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The Goddess Path  Issue #012

'Tis the Season!
December, 2003


This Issue: Table of Contents

1. Gifts
2. Winter Solstice & the Goddess Freya
3. Musings on Mistletoe
4. Featured Goddess: Rhiannon


Goddess Gift will celebrate its first year on the web this month. We stand under the mistletoe and blow kisses to all of you for your interest, support, and encouragement during its infancy.


Gifts

You probably realize that we're here to celebrate the goddess in everywoman and don't believe in (or practice) "hard sell" , so we'll just issue these gentle invitations to:

- Delight your friends and family with the unique gift of self-discovery. Gift certificates for the Goddess Report are $15. One reader, an office manager, has taken advantage of the "3 or more" at $10 each" to do all her Christmas shopping for her gifts for the office staff.  You can order by using this link:  Gift Certificates
                   (Reminder: the report is now available for men as well!)

- Support the Goddess Gift site by doing some of your shopping using these links:

The Goddess Shops at Goddess Gift

or at

Amazon.com


The Winter Solstice, Holidays, and the Goddess Freya

The Winter Solstice is a magical season . . . one that marks the journey from this year to the next, journeys of the spirit from one world to the next, and the magic of birth, death, and rebirth. Throughout the world gods and goddesses of light were being born during the Winter Solstice.

The longest night of the year (December 21 in the Northern hemisphere), is followed by the start of the solar year and was accompanied by festivals of light to mark the rebirth of the Sun. In ancient Europe, this night of darkness grew from the myths of the Norse goddess Freya (also called Frigga) who sat at her spinning wheel weaving the fates, and the celebration was called Yule, from the Norse word Jul, meaning wheel. The Christmas wreath, a symbol adapted from Freya's "Wheel of Fate", reminds us of the cycle of the seasons and the continuity of life.

That the timing of the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ occurs in the Yule season is no coincidence. Christmas was once a movable feast, celebrated many different times during the year. The decision to establish December 25 as the "official" date of Christ's birth was made by Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD, hoping to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one, since this date coincided with the pagan celebrations of Winter Solstice with the Return of the Sun Gods occurring throughout the world.

The Solstice is also the time for visions. Rhiannon, rides through the dreams of her people by night, transporting them to the place between the worlds where they can create their own visions, giving them a gift of what they need most, helping them to make real their dreams. In Scotland, the last night of the year is Wish Night, a holiday when wishes made for the coming year are at their most powerful.

Numerous Christmas traditions derive from the earlier pagan celebrations. Yule, celebrating the birth or rebirth of a god of light, made use of fire, both in candles and the burning of a Yule log.

The Christmas tree has its origins in the practice of bringing a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when an appreciative spirit was present. Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree.

And on the subject of traditions, here are some . . .


Musings on Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on a variety of trees. Because mistletoe remained green throughout the winter when the sacred oak was without leaves, it was assumed that the plant contained the life, the magical essence, of its sacred oak. During medieval times it was also known as Allheal and was used to treat numerous illnesses.

The strongest connection between mistletoe and the Yule season comes from Norse mythology. Freya (also known as Frigga) was the goddess of beauty, love, and marriage. Wife of the powerful Norse god Odin, Freya was a sky goddess, responsible for weaving the clouds, and therefore responsible for rain and for thunderstorms.

Her sacred animal was the goose, and in her Germanic incarnation as the goddess Holda or Bertha, she was the original Mother Goose (causing it to snow when she shook out her bedding). Sitting at her spinning wheel weaving the fates, she was also a goddess of divination and credited with the creation of runes...more precisely she was a 'seer', one who knew the future but could never change it or reveal it to others.

Frigga (a.k.a. Freya) was the mother of Baldur (Balder), the best loved of all the Norse gods. And she foresaw his death. Knowing that there was nothing she could do to avert his fate, the hapless goddess extracted a promise from all things that they would play no part in his death.

Unfortunately, thinking the mistletoe was too insignificant to bother with, she neglected to secure its pledge. And when the malevolent prankster Loki discovered her oversight, he crafted a dart made of the poisonous plant.

Devious and evil, he brought it to Baldur's brother who was blind, suggesting a game of darts and agreeing to guide his hand. And this he did, directing the dart directly at Baldur's heart.

The mistletoe's white berries were formed from Frigga's tears of mourning. Some versions of the story of Baldur's death end happily. Baldur is restored to life, and the goddess Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the baleful plant, making it a symbol of peace and love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it.

The Druids (British) also revered the plant's powers as an aphrodisiac, believing the berries to contain the sperm of the gods. On the sixth night of the new moon of the winter solstice, they would use a golden sickle to cut the mistletoe from the sacred oak, letting it fall into a cloth held under the tree by members of the order so that the sacred plant would not touch the ground.

The Chief Druid would cut off sprigs for distribution to the people, who hung them over their doorways for protection against thunder and lightning.

Click here for more about the folklore of the mistletoe and the Winter Solstice.


December's Featured Goddess: Rhiannon

Perhaps the most famous of the Yule goddesses, Rhiannon, Celtic goddess of the moon and wind, reminds us to follow our dreams. You can read her story here:
Rhiannon

Rhiannon will be the goddess featured this month in the screensaver's meditations. Windows users can download it at:  Goddess Screensaver.)


Year End Progress Report:

See how we've grown during our first year!

Here's a link for those of you who like to read our monthly progress report in full.


'Tis the Season

. . . when people of widely varied religions and belief systems throughout the world celebrate the birth of light and have thoughts and dreams of the year to come. We wish you a holiday season that brings the awakening to new dreams and the release of old regrets.

Bright Blessings,

Sharon
The Goddess Path

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