Ramblings by Rose - Winter
When thinking about the winter solstice celebration, I like to look at the symbolism of those plants from pre-Christian traditions. Many of these plants have merged with Christianity and western culture but much of the symbolism is the same within both cultures. These three are the most common throughout various groups across time and space.
Winter festivals, (pagan and Christian) have used evergreens for thousands of years. Evergreens represent hope and everlasting life. Our ancestors’ lives were dictated by the seasons and their gods and goddesses needed to be celebrated so the sun would come back again.
Kissing under the mistletoe goes back to Druid origins. This semi-parasitic plant lives between the earth and sky, between two worlds. The white berry represents life-giving males. It has great powers as a protector, healer and fertility potion. Mistletoe stays green all year when the deciduous trees it resides in die back, most often the mighty oak, hence it's power. Norse sagas often mention mistletoe as do Roman tales.
Those of us in western Washington probably have holly trees or have some close by, again an evergreen and representing everlasting life. It is prominent with Norse and northern European legends. The spiky leaves ward off evil spirits and the red berry stands for feminine blood. Mistletoe and Holly are the sacred marriage and rebirth of the sun.
One of my favorite stories is about the Holly King who rules over the dark part of the year. He is the god of the Waning year and at Yule, winter solstice, he is replaced by the Oak King, his twin who rules over the light part of the year until midsummer. Both rule for half a year, aging from young to old during those 6 months. They fight for the love of the sun goddess but both surrender their powers at the equinoxes, so the land can sleep then bloom again.
Many fun stories out there and depending on your family history looking back at Norse, Germanic, Celtic, Scots, Irish traditions may bring a new understanding about ourselves.