Friday, 19 December 2014

The Thirteen days of Midwinter Solstice

Yule has its roots in the old-Nordic word 'iul' or the Anglo-Saxon 'hweol', both meaning 'wheel', which points to the ever turning year and natures cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The lunar calendar, which has a powerful influence over the growing things upon the Earth, leaves about 12 days left over each year, the thirteenth day signifies the start of the new cycle. So the twelve nights of Yule were considered neither part of the old year, nor part of the new year.  These days being outside of the year establish a liminal time when the veil between the worlds is thin, a time when the gods walk the earth and people may see the elves or other spirits that live around us.

Yule begins on Mother Night or 'Módraniht' (December 20th) and ends 12 days later on 'Yule Night' (1st January) also known as Twelfth Night. Most pre-Christian mystery cults celebrated the Mother Goddess and mothers everywhere as creatrixes of all life. On Mother night, the longest night of the year, we make a feast to honor the protective feminine ancestors that watch over us. Nature is now sleeping and the newborn Solstice Sun is the gift of the Mother Goddess to the world which then prepares for the bright and warmth of the coming spring, the next step in the great circle dance of life. At the culmination of this time we celebrate the beginning of the new year.

Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winter's Solstice can be found throughout the ancient world. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the winter solstice, boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists held December 25th as sacred to the birth of their Sun God, Mithras, and celebrated it as a victory of light over darkness. In Sweden, December 13th was sacred to the Goddess Lucina, Shining One, and was a celebration of the return of the light. On Yule itself, around the 21st, bonfires were lit to honour Odin and Thor.

This festive poem/song was written with inspiration drawn across diverse world traditions and mystery religions to portray a path to fullfilment. Adapting the lovely pealing qualites of ‘The 13 Days of Solstice’ by Pashta MaryMoon, with its lines culminating each verse in an accrued repetition of the gifts that have been given, I followed an old poetic tradition in rewriting this song. It is now both shorter - easier to manage, and contains a seed of inspirational meanings for those with enquiring minds to follow. I have mixed the nature reverencing and magical memes of ‘neo-pagan’ lore with the northern, sometimes Norse traditions of yore to create a hopeful outlook for all folk evermore.


The Thirteen Days of Midwinter Solstice

On the First Day of Solstice the Goddess sent to me
The Wiccan Rede known as 'Harm Ye None'...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On Mother’s Night will become a Cherished One.

On the Second Day of Solstice the Goddess gave to me,
The God and Goddess Blessings....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On Winter Solstice will Be in Glad Joy Dressing.

On the Third Day of Solstice the Goddess revealed to me
The Eternal Three Fold Law...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By their Courage they will be Worthy Evermore.

On the Fourth Day of Solstice the Goddess showed to me
The Four Directions called....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Truth they shall be Ever Enthralled.

On the Fifth Day of Solstice the Goddess gifted me,
The Five Pointed Pentagram...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Natures Honor shall they share as Spirit tall shall Stand.

On the Sixth Day of Solstice the Goddess gave to me
Six Rays Of Sunlight...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Understanding shall their Ever Shine Bright.

On the Seventh Day of Solstice the Goddess explained to me
Seven Secrets of the Septagram...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Love be thine - the Elves ever will raise a Dram.

On the Eight Day of Solstice the Goddess showed to me,
The Eight Sacred Sabbats...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
With Delight will Dance the Seasons Holy Habits.

On the Ninth Day of Solstice the Goddess heaped on me,
Nine Noble Virtues....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By Industriousness will they Nurture the True.

On the Tenth Day of Solstice the Goddess saw in me
Ten Transformations...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By Self-Reliance will they always Walk the Sacred Way.

On the Eleventh Day of Solstice the Goddess illumined me,
With the Eleven Runes of Power...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Perseverance across Time will they Always Flower.

On the Twelfth Day of Solstice the Goddess conveyed to me
Twelve Heavenly Signs..
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On the Twelfth Night will Understand the Heart’s Designs.

On the Thirteenth Day of Solstice the Goddess granted me
Thirteen Full Moons Shinning...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Radiant and Luminous in Laughter shall they be with wonder Entwining.

