12 Days of Winter’s Tide

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Welcoming abundant energy for the new seasonal year

The 12 days of Winter’s tide is a ceremonial tradition that our family uses to remember the year that has been, and to celebrate the new seasonal year coming. It is inspired by known Heathen Scandinavian celebrations, the twelve days of Christmas (to Epiphany) and by my interest in feminist spirituality.

Making old traditions meaning-full now
Making old traditions meaning-full now

Why are 12 days significant?

There is much debate about the origins of the “12 days of Christmas” : was it a pagan custom or did it come about only to commemorate the Christian Nativity. Surely, it’s agreed that heathens of Norse and Scandi origin had customs of ceremony and feasting that often lasted for 12 days around the Winter Solstice. There is also conjecture that there were 12 days of celebration at the summer solstice too.

The Christians tell us that the 12 days end with Epiphany, a celebration that remembers the three miracles that manifest Christ’s divinity, that were represented by the 3 Wise Men. As the story goes, the Wise Men from afar arrived by baby Jesus’ side on the 12th night and all of humanity could witness the revelation…

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel any great need to celebrate in exactly the way that any of my ancestors did or do. They come from a different place and time and although their stories inform my story here, now, I can’t do what they did. I’m in search of the meaning, and I’ve learned from experience that the stories and mythologies can only speak through me in ways that represent my relationship with Mama Earth, Grandmother moon and Gramma Sun, right now, in the place I live, with the people I spend my time.

All of my ceremonial practices are fluid, questioning, curious to where they will take whoever is involved. I’m not very good at following instructions, so I start with the essence and follow that instead.

This is the way I’ve developed an understanding of the 12 days of Winter’s tide. The days speak to my passion for feminine inspired ceremony, for the Moon and the cycles and the land on which I live. I will share with you here how I intend to celebrate the 12 days with my family, and a bit about the way my ideas are formed.

12 days is the length of time that it takes to reach the Full Moon, and the length of time between after the Full moon and the Dark. Yes, indeed an entire moon cycle is 28 days, but the energies of Full or Dark Moon last for a day each side. In between there are 12. Similarly, 12 days is the typically accepted length of a woman’s post and pre-ovulation phase.

12 is accepted as a symbol of Cosmic Order. There are 12 months in the year, time is measured by humans in sets of 12 hours, the Asian Astrological system is based on a twelve system, 12 signs in the Western Zodiac, in the tarot, card 12 is the Hanged Man, he who gives in sacrifice to attain greater revelations (Odin/Shaman), 12 year old girls in Jewish faith receive ceremony related to being woman… 12 is significant.

“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;”  Revelation 12:1

The Christian story of nativity has always fascinated me, and I have previously created a Goddess-inspired Advent story for December, where we take a journey with the Lunar Priestess Mary, Sun Priest Joseph and their donkey friend. There are three Medicine People who come from the corners of the earth to see the prophecy, to meet the promise of a rainbow future. In the story we travel through the elements, with Mary and Joseph. We meet the Medicine man of the Stone People, who had to traverse great mountains to meet the new baby. We meet the Medicine Woman of the plants who trekked along and over rivers, collecting healing plants on her way. And the Medicine Woman of the animal kingdom, who used her language of love to find her way.

The Goddess-inspired Advent is a story we tell each December. It has helped us all make peace with the washed out stories that abound in the media of that time of the year, even though we don’t celebrate Xmas in the same way as most.

We celebrate a seasonal calendar in our house. We honour the solstices and equinoxes as significant times when the earth shifts and we can re-member our own cycles. Of course, in Australia the Christmas festival falls around the time of midsummer, and so many of the mainstream customs are redundant (like Easter… and Halloween too). Midwinter just has so many more great traditions attached to it! And because of this, I decided to delve deeper into the 12 days of Winter’s tide.

I call the midwinter festival the Sabbat of Wisdom – the time where the Lady of the Spiral (the Cycles of the Land) is nurtured to bring forth the new light (the Sun).

Midwinter marks the turning point of the year. Leading up to this time the days have been getting shorter; it gets darker earlier in the evenings and the nights drag on longer. At the Solstice (means ‘sun stands still’) the pendulum has swung as far to the dark as it can, and from the very next day, the nights become shorter once again. I call it the birth of the Sun.

If you are keen on connecting symbols and stories as I am, you will easily notice why the celebrations are written the way they are. If not, you might like to explore them and find out what works for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be the same as me, rather, allow this to inspire you to create your own family traditions.

Each day of Winter’s Tide is represented by a personal character trait we might like to explore. It is linked to a month of the year, and we can think about the special things that happened in that month throughout the year that has just been. This is a reflective time to be sure, just as Winter is the darker time in the year. Feasts and celebrations bring us together with the people we love, but they do not have to busy or stressful. Let the season guide you.

Some typical “Yule tide” celebrations, are included because that’s part of the fun! Gift giving, treats and sweets, lighting candles and fires, decorations and a tree inside the house, offerings of herbs and Blessed Water, prayers and poems, inscribing and calling to the Gods/esses, singing, toasting and feasting…

In our house over the twelve days we use a Waldorf-style “birthday ring” for the entirety of our celebrations. It is a wooden ring with 12 candle holders. Each night we will light a candle and reflect on the themes of the Festival Night. I will be sharing throughout the 12 days and asking others to join in.

On Instagram : #twelvedaysofwinterstide

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The 12 nights start on the evening before the Solstice. This is the night for preparations, where the Lady of the Spiral is in the final stages of nesting before the birth of her baby : the Sun. On the longest night of the year the lady of the Spiral labours in the dark, and at dusk she births the new light. Where there has been the longest night, the nights will now get shorter. The sun has returned.

