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© Storm Genevieve Black 2015. All Rights Reserved

First published in The Alternative Spirit Magazine Winter 2017

In our dark aged tradition every movement started from North. Our ancestors would move clockwise around the circle to attract things in, or anticlockwise to rid themselves of things they no longer needed. North to our northern ancestors was the most important point. Considered “The Gates of Death”, The Celts and Anglo Saxons believed that the Byfrost Bridge would lead to the Aurora Borealis, and to the home of the Gods. There are tales of how the naughty young God stole the magic of the wise old Goddess and created havoc on the earth by using it before he had learned how to. On regaining her magic, the Goddess took it across the Byfrost Bridge, so that the young God would never again be able to get his hands on it. (It should be noted that this is not a story about women being more magical than men as it is often misinterpreted to be, but about wisdom and understanding being more preferable that high-spirited enthusiasm.) This part of our tradition probably comes from the first Viking settlers to Celtic lands. By starting in the North and working sun-wise they began, as their years and days did, in the darkness before the dawn, and the coldness of the winter. This also meant that they finished in the West, the place of the setting sun of the evening, and the seasonal beauty of the autumn. The Sun only reaches the North pole for six months of the year. So it really is the land of darkness, silence and secret knowledge and Traditional Witches in the Northern hemisphere still venerate it as the place where all the secrecy of the craft is kept and as such it is linked to the Element of Earth. However, as a Southern hemisphere reader, you will notice that much of what I have just told you about my ancestors veneration of the North could easily be applied to the South on this side of the equator. The sun only reaches the south pole for 6 months of the year, making it also a place of darkness, silence and secret knowledge. The Aurora Australis might just as well be the home of the Gods, and the rainbows on this side of the equator might just as well lead to the gates of death at the south pole. The winter is one of the most important times in the wheel of the year, for it too is the time of darkness, silence and secret knowledge. A time when the days are at their shortest, and even in some cases non existent. A time when food is in short supply, although today in many areas with a supermarket on every corner this is difficult to imagine. Yet many of us still feel the need to sleep as nights draw in, the need to hibernate and recharge our batteries. This is natural for many warm blooded mammals. It is only the trappings of modern life that stop us from being able to do this. We are taught from an early age that we must continue to get up every morning and go to work, or school. This becomes what we see as normal, and we no longer listen to our own internal voice, the instinct that tells us to accept this part of our nature. Today in the midst of the winter when we are running ourselves ragged getting up and leaving for the day job in the dark, missing the few hours of sunlight that we might be lucky enough to see and returning home also in the dark, we need something to keep our spirits up. So we look back to another of our ancestors traditions. A feast day In the midst of the hibernation. A celebration of the sun in a time not so long gone when, due to the combination of the sun's ecliptic plane and the axis of the earth it appeared to be still in the sky, for three days at the time of the stark mid-winter. Yes it may seem a long time ago but today many of us still enjoy the traditions and celebrations that kept our ancestors spirits up during this time of great uncertainty. Traditions such as giving gifts to their loved ones. These would often have been warm, woollen clothing, with which it was hoped they would be able to keep warm during the long winter chill. They would share a feast in order to fatten themselves up, not only to keep out the cold but to sustain themselves physically, They would partake in indoor activities, learning new skills, playing games, telling stories. They would bring greenery, garlands and branches into their homes as a reminder that spring would return soon. They would hang biscuits on their trees as offerings for the Fae, and the wildlife. They would light a fire, and keep it burning all night, to encourage the sun to rise again in the morning. Once the fire had gone out they kept a piece of the charred wood in the home, to protect the household throughout the following year and come next Yuletide they would start the fire with their Yule log. Yes, Santa Clause is pagan too. So why not join in and share our mid-winter feast day, or celebrate it in July as many Australians do, and reconnect yourself with the ways of old.