Yule 2011 (Winter Solstice) - Avebury, Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Priston

This page includes reports and photographs from the various events I attended during the season of Yule/Winter Solstice in 2011. This celebration - centred on 22 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 doing little for several days, the new solar year slowly gets underway 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 on 17 December with a trip to Avebury for the Cauldron of Cerridwen and the Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri. The next evening it was off to Stonehenge for the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr. Managed Open Access at Stonehenge was on 22 December and later that day I visited Glastonbury for events at Chalice Well. At the end of the season I visited the village of Priston for its New Year's Day event. The report starts, though, with a collection of sun and moon photos from the season.

Sun and Moon Photos (From 27 Nov 2011)

The following photos were taken in my village in the days before and following Winter Solstice. The sun timings are for the nearby city of Bristol.

Sunset on 27 Nov 2011, the day with 8hrs 15min 20sec light lost and 30min 48sec to lose

Sunset on 29 Nov 2011, the day with 8hrs 19min 53sec light lost and 26min 15sec to lose

Sunset on 9 Dec 2011, the day with 1min 22sec less light than the previous day, 8hrs 37min 40sec light lost & 8min 28sec to lose

Sunrise on 10 Dec 2011, the day with 1min 16sec less light than the previous day, 8hrs 38min 56sec light lost & 7min 12sec to lose

Sunrise on 12 Dec 2011, the day with 1min 4sec less light than the previous day, 8hrs 41min 10sec light lost & 4min 58sec to lose

Sunrise on 15 Dec 2011, the day with 46sec less light than the previous day, 8hrs 43min 46sec light lost & 2min 22sec to lose

Sunrise on 18 Dec 2011, the day with 27sec less light than the previous day, 8hrs 45min 26sec light lost & 42sec to lose

The dawn sky on 24 Dec 2011, the day with 11sec more light than the previous day, 16sec light gained & 8hrs 45min 57sec to gain

Sunset on 24 Dec 2011, the day with 11sec more light than the previous day, 16sec light gained & 8hrs 45min 57sec to gain

The dawn sky on 25 Dec 2011, the day with 18sec more light than the previous day, 34sec light gained & 8hrs 45min 39sec to gain

Sunrise on 28 Dec 2011, the day with 37sec more light than the previous day, 2min 6sec light gained & 8hrs 44min 7sec to gain

Sunset on 28 Dec 2011, the day with 37sec more light than the previous day, 2min 6sec light gained & 8hrs 44min 7sec to gain

Sunset on 3 Jan 2012, the day with 1min 14sec more light than the previous day, 7min 59sec light gained & 8hrs 38min 14sec to gain

Full Moon 10 Dec 2011, Oak Moon or Frost Moon

Morning Moon at 96% illumination on 12 Dec 2011

Morning Moon at 75% illumination on 15 Dec 2011

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Ritual at Avebury (17 Dec 2011)

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Winter Solstice event took place at Avebury on Saturday 17 December. The group met at the Red Lion and then moved into the Sun Circle to set up. Sian welcomed everyone to the event, blessing the altar and asking Owlswing to cast the circle with his sword. The four quarters were then opened by individuals from the circle, starting with me in the East, then Steve the Stag in the South, Red Marsco in the West and Idril in the North. Carricks invoked Cerridwen and Kumani invoked Cernunnos. The Charge of the Goddess saw Sian welcoming the Lady, leading to the Charge of the God with Taran welcoming the Lord. Oakroot entered the circle, returning the light. He took chocolates around to everyone present, before taking the light to the cauldron hanging from the tripod in the centre of the circle. The flame was transferred and he then sat down in the centre, asking everyone to gather around so they could hear the story of Yule.

With the main activity complete, refreshments were prepared. Taran blessed the mulled wine and Sian blessed the chocolate log. People then helped themselves to these items. Gordon performed a song at this point and I followed with some of my Winter Solstice poem. Steve the Stag said a few words about this being Sian’s last time as High Priestess in this group. He also passed an ivy headband around for everyone to contemplate on. Owlswing went next with a joke about XMAS presents. The God and Goddess were then thanked, the four quarters were released and Owlswing returned with the sword to release the circle once again. The Druid Vow was performed and the event concluded with a short singing session from Tyto. And it was then a merry meet, merry part and merry meet again.

