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Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice

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Les in Chorlton 25 Dec 08 - 07:36 AM
Les in Chorlton 25 Dec 08 - 07:38 AM
Sleepy Rosie 25 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,Partridge in a Pear Tree 25 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,beachcomber 25 Dec 08 - 01:15 PM
Suegorgeous 25 Dec 08 - 01:50 PM
Les in Chorlton 25 Dec 08 - 02:00 PM
Sleepy Rosie 26 Dec 08 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,Two Turtle Doves 26 Dec 08 - 11:06 AM
Sleepy Rosie 27 Dec 08 - 02:27 PM
Les in Chorlton 29 Dec 08 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Scorpio 29 Dec 08 - 08:37 AM
Polly Squeezebox 29 Dec 08 - 06:48 PM
Anne Lister 29 Dec 08 - 07:03 PM
Nerd 30 Dec 08 - 03:17 AM
Sleepy Rosie 30 Dec 08 - 05:17 AM
Anne Lister 30 Dec 08 - 05:38 AM
Les in Chorlton 30 Dec 08 - 05:47 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Dec 08 - 09:14 AM
Spleen Cringe 30 Dec 08 - 09:46 AM
Les in Chorlton 30 Dec 08 - 10:21 AM
Marje 30 Dec 08 - 10:47 AM
Sleepy Rosie 30 Dec 08 - 10:49 AM
Spleen Cringe 30 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM
Jack Blandiver 30 Dec 08 - 11:17 AM
Nerd 30 Dec 08 - 11:41 AM
Nerd 30 Dec 08 - 11:44 AM
Les in Chorlton 30 Dec 08 - 01:09 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Dec 08 - 01:28 PM
Sleepy Rosie 30 Dec 08 - 03:18 PM
Jack Blandiver 30 Dec 08 - 03:32 PM
Les in Chorlton 30 Dec 08 - 03:44 PM
Nerd 30 Dec 08 - 03:52 PM
Nerd 30 Dec 08 - 03:54 PM
Phil Edwards 30 Dec 08 - 04:32 PM
CapriUni 30 Dec 08 - 05:01 PM
Sleepy Rosie 30 Dec 08 - 05:17 PM
Les in Chorlton 31 Dec 08 - 04:12 AM
Jack Blandiver 31 Dec 08 - 04:20 AM
Spleen Cringe 31 Dec 08 - 04:24 AM
Jack Blandiver 31 Dec 08 - 04:50 AM
Les in Chorlton 31 Dec 08 - 04:55 AM
Bryn Pugh 31 Dec 08 - 05:16 AM
Jack Blandiver 31 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM
Nigel Parsons 31 Dec 08 - 05:51 AM
Bryn Pugh 31 Dec 08 - 05:56 AM
Sleepy Rosie 31 Dec 08 - 01:28 PM
PoppaGator 31 Dec 08 - 01:33 PM
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Subject: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 07:36 AM

Do any genuine old rituals survive that celebrate the Winter Solstice around the the UK?

Just wondered


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 07:38 AM

Ok it's 12.38pm in Manchester. We are off to drag our bodies around the Mersey Valley for an hour or two.

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 11:19 AM

Probably quite a high percentage in one form or another.

I don't know about it being a specifically Solstice ritual, but the midwinter tradition of bringing in an evergreen tree is a very ancient one in Europe.

This quote from Father Aurelius Augustine (354-430 CE) shows how the ancient tree cult, was eventually replaced with our modern tradition of the Christmas Tree:

"Do not kill the heathens, just convert them;
do not cut their holy trees - consecrate them to Jesus Christ"


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: GUEST,Partridge in a Pear Tree
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 11:35 AM

the midwinter tradition of bringing in an evergreen tree is a very ancient one in Europe.

I know an older one.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: GUEST,beachcomber
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 01:15 PM

A Celtic Yuletide custom was wassailing, in which a group of people carried a bowl of wassail (cider) into an orchard.

