Now we arrive at the most potent days of the year, at least if you are Celtic. In ancient tribal times in Ireland & elsewhere, the cycles of time were based on natural elements and the moon, and divided into 13 months of 28 days. Each month was named for a tree, also the Tree Alphabet, or the Irish Ogham. Each month also had associations of animals and plants. To reckon for the extra day, December 23 became the Day out of Time, the most special and mysterious day of the year.
On the Day Out of Time mistletoe – “All Heal”was gathered. It was considered a Chieftain plant, used medicinally to cure diseases. Priests cut the plant from certain Oak trees (the tree associated with the Summer Solstice, opposite this time of year) with a gold knife, and caught with a white cloth so it did not touch the ground. The animal represented on this day is a white eagle, with its baby eaglet, symbolizing rebirth.
The next day, December 24, is the first day of the New Year of the Celtic Tree Year. It makes sense to start a year when the days begin to lengthen again, just after the Solstice. It’s tree is the Birch one of the earliest to leaf out in a forest, and a sign in olden days to begin the agricultural cycle. It is the most special Eve of Christmas, traditionally time to light the Yule Log to burn all night, lighting the way for the Christ Spirit. One thing we do each year is light our fire using a charcoal from the previous Yule fire.
And I must mention this is the birthday of the artist who has most influenced me, Joseph Cornell (1903-1972). I would go so far as to say that any artist who uses magazine pictures in collage owes a debt to him. His use of printed material in collage and assemblage validated these methods as an art form. If you go to Washington, DC you may visit the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I lived there when it was first bequeathed and was an early visitor, inspired to see his themed folders (thousands) of cut images. He is also known for being a master of the art of material storage.
All these days come to a crescendo on a favorite day of the year, Christmas, Dies Natalis Invictis Solis, Birthday of the Invincible Sun. The sun has returned in reality and symbolically, revered by religious celebration around the world. It is a great day of hope and blessing.
Next are the 12 Days of Christmas, one a day…tune in.