Mistletoe abundance in the Wye Valley

Midwinter is a season of celebration for many peoples; the time of sun-return, the shortest day. We celebrate the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice. For those of us in the northern hemisphere this happens over 20-25 December; in the southern hemisphere it’s 20-25 June.

The berries we use to celebrate in the Celtic tradition carry the colours of the sacred triplicity – Red, White and Black: they are the Holly, Mistletoe and Ivy and have been used since time out of mind. These plants grow in the southern as well as the northern hemisphere but, of course, at different seasons: the seasons of the south reverse those of the north.

The three colours – Red, White and Black – are fundamental to the Celtic tradition, the carry the energy of all threeness …

Red

White

Black

Cup of Lordship

Cup of Fostering

Cup of Wisdom

Smith

Healer

Poet

Upperworld

Middleworld

Lowerworld

Maiden

Mother

Crone

Spirit

Soul

Body

Branches

Trunk

Roots

Good

Beautiful

True

Power

Love

Light

Sun

Moon

Earth

The above is a list of some of the major triplicities we work with in the Celtic tradition. we celebrate these at Sun-Return, the winter solstice, and we use the red berries of the holly, the white berries of the mistletoe and the black berries of the ivy to help us do this.

This triplicity is symbolised for us in the triskele. We decorate our homes with these colours, in living berries, to remind us of the 3 Cups on which our life is built.

Holly berries

The Red Cup of Lordship is about the ability to be a Lord. This is not the overbearing desire for command! The Lord in the pagan tradition is the Guardian of the Goddess and the goddess is the Earth herself. In the Celtic tradition we call her Sovereignty because she holds the essence of all life on this planet. The Lord guards her, keeps her safe. In little we, each of us, do the same thing; it is about caring for the Earth and all the life – rocks, plants, animals – that live here. We celebrate this with the Holly berries and reaffirm our promise to take care of the Earth.

Mistletoe berries from the Wye Valley

The White Cup of Fostering is about the mothering ways of caring. To foster is to nurture, raise, encourage, cultivate, bring up, promote, expand, help someone/thing. It is the Lady in pagan traditions who holds this energy as it is the Earth herself who does this for us and for all life. Without the Earth we cannot be. There are only so many atoms that make up the Earth and we are all made of these – over and over again. When we die our body gradually dissolves back into the basic atoms through the agency of bacteria, fungi, insects and other animals. These atoms go to nourish trees and plants; may become fragments of sand and rocks; will become part of a new body for an animal or plant – and the human is an animal so they will, at some time, become part of another human. The Earth nourishes and cultivates all of this. We celebrate this with the white Mistletoe berries and reaffirm our promise to do the same in our own lives, to nourish and cultivate all life on this planet.

Ivy berries

The Black Cup of Forgetfulness is about forgetting the wants and desires of the little personality-self and working for the Big Picture of the Earth’s Plan. It’s often the biggest step in commitment we can make, to forget our personality and live our lives doing the work the Earth needs. Once you can make that leap it’s the best fun ever, it also enhances all the personality-fun by at least an order of magnitude! Being guardian to the Earth and fostering her are relatively easy for most people once they start on the path but letting go of the personality is a whole bigger thing. Doing so enables us to contact the wisdom of the ancestors and of the gods – the dark wisdom of the Crone, the Old One who holds the Cauldrons of Potential, of past and future. We celebrate this with the black berries of the Ivy and reaffirm our promise to do our best to live our lives from soul and spirit perspectives.

And all this happens at the time the sun is reborn. We affirm our own rebirth by telling over our promises of the Red, the White and the Black to Otherworld at the time when the sun stands still – from 22nd-24th December. We celebrate the rebirth of the Sun, after the 3-day standstill of the midwinter solstice, on the day he moves forward again the 25th December.

The blessings of Holly, Mistletoe and Ivy be with you this season.