Yule 2009 (Winter Solstice) - Stonehenge, Avebury, Stony Littleton and Glastonbury

This page includes reports and photographs from the various events I attended during the season of Yule/Winter Solstice in 2009. This celebration - centred on 21 December, sees the sun rising exactly in the south east and performing its shallowest arc across the sky - giving us the shortest day. With the sun effectively standing still for three days, the new solar year begins on 25 December with gradually more light and heat, taking us on to the first signs of new life we see at Imbolc. In the meantime a good knees-up is deserved as we celebrate the end of the dark days and the re-birth of the sun. My season started early with the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr at Stonehenge on 13 December. On 19 December it was off to Avebury for a handfasting, the Cauldron of Cerridwen and the Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri. The next morning saw a short trip to Stony Littleton long barrow to see a spectacular example of the solar alignment that occurs there during the season of Winter Solstice. And later that day I visited Glastonbury for a Yule event at the White Spring. It was back to Stonehenge on 22 December for Managed Open Access and a separate ritual with the Genesis Order of Druids. Finishing later that week with some sunset photos at the end of one solar year and the beginning of another.

The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr for Alban Arthan (13 Dec 2009)

This Gorsedd occurs at Stonehenge twice a year - at mid-summer sunrise (Alban Hefin) and mid-winter sunset (Alban Arthan). This year the winter event was held at sunset on 13 December. A group of 100 or so members and friends of the Druid Network met in the Stonehenge car park from 16:00 and processed into the site at 16:30. The rope barrier was dropped further up this time and entrance to the monument was via the trilithon of stones 21, 22 and 122. Rainbow acted as the dark guardian and blocked the way, with everyone queuing to request permission to enter. As permission was granted, individuals made their way around the monument sun-wise, before exiting and forming up a circle to the west of the moment. A dark red patch from the setting sun was still visible in the sky. A nice sunset had been visible during the late afternoon on the way to the event.

There was a cool wind on this evening and a light rain shower occurred part-way through the rite. The circle eventually formed up and Firevixen welcomed everyone to Stonehenge. The directional peace blessings were performed and the four quarters opened. Everyone linked hands temporarily to set up the circle. Links to the three worlds were established - earth, ocean and sky and everyone in the circle was smudged and anointed with water. Any offerings of bread and mead were then requested to be added to the centre of the circle. Various texts and stories were recited. Everyone had a chance to state something that they wanted to release. And a further opportunity was to state something new that you wanted to nurture in the coming year.

The group linked hands again to perform the Druid Vow three times, as well as three tones of the Awen. There was a chance to remember anyone who had passed over this year and a baby naming was performed. The special characteristics of mistletoe were explained and some was placed on the ground for the first time in its existence. Mistletoe was then brought around the circle for everyone to take a piece with them. The mead and bread were then blessed and brought around the circle. There were several bardic performances at this point. I gave my Winter Solstice poem its first reading of the season, stumbling around in the dark as I performed it. Time was running short and there were no initiations this time into The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr. The links to the three worlds were closed, followed by the four quarters and the event was declared over. Overall a powerful and exciting ritual but just as cold as last year, even with several extra layers! So it was a quick dash back to the car to get the heater on!

Meeting up at Stonehenge

The sun sets behind the stones

The sun sets behind the stones

The Handfasting of Snow Wolf and Luna Wolf (19 Dec 2009)

The handfasting of John (Snow Wolf) and Terri (Luna Wolf) took place at Avebury prior to the Cauldron of Cerridwen. Kim and Kes conducted the ceremony in front of a good-sized crowd in sunny but freezing weather.