1 : Readying
20th June 2017
Trait : Foresight
Essence : Preparations for birth of the new year, for the coming light. Possiblity. Cleaning up the last of what is leftover from the year previous.
Ceremony : Decorations and Tree
Revisiting July and celebrating our achievements.
Element : Earth

2 : Mother’s Night
21st June 2017
Trait : Courage
Essence : Giving birth to the new potential. Longest night. Arrival. Home and Hearth. Tending the fires.
Ceremony : Burning the Log
Revisiting August and celebrating our achievements.
Element : Fire

3 : Baby Moon
22nd June 2017
Trait : Peace
Essence : Mother is recovering. Light has entered the world and needs time before it ventures into the world. Mindfulness.
Ceremony : Offering of herbs burned on the fire/incense
Revisiting September and celebrating our achievements
Element : Fire

4 : The Wild Hunt
23rd June 2017
Trait : Perseverance
Essence : Celebrating that which you value. Collecting resources. Turning to nature to provide.
Ceremony : Winter walk
Revisiting October and celebrating our achievements
Element : Fire

5 : Family Night
24th June 2017
Trait : Love
Essence : Togetherness. Union. Baby/Sun is settling into the new world. Accepted by family community. Tribe.
Ceremony : Gift Giving
Revisiting November and celebrating our achievements
Element : Water

6 : Night of the Fae
25th June 2017
Trait : Joy
Essence : Dance. Joy forever unfolding. Noticing the magick. Nature’s gifts.
Ceremony : Singing / Carolling
Revisiting December and celebrating our achievements
Element : Water

7 : Re-creation
26th June 2017
Trait : Patience
Essence : Rest and recovery. Reflection. Visioning what you will create in the oncoming year.
Ceremony : Trance/drum/visioning
Revisiting January and celebrating our achievements
Element : Water

8 : Unfolding
27th June 2017
Trait : Truth
Essence : Opening to possibilities unseen. Calling for Abundance. Demanding your Vision.
Ceremony : Calling to the great Mystery
Revisiting February and celebrating our achievements
Element : Air

9 : Shedding Night
28th June 2017
Trait : Forgiveness
Essence : Harvesting lessons. Letting go that is no longer needed. Celebrations of abundance. Sacrifice. Wisdom found.
Ceremony : Prayers and poems
Revisiting March and celebrating our achievements
Element : Air

10 : Father’s Night
29th June 2017
Trait : Honesty
Essence : Deepening. Balance. Support. Industriousness. Nurture.
Ceremony : Offerings of Blessed Water
Revisiting April and celebrating our achievements
Element : Air

11 : Night of Light
30th June 2017
Trait : Gratitude
Essence : Baby is presented to the world / light presents itself. Babymoon is over. Gratitude for all that has been and all that is coming. Wisdom
Ceremony : Sweets and treats
Revisiting May and celebrating our achievements
Element : Air

12 : Wassail
1st July 2017
Trait : Hospitality
Essence : Toasting the new year. Feasting. Revelation. Inviting abundance for the oncoming year. Friendship. Community.
Ceremony : Wassail and Feast
Revisiting June and celebrating our achievements
Element : Earth

Element Month Name Character Trait Month
 

20

 

Earth

 

July

 

Readying

 

Foresight

Preparations for birth of the new year, for the coming light. Possibility. Cleaning up the last of what is leftover from the year previous. Ceremony : First feast
 

21

 

Fire

 

August

 

Mother’s Night

 

Courage

Giving birth to the new potential. Longest night. Arrival. Home and Hearth. Tending the fires. Ceremony : Burning the Log

 

22

 

Fire

 

September

 

Baby Moon

 

Peace

Mother is recovering. Light has entered the world and needs time before it ventures into the world. Mindfulness. Ceremony : Offering of herbs burned on the fire/incense

 

23

 

Fire

 

October

 

The Wild Hunt

 

Perseverance

Celebrating that which you value. Collecting resources. Turning to nature to provide. Ceremony : Winter walk
 

24

 

Water

 

November

 

Family Night

 

Love

Togetherness. Union. Baby/Sun is settling into the new world/year. Accepted by family community. Tribe. Ceremony : Gift giving

 

25

 

Water

 

December

 

Night of the Fae

 

Joy

Dance. Joy forever unfolding. Noticing the magick. Nature’s gifts. Ceremony : Offerings of Blessed Water
 

26

 

Water

 

January

 

Re-creation

 

Patience

Rest and recovery. Reflection. Visioning what you will create in the oncoming year. Ceremony : Trance/drum/visioning
 

27

 

Air

 

February

 

Unfolding

 

Truth

Opening to possibilities unseen. Calling for Abundance. Demanding your Vision. Ceremony : Calling to the great Mystery
 

28

 

Air

 

March

 

Shedding Night

 

Forgiveness

Harvesting lessons. Letting go that is no longer needed. Celebrations of abundance. Sacrifice. Wisdom found. Ceremony : Prayers and poems
 

29

 

Air

 

April

 

Father’s Night

 

Honesty

Deepening. Balance. Support. Industriousness. Nurture. Ceremony : Offerings of Blessed Water
 

30

 

Earth

 

May

 

Night of Light

 

Gratitude

Baby is presented to the world / light presents itself. Babymoon is over. Gratitude for all that has been and all that is coming. Wisdom. Ceremony : Sweets and treats
 

1

 

Earth

 

June

 

Wassail

 

Hospitality

Toasting the new year. Feasting. Revelation. Inviting abundance for the oncoming year. Friendship. Community. Ceremony : Wassail and Feast

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Love you,

The article 12 Days of Winter’s Tide was published by Hollie B., for the Institute for Self Crafting.

Feel free to share this article with your friends, by using the url : http://instituteforselfcrafting.com/twelvedaysofwinterstide/.

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