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Thursday, December 22, 2011

WINTER SOLSTICE

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The night of December 25, to which date the Nativity of Christ was ultimately assigned, was exactly that of the birth of the Persian savior Mithra, who, as an incarnation of eternal light, was born the night of the winter solstice
(December 25 being the solstice date in the ancient Roman empire).
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Joseph Campbell
Author of The Masks of God, The Power of Myth, and more. 
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The love that descended to Bethlehem
is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God,
but a burning fire whose light chases away
every shadow, floods every corner,
and turns midnight into noon.
This love reveals sin and overcomes it.
It conquers darkness with such forcefulness
and intensity that it scatters the proud,
feeds the hungry,
and sends the rich away empty-handed.
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(Luke I:51-53)

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THE WINTER SOLSTICE
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Tonight we celebrate the Sabbat of Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, or Midwinter.
This is both one of the oldest of the Sabbats, and also one of the youngest.  Oldest in that ancient civilizations celebrated the solstice and the return of the sun thousands of years ago…youngest in that many of thoseancient customs have translated themselves over the years to the more modern  traditions of the holiday season we now know as Christmas.
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The word solstice comes from the Latin sol stetit,
which translates into “sun stands still,” a reference to the fact that for several days in December (and also in June), the sun appears to rise and set at more or less the same point on the horizon, appearing to stand still in the sky.
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These solstices divide the year into two – a Dark Half and a Light Half…
six months  of waxing sun and six months of waning sun.
The Winter Solstice marks the return of the Sun,
and thus the beginning of the Light Half of the year.
As such, it was of tremendous importance to ancient peoples,
governing the round of their lives, and serving as an anchor point in
 the natural as well as agricultural and pastoral year.
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The Winter Solstice has always been a time of celebration –
whether it be the return of the sun, the promise of evergreen boughs, or the birthday of the Midwinter King. This Child of Wonder has been  celebrated in so many ways with so many names, throughout an extended period of time, but regardless of the culture or time period, always seems to share some similar characteristics. A surprising number of the gods of the ancient classic world maintained nativity stories which would later influence the development of that story best known and celebrated today – the birth of the baby Jesus. Amongst those deities are Tammuz (Mesopotamia), Attis (Asia Minor), Apollo (Greece), Mithras (Rome), Baal (Palestine), and Osirus and Horus (Egypt).
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In modern times, Yule has come to be indissolubly linked
 with the festival of Christmas, and the celebration of
 the birth of Christ.
The myths of this festival have become so deeply imbedded in our own culture that we now take many of the customs of the season for granted,  and no longer stop to ask ourselves why we in fact do decorate a fir tree at this time, or place green boughs and candles in our homes, or erect a nativity scene, or have our pictures taken with Santa Claus.
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Yet, as we begin to consider the alternative history of Christmas,  we come to recognize that many of these traditions have a far deeper meaning that we originally thought. There’s the story of the wondrous birth, as explained above.
The Christmas Tree began life as the Solstice Evergreen,
being adapted in medieval and Victorian times
 to the tinsel-decked image of today.
Even the ancient carol “The Holly and the Ivy” comes from
a pre-Christian age when the Lord and the Lady of the Greenwood were honored by the hanging of green garlands from ridge poles of houses.  Indeed…holly and ivy, along with mistletoe, make up the three sacred plants of Yule…according to the Celtic Druids.
And that good old character known as Santa Claus actually derives from the ancient shamans who were the first priests and magicians of the human race.
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The very notion of a gift giver descending from a high place bearing gifts can be traced back to the shaman’s habit of climbing up the world tree to reach the otherworld, and then climbing back down with the gifts of prophecy and wisdom to give to the rest of us.
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Yet, regardless of how one chooses to celebrate this time of the year,  or by which name…the Winter Solstice has been celebrated in different places and at different times throughout history; even today we can still acknowledge it in our own individual ways.
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From the deafpagancrossroads.com website
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