Alban Arthan (Winter Solstice)

A Time of Rest

Hello my fellow travellers I hope you are all keeping well now that the dark cold winter months are upon us.

I want to now move on to the second part of working with the Wheel of the Year, Alban Arthan (Winter Solstice). 

As a young child growing up in a Christian household, (not that me or my family were practising Christians) Christmas was not a time I really looked forward to or even enjoyed.  It seemed to be a time of drinking, fighting, and arguing.  Putting up the decorations and the tree was like the person ringing the bell at a boxing match for the start of round one.  Presents were thrown at me one Christmas eve when I was about 5 with a comment, you might as well have them now, there’s no such thing as Santa.  To this day I am still not a fan of putting up the decorations and if I can avoid it I will.  I grew older watching people getting excited about this time of year and all I could think about was when it would all be over. 

My Journey as a Druid, however, took me back beyond my life as a child to the time of my ancestors, I read more and more about the different celebrations and began to fall in love with Yule.  This had meaning to me, it resonated more than the stories I grew up with, it became a time I felt something for.

Alban Arthan

This festival usually falls around the 20th to the 23rd of December, a time of rest for the long winter months ahead.  It is the time of the Oak King, a time when he now steps in and takes the reigns from the Holly King to bring light back into the Earth, the ongoing battle between the two has been going on since the beginning of time (well almost).

To our ancestors the Winter solstice celebrated the rebirth of the sun, a return to life, and the changing of the seasons. Symbolizing the changing seasons, the legend of the Oak King and Holly King represented summer and winter. They were locked in a never-ending battle for seasonal supremacy. Both Kings represented solar lightness, darkness, crop renewal, and growth. During the warm days of summer and when in full leaf, the Oak King is at the height of his strength. On the approach of winter and with the loss of the Oak King’s leaves, the Holly King regains power which peaks at the winter solstice. At this point the Oak King is reborn. As his new leaves open, the cycle perpetuates. Both are portrayed in familiar ways with the Holly King as a woodsy version of Father Christmas dressed in red with sprigs of holly in his hair. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god-like figure appearing as a green man or similar forest character. (borrowed from the Royal Botanica Gardens page)



As we know working with herbs was part of the Druid way. Herbs were used for medicinal purposes, in food and as offerings. For this spoke of the wheel I will give a short list of herbs associated with the Winter Solstice and a brief idea of their uses. A list of herbs are as follows, and as always care should always be taken when working with any herbs.

Blessed Thistle: Linked to the planet Mars and the Fire element, blessed thistle helps divert negative energy to protect and strengthen (animals should not consume it, but they benefit energetically from its presence). Medicinally, this plant helps to encourage milk production in those who are nursing. This bitterness also supports the liver and encourages circulation. Blessed thistle helps those who need comfort in giving and receiving.

Chamomile: In folk traditions, this flower of the Sun and of Water has been used in sleep amulets for dispelling insomnia and nightmares. It is also used magically as a hand wash to attract money. From a therapeutic perspective, this plant may be used as a mild sedative, or a relaxant to naturally ease tension.

Cedar: Influenced by Jupiter and the Fire element, cedar is believed to bring confidence, prosperity, growth, magnetism, and good health. This germ-fighting botanical has many applications but is often used to relieve congestion, or to cleanse and support the urinary tract. Cedar essential oil is especially useful in aromatherapy blends to fortify the immune system against seasonal issues.

Cinnamon: Associated with both Mars and Mercury and embodying Fire, cinnamon brings purification, success, psychic vision, and clarity of mind. It has been used for millennia to awaken the mind and restore the body. Energetically, cinnamon is a moistening and warming spice, helping to stoke inner fire and keep vital energy flowing during dry and cold winter months. Medicinally, cinnamon is helpful for relieving gas and bloating, as well as regulating circulation.

Mistletoe: An herb of the Sun, Jupiter, and Fire, this plant is famed for attracting love and fertility (hence the holiday tradition of kissing beneath it). It is also a sacred herb to the Druids, if you were to encounter an enemy under mistletoe, you were meant to drop your weapons until the next day. Herbalists use this nervine to relax the body, promote circulation, and reduce pressure and accumulations through the body.

Hawthorn: Hawthorn (of Mercury, Mars, and Air) has been used to ensure a fruitful harvest and fidelity in romantic relationships. Hawthorn tends to the heart magically and physically, offering aid for emotional heartache and a range of well documented cardiovascular benefits as well. This tonifying and diuretic plant helps dilate the blood vessels around the heart to promote better blood flow and function.

Clove: Cloves (of Uranus and Fire) bring protection, joy, wealth, and domestic harmony. Clove is said to help stop the spread of gossip and bring truth to light. Medicinally, clove has been used to relieve discomfort, particularly dental-related complaints. It may also help with seasonal congestion and stomach disturbances.

Frankincense: Blazing with the energy of the Sun and Fire, frankincense is one of the most revered sacred herbs in human history. It helps call in the presence of the divine, and many cultures consider it essential for raising the spiritual vibration in rituals and ceremonies. This resin also has many therapeutic applications, offering relief and support for joint, digestive, and oral health.



Crystals are another thing that some people choose to use/work with, as with everything on my Druid journey I look at things and see if it is something I would like to work with or not everyones journey is their own there is no right or wrong way, as we have a very sketchy background in the world of the ancient Druid a lot is based on the ideas that Druids work with and embrace nature, crystals come into this area as they are formed in nature and hence could easily have been used by our ancestors, thats how I look at it anyway. I have picked six crystals that link closely to the Winter Solstice and these are

Bloodstone - its energy carries the purity of blood and inherently speaks of life and birth, vitality and strength, passion and courage. As a talisman, it is both mystical and magical, and its virtues are protective and nurturing.

