Monday, 2 January 2017

The Hearth Yuletide and the Midwinter Solstice 2016


The Yuletide, the Christmas and the New Year period has been and remains a busy time for the Hearth of the Turning Wheel. It is after all a busy time for all of us. We all have our obligations and our commitments, whether it is work or our desire to visit family and friends.


I was busy in the lead up to the Midwinter Solstice, being unusually well organised with both my present buying and wrapping. I had my Yule Pole, complete with horseshoe and candle up early in December and presents soon began to accumulate beneath, forming a rather pleasing pyramid. I tend no longer to use a tree but prefer my own variant of Yggdrasil, complete with the shoe atop, to form my own unique variant upon the stang model.




In that first week of December I visited Nottingham to see friends and deliver gifts. This proved to be a fortuitous journey as the delightful Christmas Market was in full swing. My first point of call however, was to the Robin Hood Legacy near the castle, this was to drop off my packages. It was only then that I was able to enjoy a tour of the market, before lunching at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. This pub, perhaps the oldest in England is famous for its history, its ghosts, the Cursed Galleon and its many other features, including the enigmatic roe deer statue.



Post lunch I took walk through the city centre, had an afternoon tea and then later, stopped at another hostelry, this time the Royal Children. Here I admired a rather unusual display item, a framed shoulder blade of a whale. Like those items at the Trip to Jerusalem, this is an intriguing talking point.


Unfortunately the day although bright and pleasant was unusually cold. I was left tired and drained by the trip, catching a chill that soon became a chest infection, I was unwell for most of the remaining month.


The Hearth activities proper began on Thursday the 15th of December with our private moot in Derby. A small turnout due to a combination of events that included illness but a pleasing gathering nonetheless. The pub although placed on the edge of the city centre, has a very pleasing country feel and the d├ęcor appeals assuredly to the Pagan folk, as does the food, the cider and the real ales.


Our discussion that evening naturally focused upon our plans for the Midwinter Solstice, our ritual observance and potential trip to observe the sunrise. The date for the ritual had been set well in advance but the details of any trip on the actual day of the Solstice remained fluid and open to further discussion. The final decision was to maintain a certain informality, as it was already known that rather than a trip to Stonehenge this year, I would be in the Peak District.


On Tuesday the 20th of December, the eve of the actual Solstice day, a small group of us gathered for our ritual observance and rather unusually perhaps, I provide the bare text of our ritual below. As you can see, the exchange of gifts is an important element within our celebration.


Preliminary

Suitable decorations may be used to decorate the room if indoors and electric lights should be extinguished prior to the start of the ritual. In the centre of the room, on the floor, should be salt, water and incense. In the centre a large candle should stand, as yet unlit. Compass points should be marked by horseshoes.

A bag containing slips of paper bearing the names of those present should also be placed on the floor, together with a goblet of mead and some mince pies or biscuits.

Each attendee should bring with them a tealight together with a pre-wrapped gift, identified with their own name. The Yuletide gifts for the Secret Hogfather or Odin, should be placed in the centre of the working area.

First Poem (Beth 2001)

“Great Lady and Lord of the turning wheel of the year's seasons, by whom the light returns, we call to you. Now at the darkest time, when all of nature is still and cold, the change is made. There is a pause, as though between breaths, all nature waits and then, the dawn comes early! There is rebirth of light and we begin again. Let hope and joyfulness be reborn, therefore, in all hearts. And let none be lonely. Let all see, as new light grows, how we may live peacefully and in shared happiness. Let war cease and let us make a world fit for children.”

The calling

Male: “Beloved Bloodmother of this our clan. Welcome us at this time, with your heart and womb. Let us learn to live in love with all you are and so our seeking spirit shall serve the Sacred Blood.”

Female: “Beloved Father, speak to us in vision and do not abandon us to the grave. Nor hand us over to Hard Fate utterly, nor those whom our love protects.”

All in unison: “By the fire of dreams and the compulsion of sorcery. By knowledge, daring will and silence. By the tides of Earth, Sea and Sky. By flesh, blood and bone we call thee.”

Blessing and anointing with oil

When finished, return to the centre and bless the oil. Take a suitable oil and using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless this oil, to drive out all impurities and make fit for use in this our rite.”

Each person will anoint the person to their left with this sign:


While saying: “You have walked this path in spirit (and) now (you) do so in flesh.” Words in brackets are optional.

Blessing the elements

Light the incense, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee oh elements of air and fire, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Put three pinches of salt into the water, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee oh elements of water and earth, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Pick up the incense and say: “I scent this circle with air and warm this circle with fire. This I do in the name and power of our God the Lord of the Greenwood.”

