Winter solstice. The words resonate with me.....two vivid memories come back every year.
The first one was an invitation to a winter solstice party! Should have rung alarm bells but strangely it just got my interest.....I went with a good friend and colleague and we didn't last long. After having been shown our hosts altar we beat a fairly hasty retreat......
The second one is just wonderful.
I lived half way up Moel Famau for a short while...this beautiful mountain is a landmark for miles around.
Some research showed that it had once had standing stones, dismantled by the locals and rolled down the hillside. One was the altar of the local church!
Every year I climbed to the top of it hoping for the sun to appear.. It was possible to see it sink into a cleft in the Snowden range at exactly the same time every year....I saw it twice.
I'm not sure about devil worship or any of the other theories that abound around this time but I do know that as a calendar in prehistoric times it gave an exact moment to herald the return of the light...which led to great rejoicing and I think we can all agree on that!
It's now I think acknowledged that us Christians pinched the best pagan festivals and having felt part of the whole pagan scene on those solitary occasions I know that the joy, the exuberant celebration of the returning of the light is heaven sent and nothing to do with the darker forces present here on earth...which is why in my own little way here in Cornwall I still celebrate the old Celtic traditions and use the Christian Celtic prayers right through the festive season.
in the silence of the stars
In the quiet of the hills
In the heaving of the sea
For your servant listens.