Montage of the complete event

Setting up in the Sun Circle

Sian gets things underway

Owlswing prepares to cast the circle

Steve the Stag opens the South Quarter

Invoking Cerridwen and Cernunnos

Invoking Cerridwen and Cernunnos

Oakroot returns with the light

Oakroot takes chocolates around the circle

Oakroot restores the light

Oakroot tells the story of Yule

Accessing the mulled wine

Taran blesses the mulled wine

Sian blesses the chocolate log

Mulled wine and chocolate log for all

A song from Gordon

Steve the Stag thanks Sian and passes and ivy headband around the circle

The ivy headband returns to Steve the Stag

Owlswing tells a joke

Closing the links to Cerridwen and Cernunnos

Closing the links to Cerridwen and Cernunnos

Red Marsco closes access to the West Quarter

Owlswing calls back the circle

A view from outside the circle (Photo: Michelle Little)

A merry meet. part and meet again

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri (17 Dec 2011)

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri took place on Saturday 17 December. The group met at the Red Lion and processed to the Sun Circle at 14:00. Willth welcomed everyone to the event and asked Ghyll to perform the Call For Peace. He then asked for each of the four quarters to be opened. Terry took East, with Allen on South, me on West and Gary on North. Willth then connected to the ancestors and the three worlds. Terry came into the centre to talk about the season and the shadows cast by the stones. Willth asked everyone to link hands to perform three recitals of the Druid Vow. Terry followed with the Druid Prayer. Robyn y Glas played the first of two songs and I went next with an extract of my Winter Solstice poem. Willth blessed the mead and started its circulation around the circle. Robyn y Glas then played his second song. Terry followed with some information about sun timings. The sun was out at this point and so the group turned around and to hail the sun. A healing circle was next and everyone had the chance to nominate people for healing. This was followed with three tones of the Druid Mantra. Willth then began to wind the event down on this very cold afternoon. He thanked the spirits that had graced the circle and asked for the quarters to be closed. The gorsedd was now over.

Montage of the complete event (Photo of Matthew by Michelle Little)

Walking over from the Red Lion

Meeting up in the sun circle

Willth welcomes everyone to the event

Ghyll performs the Call For Peace

Allen opens the South Quarter

Willth welcomes in the three worlds and ancestors

Terry talks about aspects of the season

Robyn y Glas plays the first of two songs

Willth blesses the mead

The mead makes its way around the circle

Matthew performs his Autumn Equinox poem (Photo: Michelle Little)

All hail the sun!

All hail the sun!

Willth begins to wind things down

Gary closes the North Quarter

Willth declares the event over

The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr for Alban Arthan (18 Dec 2011)

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 18 December. A nice sunset occurred on this afternoon and this could viewed from the Stonehenge carpark. A group of 80 or so members and friends of the Druid Network met there from 16:00 and processed into the site just before 16:30. Lisa blocked the temple entrance, asking each person if they were entering with honour. If they were then they were smudged and allowed to pass inside.

The circle of people formed up inside the stones to a drumbeat from Wilf. Rainbow welcomed everyone to the event. The Call For Peace was performed in Welsh and English and the four quarters opened by people in the circle. Everyone linked hands temporarily to get connected. Links to the three worlds were established - earth, ocean and sky and the ancestors were welcomed in. There was then a request for any offerings to be placed in the centre. The Cor Gawr team then put on a type of play, about an old woman in the darkness of a winter’s night. Following this the group linked hands again to perform the Druid Vow three times. Volunteers were then asked to step forward to be initiated into The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr. They formed an outward facing circle, with everyone else closing in around them. These people had to recite an initiation text before the rest of the group did three tones of the Awen around them. They then rejoined the rest of the circle as the newest Bards of Cor Gawr.