The celebrants chose one tree to represent the whole grove and dipped its branch tips in wassail, stuck bits of wassail-soaked cake among its twigs and sprinkled wassail on its roots.

It's not surprising a culture that named its letters and months for trees had many tree customs. Only one day of the Celtic calendar lacks a ruling tree and ogham letter. The Celts called this day, December 23, the Secret of the Unhewn Stone.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Suegorgeous
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 01:50 PM

Partridge - ok, I give up..... which is........?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 25 Dec 08 - 02:00 PM

By and large the Celts didn't live in England. i don't mind that ta all but come on Winter Solstice, we all know what it is - but has it been celebrated in the last 1000 years?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 26 Dec 08 - 05:24 AM

Sorry Les in C, misunderstood your question.
It's a good one too. My guess would be that there are no unbroken traditional observances of the Longest Night remaining in the UK.
Though there may be others onlist who know better??


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: GUEST,Two Turtle Doves
Date: 26 Dec 08 - 11:06 AM

Fucking to keep warm.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 27 Dec 08 - 02:27 PM

Such brilliantly amusing contributions Three French Hens!
So nice to know you are enjoying yourself by yourself this Christmas...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 07:08 AM

Looks like a dead end then?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: GUEST,Scorpio
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 08:37 AM

By and large the Celts didn't live in England, L in C? Boudicca did. The celts were resident all over the isle until the Romans pushed the most beligerent tribes west and north. They were still resident after the Romans left, but the Saxon invasion absorbed most of them in England.
The Yule tree is obviously pagan. Sacred trees had sacrificed treasure piled around the roots, and sometimes sacrificed people hanging from the branches! By the way, mistletoe was sacred too - is our kiss under the mistletoe a surviving relic of some pagan fertlity rite?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Polly Squeezebox
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 06:48 PM

Well, as I understand it, the Celts were into their fire festivals and using fire to celebrate their special days. So, on 21st December we went over to Alton Barnes in Wiltshire and witnessed the outlining of the Alton Barnes White Horse in fire. At least 50 people had gone onto the chalk figure of the white horse during the afternoon and surrounded the outline with containers in which to light the fires. As dusk fell these were all lit and the horse shone out across the Pewsey Vale - a really magical sight. I would have loved to have been up on the hill taking part in the celebration - but severe osteoarthritis in the knees prevented that, so the next best thing was to witness the lighting. I don't think this is a part of an unbroken ritual - but it's certainly in the spirit of what would have happened in pre-Christian times as an honouring of Epona, the horse goddess - and very apt in an area so rich in chalk horses carved into hillsides. Yes, I know most of these are relatively modern in origin, but at least the Uffington Horse (Dragon?) is very ancient and pre-Christian.

The ceremony had a special significance for me because I am an honourary villager of Ehrwald in the Tirol, which has a very longstanding tradition of Sonwendfeuer - the lighting of fire symbols on the mountains at Midsummer.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Anne Lister
Date: 29 Dec 08 - 07:03 PM

Scorpio, you have first of all to prove that Boudicca was a Celt. There is no archaeological evidence that the Celts ever settled in mainland Britain. Plenty of evidence for the indigenous population trading with the Celts and so on, none for any large-scale invasion or settlement. No good reason for assuming Boudicca and her tribe were Celts, you see.

As to "unbroken traditions" - I've held off contributing to this thread with memories of last year's "discussion" in mind. Who would dare try to assert an unbroken tradition beyond family memories, with no written proof to back it up?

And with the family tradition that I know of in my mind, all I can say is that the solstice doesn't feature largely in that tradition.

I don't think that many keepers of genuinely old traditions will necessarily (a)be present on Mudcat or (b)feel it's very important to reply to threads like this even if they are Mudcatters. My friend with the (real, old) family traditions tends to simply shrug her shoulders when asked for the information or when challenged over it.

No harm in continuing to make suppositions, though.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nerd
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:17 AM

Tabster,

You're off base there. Pretty much all archaeologists and ancient historians agree that Boudicca and her people were Celtic.

