As the Wheel of the Year turns, we almost find ourselves at the winter solstice. The sun is moving towards its northern most point during its yearly migration across the sky which means that whilst the Northern Hemisphere is basking in its warmth, for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the warming rays are a distant memory.
It is with this longing that we begin create our rituals that focus around the return of the Child of Promise, the Invincible Sun, or as it was known to the Romans, the Sol Invicus, the Unconquerable Sun.
The winter solstice is also the time of the never-ending battle between the Holly King and his twin, the Oak King. Twice a year ( usually at the solstices) they meet and battle for the hand of the Goddess.
At the time of the summer solstice, Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. However, the Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the autumn equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King’s favour for at the winter solstice, he vanquishes the Oak King.
Robert Graves, in his poetic work The White Goddess, identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr; Gwyn and Gwythr; Lugh and Balor; Balan and Balin; Gawain and the Green Knight; the robin and the wren; and even Jesus and John the Baptist.
The Goddess reminds us not to take things for granted for the worse of the winter storms are yet to come as the Night Hag, the Bone Mother of Winter still stalks the land.
Within the darkness, we ask ourselves:
“To die and be reborn,the Wheel is turning,
What must we lose to the night?”
We release our fears and inhibitions in order to expose that fragile light deep within our selves that has been stiffled or hidden. And as we light our candles to honour the returning light that the Child of Promise will bring, we also encourge this light to shine forth.