There are very many ways to celebrate the 12 Days of Solstice. In my own personal practice, I choose an eclectic mix borrowing from Druidic, Celtic and Norse traditions . . . and even some of those now associated with Christmas.
In one Celtic tradition (source: The Pagan’s Path), the twelve nights honour the Triple
Goddess (Maiden-Mother-Crone) and Father Sun/Spirit. At Winter Solstice, the Celtic Sun God Lugh (he of the shining spear, who we also celebrate at Lughnasadh), is reborn and once again joins with his wife Eríu (source of the contemporary name for Ireland, Eire) who, with her sisters Banba and Fódla, were the patron goddesses of Ireland. Although Eríu is described as a hag, she is transformed into a beautiful goddess through love and marriage to Lugh and is seen as all aspects of woman: the Maiden, Mother and Crone Triform Goddess.
The days correspond as follows (starting at sunset the night before Winter Solstice):
- Dec. 20, 21, 22 The 1st set of 3 days:
The virgin Maiden Goddess is honored as your guide for moving forward into the New Year, to set you on the right and positive path.
- Dec. 23, 24, 25 The 2nd set of 3 days:
The Mother Goddess is honored for fertility and creativity in all your coming endeavors.
- Dec. 26, 27, 28 The 3rd set of 3 days:
These 3 days are set aside for the rebirth of the God, and honoring his guidance through the physical world.
- Dec. 29, 30, 31 The 4th and final set of 3 days:
The last 3 days are set aside for the Crone Goddess who is honored for wisdom and as your teacher into the cosmic lessons of life and spirit. In modern times, under the solar calendar, she might also be honored as the waning year giving way to the new year.
As the 12 days complete, the new calendar year begins.
Ivy and the Mother Goddesses
As I write this post, we are in the second set of days, honouring the Mother Goddesses such as Danú, Demeter, Gaia, Freya, Frigga, Isis, Yemaya. Call on these goddesses during the Mother Days of the 12 Days of Solstice.
In older times, my pagan Celtic ancestors would have celebrated these days with ivy, the Queen of Old. Of the three greens associated with Yule — Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe — the Ivy is most strongly associated female energy, the Divine Feminine, and is ruled by Grandmother Moon. It was a symbol of everlasting life (its green leaves in winter), and, to the Druids, a symbol of peace. Some think of Ivy as a parasitic plant but it is firmly rooted to the ground, receiving its nutrients there. Its strength lies in its ability to bind with plants and trees together, hence a symbol of fidelity.
My female Celtic ancestors used the Ivy vines to weave necklaces, bracelets and crowns to adorn themselves during Yule. Men and boys would wear a holly crown (holly is ruled by Father Sun). Ivy was thought to bring clarity, and represented the vitality of Mother Earth and the Celtic goddesses (such as Arianrhod, Brighid and Danú).
A few years ago, I was introduced to crafting with ivy vines, working in circle with a group of women, creating baskets from ivy. It was an incredible experience — preparing the ivy, starting the weave, and sharing stories as we built our baskets. Pure magick!
Think about how you can work with Ivy today and how it might inspire you. And celebrate as women did in days of old: sit in circle with your female friends, laugh, chat, share a story, drink some mulled cider and celebrate the Queen of Old.
Wear your crown today!