Your statement that there is no archaeological evidence is baffling. ALL the archaeological, historical, and linguistic evidence, down to the languages spoken in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany, supports the contention that the pre-Saxon population of Britain was Celtic. Welsh and Cornish are both Celtic languages, as was the language of the Britons who lived throughout the island until the Saxon invasions. (And a good deal after, in some parts of the country such as Strathclyde.) The Bretons in France are descended from Britons who fled the island, and their language is Celtic to this day. There's no basis at all for saying that the Celts never settled "mainland Britain."

For the purely archaeological evidence, I'd recommend the books by Lloyd Laing, the most recent of which can be found here.

For linguistic evidence, see:

Jackson, K. (1953. Language and History in Early Britain.

Price, G. (2000). Languages of Britain and Ireland, Blackwell.

Sims-Williams, Patrick (2003) The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain: phonology and chronology, c.400-1200. Oxford, Blackwell.

For history, see...well, everyone back to Julius Caesar, who commented on the similarities of British language and Gaulish language. And see the somewhat dated but still quite relevant work by Nora Chadwick, which you can find online, here.

Having said that, wassailing is not Celtic at all but Anglo-Saxon. The very name, wassail, is derived from the common Anglo-Saxon toast "Waes Hael," meaning "be well."


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 05:17 AM

Polly Squeezebox, thanks for sharing that. I think that at least what we can say, from examples such as the one you've cited. That there is an impulse in the human being to find ways to express their need for collective ceremony and sharing in rituals which connect them to those things which somehow provide us with an experience of something greater? I was reading about the Baal Fires earlier on, a relatively modern but 'pagan feeling' activity on the night of the 31st. Our impulses to shared ceremonial type activity, and in particular those which in some way seem to directly connect us to our ancestry, history, the land and other 'pagan feeling' things, is clearly a deep one and it's one which is stirring into revived activity. I think that such small gatherings are purposive for the Soul (or perhaps 'psyche' if that term might be preferred by some.) And answer a need for connection to an Earthier experience of the numinous, which *arguably* (and that's not a discussion I'm willing to get into) centuaries of Christian religion has helped to divide us from. I guess what I'm aiming at is that the one thing which evidently does remain unbroken, is the impulse for sharing in that kind of experience. It's an impulse we share with Celts, Anglo-saxons, Stone-age man and so-on. And to see that impulse stirring and remanifesting and coalescing itself in new ways, is to me perhaps of greater interest than any unbroken traditional observances that may or may not exist.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Anne Lister
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 05:38 AM

Nerd, there are a lot more recent books than the ones you've quoted, stating the opposite. Celtic as describing a language is one thing, as describing a "race" or a culture is something else again. There are indeed strong links between the Welsh, the Cornish and the Bretons but that has nothing to do with a Celtic "race", rather that the history of the indigenous peoples is entirely connected - it was, basically, one main tribe who travelled. Read the works of Francis Prior (who did some memorable progs for Channel 4 and has a fascinating research project at Flag Fen). In particular "Britain BC". I haven't got all the other references to hand, but recent archaeologists have made considerable revisions to the way we can read the history of these islands. Finding Celtic artefacts is not any kind of proof that the Celts lived here, any more than driving a Nissan means the Japanese did. These islands have always been very good at trade. In times to come archaeologists may well assume that we have been heavily settled by the Chinese and the Japanese as well as the Americans ..
It has been a notion entrenched in our history that the Celts were here - just because it's a long-standing notion and written about by Chadwick and others doesn't make it true. Julius Caesar and his fellows were not exactly analytical historians and the word "Celt" or "Kelt" wasn't necessarily used with any degree of accuracy. It was mostly used by 19th century linguists trying to find a word to describe a group of languages, not trying to define a "race".

Anne


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 05:47 AM

Those fires sound interesting what history is known?.

Well, looks like nothing much remains. I guess those New Year Fire Festivals at various places are reinventions of something or other.

