At this time of year, when the light fades early and the world shifts from green to gold, cinnamon and fiery red, our old human fears of the approaching period darkness return.
From midwinter feasting at Neolithic British sites like Durrington Walls, to the Haloa of Ancient Greece and the Norse Yule celebration, humans have always needed a reminder during the depths of winter of light, community and the promise of good things to come.
The winter solstice has been celebrated in some form all around the world for centuries. Individual human cultures often mixed magic with religion in acknowledgement and celebration of this important astronomical event. Here we briefly look at five of these festivities from around the world, before discussing why they were so important to our ancestors and concluding with what science has to say today.
Plant lore is the verdant heart of Scottish folk holidays and traditions. Nature’s gift and sacrifice is found in the burning heart of Yule – the Yule log of ash or birch.
Simon Hughes examines erotic folktales—a less well known, and often censored, area of folklore—and presents a self-translated example from his work.