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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Longest night of the year- Magic and Mythologies.

from tahoetopia.com
On December 21 countries in the northern hemisphere will experience the shortest day and longest night of the year when the winter solstice occurs.
Three of the most significant imaginary lines running across the surface of the earth are the equator, the Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn. While the equator is the longest line of latitude on the earth (the line where the earth is widest in an east-west direction), the tropics are based on the sun's position in relation to the earth at two points of the year.
The sun will be as far south as it goes on the 21st as it reaches the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees below equator). Then, on Dec 22, the sun will start returning north toward the Tropic of Cancer where it will arrive around June 21, next year.
It is caused by the tilt of the earth on its axis of rotation relative to the sun, around which the earth circles. For half the year (March 20-September 22) the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun; the other half of the year, the Southern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun. The 23 degrees tilt of the earth is the cause of seasons during the year as the earth travels once around the sun.

Magic and Mythologies

These two solstices (winter and summer) are junctures of the year's progress and they figure prominently in the magic and mythologies of many ancient peoples throughout history. 
The Holly King vs. The Oak King
In Celtic mythology  any discussion of the Winter Solstice and holly from a Pagan perspective would include a mention of the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King. For a number of Pagan traditions, this battle represents a central theme surrounding the solstices – the concept of light and dark; of birth, death, and rebirth. Both of the solstices are strongly linked to holly trees. Sprigs from Christmas holly trees were worn in the hair during the mistletoe ritual performed by the priests of the Celts, the Druids, at the summer festival. The pointy leaves of holly trees were thought to afford magical protection for homes against witches and lightning strikes.
"An Arch Druid in His Judicial Habit" (1815)

The "Oak King" and the "Holly King" were twins, pitted against each other in a never-ending duel for supremacy. Oak trees, sacred to the Celts, are deciduous, while the English, Christmas holly trees native to their lands are evergreen. As cold weather approached, the Celts marveled at how the evergreen Christmas holly trees, hidden among the leafy oaks the rest of the year, now stood out prominently on otherwise barren landscape. The Holly King had won out because the antics of his twin brother had caused all the oaks to shed their leaves. So the oaks stood naked in defeat.
  John Aubrey was the first modern writer to connect Stonehenge and other megalithic                           monuments with Druidry- a misconception that shaped ideas of Druidry during much of the 19th century.

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