As to The Celts of the celts the most recent academic book on who was who, who is who and where did we come from is "The Origins of the British" by Stephen Oppenheimer. An impressive book that covers language, genes and so on. He dismisses the idea of a Celtic Homeland in Central Europe and places the origins of the Celts in Spain / South West France. He also argues from extensive evidence that much of England was not Celt.

Ok I am only half way through a difficult read but it largely supports the Spain, France, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland hypothesis.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 09:14 AM

I'm reading the first ever Oor Wullie book - in facsimile of course, which does contain folkloric references but nothing by way of speculation as to provenance, or else even significance. The immediacy of the empirical is all that matters, be it in fucking to keep warm (conception is always occult to the animal impulse of orgasmic desire) or else carrying a candle into Midnight Mass or a Tar Barrel at New Year. I guess Rosie's Pagan Feeling is a similar sense of vibrant continuity that might exist beyond time, or else a notion of time, or even a notion of tradition, however misplaced such notions might be. It began when I was born; it ends (I hope) when I die. I have Pagan feelings too; likewise Christian feelings, Roman Catholic Feelings, Modernist Feelings, Folkie Feelings, Jewish feelings, Gnostic feelings, Marxist feelings. Some days I listen to field-recordings of Hungarian village music, other days to Hatfield and the North; some days I might sing a Traditional English Folk Song, other days I might freely improvise by dragging a Tibetan singing bowl over the strings of an antique guitar (see Here). Some days I'll watch Marx Brothers movies; other days I'll content myself with Betty Boop cartoons. Some days I'll sit amongst the stones at Castlerigg; some days in the Green-man festooned cloister of Chester Cathedral; some days I'll find an equal sense of wonder in Blackpool Illuminations.   

Anyone ever read The Glass Bathyscaphe?

Is there a singaround at the Beech next Wednesday? If so, maybe Rachel & Sean will be along with a song or two - weather permitting!

Omnia Tempus Habent!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 09:46 AM

A clue...

PS - check your emails tonight, TTAYC, for a little treat...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 10:21 AM

"Is there a singaround at the Beech next Wednesday? If so, maybe Rachel & Sean will be along with a song or two - weather permitting!"

Indeed their is, Wednesday 7 January in the newly decorated and reupholstered Beech! All welcome.

Also Tuesday 27 January a Beginners Tune Session at the said Beech - more details shortly -Last Chuesday, Chunes at the Beech or some such nonsense

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Marje
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 10:47 AM

As Nerd says above, the word "Wassail" has Viking/Anglo-Saxon roots, it's not a Celtic word, and the practice is traditional to England rather than Scotland or Ireland (not sure about Wales). "Yule" is a Nordic term too, not a Celtic one.

I don't know why so many people, particularly in the US, are keen to label anything from Britain that is of historical or cultural interest as "Celtic" . The Celts are one of the races that contributed to the population of these islands; they were here before some of the other races, but the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons and Normans have all been in Britain and Ireland for so many centuries that most of us are, if you want to be racist about it, thoroughly mixed-race. The same applies to much of our culture - it's a relatively small area with good communications, so there's very little in our music or traditions that is exclusively or uniquely "celtic" or, for that matter, "anglo-saxon" etc.

Anyway, I wish a hearty "Wassail" to one and all!

Marje


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 10:49 AM

I think there is something else going on with all this pagan-u-like revival (or re-creation or re-imagination or revivification wotnottery). And that is possibly something more to do with where the varied diverse sensations and expressions of my unique individuality, become of far *less* importance experientially than that of the experience of Union with the collective. And not only with the collective in terms of congregation of humans, but this Earthly World itself. From which in a sense, we are only divided by an impossibly brief and passing sensation of our experience of 'I'ness. I think this is particularly where seasonally anchored ceremony (be it of fresh or old growth), which cyclically cuts through our comparatively modern (or so I understand it) linear and 'progressive' temproral paradigm, reverberates to that sense of something numinous and sublime existing 'above and beyond' time (and indeed above and beyond my passing flickering experiences of 'me'). But which is also paradoxically, both immediately now and imminantly here.
And also even perhaps for some, undividedly 'Me'.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 11:10 AM

