukkah or Chanukah ("dedication") is an annual festival of the Jews. It is celebrated on eight successive days beginning on the 25th day of Kislev, the third month of the Jewish calendar. Kislev corresponds, approximately, to December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights, Feast of Dedication and Feast of the Maccabees. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabee in 165 BC. The Temple was profaned at that a time by Antiochus IV Epiphanies, King of Syria and overlord of Palestine.
In 168 B.C., on approximately December 25 using our present Gregorian calendar, the Temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus Olympus by order of Antiochus. An altar to Zeus was set up on the high altar. When Judas Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem three years later, he had the Temple purged and a new altar put up. The Temple was then rededicated to the God of the Jews with festivities that lasted eight days. According to Talmudic legend, only one cruse of pure olive oil could be found. This cruse had been sealed by the high priest and was necessary for the rededicatory ritual. Tradition has it that this small quantity burned miraculously for eight days. Modern Jews commemorate this miracle by lighting candles. One candle is lit the first night, two the second, and so on until a special eight branched candelabrum is completely filled. Hanukkah is told of in the Apocryphal books of the Old Testament.