The period between Samhain and Winter Solstice was recognized by my Celtic ancestors (and likely many ancestors around the world!) as a time when the veil between this physical world and the Otherworld was thin, when communication was most common between the realms. Some believed that spirits roamed the night on Solstice Eve and Christmas Eve, just as they do at Samhain.
I have long felt that these beliefs and traditions must have inspired 19th Century English novelist Charles Dickens in his classic tale “A Christmas Carol”.
Did you know that the original title was “ A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” Yes, ghosts . . . fairies . . . spirits. All at Winter Solstice!
Dickens wrote about four Spirits who visit a wealthy miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, a man known as mean and friendless, who had lost touch with his own joy and generosity.
The first visiting spirit was Jacob Marley, the deceased business partner of Scrooge, who foretold the visits of three Spirits from the Otherworld: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present (pictured to the right in one of the original illustrations for Dicken’s tale) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Those spirits visited Scrooge throughout the night on Christmas Eve, taking him on magical otherworld journeys to his own past, present and future — and revealing his true essence, and their medicine and wisdom of the Christmas spirits: “the true meaning of Christmas”.
Scrooge is healed through his experiences with the Ghosts of Christmas, and chooses a new path from that day forward. As Father Sun was reborn, and the Light returned, so Ebenezer Scrooge was enlightened.
From Dicken’s book (available to read here in PDF format):
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
If that isn’t a shamanic journey, I don’t know what is!
What are your favourite myths, stories and legends associated with Winter Solstice . . . and all the iterations of that celebration of light around the world?