At the risk of upsetting some, as he isn't universally popular, can I recommend The Triumph Of The Moon, Ronald Hutton's history of modern pagan witchcraft? A fascinating read, even for a raddled old near-atheist such as me...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 11:17 AM

There is subjective self and there is objective other; there is cognition on the one hand and culture on the other - the individual and the collective. The interface is language; and life is, for the most part, splendid, though I would never dare presume to be anything more than I am, nor yet anything less, in terms of corporeal being, procreated and procreating, but Godless all the same; material resonance, giving rise to such lawless and feral wonderment. Ultimately, each to their own, which is all; all in all its glory purely in terms of human empiricism, which is all we've got. Ourselves and each other.

As a sufferer of SAD I acknowledge the solstice as a significant turning point in the year; it is also a time of personal ceremonial remembrance (my father died on Christmas Day 1963 when I was only two); thus Christmas becomes woven with all manner of images, both Christian and Folkloric - an abundance of Fiddle-Faddle Stuff indeed - which involves Monty James Ghost Stories dramatised on BBC4 (the recent View From A Hill was very fine, I thought) and although we never did go for the Queen's Speech, I could imagine her making a fair job of Walt Whitman:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and
self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of
owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of
years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their
possession.

I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?

Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.

A gigantic beauty of a stallion, fresh and responsive to my caresses,
Head high in the forehead, wide between the ears,
Limbs glossy and supple, tail dusting the ground,
Eyes full of sparkling wickedness, ears finely cut, flexibly moving.

His nostrils dilate as my heels embrace him,
His well-built limbs tremble with pleasure as we race around and return.

I but use you a minute, then I resign you, stallion,
Why do I need your paces when I myself out-gallop them?
Even as I stand or sit passing faster than you.


Gently, my Johnny, my Jingle-o!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nerd
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 11:41 AM

Anne and Les,

I now see what you both mean: a large, genetically-distinct population of Celtic-speakers did not invade and take up residence in England. This is probably true. Invasions of this kind have never been provable, and historians have generally acknowledged that.

What seems to have happened instead was that a small group arrived and then spread their language, farming techniques, burial practices, stories, and artifacts to the remaining indigenous population. But it doesn't matter much whether Celtic culture spread by invasion or by adoption. The outcome is the same: an area with a culture identifiable as "Celtic."

As Anne pointed out, Celtic is not and never has been a genetic distinction. it is primarily a linguistic one, and secondarily a cultural one. (People who spoke Celtic languages seem to have had other cultural practices in common as well, which makes sense since much culture is spread by language.) Anyone who tries to use "Celtic" in racial terms is blowing smoke. We don't even know, historically, if the peoples who spoke Celtic languages were genetically from one stock or many. So when I say "the pre-Saxon population of Britain was Celtic" I mean they spoke and made inscriptions in Celtic languages. This much Francis Pryor does not dispute. I don't make any racial or genetic arguments whatsoever.

"Boudicca" is a Celtic word meaning "victorious." Her people certainly spoke a Celtic language. They also engaged in cultural practices such as chariot warfare, which was widely observed and written about among Celtic speakers, from Gaulish warriors in antiquity to medieval Irish sagas. Were these chariot-fighting Celtic speakers descended (mostly) from invaders who spoke Celtic languages, or (mostly) from an indigenous population who adopted the language and cultural practices of neighbors, settlers, or immigrants who spoke Celtic languages? It really doesn't matter that much. The culture of Boudicca's people was identifiably Celtic, and again, Celtic is a cultural, not a genetic, distinction.

Les, you're also right about the Oppenheimer book. He's a geneticist, not an archaeologist or a linguist, and his point is that the genetics of Britain suggest that the pre-indo-European people of Iberia (now represented mainly by the Basques) were the source of Britain's population.