Then carry the incense around the circle deosil.

Pick up the bowl of salt-water and say: “With water and salt the symbol of our labour. I cleanse and bless this place in the name and power of our Goddess the Lady of the night.”

Sprinkle a little salt-water around the circle deosil or at each compass point, north, south, east and then west.

Hallowing the compass: opening (Griffith 2011)

Group face north and one person says: “It is winter and the north wind shall bring ice and snow. So it is that we call upon the north wind to join us.”

Group face south and one person says: “The north wind shall meet the summer breeze bringing warmth from the south. So it is that we call upon the south wind to join us.”

Group face east and one person says: “The sun shall rise in the east and warm the distant horizon. So it is that we call upon the east wind to join us.”

Group face west and one person says: “The sun shall set in the west passing in the mists of a grey horizon. So it is that we call upon the west wind to join us.”

All in unison: “We call thee, we call thee, we call thee. By flesh, blood and bone we call thee.”

All present place their hands upon the Hearthsword and then say once only the Druid Oath:

“We swear by peace and love to stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand.
Mark, Oh Spirit and hear us now,
Confirming this our sacred vow.”

The central light (Griffith 2010)

The Defender should light the centre candle and say: “Behold the Avenger is born.”

Each person singly and in sunwise order, then lights their own tealight from the centre candle and says: “Light returns.”

The Defender lights his tealight last and says: “Darkness shall be banished.”

The Pagan Carol by Doreen Valiente

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.

Chorus:
Oh, the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir,

The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower,
And when the Sun is newly born,
‘Tis at the darkest hour

Chorus:
On, the rising of the Sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a berry
And blood-red is its hue,
And when the Sun is newly born,
It maketh all things new.

Chorus:
On, the rising of the Sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a leaf
That is for ever green,
And when the Sun is newly born,
Let love and joy be seen.

Chorus:
On, the rising of the Sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly and the ivy
The mistletoe entwine,
And when the Sun is newly born,
Be joy to thee and thine.

Chorus:
On, the rising of the Sun
And the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

© Copyright: The Doreen Valiente Foundation


Secret Hogfather of Woden

All present shall draw a slip of paper from the bag, if a person draws their own name they should replace the slip and redraw after the draw has ended.

Second Poem (Unknown source after Merry 2008):

One person or all present can read or sing the whole poem, alternatively each verse can be read by an alternating male and female:

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind makes moan.
Earth stands hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow has fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.
In the bleak midwinter, it is ever so.

Darkness now surrounds us as the nights grow long,
Yet we fill the night-time with our hopeful song.
Winter’s cold won’t reach us here, where we light our fire,
As we burn the old year on its funeral pyre.

Now the New Year beckons, even in this night.
Soon the days will lengthen, and our hearts grow light.
Hope will grow within us as we look ahead,
And we see that spring wakes out of winter’s bed.

Light will follow darkness, as the earth turns round,
Sunlight follows moonlight, thawing frozen ground.
So our lives renew with every dawning day,
And with every New Year, blue skies follow grey.”

The rite of communion

The chalice (Shakespeare): “Herein lies wisdom, beauty and increase, without this, folly, age and cold decay.”

The plate (Shakespeare): “From fairest creatures we desire increase; that thereby beauty’s rose might never die.”

The cup is passed to the left with the words: “May you never thirst.” The person receiving the cup will drink and pass the cup to their left with the same words.

The meal is passed to the left with the words: “May you never hunger.” The person receiving the meal will take some of that offered and pass the remainder to their left with the same words.

Hallowing the compass: closing (Griffith 2011)

Group face west and one person says: “We give thanks for the presence of the west wind. Hail and farewell.”

Group face east and one person says: “We give thanks for the presence of the east wind. Hail and farewell.”

Group face south and one person says: “We give thanks for the presence of the south wind. Hail and farewell.”

Group face north and one person says: “We give thanks for the presence of the north wind. Hail and farewell.”

All in unison: “We thank thee, we thank thee, we thank thee. By flesh, blood and bone we thank thee.”

Third Poem

One person shall read the following blessing (Duff 2002):

“The Solstice is: evergreen and Yule log,
Shining lights and decorated tree,
Wassail bowel and cake,
Acknowlegement of gifts,
And joy in the returning Sun.
May the Goddess and God keep you safe,
And warm this Solstice tide,
And in the lengthening days to come.”
Final closing

After a pause all in unison say: “By the fire of dreams and the compulsion of sorcery. By knowledge, daring will and silence. By the tides of Earth, Sea and Sky. May all beings and powers of the visible and invisible depart in peace. By flesh, blood and bone we thank thee.”

