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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in sunstead

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Rhymes with Blithe

Midwinter is to Midsummer as Yule is to —?

If you answered Litha, well...you're mostly right.

Midwinter and Midsummer are ancient. Cognate names survive in every living Germanic language, so they must have been known back in Common Germanic times, more than 2500 years ago.

Both holidays have by-names as well. The Hwicce—the Anglo-Saxon tribe ancestral (some say) to today's witches—also knew Midwinter as Géol and Midsummer as Líða.

Down the centuries Géol morphed into Yule. Líða didn't survive the passage of time, but during the 80s pagans rediscovered the word and gave it a new lease on life.

It's unclear what either word originally meant. Some have suggested that “Yule” may be kin either to gel—because it marks the coming of winter—or to yell, because “crying Yule” is a fine old midwinter's custom. In northern England, after Christmas services, people used to join hands and dance through the church shouting “Yule! Yule! Yule!”

I'll bet the vicar just loved that.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Sun Is Born

Did you know that a new Sun was born this year?

Astronomers estimate that, here in our Milky Way galaxy, there's a New Sun born at a frequency of about one a year.

One a year.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Solstice Treasure

On the Thirteenth Day of Yule in the year 1153, Earl Harald Maddarðarson of Orkney was travelling from Stromness to Firth when he was caught in a blizzard. He and his companions took shelter from the storm in the famed Neolithic burial mound Maeshowe, where, interestingly, two of his party went mad. This delayed the travelers for so long, reports the Orkneyinga Saga, that they didn't reach Firth until well after dark.

Dating from around 2500 BCE, Maeshowe was well known to the Vikings, who ruled the Orkneys for more than 300 years. Carved into the stones of the mound's central chamber is one of the largest known collections of runic inscriptions in Europe. According to the longest,

Crusaders broke into Maeshowe. Líf Earl's-Cook carved these runes. To the northwest is a great treasure hidden. It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here. Happy is he that might find that great treasure. Hákon alone bore treasure from this mound.

Maeshowe is famed for its orientation to the Winter Solstice sunset. For the last few years, on the morning of Midwinter's Eve, I've tuned in to the live on-site webcam to watch. What I saw there amazed me.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Keeping the Sol in Solstice

The last words of British painter J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) are reported to have been: The Sun is god.

And him not even a pagan.

Our Sun, our star. Our star, our god. We are sunlight and soil, literally, Earth and Sun our undeniable parents. In this Divine Family that we call the solar system, They are our Mother and our Father.

And what does one take more for granted than one's parents?

When did you last actually think about the Sun? Really see the Sun? Praise the Sun? Offer gratitude to the mighty Being without Whom we would not exist? Say thank you for the incomparable gift of light?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Here's one: http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/paganistan/lunisol.html
  • Chris Moore
    Chris Moore says #
    Steven, what is the song you sing to the rising Sun?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The World's Oldest Solstice Ritual

Remember when New Age discovered the Winter Solstice? Christmas Lite, without the baggage.

As a pagan, I grew to resent this. Not that the sunsteads—solstices—belong to us; they're a common inheritance. But don't be telling me about solstices, now. Some of us have been keeping them since, oh, the end of the last Ice Age or so, thank you very much. If not longer.

Somewhere around the third self-satisfied little sermon, I'd had enough, and started turning people into toads.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Vocabulary of Witchcraft

"English is the sacred language of the Witches." (Stephen Warlowe)

Every word's a story.

The vocabulary of modern Wicca, like the religion itself, is late and composite.

Wicca < Old English wicca, “magic-worker [male]” That the word retains its Anglo-Saxon form and has been both redefined and re-pronounced (OE pronunciation: witch-ah) shows that this is a modern, not a continuous, usage.

Athame < Med. French atamer, “to cut”

Skyclad < Loan-translation (19th c.) of Sanskrit digambara, "dressed in air"

Coven < Latin

Sabbat < Latin < Hebrew. Murray's frolicsome s'esbattre derivation is non-historical. The term is a wholesale and hostile borrowing from Jewish vocabulary; compare yet another Trial Era name for the witch-meeting, the “synagogue of Satan.”

These two last are both clearly "words from without." What, one wonders, would be our "words from within"?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yes, sabbat and sabbath both stem from Hebrew shabbat. Sabbat reflects Latin sabbatum; Latin didn't have a way to spell sh. Of co
  • m
    m says #
    Sabbat Hebrew. Murray's frolicsome s'esbattre derivation is non-historical. The term is a wholesale and hostile borrowing from Je
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    And the most common word for lords, both heavenly and earthly is 'hlaford' which incorporates the word for loaf, thus the one who
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Old English sure did have a lot of words for "lord," as you imply; I can think of 4 just off the top, and I'm virtually certain th
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Actually 'wicce' the female form of the word is pronounced 'witch-uh' but the male form is pronounced 'wick-uh, because of the bac

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Summer Dim

I woke up at 5:15 this morning and the sky was already (or still) full of light. We're in the “summer dim.”

It's a standing joke locally that at 44.9833° North, Minneapolis lies at the same latitude as Bordeaux. Sure couldn't tell from the climate. Ha ha. Here in the middle of the continent, our weather is generally closer to that of Moscow than that of French wine country. Even so, we're still too far south to see the famed “White Nights” of the far North, when the Sun literally never sets and everyone goes sleeplessly frantic in the famed “Midsummer madness.” The fact is, too much light makes you crazy. "White lighters" take note.

Our year here divides roughly into thirds. At the winter sunstead (solstice), we see about 8 hours of light and 16 of darkness. At the summer sunstead, the reverse: 16 hours of day, 8 of dark.

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