Tuesday, 21 December 2010

December - Winter solstice

In Celtic mythology the Oak (Summer) King and the Holly (Winter) King were twins, pitted against each other in a never-ending fight for supremacy. Oak trees, sacred to the Celts, lose their leaves, while the  holly trees are evergreen. The Holly King is now known as Santa Claus. He wears red and bears holly leaves and berries in his hat. He drives a team of eight deer (or reindeer) because deer were highly sacred to the Celtic Gods. The number eight represents the eight sabbats of the solar calendar.

As cold weather approached, the Celts marvelled at how the evergreen holly trees, hidden amongst the leafy oaks during the rest of the year, now stood out prominently, with their red fruits, on an otherwise barren landscape. The Holly King had won the battle, as the incarnations of his twin brother had shed all their oak leaves and stood naked in defeat.

By the time the winter solstice arrives, the tide has turned. The Oak King’s flow in power is the Holly King’s ebb. The deciduous twin takes his first baby steps towards re-establishing his supremacy. The battle between the two Kings takes place; the Oak King kills the Holly King and takes his place. The Oak King is the modern-day New Year, the fresh and young child-god that beckons mother nature to re-new herself as he brings the warm rays of the sun back.

The different stages of a lunar eclipse

This year, some will be fortunate to witness a total eclipse of the moon.  It's the first time in almost 500 years that a lunar eclipse has coincided with the winter solstice. It is also a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a selenelion, which occurs when the sun and the eclipsed moon can be seen at the same time. This can only happen just before sunset or just after sunrise, and both bodies will appear just above the horizon at nearly opposite points in the sky.