Does this mean England was "not Celtic?" Well, not really. The genetic surveys done by Rosser show that, in Oppenheimer's words, "the closest population to the Basques is in Cornwall, followed closely by Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and then northern France." So the genes that predominate in England (over 58% in even the weakest areas) are found even more strongly in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland (where we know Celtic languages have been consistently spoken since antiquity). To argue that the ancestors of the English are "not Celts," you'd have to argue that the Welsh, Cornish and Irish are "not Celts" but "genetically non-Celtic peoples who spoke Celtic languages." That doesn't really mean anything, again because Celtic is a linguistic distinction.

One thing Oppenheimer does suggest is that Germanic genes seem to have been present in eastern England before the period we commonly think of as the "Saxon invasions" (he shows that they really were more Anglian than Saxon). He extrapolates from this to suggest that perhaps a form of proto-English was spoken in that part of England, without leaving much trace in writing. This is the most meaningful sense in which his work argues that "much of England was not Celtic": he suggests that in about half of England they never spoke a Celtic language, but went from the indigenous proto-Basque language to a Germanic one. This is possible, but it's a stretch...and he's a geneticist, going wildly outside his field on that one.

All of this goes back to one question. Are very old customs practices in Britain "Celtic?" The answer is probably this: some are Celtic in origin, and were borrowed into Britain along with Celtic language; some may be indigenous in origin, and continued in the population after Celtic language was adopted; and some are Germanic in origin, either from early proto-English people in eastern England, or from later Anglo-Saxon culture.

Wassail is almost certainly Anglo-Saxon.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nerd
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 11:44 AM

Oh, and as Marje says, some are Scandinavian in origin too!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 01:09 PM

Thanks Nerd,

I cannot comment on most of what you say I am only part way through a first reading of "The Origins of the British" and its a complicated story.

All I can say is I wouldn't trust most of the views of people who haven't read it and spent some time thinking and re-reading big chunks.

Cheers

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 01:28 PM

And that is possibly something more to do with where the varied diverse sensations and expressions of my unique individuality, become of far *less* importance experientially than that of the experience of Union with the collective.

I was never a believer when I was a churchgoer, but all the same I could never understand why some friends of mine looked so hard for true & authentic & meaningful rituals out among the stones & what have you. Go to Midnight Mass and sing O Come all ye faithful with the extra verse - there's a collective celebration of light in the darkness, and lots of people to celebrate it with.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:18 PM

"I could never understand why some friends of mine looked so hard for true & authentic & meaningful rituals out among the stones ... Go to Midnight Mass ... there's a collective celebration of light in the darkness, and lots of people to celebrate it with."

Sure, and for those of us who are so inclined, I think that plenty of us can and do appreciate a multiplicity of expressions of the sacred and communial experiences of the same.

I think that members of neo-Pagan religions, (and others amongst us who may not be memebers of any organised religion Pagan, Christian or otherwise) may find something in an Earth-based and specifically *seasonally* located form of communial sharing, which is arguably lacking in a seemingly politically assigned date.

I suspect that what may be found in an Earth and seasonally based ceremony, is an anchoring in a sense of the immanently sacred (for Wiccans specifically, matter or the Earth itself is cast as the feminine aspect of divinity ie. 'The Lady', in Gnosticism likewise, the Earth is similarly cast as the 'Anima Mundi' or Sophia) or numinous, as contrasted to the transcendent Heaven dwelling God of Christianity, and this answers the desire in the individual who so seeks (in the way you descibe) for a very particular type of experience which is evidently not being answered *for them*, by something like the Christian Mass.

Overall though, I think the poster below, who referred to 'fucking to keep warm' was in retrospect not simply trolling, but actually making a mischevously veiled but valid point. And I guess it's really all just about personal preferences: finding whatever it is in life that turns you on, and answers to your personal desire. Some people would wonder why others would want handcuffs and whips, when the Missionary position apparently serves most people quite well.

I'm not so much offering an answer to your question, because that wouldn't be possible. But what personally interests me, is not *why* doesn't Midnight Mass satisfy, (when it theoretically should but evidently doesn't), but from where does the impulse to manifest fresh/reinvent old (and apparently superfluous?) expressions of the sacred (which seemingly *do* for many), arise from?

