Friday, December 9, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

Today I'm posting my addition to the Witches Yuletide Ball. You may have noticed a little badge about the event on the side of my blog this month. I signed up to write a Yule themed post on December 10th, without knowing much about Yule. I only associated the holiday with the Yule Log and Christmas. After doing some research, I learned that Yule is an ancient Pagan holiday. From what I found, there have been mentions of the holiday dating back to the 4th century.

Yule is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. This year's winter solstice occurs on December 21st. The nights leading up to the solstice are longer and the days shorter. After the solstice, the nights will get shorter and we'll see more light throughout the day. Just wait a little over a week, and things will look up. I look forward to days where the sun doesn't set around 4:30 PM!

Speaking of the solstice, I have some neat trivia about Stonehenge. Some of you may know this already, but Stonehenge was built so that the sun will always set between two of the stones on the winter solstice. It will set in such a way that the stones resemble a portal filled with glowing light. I ran across a video that's really worth watching. Someone has staged a replica of how Stonehenge looked 4,000 years ago, to show how the solstice sun would have interacted with it.

Stonehenge is such a mystery. The thought of humans being able to move and lift these stones without modern machinery is astounding enough, but the thought of them aligning these stones to perfectly fit the sun on certain days of the year blows my mind!

I found quite a few videos of the solstice celebrations at Stonehenge from previous years. I'm sure there will be more celebrations this year. From what I saw, there's a drum circle, dancing, and a poetry reading. If you can't make it over to Britain, here's at taste of what will be happening:

From what I read, the guy in the crown is supposed to be King Arthur. 

It looks like a cool ceremony to witness. I was reminded a little of our Renaissance Faire while watching these videos. In part because of Arthur and Merlin, but also because of the accents and drum circle.

Yule or winter solstice is still celebrated today. I have some Wiccan friends who celebrate the winter solstice, but I don't know much about their traditions. I do know that many of the modern Christmas traditions stem from Yule. The Yule log, tree, holly, and candles originate from early Yule celebrations. If you want to learn more about the first Yule traditions, I found an excellent web site:

The Winter Solstice ~ Yule Lore

The Yule Wikipedia page also goes into depth about how ancient Yule celebrations varied by country and culture:

Yule Wikipedia Page

There are plenty of other bloggers taking part in The Yuletide Gathering today! Here's a list of them all. I hope this list of links doesn't look too funky on your computer screens. Let me know if I need to rearrange the names. Also, let me know if you wrote a Yule themed post today and aren't listed here. I'll make sure to add you to the list!

1.Miss Peach aka Karla16.Laughing Vixen Lounge31.Dana from Land, Sky & Sea
2.Aine17.The Village
3.Amythyst Raine18.Elderflower33.Grey Catsidhe
4.Hannah19.Zombiegirl Shambling34.Rue
5.Autumn Wind20.Cordelia35.Treegold & Beegold
6.Briana Desmond21.Druid- in- training Liz36.Mina
7.Briana 22.Spiritdog Studios37.New Moon Summer
8.Astraea Sapphire23.Danni38.Toriz
9.Kristina24.Sherry Byrum39.Unleashed Diva Living Out Loud
10.Dee Ellwood25.The Multi- Faceted Experience40.Little Gothic Horrors
11.Sue the Wicked Faerie Queen26.Elderflowery41.Pensive Pumpkin
12.Sophiadawn27.Magaly from Pagan Culture 42.EmKat Creations
13.Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust28.The Domestic Pagan REAL LINK

14.Susan G29.Aisha
15.Willow Silverhorse30.Hedgefaery Herbals

Also, I should mention that the 13 days of Creepmas is going on! Creepmas is Christmas with a creepy twist.  I was so busy that I barely got my Yule post up, so I wasn't able to participate in Creepmas. Lots of my blog friends did, though. They've put together some pretty entertaining posts so far! The Creepmas blog is here:

If you look at the column of "participating creeps" on the right, you'll be able to read some of these great posts!

I'll leave you with the perfect song for winter solstice:

Just think of this song when you're feeling cold this winter. With every day after December 21st, the sun stays with us a little longer!


  1. Hey Justine,
    Great post. Always interesting to read about celestial stuff ~ I particularly liked the simulation of the sunset /sunrise in the first video.
    When you lot up in the North will be celebrating the longest night, we in the South will be celebrating the Summer Solstice with the longest day :)
    Happy Solstice!

  2. Great post, happy Yule. I wish I could figure out how to get on the linky, LOL

    Lovely blog party anyway!!