The handfasting party gathered around the Ringstone

Kim and Kes conduct the handfasting

Snow and Luna Wolf with Sarah and Martin in the background

Robyn y Glas gives the couple his blessing

Snow and Luna Wolf take the Leap of Faith

The handfasting party at the end

The happy couple at the end

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Ritual at Avebury (19 Dec 2009)

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Winter Solstice event took place at Avebury on 19 December. The group met at the Red Lion and then processed into Sun Circle to set up. Everyone was welcomed to the event and Kumani read an introductory poem. Sian followed by blessing the altar. Woodoak stepped forward to accept the sword, before walking around the circle to cast it. The four quarters were then opened by individuals from the circle, with me taking North. Carricks then read a seasonal text prior to Woodoak invoking Cerridwen in Sian and Lucara invoking Cernunnos in Taran. The Charge of the Goddess saw Sian welcoming the Lady, leading to the Charge of the God with Taran welcoming the Lord. It was then time for the twice-yearly battle between the Holly King and Oak King. Raveness talked about their roles and the two Kings appeared with their respective partners, walking around the circle to gain support. The Kings then gave their speeches and the battle commenced. The Oak King won and vowed to reign for the next six months in the build-up to Summer through Beltane. The defeated Holly King was taken around the circle by his partner and then the victorious Oak King was taken around in the same way. The next poem was read out by Owlswing, before Taran blessed the ale and Sian blessed the bread. I was then asked to perform my Winter Solstice poem. Following distribution of the bread and ale, the four quarters were released and Woodoak collected the sword again so he could release the circle. The event concluded with three readings of the Druid Vow and a Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet again.

Montage of the complete event

Setting up the circle

Setting up the circle (Photo: Lori Aberle)

Kumani reads an introductory poem

Sian blesses the altar

Woodoak casts the circle

Opening the East Quarter

Opening the South Quarter

Carricks reads a seasonal text

Woodoak invokes Cerridwen in Sian

Lucara invokes Cernunnos in Taran

Charge of the Goddess

Charge of the God

Raveness introduces the seasonal celebration

The Holly and Oak Kings taunt each other

The Holly and Oak Kings fight it out

The Holly and Oak Kings fight it out

The Oak Kings wins!

The Oak King receives his crown from Sian

The Oak King proudly wears his crown as the Holly King looks on

Owlswing reads a poem

Taran blesses the ale

Sian blesses the bread

Matthew performs the Winter Solstice (All Photos: Lori Aberle)

Closing the East Quarter

Closing the South Quarter

Woodoak calls back the circle

A Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet Again

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri (19 Dec 2009)

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri took place on 19 December. The group processed from the Red Lion directly to the Sun Circle. Willth welcomed everyone to the event and suggested that it should be a quick one because of the cold weather. He performed the Call For Peace and asked for each of the four quarters to be opened. Terry took East, with Allen on South, Merlin on West and Lou Purplefairy on North. He then asked everyone to link hands to perform three recitals of the Druid Vow and three tones of the Druid Mantra. Terry stepped forward to talk about the season. The group then turned to honour the sun - which was about to be reborn for another solar year. Willth blessed the mead and the bread and these made their way around the circle. Robyn y Glas led the group in his Winter Solstice chant, entering the centre and playing bongo drums. Willth then called me. I had planned to perform my last 80-line list poems of the year. But I decided to keep things short and so performed the more concise Winter Solstice poem. Lou Purplefairy came on to read out a seasonal poem - this had been dictated over the phone after it had been left on the dining table! Ray came on next to sing the Damh The Bard song Noon Of The Solstice. Robyn y Glas followed with one of his seasonal songs.

Announcements came next and Terry talked about up and coming events at Avebury, pointing out how a nearby bush appears to catch fire during the sunrise in the Winter Solstice period. Arthur's Astrologer Royal then came on to talk about a book called “Dear Granny Smith: A Letter from Your Postman”. This has been written by an anonymous Warbander and is about what’s really going on in the Post Office. Everyone was encouraged to purchase a copy to give to their postman. Robyn y Glas came forward again to congratulate Merlin and Linda on their forthcoming handfasting at Stonehenge. Everyone had the chance to read out a name of someone who needed healing. The group linked hands again and did three more tones of the Druid Mantra to send out energy to those in need. With that it was time to close the quarters once again and for Willth to declare the event over. It had been a cold afternoon at Avebury and the sun had very nearly set. Everyone took the opportunity to make a sharp exit for somewhere warmer!

Montage of the complete event

Processing to the Sun Circle

Willth welcomes everyone to the event

Setting up the circle (Photo: Lori Aberle)

Willth performs the Call For Peace on this day of long shadows!