Just thorticals, and probably as nonsensical as they usually are! ;-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:32 PM

I think the poster below, who referred to 'fucking to keep warm' was in retrospect not simply trolling, but actually making a mischevously veiled but valid point.

That was me actually, guesting from my father-in-law's computer. Nothing veiled a such, just pointing out the ancientness of such primal behaviour, ceremonial, pragmatic or otherwise. As a form of Divine Communion it certainly puts the Solstice into perspective.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:44 PM

Conception would be best supported by birth in Spring, giving newborn a good long time to grow. So conception in June / July? Summer Solstice?

Cheers

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nerd
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:52 PM

Yes, Les...and his style doesn't make it any simpler to digest, does it?

Anyway, don't trust me, I only read it once :-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nerd
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 03:54 PM

Well, at least Troll ADMITS he's a troll :-)


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 04:32 PM

from where does the impulse to manifest fresh/reinvent old (and apparently superfluous?) expressions of the sacred (which seemingly *do* for many), arise from?

I honestly think it's generational - the driving force is the conviction that our generation has just invented religion/sex/drugs/music/ritual/etc, and that our parents' version of religion/sex/drugs/music/ritual/etc is a rotten empty shell that doesn't mean anything to anyone. The idea that our generation's version of seasonal ritual is actually older than our parents' version is a particularly neat bit of oneupmanship.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: CapriUni
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 05:01 PM

I meant to post this earlier, but clicked the wrong button at the wrong time, and lost it. (Just as well, I was being long-winded and pedantic. I'll keep this one short)

I've been a casual scholar of folklore and mythology most of my life, and while I make no claims of expertise, I've come to two basic conclusions:

  1. Human responses to the changing seasons are fairly universal, because they all spring naturally from our human needs. So when it's dark and cold, we'll feel the impulse to gather together, light lights and be generous with one another.


  2. And when we cross paths with strangers for extended periods of time (as with trade and the expansion of empires), we tend to share in each others' celebrations, because when we're invited to join a party, we're more likely to accept than decline. Hence, the Roman soldiers adopting the Celtic Goddess Epona and the Persion god Mithras into their "official" pantheon.


    1. So I think it's (ultimately) unimportant whether or not a tradition has been passed down in a completely "unbroken" line, because even if it's been suppressed and forgotten for 1,000 years, eventually some new version will spring spontaneously from some human mind. If it has meaning and power, many people will join in, and remember it, and share it with others. It doesn't need to be "authentically anceint" for that.

      And, it doesn't surprise me that Britain, being on an island, has elements of rituals from both the Norse and the Celts.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 30 Dec 08 - 05:17 PM

Nice tidy post UniCapri :-) Though whatever it is that motivates the initial forging of particular forms of shared ceremony (as in for example the current emergence neo-Pagan religious practices) is *I believe* (I think the term is) autocthonous. Maybe those who know something about Wicca would know what the precedents were, and what inspired the formation of what is now after a few brief decades, such a massively successful religion?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 04:12 AM

Go and look at a wasp under a microscope, watch crystals of salt 'grow' under a microscope, look at the clear sky on a cold night think on the nine months that creates a new person. Who needs a religion be in awe of the natural world?

L in C


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 04:20 AM

Right on, Les!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 04:24 AM

And don't forget the Natural Church of the Sacred Wainwright!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 04:50 AM

Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                   Blencathra                  


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Les in Chorlton
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 04:55 AM

A secular prophet if ever their was one although flawed in his personal life! I have read the Good Books many times and find much excellent guidance there in.

We went up Scafell Pike on the first Sunday after the fells were reopened after the Foot & Mouth outbreak. It was like some strange religious gathering. People were flocking from every direction. Their must have been a couple of hundred on the top. Liz said look at that man he's reading the bible - he was too, a leather bound copy of Th Great Book Wainwright.

