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24 September 2014

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Moonraking: The Winter Solstice

In our series looking at the Celtic Wheel of the Year, Summer St John, from Wiltshire based Apogee, starts by looking at the winter solstice.


So what is a 'solstice'?

Solstice literally means 'Standing-Still-Sun' and happens twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer.

The winter solstice, (around 21st December) is the time of year when we, in the northern hemisphere, have our shortest day.

This occurs because the earth has a tilt and our half of the world is leaning furthest away from the sun.


This important point in the sun's cycle has been celebrated all over the world for thousands of years.

For the Norse it was Yule, for the Romans, Saturnalia, and it has now been Christianised into Christmas. But all of these celebrations have the same theme in common - the rebirth of the sun (or 'the son' in Christian terms).

It is the time when the dark half of the year turns into the light half and I often heave a sigh of relief at this time as I can feel the energies here in Wiltshire starting to expand and open out again.

Our ancestors were very keen to honour this time of the year and designed some of their stone circles/barrows to exactly pinpoint this turning point in the sun's journey.

Stonehenge is a perfect marker of both solstices and the amazing New Grange barrow in Ireland is designed to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on the winter solstice.


One way in which this time is acknowledged in Wiltshire is the by the lighting up of the white horse at Alton Barnes.

Following an old tradition, people gather with tea lights in jars that are placed on the chalk so that the horse glows with candlelight.

Let's hope the weather stays good for them this solstice!

So how can you celebrate the 'return of the sun' in your home?

One way is to have lots of light - fairy lights, candles and anything else that sparkles!

The theme of this time is also about people gathering together to share food and merriment as we welcome back the sun and the brighter time of the year.


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After years of searching i finally feel like the winter festivities mean something special and not something religious.

Emma Hanning
The best place to go for the Winter Solstice has to be StoneHenge, the Stones are only open for a short though, unlike the Summer Solstice where it's open all night. I prefer the Winter Solstice because there are less people who attend and you can get to the stones easier, rather than having to crawl over everyone like you do at the Summer. It's well worth the trip. I have been going now for 5 years and I never miss a Solstice....

What winter solstice celebrations are going on in 2006?

I'm thinking of visiting the area for winter solstice. Can anyone recommend where to go? Thank you

I love the winter solstice celebration! It has been my favorite since I was a little girl. Thankyou for supporting this beautiful time of year! Blessed Be, Tammy

I enjoy reading the pages included on this site.It's comforting to know that I am not alone in celebrating the Goddess and God through nature and the Sabbats.Brightest blessings!

blessed be to all this yuletide. blessings for a bright and bountiful new year

also bright blessings thankyou

Jill duffin
how wonderful our pagan beliefs are to be shared

ken goulder
what a wonderful story.sure makes sense.mrs.summer stjohn keep up the good work! thanks ken from calgary

• Click here to return to The Celtic Wheel of the Year



• Beltane
• Spring Equinox
• Winter Solstice
Community History
The Celtic Wheel
Black Dogs
• Name-calling
• Oak Apple Day
• Flying monk
• Devilish Wiltshire
• The ghostly fair
• Maypoles


BBC: Iron Age Celts

BBC: History of the Celts

Celts and the Iron Age

The Druid Grove

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