Rainbow then asked for the mead and bread to be blessed. Whilst the mead horn and bread were being taken around the circle, the floor was opened for bardic performances. I took the first spot, performing my Winter Solstice poem. This was followed by several drum chants from Nathascha and Mario. A healing circle allowed prayers to be said for those in need and those who had passed over. There was also a chance for people to shout out words of inspiration for the coming year. The special characteristics of mistletoe were explained by Wilf and some was brought around the circle for everyone to take a piece away with them. With that the quarters were closed, the ancestors thanked and access to the three worlds closed. Rainbow declared the gorsedd over on what had turned out to be an incredibly cold evening.

The sunset viewed whilst waiting in the Stonehenge carpark

Montage of the event (includes three photos by Dennis Wright)

Chalice Well (22 Dec 2011)

A group assembled around the wellhead at Chalice Well at midday. Following the silent minute Sophie Knock welcomed everyone and talked about the meaning of the season. It was then time for the group to meditate and this lasted around 10 minutes. Once this was over I gave my Winter Solstice poem its final outing of the year. This was followed with a few more words from Sophie and words from other people in the gathering. The group then linked hands again for three Awens, three Oms and three Ahhhs into the well. Afterwards there was chat and refreshments in front of a fire down on the main lawn.

Montage of the Wellhead Meditation and Conversation Cafe

In the afternoon it was back to Chalice Well for the traditional ritual and music around a fire. A good number of people were there for the start of the event and the group seemed to grow ever larger as it continued. Sophie was back to open the ritual and talk about the meaning of the season. It was then over to minstrel Merlin to lead the large circle of people around the fire in one anti-clockwise movement. There was then a period of silence for letting go. Natasha has now returned to Chalice Well and she asked for the returning light to begin the awakening process. The quarters were represented by Sophie, Natasha, Merlin plus Lokabandhu. All four stepped forward to light the fire in the centre of the circle. With the fire alight, Merlin guided the group to rotate clockwise, back to the starting point. New light bringing new beginnings and opportunities. Lokabandhu requested everyone to take light from the fire into their hearts and then face outwards to send it out to the World. Immediately following the ritual we were treated to seasonal songs from the excellent Avalonian Free State Choir and Silver Twiglets groups.

Montage of the afternoon fire ritual and entertainment

The four quarters are marked around the unlit fire

Forming up around the unlit fire

Sophie welcomes everyone and talks about the season

Minstrel Merlin takes the group anti-clockwise around the unlit fire

The people representing the four quarters step forward to light the fire

Merlin takes the group back the other way

Sending out the fire's light to the World

The fire is now well under way

Seasonal songs from the Avalonian Free State Choir

Seasonal songs from the Avalonian Free State Choir

Seasonal songs from the Silver Twiglets

Seasonal songs from the Silver Twiglets

The fire at the end of the event

The White Spring (22 Dec 2011)

A concurrent event was taking place next door at the White Spring.

Across at the White Spring

Across at the White Spring

New Year's Day at Priston

The village of Priston held its traditional New Year's Day event in 2012. This started with a duck race down the stream that follows Priston Road. Following the race there was Morris Dancing at the village green. This involved the village's own Jubilee Morris, the ladies from nearby Somerset Morris and two other visiting sides - Winterbourn Down Border Morris and Rag Morris from Bristol. Hot snacks were available and the village pub was open all day. The temperature was significantly up on the previous year but the event was troubled by rain as it went on.

Montage of the complete event

Meeting up for the Duck Race

The final call for duck sales

The ducks wait for the race to begin

Off they go!

Off they go!

The first ducks come around the bend

Hundreds of ducks travelling down stream

The ducks make their way down to the finish line

The first ducks make it to this bridge

Lots of people follow the progress of their ducks

At the finish line

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Winterbourn Down Border Morris

Winterbourn Down Border Morris

Winterbourn Down Border Morris

Winterbourn Down Border Morris


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Page last updated: 29 Jan 2012