Yule 2012 (Winter Solstice) - Avebury, Glastonbury, Stony Littleton and Priston

This page includes reports and photographs from the various events I attended during the season of Yule/Winter Solstice in 2012. 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 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 15 December with a trip to Avebury for the Cauldron of Cerridwen ritual. The following day I visited Stonehenge in the late afternoon for the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr. 21 December was the big day, including Managed Open Access at Stonehenge. After photographing the sunrise I visited Glastonbury. A group had already gathered there to observe the Tor sunrise from Windmill Hill. The 11:11 Solstice point was marked in Chalice Well and on the Tor. Chalice Well continued with Winter Solstice celebrations around the wellhead and later down on the lower lawn. That night I attended the seasonal event at the Goddess Hall. On 22 December I returned to Avebury for the Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri. I visited Glastonbury again on 25 December to open the Goddess Temple and hold the space for the first session. On 1 January I captured a spectacular sunrise at Stony Littleton long barrow. And later that day 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 28 Nov 2012)

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.

Full Beaver Moon (28 Nov 2012)

Sunrise on 29 Nov 2012, the day with 2m 11s less light than the previous day, 8h 21m 38s light lost & 0h 24m 38s to lose. 95.32% to the dark

Sunset on 29 Nov 2012, the day with 2m 11s less light than the previous day, 8h 21m 38s light lost & 0h 24m 38s to lose. 95.32% to the dark

Sunrise on 4 Dec 2012, the day with 1m 46s less light than the previous day, 8h 31m 18s light lost & 0h 14m 58s to lose. 97.16% to the dark

Sunrise on 8 Dec 2012, the day with 1m 24s less light than the previous day, 8h 37m 26s light lost & 0h 8m 50s to lose. 98.32% to the dark

Sunset on 8 Dec 2012, the day with 1m 24s less light than the previous day, 8h 37m 26s light lost & 0h 8m 50s to lose. 98.32% to the dark

Sunset on 12 Dec 2012, the day with 1m 0s less light than the previous day, 8h 42m 2s light lost & 0h 4m 14s to lose. 99.20% to the dark

Sunset on 13 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 54s less light than the previous day, 8h 42m 56s light lost & 0h 3m 20s to lose. 99.37% to the dark

Sunrise on 16 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 35s less light than the previous day, 8h 44m 59s light lost & 0h 1m 17s to lose. 99.76% to the dark

Sunrise on 17 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 28s less light than the previous day, 8h 45m 27s light lost & 0h 0m 49s to lose. 99.84% to the dark

Sunrise on 18 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 22s less light than the previous day, 8h 45m 49s light lost & 0h 0m 27s to lose. 99.91% to the dark

Sunrise on 21 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 2s less light than the previous day, 8h 46m 16s light lost & 0h 0m 0s to lose. 100% to the dark

One day post-full moon (29 Dec 2012)

Sunrise on 30 Dec 2012, the day with 0m 54s more light than the previous day, 0h 4m 20s light gained & 8h 41m 50s to gain. 0.82% to the light

View 1/2. Sunrise viewed from inside Stony Littleton long barrow on 1 Jan 2013. the day with 1m 7s more light than the previous day, 0h 6m 28s light gained & 8h 39m 42s to gain. 1.23% to the light. For additional photos please see the "Sunrise at Stony Littleton" section later in this report.

View 2/2. Sunrise viewed from inside Stony Littleton long barrow on 1 Jan 2013. 12x optical zoom on entrance shows the sunrise passing across it. the day with 1m 7s more light than the previous day, 0h 6m 28s light gained & 8h 39m 42s to gain. 1.23% to the light. For additional photos please see the "Sunrise at Stony Littleton" section later in this report.

Sunset on 1 Jan 2013, the day with 1m 7s more light than the previous day, 0h 6m 28s light gained & 8h 39m 42s to gain. 1.23% to the light

Sunrise on 13 Jan 2013, the day with 2m 12s more light than the previous day, 0h 27m 13s light gained & 8h 18m 57s to gain. 5.17% to the light

Sunset on 13 Jan 2013, the day with 2m 12s more light than the previous day, 0h 27m 13s light gained & 8h 18m 57s to gain. 5.17% to the light

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Ritual at Avebury (15 Dec 2012)

The Cauldron of Cerridwen Winter Solstice event took place at Avebury on Saturday 15 December. The group met at the Red Lion and then moved into the Sun Circle to set up. The group moved over to the Goddess Seat and then processed to the altar singing a seasonal song. Tyto welcomed everyone and Steve the Stag honoured the ancestors. Tyto followed by blessing the altar and Saulire stepped forward with the sword, before walking around the circle to cast it. The four quarters were then opened, with Dennis on East, Steve the Stag on South, Tekla with help from me on West and Kumani on North. Saulire invoked Cerridwen into Tyto and Kumani invoked Cernunnos into Owlswing. The Charge of the Goddess saw Tyto welcoming the Lady, leading to the Charge of the God with Owlswing welcoming the Lord.

