Wellbeing 101: Winter Solstice

The beginning of the return of the light, in this Wellbeing 101 we take a look at how Celtic traditions have shaped Christmas as we know it, as well as offer some rituals for you to do to honour both the season and yourselves.

Tuesday the 21st December 2021 will see the arrival of the Winter Solstice to our Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year; the official first day of winter for us. Over the months since the Summer solstice, the arc of the sun across the sky has steadily been dipping lower and lower – this is a day when your noontime shadow will be the longest of the entire year.

We wanted to take this Wellbeing 101 opportunity to discover the meaning behind this auspicious date and to offer some ways to honour the return to the light.

Winter Solstice at Stone Henge

The word Solstice comes from Latin, meaning literally sun standing still.

This is a day when the sun is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun and so feels like it has paused, before turning to return our world to the light once again.

This day heralds the return of the sun, as after the 21st our days begin to get longer once more. For people throughout the ages, midwinter has been a time of significant ritual, reflection and renewal.

“The ancient peoples of Northern Europe were hunter-gatherers”, explains Pagan author T.Thorn Coyle, “many of whom worshipped the sun. In Norse mythology, the sun is a wheel that changes the seasons, and it was from this word, houl, that the word Yule comes from.”

Winter Solstice Fire

During the pre-Christian era in the Nordic countries, the Feast of Juul (or Yule) lasted for 12 days and celebrated the sun by creating a custom of burning the Yule log. In Ancient Rome the shortest day was honoured as the Feast of Saturnalia, which was an ode to agriculture and honoured Saturn, the god of farming.

This day is a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing; that even in the darkest times, the light is waiting to return. We have pulled together some ideas as to how you can honour this day and season.

Christmas Baubles

Decorating for remembrance

In Celtic times, brightly coloured decorations would be hung on pine trees to symbolise the objects of great significance to them; the sun, moon and stars, as well as represent the souls of those who have passed. This is a beautiful way to take time to remember our ancestors, to give thanks for creating a path for us in this life. If you don’t have a tree, then a branch can work just as well, as it is the intent and reflection that matters in this exercise.

Winter Solstice Oak Tree

Honouring the Oak

“Before the arrival of Christianity, on the solstice, Celtic priests would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing.” T.Thorn Coyle tells us “Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.” This Solstice is the way to connect back to nature, to celebrate the natural world. If you cannot physically get outside, give yourself the intent to consider earth during a sound healing or reflecting on the location of Eddy’s Journey to let your soul wander with the wild.

Winter Solstice Pine Trees

Pine quiet plant ceremony

What better season to try a pine needle quiet plant ceremony than this one?! Taking from our Deep Dive, we learnt that during these shorter days, the tops of these trees were set alight to attract the returning of the sun. Pine needles are rich in vitamin C (5 times the concentration of vitamin C found in lemons) and vitamin A, we recommend working with Douglas Fir for this earthy tea.

To prepare you will need a small bunch of pine needles per cup, if you can’t find any fresh (or are not sure which are okay), you can find them here. Add hot not boiling water to the cup (as boiling water breaks the vitamin C and can release the bitterness of the needles) and let this liquid steep for 15 to 20 minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon and maybe a little honey to taste, then drink to accompany your ritual or just to take a moment of pause.

Winter Solstice

Make a promise to the season

The Winter Solstice is the perfect time to not only reflect but to also set new tradition or ritual for yourself. Habits which will grow as the days do.

Andrea’s journey is the perfect way to call in a new way of being, to align with yourself to ensure that 2021 is a year that becomes like no other, so blast the previous trauma and darkness away. Journal your thoughts and intentions so that in a year, you can revisit and see how much you have grown.

We wish you a very happy Winter Solstice, no matter where you are or what you are planning.

Alex Holbrook

Alex created Otherness in 2018.

Coming from a background working in communications and events, she wants to build a community of trust, a place where everyone, now matter their backgrounds or how they identify, can explore alternative wellbeing.

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