A big part of my memories as a kid of this time of year was rather magical TV programs, with heavy Pagan undertones. The wondrous Wolves of Willoughby Chase (link takes you to the trailer) but my favorite is the Box of Delights. Set in the 1930’s young Kay while on the way home for Christmas meets a Punch & Judy man (who in his white robes looks every part the Druid), he gives him an ancient artifact capable of transporting him through space & time. Kays travels take him to an Roman Fort where he meets a Celtic warrior and his ally Herne the Hunter. I was transfixed by scenes of snowy fields and the sparkling light of the box itself as if it held some ancient tangible magic.
Box of Delights: Episode One: “When the Wolves Were Running”
The Solstice of course, like every turn of the great wheel, is imbued with an ancient tangible magic. I remember walking down country lanes in Scotland collecting sprigs of Holly from the hedgerows. Hedgerows themselves are wonderfully magic, they’re often pretty ancient themselves and provide safe harbor to a host of insects, birds and small mammals. Hedgerows were left as boundaries when the rest of the land was cleared for farming. They act as wildlife corridors allowing their inhabitants safe passage. Cornish hedges, stone-faced earth hedgebank with bushes or trees growing along the top, date back to the Neolithic, in my mind hedges in my mind will always be thresholds, from one reality into the wild beyond.
They turning of the great wheel of the year is marked by thresholds. Time to stop, observe whats going on without and within. Tonight is the longest night, and in the Neolithic the tilt of the earth was slightly different so they would have observed an even shorter day and a longer night. And yet with the days slowly gaining daylight it feels like we’re plunged into a bigger darkness, thrown fully into winter.
We need to remember that the new born sun has to be nurtured, has to be coddled as it’s strength slowly grows. I’m already in full hibernation mode – I get the everyday things done then with whatever time Ihave to myself I try to do very little. I dream, I read, I write.
In this time our ancient ancestors, those who built Newgrange, where of course the winter solstice sun rises realized the great debt we are in to nature, as she has fed us and clothed us throughout the year. This is a theme told out in the tales of ancient kings and in a tale of the little Wren, the king of all birds. In Ireland, as well as other parts of Europe, small pockets still play out this ancient tale where Wren Boys sacrafice a wren then paradie it around the village collecting money for it’s funeral. The roots of this take lie in the Neolithic, where we would have made human sacrifices to offer the earth what we have taken.
But this mid winter eve maybe we can examine our lives and sacrifice that which no longer serves ourselves, or the Earth!