Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

"So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!"
- Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day

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

I am the Holly King, Lord of the Waning Year. You may know me as the Green Man or as the Winter King. I rule from Midsummer to Midwinter, and my reign culminates in the festivities of Yuletide. As the wren dies to make way for the robin, soon I will bow before my brother the Oak King. You will not see me again until the Sun once more begins to wane. As I prepare to withdraw into the deep midwinter, I contemplate the glowing light of the reborn Sun in my cup — and in this holy grail, I see visions and dreams of the year to come.

Carry a sprig of holly with you as my token. It will protect you against fierce winter storms, and will bestow upon you the focus, direction and courage you need to succeed in your own spiritual quest.

Fill your homes with holly this season! Deck the halls! My evergreen leaves and bright red berries, seen against the barren oaks of winter, will remind you of the Life that sustains us during the bitterest time of the year."
- The Holly King
The lovely image above is from a card by Wendy Andrew.

"The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
Cold has seized the birds' wings;
Season of ice, this is my news."
- Irish poem, 9th Century

Today is the Winter Solstice, for a short time the sun pauses and then gradually, gradually the days begin to lengthen again. There are many long cold days ahead for 'as the days lengthen the cold strengthens' but one day we shall feel the warmth of the sun on our faces again and spring will be here. Happy Winter Solstice!


Susie's country cottage said...

Wonderful snowy pictures. Happy winter soltice to you. I'm going to bring some holly in this week. I try and leave it as late as possible otherwise if frazzles in the heat of the living room!
Have a lovely Christmas and very happy New Year.

Unknown said...

Hello Rowan,

Words and pictures that go together very well. I hope you enjoy this shortest day and the Winter King's visit.

Gracie said...

Yup, it's so damn cold here too!
Merry Christmas and a beautifl and sparkling 2010!
Gracie at

Sal said...

Lovely words and images that you've chosen!
Have a wonderful time ;-)

Lynda (Granny K) said...

Blessings of the season to you Rowan!

Stay warm,



Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Lovely celebration of this wondrous day!! Oh, I do love this season of the year.

Rosie said...

I love The Shortest Day poem and The Holly King. Wishing you a happy Winter Solstice, too:)

Sheila said...

Lovely post Rowan, lovely words.
Quite cold here today for the first day of Winter, but it will be much colder before it's over.
Have a lovely Christmas..
best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Rowan, at least BB seems to be having fun in the snow.

Wanda..... said...

Hi Rowan, because of your Winter Solstice post and Scribe's post, I am feeling so thankful that I blog and have you both as friends. It's like having a good book to read, thank you!

Thimbleanna said...

Beautiful post Rowan! Love your new banner (I may have already told you that?) Happy Winter Solstice to you too!

Von said...

Happy Solstice to you, here in Oz it's our longest day and a beautiful one.
Lovely post!Delightful blog!

Diane said...

What lovely poetry Rowan - and very apt! I love it when we get past the shortest day. xxx

sally said...

Thanks for your Chrismas poems and your lovely blog! Happy Christmas to you!

Anonymous said...

Lovely piccies and poetry. I am so looking forward to the days getting lighter again. Blessings, Shirl x

Bovey Belle said...

What a lovely post. We drove into your blizzard from Wales and it took us hours to get from Chesterfield to T's - got stuck on the hill behind a queue of traffic by Ecc.Woods . . . Never again!

LinDragon said...

Lovely post,my dear. Wishing you Yule blessings.

Granny Sue said...

Perfect, Rowan, words and pictures both. The solstice was white and quiet here; we planned a bonfire but decided in favor of a good fire in the fireplace to welcome the Oak King and winter.

Julie said...

Dorothy - I hope you don't mind if I borrow that wonderful poem for my next year's winter solstice post. I knew about the holly and ivy kings, and had even printed that same picture (last year, I think), but I did not know that the wren had to make way for the robin!

Our primary bird in winter is the chickadee. I have heard them so often lately: "Dee, dee, dee."