Terry opens the East Quarter

Merlin opens the West Quarter

Lou Purplefairy opens the North Quarter

Terry talks about the season

Turning to honour the sun

Willth blesses the mead

Willth blesses the bread

Robyn y Glas leads the group in his Winter Solstice seasonal chant

Matthew performs the Winter Solstice (All Photos: Lori Aberle)

Lou Purplefairy reads out a seasonal poem

Ray sings the Damh The Bard song Noon Of The Solstice

Robyn y Glas returns to perform a seasonal song

Terry talks about up and coming events

Arthur's Astrologer Royal promotes the Dear Granny Smith book

Robyn y Glas congratulates Merlin and Linda

Terry closes the East Quarter

Merlin closes the West Quarter

Lou Purplefairy closes the North Quarter

The sun begins to set on Avebury

Stony Littleton (20 Dec 2009)

The 5,000-year-old Stony Littleton chambered long barrow faces South East. This means that it is illuminated by the sunrise of the Winter Solstice period, with the sunset of the Summer Solstice period setting exactly behind the entrance. This was a very cold morning and the journey was treacherous to say the least. But I was rewarded with having the site to myself and receiving a spectacular sunrise. I positioned myself 40ft into the long barrow at 08:45 and waited just a minute or so for the sun to break the horizon. The spectacle then gradually built and faded over a period of 11-12 minutes. The best of the photos are shown below and the last one is from six months earlier when I watched the summer solstice sun set behind the barrow.

08:44 - The long barrow is in darkness, waiting for its annual burst of energy

08:44 - The sun will soon be appearing above the horizon

08:45 - Only basic daylight is so far entering the long barrow

08:46 - The sun appears over the horizon!

08:48 - Now growing in power

08:49 - The sun is now more than 50% above the horizon (12-times optical zoom)

08:50 - Continuing to grow in power

08:51 - Continuing to grow in power

08:51 - The sun is now completely above the horizon (12-times optical zoom)

08:51 - The full power of the sun is entering the long barrow

08:51 - The sun reaches 40ft to the back of the chamber

08:52 - The sun goes on its way and will soon have moved beyond range (12-times optical zoom)

08:52 - Still shining at full power

08:52 - Starting to drift away (12-times optical zoom)

08:52 - Still amazing power

08:53 - Definitely on the way

08:53 - The power is amazing but diminishing

08:54 - Now almost out of range (12-times optical zoom)

08:55 - Not much energy left now

08:56 - The sun has moved on

08:57 - And we're left with standard daylight

08:58 - Outside we see the sun continuing on its way

Six months earlier the sun set exactly behind the entrance to the long barrow

Yule at the White Spring, Glastonbury (20 Dec 2009)

The White Spring held its Yule event on the afternoon of 20 December. I arrived early and laid out tea light candles on the various ledges and Peter arrived in his Landrover with plenty of greenery for the event. The group gathered in the courtyard and Lisa opened the event by welcoming everyone. Gill talked about the season and then I performed my Winter Solstice poem. Max then told a seasonal story. It was now time for the building to be decorated. I lit the candles I had set up earlier and everyone had a chance to bring in further candles and choose from the selection of greenery to decorate the building. Everyone was called around the large pool and asked to place their hands in the water, as Lisa conducted a blessing for this precious asset. Gill then did a guided seasonal meditation in Bridie area, prior to the serving of mine pies and hot spiced apple juice. The event concluded with a selection of pagan carols performed brilliantly by Silver On The Tree.

Yule at the White Spring

Three candles burn in front of the new large pool

Candles burn on all the ledges

Managed Open Access At Stonehenge (22 Dec 2009)

Managed Open Access at the two solstices can be disappointing if you’re after a spiritual experience. This year weekday access, confusion over dates and some of the worst weather experienced for a Stonehenge Winter Solstice combined to reduce attendance. From my own perspective I enjoyed this event considerably more than last year’s. I arrived at 03:30 and went in search of a bonfire to keep warm. A group began to form outside the car park at around 07:00 and entrance was allowed at around 07:30. The group processed across the car park and waited for the signal to begin entering the monument site. Light was poor on this morning due to fog. It was also bitterly cold and slippery under foot. The group soon formed up inside the monument. Rollo welcomed everyone to the event and then performed the Call For Peace and the opening of the quarters. He then read out a seasonal text with the group answering back, handing over to Donna to perform the Oh Mighty Mother of Us All text, again with the group answering back.

