Celtic Celebrations, Solstice

12 Days of Solstice: Lá an Dreoilín aka Wren Day

Blessings on St Stephens Day aka Lá Fhéile Stiofáin (Irish Gaelic) or Lá an Dreoilín, meaning the Wren Day, aka Gŵyl San Steffan (Welsh).

This festival seems to syncretize its Pagan and Christian roots. St Stephen was the first Christian martyr and the day was also celebrated by Mummers — troupes of all male amateur actors also known as “wren boys” or “strawboys” — across Britain and was very popular in Ireland.

Per Wikipedia, “This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens (previously real wrens were killed) and they dance, sing and play music.” The wren allegedly betrayed Saint Stephen, hence the ritual — and then symbolic — revenge. The Wren was also considered King of the Birds, and represented the old year. Capturing a wren alive was said to ensure a prosperous new year, and a wren feather was a talisman to protect one from being lost at sea. Some believe these rituals to be Druidic in origin: the Irish Gaelic word for wren is “dreolín”, possibly from “draoi ean”, or ‘Druid bird’

Some of the Welsh traditions for this day, apparently now (thankfully!) discontinued, included a ritual for bleeding of livestock (apparently for their health and stamina!) and “holming” (beating with holly bushes) any late risers and servants, apparently for good luck … although I’m sure those at the end of a holly swat would not agree! These are traditions I am more than happy to leave in the past!

Various images sourced via Google


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