Many cultures honoured Winter Solstice and other festivals of light with 12 days of celebration, with each day having its own dedicated ritual or focus. In a recent post, I share some of these.
And although there were definitely religious or spiritual reasons for doing so, there was also a very practical reason for these “out of time” insertions: the need to synchronize calendars with the natural solar year. In cultures following a lunar calendar, approximately 12 were required to match the lunar year to the Solar year. . . hence, the 12 Days of Solstice and/or Christmas. We still do this today at Leap Year, inserting a day into February every four years.
Various traditions grew over time to honor each of the 12 days but typically no work was done during these days, and some cultures — particularly European — saw it as a period of revelry known as The Wild Hunt, also known by various names across cultures such as Herlaþing, Ghost Riders, Devil’s Dandy Dogs, Wilde Jagd, Asgårdsreia, Cŵn Annwn, Caccia Selvaggia and Chasse-galerie.
During The Wild Hunt, elves, faeries, the ancestors, Gods (especially Woden/Odin) and spectral hunters roamed the land with their hunting hounds. In some more recent/contemporary traditions, the Wild Hunt is celebrated on just one of the 12 days, typically towards the beginning. Some also associate the Wild Hunt with Samhain, and the thinning of the veils between the worlds.
Honour your Inner Wild during the 12 Days of Solstice!