Solstice Reading!
(Clever Title To Come Later)

     When I was growing up, there was always The Polar Express, Twas The Night Before Christmas, and countless other books about elves, Rudolph, and Santa Claus. For adults, or anyone interested in a little more cerebral reading, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Story was near at hand. Later in the year, I had books about the Easter bunny and Christ's crucifixion and rebirth three days later. However, once I converted to Paganism, I found a dearth of good holiday reading with subject matter relevant to my religious beliefs. If I wanted to read something that put me in a holiday mood, I was on my own, as there weren’t exactly very many people lined up recommending good books themed around the holy day of Brigantia.


     It’s my intent to change that. My longterm plans for this section include eventually suggesting various reading items that correspond to the relevant Pagan Holy Days year round. Seasonally coordinated? Yes, but somehow I don’t think Martha Stewart would approve. Anyway, to start things off, I’ll suggest some good books for Yuletime reading. Now, I know the Winter Solstice technically took place two days ago, but with the winter snows just starting to come into their own, I have a feeling most of us in the Northern Hemisphere will be in a wintery mood for quite some time yet. For those of you who’d like a brief introduction to the holiday, a short history of the Yule celebration can be found here.


     Now, I know my denominational stripes (such as they are) are are going to start showing in a big way right about now. After all, I do worship in the Celtic (particularly the Scottish and Welsh) pantheons, as these peoples comprise a great deal of my ancestral makeup. Hence most of the recommended reading (in this section at least) will have a Celtic slant to it. Even if you worship in a different pantheon, the following are still excellent books in their own rights, so check them out!


The Holy Grail by Malcolm Godwin

     This book traces the evolution of the Grail myth from its inception as a Celtic fertility cycle concerned with rightful kingship and Sovereignty with the land, to its metamorphosis into a Christian myth designed to hide the worship of the Holy Mother (Goddess) Mary, and finally as it transformed, yet again, into an alchemical parable on how to conduct life, that would have pleased any Taoist. Aside from the fact that the Grail cycle has at its foundations the births of King Arthur and sometimes Christ, (two very important Solstice births from two distinct religious traditions) the legend itself is concerned with regrowth, renewal, and regeneration, which, at the time of the season’s turning from its darkest hour to the gaining power of the light, is highly relevant.

     On a related note, Jessi L. Weston's From Ritual To Romance also traces the history of the Aurthurian saga, and relates the Holy Grail myth back to the vegetative, regenerative cults of the sacrificial Solstice deities. A review of this volume can be found on this page.


The First Branch of the Mabinogion

     This is the first branch of a four-part story cycle concerning the deities of pre-Christian Wales. It was first set down in written form by monks, and is one of the best bodies of works to consult for a full mythological cycle concerning Celtic deities. Despite the fact that the monks replaced what must have certainly been Druidic and Pagan references to Christian-related themes, and updated the tribal setting to that of medieval English society, the Mabinogion is a wellspring of Celtic-Pagan material, and I urge everyone to read it. The First Branch refers to the events leading up to and surrounding the birth of Pryderi, an important Solar deity who just happens to be a Solstice birth. Aside from the Sacred subject matter, the First Branch is a rollicking adventure story, which also recommends it.


The Dark Is Rising By Susan Cooper

     Hooo boy! The first time I read this book (I was about fifteen at the time) it knocked my socks off. Aside from being the second installment in a wonderful, Aurthurian/Holy Grail-related series, also called “The Dark Is Rising,” this book is amazing for the amount of Goddess references carefully concealed in the "Christmas" story it tells. After my first read, I couldn’t believe this book was supposed to be geared toward kids. (End verdict: I don’t think it is, entirely.) I also have to recommend this book on the fact that it doesn’t always present the Goddess solely as a benign, lovable woman. All and all, if you’re looking for a good Solstice novel for you or your children, this is the book.

Let me know what you think! Email me!