Blessings on Winter Solstice

picture for myth

The Oak and The Mistletoe

To the ancient druids the oak tree was sacred. An English oak was more sacred, and if it was an English Oak that had accepted mistletoe, that was the most sacred of oaks.

Ancient druids gathered in the grove of oaks on Winter Solstice when a special ritual was performed. The chief druid climbed the oak and lopped the mistletoe which was caught in a white cloak by the other druids. During the ceremony two white bulls were sacrificed and mistletoe was later presented at the altar to the earth goddess to bring ‘fertility to the spirit of the earth’(Paterson, 1996). The white berries signified the sun god’s semen.

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On this Winter Solstice it seems like the perfect time to share my poem ‘The Sacred Tree’. ‘The Sacred Tree’ forms part of my collection about myth, folklore and legend around trees which I plan to publish in 2020.

The Sacred Tree

In a subtle seduction,
Oak welcomes
Mistletoe’s seed.

Evening reddens
the sky as drums beat
to a crescendo.

Entering the grove of oaks,
wreath-crowned druids process
in gold, white, red,
clutching staffs.

One trails, bent,
a stringy silver beard falls
to his knees. He rings a bell.

Seers surround
the sun-god tree,
ivory candles ignite
one by one,
flames flit
in the breeze,
shadows flutter.

Drums mute.
Crickets chirp.
A snowy owl screeches
from a distant trunk.
Heads rise.
Deep breaths echo.

Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen
Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen

Priest, in white, ascends
the oak, unsheathes
the golden sickle strapped
to his back,
lops the stem
bearing milk berries.

Brothers clothed in gold catch
the twig in a cloak.

Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen
Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen

Drums pulsate,
beasts bellow,
eyes focus
on two white bulls
led by the horns.

A red-robed butcher
grips his blade, slits
one bull’s throat
and then the other.
Crimson gore spurts
into the vessels,
metallic stench rises.

Drums cease.

Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen
Ah-oo-wen Ah-oo-wen

Mistletoe glazed
with bulls’ blood
is blessed, offered
before the altar.

Sun-god’s gift of semen
is embraced
by the earth goddess.

Patricia M Osborne © 2018

 

4 thoughts on “Blessings on Winter Solstice

  1. Lynette Creswell December 22, 2019 / 1:31 pm

    Such a beautiful poem. I find it sad that the Druids, like so many other cultures, felt the need to sacrifice animals to their Gods.

    Like

  2. Patricia M Osborne December 22, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    Thank you, Lynette. I think if you go further back that they actually had human sacrifice. Also they considered it a high honour for the bulls.

    Like

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