  3. Goth Boots ~ Thank you! :) Yeah, I thought that experiment with the strong rays of light was really creative. I think it gave a good idea of what the sun's rays would look like through the stones. That's funny to think about us having opposite solstices at the same time! Happy Solstice to you too. :)

    Kat ~ Thanks! Happy Yule to you too! Oh, I copied and pasted that link list from the main Yuletide Gathering blog. I can't see why it would be a problem to add you to my list! I'll do that right now...

  4. You are clearly better at this technological stuff than I am, because your link list amazed me. Wow, I have no idea how you did that. LOL

    Great post! You always rock.

  5. I only recently found out more about Yule too and it's fascinating. I wish we could incorporate more of the old seasonal customs into modern living, rather than the heavily commerical, stressed out hachet job it's evolved into.


  6. Wonderful post. Reminds me that as we enter the dark season of a long Canadian winter that the sun will begin to shine a little longer each day. Great post, really interesting content.

    Happy Solstice!

  7. Fascinating post! When we lived in London, and visited Stonehenge, you weren't allowed amongst the stones. The area was cordoned off, so you had to look at it from a distance. There was a good reason for it, of course, because they were trying to prevent vandalism. Since then, however, they have allowed more access. I think the pagan community complained that they should have access to their sacred site. Hopefully, they have reached a good compromise.

    The resemblance to a portal, when the sun shines between the stones, is very cool. It's making me think of the documentary 'Ancient Aliens'.

    The Creepmas post I did on the 'Supernatural' episode, "A Very Supernatural Christmas" was about pagan winter solstice gods. In the episode, the gods were posing as a suburban couple, who were full of the Christmas spirit. In reality, they had long ago lost most of their worshippers through the rise of Christianity, and were quietly taking a couple of tributes (ie: human sacrifices) for themselves each Christmas.

    I love the vintage picture of the children holding the holly branches. I knew about the holly, tree, yule log and candles being of pagan origin, but don't know much generally about the early Yule traditions. Thanks for those links. I'll enjoying reading up about Yule lore.

  8. Ah-mazing! I myself have never heard of Yule (or Krampus, etc.)before this year... participating in Creepmas has really taught me new things. I find it so interesting that we participate in our "traditions" every year and we can always back-track it to paganism (Easter, Christmas, etc.) and we've never known it. I personally don't think we open our minds enough to ask ourselves why we do the things we do, we just do. (Not that I have a problem with paganism). Any way, thanks for the interesting post and the fist picture is so beautiful.. wish I could see something this beautiful in person.

  9. Pensive ~ Thanks! :) Haha, well it's simpler than you think! I just copied and pasted the list off another page. You can do the same. Just select all the links on my page and click 'copy'. Then paste them onto your blog post. Thanks for making me feel all techy, though. ;)

    Ali ~ I know what you mean, although I also enjoy the new glittery commercial aspects to Christmas. It almost feels like there are two Christmases: the traditional and the commercial. I enjoy both in different ways. I think bringing back some of the old ways could help remind people of the meaning behind our holidays. Learning about the history behind traditions adds some extra meaning for me!

    Art Bliss ~ Happy Solstice to you too! :) I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Yeah, I'll be trying to keep these thoughts in mind during the next few months too. Wisconsin winters can be pretty harsh, but you're even farther up north than I am!

    Little Gothic Horrors ~ Actually, it's my impression that no one is allowed near the stones now! From what I could tell, they only opened it up for Solstice events. Although, I could be wrong. When I was in England back in 2000, I know we couldn't get too near. It's really too bad that vandals are even an issue. Sadly, all of us sane people can't get too close to some relics and great art, because some weirdo might try to attack it!

    Ooh! Tell me more about 'Ancient Aliens'! Is it about the theory of aliens helping early humans to build these magnificent structures?

    Woah. That sounds like quite a plot on that Supernatural episode. I guess it's sometimes the people you least suspect. :) I wonder if they got any complaints on that episode from Pagans? I would assume most people had a sense of humor about it, but who knows.

    I love that picture too! Yes, I have a lot of reading in my future too. There's so much to learn about Yule. I was surprised by the amount of information I ran across. I shouldn't be that surprised, considering that the holiday has been around for centuries...

    BeWitchy ~ Thank you! :) Yes, it's fascinating to learn the Pagan roots behind Christian holidays. I always thought it was funny how early Christians pooh-poohed the Pagan ways, while simultaneously ripping them off. The names were changed, but a whole lot remained the same.

    I totally agree with you! I think most of us carry on traditions yearly, without considering their origins. It's fun to learn the history behind our celebrations.