Afon came into the centre and talked about the Winter Solstice. Chris then took on the roll of Sun Lord. Afon uncovered him and the sun was reborn to deliver wrapped torches to the four quarters. The central cauldron was lit and the torch bearers stepped forward to obtain a light. Owlswing blessed the mead and Tyto blessed the bread and their distribution commenced. Saulire stepped forward to remember the shooting victims of Sandy Hook. I then performed my Winter Solstice poem. This was followed by the Working Magic chant. Tyto then asked Owlswing to step into the centre. In order that she could revoke his roll of Lord of Misrule that had been granted at Samhain. Owlswing then told one of his jokes. The Druid Vow was performed before the God and Goddess were thanked and the four quarters closed. Everyone then moved into the centre to sing a final song and Tyto had the last word as she declared the circle open.

Montage of the complete event (Photo of Matthew by Dennis Wright)

Setting up in the Sun Circle

Starting by singing a seasonal song

Starting by singing a seasonal song

Tyto welcomes everyone

Steve the Stag welcomes the ancestors

Tyto blesses the altar and asks for the circle to be cast

Saulire casts the circle

Dennis opens the East Quarter

Saulire invokes Cerridwen into Tyto

Kumani invokes Cernunnos into Owlswing

Afon talks about the Winter Solstice

The sun is about to return!

The Sun Lord shines for the new solar year

The Sun Lord delivers torches for the four quarters

Lighting the cauldron

The torchbearers process around the cauldron

Owlswing blesses the mead

Tyto blesses the bread

Saulire remembers the Sandy Hook victims

Matthew performs his poem (Photo: Dennis Wright)

The Working Magic chant

Tyto revokes Owlswing's role of Lord of Misrule

Owlswing tells a joke

Steve the Stag closes the South Quarter

Singing a final seasonal song

The Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr for Alban Arthan (16 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 16 December. 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. Rainbow blocked the temple entrance and let people enter one by one after smudging. The circle of people formed up inside the stones to a drumbeat from Wilf. Firevixen welcomed everyone to the event. The Call For Peace was performed 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 theme of the environment cropped up a number of times during the event. For example, everyone was asked to see if they could think of a way of reducing their environmental footprint.

Wilf acted as the Sun Lord and made sure the light returned for another year. 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. The mead and bread were then 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 other performances, including a drum chant from Nathascha and Mario. A healing circle allowed prayers to be said for those in need and those who had passed over. 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. Firevixen declared the gorsedd over on what had turned out to be a warmer than average Stonehenge evening, with only a little of the forecast rain.

Waiting to enter the stones

Approaching the stones at sunset

Observing the Tor Sunrise (21 Dec 2012)

A group gathers on Windmill Hill in Glastonbury each year in the hope they will get to see the rising sun float up the side of the Tor. This year they were in luck and the moment is captured in this video:


Watching the Tor sunrise from Windmill Hill (Video: mikesey)

Observing the 11:11 at Chalice Well and on the Tor (21 Dec 2012)

Stories about the end of the world linked to the Mayan prophecy seemed to capture everyone’s imagination. The Solstice point was 11:11 on 21 December. This was also significant for other people. Some have been experiencing 11:11 moments for many years. Myself and Lou from work have been sharing 11:11 stories for as long as we’ve worked in the same office. It’s not just glancing at a digital clock and finding the time to be 11:11. The figures can occur in all kinds of situations. The one that spooked me was when I checked iTunes for how much time there was left on a particularly long podcast. Naturally there was 11 minutes and 11 seconds at the time I checked. There were globally synchronised meditations and events at 11:11 on this day, such as the one arranged through Peace2012 and Unify.org. All in all the day was significant for a lot of people. I’ve never seen so many in Glastonbury town. Chalice Well and the Tor were both very well attended on this day. Below is a picture from Chalice Well and a video from the Tor.

A large crowd gathered around the wellhead


Gathering on Glastonbury Tor to mark the 11:11 Solstice point (Video: mikesey)

Winter Solstice at Chalice Well (21 Dec 2012)

Another group assembled around the wellhead at Chalice Well at around 11:40. There was more to fit in than with the normal midday meditation. Natasha welcomed everyone and there were various textual contributions leading up to the meditation. Those gathered were invited to contribute and so we had additional words and songs at this point. Rounding off with linked hands and three toned oms. Afterwards there was chat and refreshments in front of a fire down on the main lawn.

Montage of the day at Chalice Well

Readings around the wellhead prior to the meditation

Performing three oms around the wellhead

Back down on the lower lawn

Chat and drinks around the small fire

In the afternoon it was back to Chalice Well for the traditional ritual and music around a fire. A bigger group than normal was present for this. Quarter callers opened and closed their positions and the group spiralled around the fire. The Avalonian Free State Choir were on hand afterwards to entertain everyone with their songs.

Forming up around the unlit fire

The fire is now alight

Closing the East Quarter at the end of the ritual.

