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December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice Greetings from Ireland

Being Pagan in Ireland is a little different, I think, than being Pagan anywhere else.

We’re an odd lot, and we value individual strength, as long as it doesn’t upset the apple cart of family/community tradition, or give the neighbours anything bad to talk about.

I’m a… well, I don’t actually have a label that fits what I am or what I do, and that’s fairly reflective of Irish Paganism generally.

I’m an Irish heritage professional, a journalist, copywriter, a guide, an author – all things I’ve done or still do for my ‘day job’.

Personally, the term Draoi is the closest accurate description I’ve got, a ‘user of magic’.

Traditionally I might have been called a Bean Feasa (wise woman), but it seems a little arrogant to take that on for oneself. Before that, perhaps a Druid, though modern Druidry is very different to what that word means to me.

I am spiritual, but not religious, and I have a solid working relationship with the Gods, Guides and Guardians of old Ireland, and our sacred places.

How does all that translate into today’s Irish Christmas?
Most folk here go to mass on the eve or day, even if it’s only their token attendance of the year.

Besides the fact of the Catholic Church in Ireland essentially stopping anybody from leaving their organisation (is it just me, or is that a little cult-like? Illegal, even?) – Irish people are still stuck in ‘the done thing’, so babies are baptised, kids make communion and confirmation, and most people still get married in the church.

Many of us know that Winter Solstice is a much older tradition than our modern Christmas.

There’s the world famous Newgrange alignment, and the new but old City of Dublin Winter Solstice Celebration, with much more going on around the country, publicly and formalised just in the last few years.

Before that, you’d have to know someone who knows someone to get a personal invite to a genuine celebration rooted in Irish Spirituality.

So, raising kids in Ireland, interacting with non-Pagan friends and family, working, and all that jazz, you kinda have to do the Christmas thing, to some extent at least. But Winter Solstice is still a big deal, and getting more so.

How do we Irish Pagans handle that?

Winter Solstice in Ireland

We have a party.

Every year, on the Saturday before Christmas. We invite everybody we know. We start late afternoon, and carries on til the wee small hours.

This is the time of year we acknowledge the deepest and longest darkness, and make a point of balancing it with the lights of food and fire and feasting, family and friends.

And every year, I take a personal vigil through the longest night, to greet the sun the following morning. It’s a mark of respect, a point of sacrifice, and a time for quiet reflection on the balance of dark and light in my life, in my spirit. Time to adjust as necessary.

Do I think the sun won’t rise unless I am there to greet it? No, not as such… but I guess it doesn’t hurt to be sure, right?

You’re welcome ;o)

Have a Cool Yule folks, a Peaceful and Blessed Winter Solstice, and a Happy Christmas – wherever you are, whoever you’re with, and whatever you believe in.

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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

  • I’m enjoying the journey of learning the Irish traditions from a real person, thanks for informing me. Peace and Happy Solstice.

  • Thank you for Greeting the Sun every Winter Solstice. I know I try to rise before the Sun on Yule to greet it and welcome it back. This year I am trying to stay up all night myself not just before sunrise this time. 😉

  • If you haven’t been called a Wise Woman yet, let me be the first. I look forward to every post! The most accurate thing I can say is that every post makes me THINK! From me, it’s the most brilliant thing I could say about anyone. I am sending much light and love to you and wishing you a very Happy season
    Michelle Cooney Tower

  • Thanks Lori for the intellictual input and for offering studies for those such as I to know and delve into my ancestors have the Irish blood’s and charms to them my last name is lafferty and I am half Irish and I am half Indian from north america and the ancestors that were upon this land forever its a long story though time and one that I believe and speak of. I’m happy to be with you and participate with you also
    Joyous soltice and merry yule everyone blessed be

  • This Winter Solstice takes on new meaning for me with the knowledge I’ve gained from your classes. Thank you for that and for sharing your vigil tradition, I love it. Now I know why I’ve been napping all day. This longest night, we will start our own tradition of holding vigil.

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