Yule is rooted in ancient Germanic and Norse cultures, and is a celebration of the winter solstice, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. European Neo-pagan traditions often embrace Yuletide, incorporating customs like decorating evergreen trees, lighting candles, performing rituals, and feasting over several days of the Solstice period. These celebrations emphasise community, connection to nature, and marking the turning of the great wheel.
Spiritually, it’s seen as a time of rebirth, renewal, and the gradual return of the sun’s strength and light. Associated with themes of hope, transformation, and the cycle of life, representing a moment of transition from darkness to the gradual emergence of light.
Solstice does not only celebrate the life giving return of the suns rays but also a time to reflect on the dark season’s losses, to honour the longest, darkest of times for the year and for the people. Pre-Christian cultures often viewed the longest night, as a time of great significance, a period of darkness and the climax of winter’s power and is a time when pagan practitioners often work with through parts of themselves holding back personal growth and understanding.
The Wild Hunt is also often associated with winter solstice and is a mythological theme found across Europe. It was believed that during the winter months, often between Samhain and Yule a spectral procession led by a supernatural figure such as Odin in Norse mythology, Woden in Germanic traditions, or Herne the Hunter in British folklore, would cross the night skies. The Wild Hunt was often perceived as both awe-inspiring and terrifying, symbolising the untamed forces of nature, the cycle of life and death, and the liminal period between the old year and the new. The hunt was thought to collect souls or portend events such as war, plague, or natural disasters, so during this time, rituals were performed to protect against its chaotic energies. People would light fires, hang protective herbs, and perform ceremonies to ward off malevolent spirits, seeking safety and protection until the return of light and the gradual lengthening days, reminding us the growing season is returning.
So this latest part of the Wytches Wheel series is just as much a celebration of the return of the sun as it is about the night before the days lengthen, a time of vigil to honour the ancestors through the dark night and protect the living as they walk into the light of the day.
I have created this piece as a protection prayer, affirmation, spell, or any other word folk use to describe spiritual intention. This piece has been created to help us get through the long night, protecting our spirit light inside as well as the sun god outside.
For the Winter Solstice I have asked two west country pagans to be my muses. Woody Fox and Aline Philips are both practicing pagans on their land and both actively work with the land, trees and animals in their area, and both have strong connections to the two gods I chose as focuses for this piece. As Solstice is traditionally the time of the Yew in Ogham lore I very much wished to feature this tree in the image. Especially as Yew branches grow low to the ground over many years and when they touch the soil up grows another tree, until there is a Yew grove, in which the space becomes liminal, the quiet of the predawn, that place of utter stillness and waiting. The Yew tree is a symbol of death and rebirth so for me a perfect choice for this time. The tree I chose is a living tree and under the custodianship of Aline, I visited this gorgeous being in the growing season and the seeds from that meeting were sown to create this image. Because of this process of matching magick folk with magick times and magick places, this series has taken a few years to complete but I feel well worth the wait in order for the magick to weave together. Each person or people in the images are chosen for their affinity with the Sabbat or the spirits which embody that celebration or season of the year.
For the guardians of the sun over the longest night I have chosen two ancient gods of the our wild past. Cernunnos god of nature and the great stag, and Elen of the Ways, goddess of the old hoof trod paths and deer. I wanted the masculine and feminine represented as they are part of the trinity of life; Lord, Lady and Child, the circle of life complete. Woody is a priest of Cernunnos and Aline walks the hoof trod paths of Elen so they are both human guardians of the grove as well as the embodiment of their gods and representatives of the tribes. Along with the gods and humans I also invoked animal spirits, elementals and the fae to join the night vigil, all become guardians of the grove.
This piece has become a very significant piece for me as it has evolved into more than a painting, it has become a prayer for the light and a spell of protection. I have found every piece in this series of The Wytches Wheel deeply moving and significant. I believe it is because each image is based around a living pagan, witch, priest and priestess of our beautiful ancestral home on the Isles of Albion. They are the embodiment of living magick, they are an active link to the old ways, to the ways of natural order. Through their work with and their love of the natural world around them, they are giving back constantly and hopefully in my small way I am doing the same with my art and this series of paintings.
Wishing everyone a magical Winter Solstice filled with love and laughter.
A3, A4, A5 Altar Card, A6 Mediation Card