Rollo got the group to practice toning the Druid Mantra three times. And then asked for it to be used when it came to blessing the flowers with Donna. It was also used to call for a legal binding agreement at subsequent climate change talks. Arthur and Cas came in to perform an updated version of the rhyming work related to their bones removal protest. At this point everyone linked hands as best they could and the Druid Vow was recited three times. Taloch then came on to drum the group through the Not I, Nor Thee and the Universal Ohm. I entered the centre to perform my Winter Solstice poem, followed by Teach, Di, Fi and Emma performing a Wiccan spell. The group then took a few moments to remember Don Aitken. The quarters were then closed and there was another toning session with the Druid Mantra. And it was then three cheers for the Solstice! There was much activity following the main event, including several Warband raisings at the Heelstone, the handfasting of Merlin and Linda and a rite by the Genesis Order of Druids, including three of their own raisings. At the very end of Managed Open Access, Rollo led one final toning session to round things off.


(Video: Ryhoperanger)

Montage of the complete event

Waiting to enter the car park

Waiting in the car park

Passing through the turnstiles

Processing through the tunnel

Rollo welcomes everyone to the event

Opening the East Quarter

Rollo performs a seasonal text with the group answering back

Donna performs the Oh Mighty Mother of Us All text, with the group answering back

Rollo and Donna bless the flowers as the group tones the Druid Mantra

Arthur and Cas perform an updated work related to their bones removal protest

Taloch drums the Not I, Nor Thee and Universal Ohm

Matthew performs his Winter Solstice poem (Photo: graphicphoto-arts)

Matthew performs his Winter Solstice poem (Photo: Stormwatch)

A Wiccan spell

Remembering Don Aitken

Closing the South Quarter

Rollo leads a final tone of the Druid Mantra

Three cheers for the Winter Solstice!

Diane and sister Julie

Matthew in eight layers of clothing! (Photo: Diane)

Ray with his son Gareth

Merlin with Arthur and Cas (Photo: Lou Purplefairy)

Merlin and Linda take the leap of faith as part of their handfasting (Photo: Lou Purplefairy)

Merlin and Linda following their handfasting

Following one final tone of the Druid Mantra, Rollo says he hopes to see everyone at the Spring Equinox

Processing back to the car park

Genesis Order of Druids at Stonehenge (22 Dec 2009)

The Genesis Order of Druids held its Winter Solstice ritual immediately following the main Managed Open Access one. The group gathered to the south of the monument and the ceremony was opened by Archdruid Stormwatch. Archdruidess Morwen read an introductory text and Swordbearer Death_B4_Dishonour performed the Call For Peace. The four quarters were then opened by people in the circle and hands were then linked for the Druid Vow. Stormwatch then asked Death_B4_Dishonour to bring forward Mike, Julie and Evelyne, who were being raised as full members. They were at the end of their year and day of training and the group gathered round them as they were inducted. I was made Honorary Bard earlier in the year and Stormwatch asked me to step into the centre to perform my Winter Solstice poem at this point. Morwen followed with another poem. Hands were linked again for three tones of the Awen. And the four quarters were closed at the end of the event.

Stormwatch welcomes everyone to the event

Morwen reads an introductory text

Death_B4_Dishonour performs the Call For Peace

Opening one of the quarters

Mike, Julie and Evelyne were raised as full members

Morwen reads a poem

Morwen asks for three tones of the Awen before the circle is closed

Closing one of the quarters

The Death of the Sun (24 Dec 2009)

The solar year drew to a close on 24 December following the three-day post-Solstice standstill of the sun. The days cannot get any darker or shorter. The following pictures were taken facing the setting sun in Lynch field, Timsbury.

The end of the solar year

The end of the solar year

The end of the solar year

The end of the solar year

The end of the solar year

The Birth of the Sun (25 Dec 2009)

The solar year began again on 25 December following the three-day post-Solstice standstill of the sun. From 25 December the days start to get longer - no wonder the major religions attached themselves to this day. The following pictures were taken in South Road, Timsbury.

The start of the solar year

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year (12-times optical zoom)

The start of the solar year


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Page last updated: 25 Dec 2009