Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tales of Winter Magic

If someone asked you, What came before Christmas?  You might respond, Christmas Eve. But I would answer, the Winter Solstice! The Winter Solstice (aka Yule) was here well before any humans let alone Jesus. It is the shortest day and the longest night and in the Northern hemisphere it marks the first day of Winter. It falls on or near the 21st of December.

Butser Ancient Farm on the South Downs

Pagan Winter Solstice festivities are among the oldest seasonal celebrations in the world. Celtic priests would cut special mistletoe that grew on oak trees and give it as a blessing. Oaks were sacred and the fruit of the mistletoe, a symbol of life in the cold Winter-dark months.

Teazles in Front Of the Roundhouse

Many prehistoric stone circles in Britain, align themselves with the sun on the shortest day; the Celts even believed that the sun stood still for twelve days in Midwinter. Yule logs are traditionally burned during the Solstice to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. They burn throughout the night as a symbol of hope that the sun will return.

Something Wicker This Way Comes

Last year we visited Butser Ancient Farm on the South Downs and listened to mesmeric story telling by Red Phoenix around the fire in an Iron Age roundhouse; snow was thick on the ground, the atmosphere was intoxicating and the snowballs plentiful. We returned this year, there was no snow but we had just as much fun.

Baaaaa Humbug!

We started by exploring the traditionally built roundhouses and admiring the livestock; my daughter insisted that she has a singular affinity with the sheep! Then we trooped into the Roman villa for some making. As our eyes grew accustomed to the dingy light we found our way into a room, which thankfully had a fire burning in the hearth.

Nice Making by the Children

The children made their own mystic story-telling staves and rustic table decorations. The smoky room was soon bustling with well wrapped families but as we were first in, we could afford to be first out and soon squatted a spare roundhouse to eat our picnic.

Word-Weaver Red Phoenix in all Her Glory
Then the bell rang - it was time for the main event! We all sat on bales of hay, roughhewn seats or animal skins, gathered around the central fire in the largest roundhouse; the thin light and fire-smoke hung in the cold air, adding to the potent atmosphere.
Inside the Large Roundhouse
Red Phoenix is a word-weaver of many remarkable talents, she carefully settled everyone down before proceeding to involve us all in her entrancing tales of the Winter Queen & Holly King, travellers, warriors, foxes, imps, hunters, heroes, bears, robins, hobgoblins and Jack Frost. It was all quite enthralling and the children enjoyed it just as much as the adults did, they even got an age appropriate present as they left.
Red Phoenix Spins Her Captivating Tales
For me though, the highlight was Red Phoenix and her Tales of Winter Magic!

It's Only Me - Looking Slightly Demonic
Have a Very Merry Yule all of you!

No comments:

Post a Comment