    I don't know how a person sees an image like that first one. Maybe if you're flying in a plane while the sun is setting and the moon is rising. :)

  10. So happy you are having fun with the event. Your posts have been wonderful! There is so much to learn about where our traditions come from. Yes, it does feel like there are two, if not three events happening simultaneously. I appreciate each for what they bring to the holiday season but find myself longing for older paths and deeper contemplation.

    I wish for a blessed Yule to you all and it brings me great joy to greet new friends and a warm hello to familiar faces.


    Dana @ On the Broomstick

  11. Wow, what a great post! Thank you so much for posting all of this history, you learn something new everyday, well, I do anyway :) Anyway, your blog is great, so I think I will be back to check it out regularly. Thanks again for a great post!

  12. Great post! If you're interested in how Stonehenge interacts with the sun, you should definitely look into Newgrange in Ireland. It is set up so that the rising sun shines directly into the chamber on the Winter Solstice. It doesn't happen at any other time of the year. I got to visit it this past year and it was amazing... I would love to go during the actual Solstice and experience it!

    Also, so glad you posted the Beatle song. I have that on my Yuletide playlist! It just makes sense. :)

  13. I love the bits about Stonehenge here! Thanks for participating - Dana and I really appreciate it!

  14. I'm sure you're right about Stonehenge. Maybe the access I've heard of is restricted to the solstice festival only. It's incomprehensible to think someone would damage those ancient stones, but apparently stupidity knows no bounds!

    Oh yeah, you've got to watch 'Ancient Aliens'. It's brilliant! It's all about seemingly impossible ancient artifacts and structures which might have had alien intervention in their construction, and possible symbols of alien visitation in art throughout the ages. It's mind-blowing stuff. You should be able to find it online.

    I haven't heard of any pagans being offended by the 'Supernatural' episode. 'Supernatural' usually follows religion, mythology and folklore pretty strictly, so I guess the pagan gods they portrayed must be authentic. Actually, in many ways the show was all about the fact that most Christmas traditions are really pagan in origin.

  15. I find all these Winter Solstice posts fascinating. Blessed Yule!

    Erin of Pagan Spirits

  16. Merry Meet Justine!
    That was a wonderful post! that video is part of a NAT GEO show that was Fascinating...they have unearthed another circle identical to stone henge, 1 mile away made of timber, and a village near to it. if you can locate the show on DVD I highly recommend that you watch it.
    I am a Neo-Pagan (basically a modern witch-but not strictly Wiccan), and still quite new on my path. This year will be my first Yule alter, which I'll be sharing on the 18th, in another yule party (link on my side bar) I hope you'll come visit my post, I have a giveaway!
    George Harrison's "Here comes the Sun" is PERFECT!!
    Blessed Yule, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!
    love n light,

  17. Dana ~ Thanks for your nice words and for putting this together! :) It was fun for me to hear from some new people and learn more about this holiday. Sometimes I feel like there are probably more holidays I've never even heard of happening right now. Especially counting holiday events around the world.

    aw ~ Thanks for following my blog! Yes, I feel like I learn something new every day too. Researching new things for my blog teaches me a lot, as does reading other people's posts. I'm glad that you enjoyed this one. :)

    ditzydruid ~ Great name! :) I don't know about Newgrange, but I will definitely be looking it up! I'd love to see some photos from your trip there. Ireland is such a beautiful and magical place! What else is on your Yule playlist?

    witchofhowlingcreek ~ Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the Stonehenge stuff. Thanks for putting this blog party together!

  18. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Yes, I'm afraid stupidity (or mental illness) knows no bounds. Just think about the guy who went after The Pieta with a hammer!

    I'll be sure to look up 'Ancient Aliens'. Monuments and structures like Stonehenge and The Great Pyramids are enough to keep my mind open to the alien theories. Either that, or ancient people were a heck of a lot stronger and smarter than we are today. ;)

    That's cool that the Supernatural writers did their homework. Yeah, maybe there were some Gods in Pagan lore who are said to take human sacrifices. I'm really not up on that! Do you remember any of the Mythology themed episodes?

    Erin ~ A Blessed Yule to you too! :) Thanks for stopping by. I've had a fun time reading all the Yule posts I've found so far!

    Matt ~ Thank you! :) I had a feeling you'd be interested in this post, because of one of our recent Twitter discussions.

