The winter solstice

It is quite easy during the dark days of the Christmas season to go deep, to get closer. In the summer, on the other hand, one tends to become more ecstatic, drawn out into the open in the dance of the blossoming nature. In the winter nights though one would rather experience in introspection the miracle of the rebirth of light, when the “light of the world” is brought to life by the primordial mothers, under the roots of the world tree.

In a state of silent contemplation, it is also easier to get in touch with the ancestors and to experience their blessings and instructions (under the form of premonitions). It helps if you find yourself – even if only temporarily – in the place where your ancestors once lived. They are still in us. We inherit from them not only the protein synthesis-controlling DNA/RNA, but also the inner images and experiences that are stored in deep, unconscious layers of our soul. It is easier to access these depths during the Christmas days.

Every year during the Advent season, we wind a wreath of spruce greenery, tie it with red ribbon and place four red Advent candles on it. The custom is ancient and in harmony with the cultural roots of the ancient Europeans. It is the sun wheel with the four cardinal points, the Equinoxes and Solstices. The green symbolises eternal life, the flow of the etheric life forces; the red – like the blood – is the carrier of the soul; the four candles, are the four seasons, the four ages of life, they are morning, noon, evening and midnight; and the flame of light is the light of the divine spirit that burns within us.


Part of the traditions of the Advent is a wreath made of spruce greenery and four red candles.
Part of the traditions of the Advent is a wreath made of spruce greenery and four red candles.

During the Advent season, the spirits move; they are the shaggy nature spirits and hungry spirits of the dead, led by the grey-riding magic god or the wild Percht. The deity from the depths of the forest or from the far north became Saint Nicholas, the bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, in the course of Christianisation, and the spirits that accompanied him became the furry nickel, Hans Trapp, Krampus, swarte Piet, Polterklaus and other rough fellows.


Then, on the Holy Night, the miracle happens; the circle opens – … “today it closes again the door to the beautiful Paradeis, the cherub no longer stands for it, to God be praise, honour and glory … ” and we see the world tree full of light; on every branch the light gods (angels); the music of the harmony of the spheres resounds through the room; on the trunk by the roots, the little child lies small on hay and on straw. The shepherds – symbolising the meditating souls – and the kings – symbolising the clear, star-knowing wise souls – are the witnesses. And the beautifully wrapped gifts we give each other are expressions of the love that binds us together; they are also expressions of the many gifts of the world of gods and spirits.

The "Raunächte"

The solstice or Yule festival was once celebrated for twelve days. These were the “Rauh” or “smoke” nights, during which the yard, house and stable were smoked out with spicy herbs. And since the gods and ancestors are so close at Yule, it was also a good opportunity to ask them for advice and to consult oracles. The spirits of the dead were also fed and invited to join in the celebrations. After the twelve holy nights, the three goddesses – still known in the Middle Ages as the three Bethen: Ambeth, Wilbeth, Worbeth – came by and blessed each house for the coming year, before the strong golden-bristled boar of the benevolent Freyr pushed the year’s wheel again with his power. (The Yul boar lives on in the form of the lucky marzipan pig that we give away at the New Year).

During the Raunächten, the whole house was incensed.

The winter solstice was so important to the forest peoples, the Celts, Germanic peoples, Slavs and Balts that they did not want to let go of it. The Church had no choice but to move the birth of Jesus to the solstice days – Pope Liberius established 24 December as the official birthday of the Saviour in 354 AD. Now it is also no longer the three goddesses who end the twelve days of Christmas at Epiphany and bless the houses, but the three Magi from the Orient, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. But I have no problem with that. The holy time of blessing remains and the gods are immortal; it is just that they have changed their appearance. Now, in the Age of Pisces, they appear in a Christian garb. And there is nothing to prevent us from singing the old Christian Christmas carols and worshipping the “Light of the World” and the dear God in the form of the Son of Mary in the manger under the Christmas tree.


At some point – when everything becomes too shallow, commercialised and meaningless – the gods will take on completely different appearances again anyway and reveal themselves anew in nature and in our souls.

Die alte Göttin und ihre Pflanzen von Wolf-Dieter Storl auf Mythopoetic


In dem Buch “Die alte Göttin und ihre Pflanzen” erfahren wir wie wir durch Märchen zu unserer Urspiritualität finden. Unsere Ahnen lebten in inniger Naturverbundenheit; für sie war die Natur beseelt und ansprechbar. Ich erzähle uns anhand von alten Sagen, Mythen und Märchen, von den Urgöttern, von Frau Holle, von Schamanenweisheit und den Heilkräften des Waldes. Ich möchte uns die Augen öffnet für eine heilsame Beziehung mit der Natur: Wir entdecken den tiefen Sinn und den Geist, der allem innewohnt, und finden so den Weg zurück zu unserer natürlichen Urspiritualität.

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About the author

Anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wolf-Dieter Storl on Mythopoetic

Wolf-Dieter Storl

Born in Saxony (Germany), Wolf-Dieter Storl is a cultural anthropologist and an ethnobotanist. He is the author of numerous books on nature, as well as on the essence and secrets of plants.
Wild, pristine nature was always his inspiration, shaping his philosophy of life. For him, plants are not only botanical objects, but also have, through their interaction with people, a cultural, linguistic, medicinal and mythological identity.
He lives in Allgäu (Bavaria) with his family.

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