Seasonal songs around the fire

Seasonal songs around the fire

Winter Solstice at the Goddess Hall (21 Dec 2012)

The event at the Goddess Hall was well attended, as many people were visiting Glastonbury on this day. Indeed many were staying for several more days. An inner circle of Priestesses and Melissas was lit with lights. Part of the wheel was opened and then the group was taken through a long, guided meditation. Resting in Danu's arms ready to take on new ideas and projects. Afterwards there was plenty of time to chat with old friends and new.

A candle being placed on the altar at the end of the evening

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri (22 Dec 2012)

The Free and Open Gorsedd of Caer Abiri took place on Saturday 22 December. The group met at the Red Lion on this very wet day and moved to the Sun Circle at around 14:00. Willth welcomed everyone to the event and then performed the Call For Peace. He then asked for each of the four quarters to be opened. Terry took East, with Trish on South, me on West and Jim on North. Willth connected to the ancestors and the three worlds. Again there was an argument over whether this was the start of winter or the middle of winter. The group linked hands and performed the Druid Vow and three tones of the Druid Mantra. Terry followed with the Druid Prayer. He then came into the centre to talk about the season. Robyn y Glas played the first of his songs - O Come All Ye Pagans. Right in front of a special guest in the form of the Vicar of Avebury! I went next with another performance of my Winter Solstice poem. Morgan made a rare appearance at Avebury on a Saturday and did a Taliessin reading during her short time in the circle. Willth blessed the mead and started its circulation around the circle. Jim performed a song and Terry talked some more about the season. Mark then performed two poems and Robyn y Glas followed with another song. Although it was still raining at this point, the group turned to hail the sun. Willth then started to wind things down. He thanked the ancestors and closed down access to the other worlds. There were three cheers for the Solstice, the quarters were released and everyone was thanked for coming out on this wet afternoon.

Montage of the complete event (Photo of Matthew by Trish Conniffe)

Processing to the Sun Circle

Setting up in the Sun Circle

Setting up in the Sun Circle (Photo: Trish Conniffe)

Willth performs the Call For Peace

Opening the South Quarter

Terry talks about aspects of the season

Robyn y Glas sings alternative words to a Christian Carol (the Vicar of Avebury is at the left of this picture)

Morgan reads some words about Taliessin

Willth blesses the mead

Willth blesses the bread

Jim performs a song

Terry talks some more about the season

Mark performs two poems

All hail the Sun!

Closing the North Quarter

Willth says farewell to the ancestors

Three cheers for the Winter Solstice

Glastonbury (25 Dec 2012)

I was in Glastonbury on 25 December, principally to open the Goddess Temple and hold the space for the first two hours. This was a lovely time as lots of people were staying in Glastonbury during the holidays. Pictured with me below are Annick and Phiona, who were visiting from Belgium.

Getting the Goddess Temple ready for opening on 25 Dec

With Phiona in the Glastonbury Experience courtyard on 25 Dec

With Annick in the Glastonbury Experience courtyard on 25 Dec

Sunrise at Stony Littleton (1 Jan 2013)

There was almost no sign of the sun during the holidays. Knowing the post-Winter Solstice sunrise doesn't get any earlier until the second week of January, I decided to visit Stony Littleton long barrow on the morning of 1 January, for a predicted clear sunrise. I was rewarded with the barrow to myself and another perfect alignment. Two composites are included in the sun and moon section at the beginning of this report. Below are some of the individual images. The first set show the alignment as it happened, with the second set being shot at 12x optical zoom and showing the sun passing across the doorway.

Daylight floods in just prior to sunrise

The sun begins to appear at the doorway

The sun starts to fill the doorway

Building up to full strength

Maximum strength at full alignment

Intensity weakening as the sun moves away

Back to normal daylight

Starting again. Waiting for the sun (12x optical zoom)

First sign of the sun (12x optical zoom)

More of the sun appears (12x optical zoom)

More of the sun appears (12x optical zoom)

The sun is now almost totally exposed (12x optical zoom)

Now perfectly aligned and maximum light shines in (12x optical zoom)

The sun continues on its journey (12x optical zoom)

The sun continues on its journey (12x optical zoom)

The sun continues on its journey (12x optical zoom)

Now little more than standard daylight entering the chamber (12x optical zoom)

Outside and a much-needed stretch of the legs

New Year's Day 2013 at Priston (1 Jan)

The village of Priston held its traditional New Year's Day event in 2013. This started with duck racing down the stream that follows Priston Road. One race for children and a longer one with more ducks for the adults. Following the races there was Morris Dancing at the village green. This involved the village's own Jubilee Morris, the ladies from nearby Somerset Morris and another visiting side - Rag Morris from Bristol. Soup and rolls were available and the village pub was open all day. The weather could not have been better - a welcome sunny day after months of torrential rain.

Montage of the complete event

It was very busy

The ducks for the children were dropped in

The owners of the first three arrivals were awarded prizes

The ducks for the adults then went in

Travelling down steam

Again, the owners of the first three arrivals were awarded prizes

Soup and rolls were on offer

Colin was given a foreign board game for his long term of Bagman coming to an end

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Somerset Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Priston Jubilee Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris

Rag Morris


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Page last updated: 24 Mar 2013