    Susan ~ Hi there! Thank you. :) I would like to see more of that show. It seems that there are a lot of ancient structures similar to Stonehenge. I would assume that they mostly had the same purpose? I look forward to seeing your Yule altar! That's something that I know nothing about. Yeah, I thought that song was a perfect fit! I always thought it was uplifting and I sometimes get emotional listening to it. (like I do all Beatles music)

    A Happy Yule and a Merry Christmas to you too! :)

  19. Oh, you'll enjoy 'Ancient Aliens'! They show so many ancient structures, from all over the word, that have been made with seemingly impossible engineering expertise. There are also amazing maps, inventions, and artworks with mystery surrounding them.

    All the 'Supernatural' episodes contain some sort of mythology. The show is very dedicated to basing its stories on authentic lore. I actually have a couple of books on the mythology contained in the show. They're fascinating.

    Interestingly, your paper is featuring a blog post, that I linked to on Twitter, which seems to shed a little light on the 'Supernatural' Christmas episode. The post is 'The Dark Side of Yule' (The Deepest Well blog - part of The Witches Yuletide Ball). She talks about Yule evil spirits and trolls called the Lussi and Nisse. The Lussi could come down the chimney and kidnap naughty children, and the Nisse was a troll who wore a red cape with a tassel. I think this must be at least part of the inspiration for the 'Supernatural' episode... and also shows how chimneys and red suits became part of the Christmas tradition.

  20. For someone who knew little about Yule, you have done a fabulous post! Thank you for sharing such fascinating research and videos. Happy holidays to you. Mina

  21. Little Gothic Horrors ~ Cool! I wonder if there are some structures that I haven't heard of on that DVD. Maybe I'll learn something new!

    Oh, as far as I know the Nisse has a pretty good reputation. At least from what I've heard. I'll have to do a little googling on the Lussi and Nesse to double check. I'm definitely interested in the Yule evil spirits you mentioned! I'll take a look at today's paper...

    Mina ~ Thank you! :) Well, I certainly got to know a lot more about Yule in the process of writing this post. Happy Holidays to you too!

  22. I know it's been said already, but that vintage postcard above with the medieval children is a wonderful find! And I enjoyed the presentation of the festival at Stonehenge. A great addition to the post!

    My sense of wonder never fails me when I consider how long ago those stones were set into position and how long they've lasted.

  23. I always get depressed around the wint...wait! You're a renny? I never knew.

  24. King Unicorn ~ Yeah, it really is a unique image. I thought it was just perfect for the Yule theme. I'm going to assume that the image was associated with Yule already. There's Holly and of course the Yule Log in the picture.

    Well, I guess stone is pretty long lasting. That and the stones are huge! Although, I learned from watching the first video that there used to be more stones and they were in a slightly different placement.

    Copyboy ~ Haha! Well, I don't know if I'd go quite that far... I go to Ren Faire once a year and have never dressed up. Not that I wouldn't love to! Every year I mean to find a Renaissance dress, but it doesn't happen. That and they're so expensive! Maybe this will be the year... I admire the people who go all out with their outfits and memorize all of the Elizabethan history. Some of them are really in character!

  25. King Unicorn ~ Oops. I was just watching the video again, and I realized I made a mistake. It isn't that the stones have slightly shifted over the years, it's that the angle of the Earth on its axis has changed. So the Sun hits the stones differently now than how it did centuries ago.

  26. The pictures are beautiful. I want to visit Stonehenge some day. I want a Christmas tree hat, haha. My granddaughter would love it.

  27. Yeah, I'd love to see that first picture in person! I imagine that it would feel magical around Stonehenge. The Winter or Summer Solstice would probably be the ideal time to go, since you're allowed close to the stones. That and you'd get to witness the placement of the sun between the stones. I'd like to have one of those Christmas tree hats too! They're probably for sale somewhere online.

  28. I gave credit for where the pumpkin Scorpion came from...And the pumpkins that I grew had to be taken inside to protect them from slugs...A Lot of things came up and I never got to carve them ...So at present they sit in my floor of my bedroom waiting to be carved...

  29. Dr. Theda ~ Oh cool, Thanks! Slugs? I hope you got the pumpkins de-slugged before bringing them inside. I had pumpkins sitting uncarved through Halloween and Thanksgiving. I just had the baked pumpkin seeds recently! So, you could always still use them for that. Or if you live in a place with deer nearby, you could leave half a pumpkin out for them. I saw some deer in our local park eating from a cut pumpkin the other day!

  30. This is the perfect opportunity to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Looking forward to another year of Halloween postings! :)

  31. Matt ~ Thank you! I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013 as well. :) I'm looking forward to reading what you all have in store for me this year!