c. Titus.L 2014.
The References Explained;
‘The Thirteen Days’ in the title and verses, rather than the twelve days of the more widely known christian carol, are used because in the folk traditions I have drawn upon the thirteen lunar months hold sway over nature and her seasons, causing the comings and goings of the tides of life.
The Wiccan Rede of ‘Harm Ye None’ was written by Doreen Valiente in 1964 and includes the phrase ‘’Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust. Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.’’ It is this clear intention to the good which I evoke here.
‘Mothers Night’ is the first night of Yule, (& is also known as Modranecht) in which reverence is shown for the Female Deities, Ancestors, and for All Living Women, those who have protected and nurtured us all. 
‘The God and Goddess Blessings’ is a reference to the eternal principles of yin/yan dark/light male/female which when united create all things. These principles are found across most world religions and historical traditions.
‘The Three Fold Rule’ is a religious tenet held by some ‘Wiccans’ and ‘neo-pagans’ which states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times over. The suggestion here for those who wish to survive is that we put out only good energy that all might joyfully thrive.
‘The Four Directions Called’ refers to the fact that throughout history Native American, Peruvian, Mexican, Siberian, Celtic and Nordic people, to name but a few, have practiced honoring the four directions as part of their culture’s connection to well-being, nature and spiritual harmony. The Four Directions are also known as The Four Sacred Directions, and the Four Winds. These Four Sacred Directions of North, South, East and West correspond to the four natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air), and depending on the tradition, tend to vary in their correlation. This has been called by some Earth astrology. When life calls for a ceremony to honour and bless a birth, death, marriage, community gathering, prayer or meditation and the Four Directions are called upon, permission is being asked from the local spirits, the mountains and Mother Earth to perform a ceremony in their sacred space. 
‘The Five Pointed Pentagram’ was used in ancient Chinese and Japanese religions to symbolize the five elements of life. Christian-influenced academia in Europe during the Enlightenment re-discovered Pythagoras’ interest in the pentagram, which contains the Golden Ratio. Pythagoras’ study went beyond mathematics, though, as he assigned the five ancient elements to the five points of the star: earth, water, air, and fire on the four lower points; and Spirit on the topmost point and it is this meaning of the five elements which is employed here.
‘The Six rays of Sunlight’ sets itself as being before the esoteric and christian ‘Seven rays of Sunshine’ which are evidenced in the Roman Emperor Julian’s Hymn to the Solemn Sun, and to the Mother of the Gods in which he spoke of "unspeakable mysteries hidden from the crowd... concerning the god of the seven rays." Here our rays convey the life giving light of the Celestial Sun itself.
‘The Septagram’ or seven-pointed star, has accumulated many levels of meaning over the centuries. One of the oldest recorded meanings given to this star may be found within Kabbalistic tradition, where it represents the sphere of Venus and the power of love. It is also found within Christian tradition as a symbol of protection, the seven points representing the perfection of God and the seven days of creation. I offer it here as a symbol of Love.
‘The Eight Sacred Sabbats’ comprise the Old Traditions and early religion’s ‘Wheel of the Year’ - an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed now by many ‘neo-pagans’. It consists of eight festivals: the solstices and equinoxes of sun and moon, known as the "quarter days", and the four midpoints between, known as the "cross quarter days" by which farmers planned their annual activities and communities preapred for the times to follow.
‘The Nine Noble Virtues’ are a set of moral ethical guidelines originating in the Northern religious traditions of Odinism and Asatru and are based on the virtues found in historical Norse literature including the Poetic Edda. They are Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance. 
‘The Ten Transformations’ refers to the fact that the number Ten symbolizes the completion of a cycle. It is the number of Heaven and the World and Universal Creation. Number Ten was therfore the holiest of numbers according to the Pythagoreans. Here we look for Ten changes in our lives to take us to the path of well being in this life and the hereafter.
‘The Elven Runes of Power’ refers firstly to the Elves who are semi divine magical beings that may bless and assist us in this life. For me they symbolize a purer energy being. The Runes are the inscribed Norse language which may carry blessings across time and space. Power is simply self knowledge and how we may manage our lives to our fullest potential.
Of ‘The Twelve Heavenly Signs’, Twelve is a number of significance in terms of the zodiac its meaning. From Earth, the Sun appears to move across the ecliptic in one year. This circle of 360 degrees is divided into 12 equal sectors of 30 degrees each. Each of these segments is represented by one zodiac sign. The question of whether star signs present meaningful information will always be subject to debate. However, the designation and employment of the zodiac is a matter of astronomical, historical and cultural significance. I employ it here as a mytho-poetical metaphor for the meanings hidden in our hearts/reflected in our stars.
The ‘Thirteen Full Moons Shinning’ refers to the lunar calendar which is based on cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months) as opposed to solar calenders based on the solar year. In ancient times calendars served as a link between the Divine universe and humankind, they were often held as sacred tools or sources of information. These early calendars provided instructions for when to plant, hunt or migrate between cold and warm climates. In traditional folk rituals and planting of seeds, the moon has been thought to hold great influence and is evoked here as it completes the cycle of a day and also draws forth new life thus symbolising new beginings. 

Happy Yuletide All!


  1. Lovely! Thank you for the history and divine feminine inclusion.

  2. 13 lunar months is incorrect surely. I thought there were 12 nights of Yule because there are 12 months i.e. they rested 1 day for every month to come. 12 days of rest to recover from the old year and at the same time prepare for the new.

    1. ''The Essenes, Egyptians, Polynesians, Maya, Inca, Lakota, and Cherokee used a 13-month, 28-day calendar. The Celtic knowledge of the Druids is based on the Tree Calendar, also a 13-month, 28-day calendar. Today many cultures are still using their traditional 13-month calendar system.'' More details here