REFERENCES

Artisson R.(2006) The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill: the gramaryre of the Folk who dwell below the mound. Owlblink Bookcrafting Company USA.
Chattering Magpie (2010) The Hearth of the Turning Wheel Hallowing of the Compass. Unpublished.
Beth R. (2001) The Hedge Witch's way. Robert Hale London.
Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider London.
Grey W. (nd.) cited by Jones E.J. (1990) Witchcraft: a tradition renewed. Robert Hale, London.
Jones E.J. (1994) The Roebuck in the thicket. Capall Bann.
Merry L. (2008) The Hearth of the Turning Wheel Yule ritual 2008. Unpublished.
Sempers C. Raven G. (1998) Rite for the full moon. Privately published.
Shakespeare W.  (nd.) A Midsummer nights’ dream.
Valiente D. (1978) Witchcraft for tomorrow. Robert Hale, London.

Paraphrased quotations taken from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” a play by the Reverend James Yeames

Poem by Doreen Valiente



It was an early start the next morning. Wednesday the 21st of December was Solstice Day itself and I was up to tidy after the previous evenings’ revels. I was collected by my niece and her family a little after 7am for our planned visit to the Peak District.


Soon after 8am we were parked on a lane near Arbor Low, the famous Derbyshire henge that lies between Ashbourne and Bakewell. Walking up the lane to the farm we met the lady of the house, who much to my surprise and on presentation of my card, knew who I was. Well I have been to the henge many times before.


Amusingly she asked my six year old great niece, as she handed over our one pound entrance fee, “Are you paying for grandad?” Well I am of that age and as my niece pointed out later, if you see two young children, their parents and an older man, the assumption is a natural one.


Marching up the hill we attempted to avoid the cowpats, the elder great nice did slip over but thankfully, was unhurt. On reaching the henge itself, we found a suitable vantage point on the eastern bank and stood only a little way from those already gathered.


Here as the sun rose at approximately 8.20am, it was a cloudy but not overly cold morning, I blew my horn in salute. The sun rose between clouds, lighting up the sky in an attractive pink hue and to my surprise, I found myself attracting photographers. One of whom introduced himself as Chris Thomond, a photo-journalist from the Guardian Newspaper.


I sometimes think the horn has some magical attraction spell attached to it, whenever I blow it photographers appear. Read into that what you will my dear reader.


Mr Thomond was gracious enough to send me some of his pictures by email and I was to learn, that one picture of me, appeared in the Guardian Newspaper the next day.



I posed for a few more pictures before joining the family in the centre of the henge for our private observance. Here the five of us shared food and drink, leaving the remains upon the earth as an offering to the genius loci of Arbor Low.


Then remounting the bank, we walked a slow circuit deosil of the entire henge, stopping to speak to other visitors and even allow a select few a closer examination of the horn. Two or three tried to give a blast, not with any outstanding success, although one did get a reasonably good note.


After more pictures, we made our way to the car and drove on to that wonderful Derbyshire town of Bakewell. Here at the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop we enjoyed a cooked breakfast and desert. Naturally I had a Bakewell Pudding, complete with both custard and cream. I also had a very pleasant mulled cider.


After breakfast and a perusal of the shop on the ground floor, we did a little shopping in the town. Here I found myself with elder of the great nieces, outside the Wee Dram. This is Bakewell’s unique and rather specialist whisky shop. Small, rather quaint, the range is unusual and of high quality. The staff highly knowledgeable and friendly.


Now going into a shop like the Wee Dram, no matter how high class, is not really the done thing with a six year old in tow. However, I decided to risk it. On entering the shop I made one or two comments about hiding from the niece, which made the shop owner laugh.

I parked my great niece by the door with instructions that if she saw mummy or daddy, she was to tell me. Then I began my shopping, listening intently to the recommendations of the owner.


Unfortunately my plans did not go according to plan. Upon seeing her parents approach, the little girl jumped up and down, banged on the window and shouted, “Mummy we’re in here.” I was caught red handed. My niece entered laughing and said, “I thought to myself, uncle wouldn’t take my six year old into a whisky shop and then I thought, yes he would.” Oh, she knows me so well!


After this amusing episode we returned to the car and enjoyed a pleasant drive home, admiring the truly gorgeous Derbyshire countryside. Once at the family home however, fatigue hit and an afternoon nap was necessary. When I was refreshed, I spent the afternoon playing board games with the family.

On return to my own home, I was able to reflect with a glass of mead, on a very full and enjoyable day. The Solstice had been pleasant and well worth the remembering. After a difficult year, I hope as many others do, that the return of the sun heralds a more positive tide.

Benisons you all, fff Chattering Magpie.


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