Wednesday, 7 December 2011
Secrets of Winter
When you think of the winter solstice, whether or not you call it something else like Yule, Jul, midwinter, christmas time, ect you mainly imagine Santa Claus. The image of Santa, a fatherly symbol, has been ingrained into our psyches for so many long generations. There is a powerful message and a reason for this, because that is part of the magic we make. This topic isn't about Santa Claus, or really about the traditions of the midwinter itself. This post is about some of the most obscure patterns of winter folklore and myth that goes unnoticed. There are girls who symbolise the winter solstice, who are what makes this time just as wonderful as the idea of Santa and his reindeer. In any particular lore and myth about midwinter, it's full of mythical and significant female characters and goddesses.
Midwinter is a celebration of the sun. The sun is, in many cultures around the world, regarded as a female force and recognised for Her light in Midwinter. The sun is a goddess, and this Lady of the Sky, or Lady of Light, is much cherished by people who respect Her for the warmth and creating fertility of the landscape. She is looked upon as a powerful queen and mother figure in ancient cultures. For instance, the Northern Germanics called Her by the name Sunna. In Finland, She is named Beiwe who rides in a chariot with her daughter and the chariot is pulled by reindeer! The Japanese know this important sun goddess and call Her Amaterasu. This powerful goddess appears in most Midwinter festivals and stories.
Besides the sun goddess are other important roles of girls and women during Yule/Midwinter. The Anglo Saxons had "Mothers Night" in December. In ancient Greece, particularly with the Aegeans, this important time was regarded as the Festival of Wild Women or Lenaia. In Sweden, maidens are selected to play Saint Lucia by wearing crowns and giving gifts. The Moari of New Zealand noted the midwinter soltice as a journey involving the "winter bride" Takurua of the stars. For the Germans, there is a gentler goddess of light called Hertha who creates a feast and guides people to warmth and the home. The Russians have Rozhnitsa, the maternal goddess of fertility and mother of winter. The story of the birth of Jesus at Christmas has his mother Mary or Madonna as the significant character in the story.
When people decourate their homes what they are doing is ancient and in harmony with the cosmic energies. The fairies and angels on top of the tree are girls! Always in winter celebrations, angel dolls look like girls in pretty outfits. Using these dolls are subconsious. It is very similar to ancient ancestors decourating the home and the trees, to symbolise the spirit world and possibly the galaxy as well. Fairies and angels appear mostly during modern winter celebrations but these come in the forms of females. This might be another subconsious link to celebrating the sun goddess and female spirits. (Oh and yes the elves of Santa's winter wonderland are often portrayed as boys though).
In fairy tales, the mother of winter, sun goddess, winter sun goddess, winter goddess appears as the mysterious and cold "Snow Queen". What is also really potent about that tale is how a girl travels the world on a reindeer (more miwinter themes), going on a heroic voyage in search of her missing boyfriend, who disappeared. Now at the beginning of the story, the boy was infected by glass from a broken magical mirror. This is when the Snow Queen took him on her sleigh. She kept the boy in a frozen ice castle and wouldn't let him go until he fulfilled a puzzle. Then he was rescued by the girlfriend, who found him there, and the spell was broken. This is very much like ancient myths to do with the winter sun (goddess) and the heroine (daughter of the sun) who saves the boy (reclaiming warmth). It's like a story of the earth in relation to the sun during the darkest time of year. The boy, obviously a symbol of man, or men, captured and barren by the frosty queen. The queen is the power here but in Winter she's wanting to catch a male, but in retrospect, the winter sun celebrations and girls bringing back fertility to the land gain with a new sun. In the Norse world, Sunna the queen sun goddess has a daughter. The "Snow Queen" features many seasonal characteristics and shapes that are identical to the myths and science of nature.
Another striking winter feature are the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, which the Valkyries have also been viewed as. The Valkyries are beautiful maidens who ride across the sky on horseback.
Ancient Winter Solstice stories of reindeer and flying chariots sweep over the chilled starry skies. The visions I've had since my teens of the Winter Solstice for me has been the white stag. During meditation and dreams I get, at winter and December, visions of the white stag come. I wonder if it's to do with the antlers and the meanings behind that?
Now also interesting in what I was talking about, the reindeer of the soltice myths and even those who belonged to Santa were all females!!! Check out info on female reindeer and antlers here. The Celtic goddess Elen is a reindeer goddess and a horned goddess. The symbol of antlers, deer, stag, elk, ect is often associated with astral travel. They reappear in the midwinter psyche when it comes to remembering those stories from childhood. This is what is so cool about it. Winter has a vast female influence as well as horns, antlers, the sun, pathways and even stars.
Source and reading:
Stag - Deer and meanings
Winter Solstice - Wikipedia
The above picture is "Lady of Lights" from Briar.