Cheers Nigel and is that Sean in disguise?

Les


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 05:16 AM

This is an interesting thread, to say the least.

There are aspects I should like to discuss further, but this might cause the thread to drift well away from "Celebrations of the Solstice".

I am going to start a fresh Thread - BS Britons, Basques, Dance and Numinousness - Chasing Moonbeams", and I hope those who have contributed to this thoughtful and inspiring thread will do

so in the proposed new thread.

Wise and Blessed Be. Bryn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 05:22 AM

We need all the secular prophets we can get - flawed or otherwise, in the face of all this post-modern pseudo-religious back-wash of the New Age with all its Wiccan posturing. I tell you, things are so bad a self-respecting vagabond (such as myself) can't sit in the Castlerigg stone circle improvising on his Vietnamese Jew's Harp without some pagan-type mistaking him for a kindred spirit. This happens a lot actually - whilst filming the exterior corbels at Kilpeck (see Here) I was accosted by a Wiccan who was very keen to tell me about the mystical Goddess significances of the Sheela-Na-Gig; and just the other week in Manchester Cathedral I encountered a young couple eager to check out some pagan Green Men. Each to their own I say, though as far as Pagans are concerned, it's all cut and dried in terms of righteous absolutes and unquestioning conformity to what is, alas, total bullshit.

In the words of Frank Zappa:

Look here brother
Who you jiving with that cosmik debris?
Look here brother,
don't you waste your time on me!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 05:51 AM

Bryn,
'Basques'
When I see a good looking young lady in this apparel I'm tempted to rip it off her. ...


Yes, I'm a Basque separatist!

Cheers
Nigel


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 05:56 AM

Not true, Troll (and it is impossible to convey tongue-in-cheek in the written word, but believe me!) -

As far as this pagan is concerned, and for most pagans that he knows personally, there are no righteous absolutes, nor is there unquestioning conformity (to bullshit or other).

Righteous absolutes and unquestionning conformity we leave to organised religion. The beauty of being a pagan, for me, is the fact that there is no set way to worship, or commune with the perceived mystical aspects of being close to Nature.

One person summed it up for me - "My church is the outdoors".

If someone had intruded on me in the Castlerigg circle, or the cathedral, then Wiccan or not, they would have been told what to do with the external corbels (super photography, by the way - congratulations) and the Sheela-na-Gig ; and the fact that this might be a physiological impossibility would not have deterred me.

Wicca does not proseletyse. Kind regards, Bryn


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: Sleepy Rosie
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 01:28 PM

"I tell you, things are so bad a self-respecting vagabond (such as myself) can't sit in the Castlerigg stone circle improvising on his Vietnamese Jew's Harp without some pagan-type mistaking him for a kindred spirit."

And I do have a great respect for the tradition of vagabondia, having indulged in various semblances of the same myself... It is of course one with a great lineage amongst poets and mystics and other such-like orthodoxy-renouncing heretical bums.

I do not however understand your irritation and antipathy at the brotherly feeling exhibited by others who may for whatever hippy seeming reason misunderstand you. There are those of us, who are grasping at 'something'. And I for one, understand that desire to connect to others who might potentially Recognise what I am feeling or attempting to grapple with - however unsuccesfully.

You spoke of Fucking earlier on. And what could be a more apposite description of two badly formed fleshly ideas, attempting to reconcile their sense of separation/difference and confusion through that ephemeral wetly scented hip-clashing encounter with an/Other, however briefly glorious such an encounter may potentially be?

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not seeking to challenge you, but I do not understand the seeming anger towards those who may mistakenly identify you as a 'kindred spirit'...


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Celebrating the Winter Solstice
From: PoppaGator
Date: 31 Dec 08 - 01:33 PM

"I tell you, things are so bad a self-respecting vagabond (such as myself) can't sit in the Castlerigg stone circle improvising on his Vietnamese Jew's Harp without some pagan-type mistaking him for a kindred spirit."

But, Dude ~ you are a kindred spirit! As am I...


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