Garnet - cleanses and re-energises the chakras.  It revitalises, purifies and balances energy, bringing serenity or passion as appropriate.  Inspires love and devotion.  Garnet balances the sex drive and alleviates emotional disharmony.  It activates and strengthens the survival instinct, bringing courage and hope.  Stimulates past-life recall.  Sharpens perceptions of oneself and others.  Garnet removes inhibitions and taboos.  It opens the heart and bestows self-confidence.

Quartz -is excellent for harmonizing and stabilizing one's environment and is helpful in romantic relationships. It is said to amplify healing energy and is particularly effective for chronic fatigue, arthritis, bone injuries, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia and intestinal troubles. It is also believed to improve mental and physical energy, stamina and physical strength.

Ruby - is a stone of good fortune and this means fortune of the body, mind, and soul. When it comes to physical healing, this gem can strengthen the heart, muscles, and ventricles. As the vibrant deep red hues suggest, it’s a bloodstone which means it can encourage everything from circulation to menstrual pain. It can also help with issues around sexuality, fertility, and everything to do with reproductive issues. Ruby can also help the body detox, along with helping treat the kidneys, lymph, and adrenal glands.

Emerald - enhances psychic abilities, opens clairvoyance, and stimulates the use of greater mental capacity.  It helps bring awareness of the unknown to conscious recognition, imparting reason and wisdom.  Emerald assists in inciting activity and focus in ones actions.  It strengthens memory and imparts clarity of thought.  It inspires a deep inner knowing, promoting truth and discernment.

Diamond - helps the physical healing of arteriosclerosis, eye diseases (general), bad memory, gout, cataracts, concentration problems, strokes and weakened sight.  It purifies and strengthens the  glands and blood vessels. In particular, it heals diseases of those organs that have a direct bearing on mental activities , for example the brain, nervous system, sensory organs and hormonal glands.



The celtic tree alphabet, Ogham is its own language, written, it can be seen in ancient stones. It has a link with the Celts, I have been studying Ogham since the start of my Druid journey due to its association with trees and obviously my love of trees. It is again a very interesting subject which I will go into more detail on another blog, it is too big a subject to condense to be honest.

Again where Winter Solstice falls on the calendar there are two trees associated with it within the Ogham.

The first is Elder, the Celtic Ogham name for this is Ruis (roughly pronounced Roos) it stands for polarity, equilibrium, and purification, Initiation into the mysteries of dark and light.

The second is Birch, the Celtic Ogham name for this is Beith (roughly pronounced Beth), this is associated with cleansing, hope and new beginnings.  It is to do with healing, renewing.



Let’s take a look at Yule, and some plants that often correspond with the season.


In many European societies, the holly plant has become representative of the waning sun as the solstice approaches. Symbolizing the old solar year, holly is associated with the Holly King himself who is conquered by the Oak King when Yule rolls around. The holly was often associated with protection — planting a hedge around your home would keep malevolent spirits out. The ancients used the wood of the holly in the construction of weapons, but also in protective magic. Hang a sprig of holly in your house to ensure good luck and safety to your family. Wear it as a charm, or make holly water (which you probably read as holy water!) by soaking leaves overnight in spring water under a full moon. Add holly branches to boughs, wreaths, and garlands, to bring the Yule season into your home.


Remember the old holiday song about the holly and the ivy? Both are an important part of the winter solstice season. Ivy often lives on after its host plant has died; it's a reminder to us that life goes on, in the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. This is a good time do workings related to improving yourself, and placing a barrier between you and the things that are toxic to you. Ivy can be used in magic performed for healing, protection, cooperation, and to bind lovers together. In addition, ivy is associated with fidelity and loyalty – use it in your Yule decorations to represent the powerful bonds of family and friendship.


As well as the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe – it’s also associated with peacemaking and the end of discord. The Norse laid down their arms if they met beneath a growth of mistletoe You can place sprigs of mistletoe around your home and on tabletops in vases and bowls, or even make what’s called a “kissing ball” to hang in the doorway. Mistletoe is associated with several deities, including the Norse Frigga and Baldur, as well as connected to prosperity and fertility. Pliny wrote that Druid elders performed rituals in which they harvested mistletoe from oak trees with golden sickles. It was collected under a waxing moon phase, and then fed to animals to guarantee their fertility. As part of the rite, a pair of white bulls was sacrificed, and if prayers were answered, prosperity would be visited upon the villages.


When a forested area burns, birch is often the first tree to grow back, and is therefore associated with rebirth and regeneration. The birch is also associated with magic done for creativity and fertility, as well as healing and protection. It is the first month in the Celtic tree calendar, following the winter solstice. Use birch branches to craft your own besom for magical workings, and in spells and rituals related to enchantments, renewal, purification, fresh starts and new beginnings.


At the time of the winter solstice, the Oak King defeats the Holly King as we say goodbye to the old solar year. Oaks are a symbol of endurance and power, and although they’ve all dropped their leaves and acorns by the time Yule arrives, they’re still hardy and strong. Associated with a number of deities – including Thor – the oak tree represents victory and triumph. Rulers often wore crowns of oak leaves, as a symbol of their connection to the divine. Roman generals were presented with oak crowns upon returning victorious from battle.


As the solar year draws to a close, the yew tree represents the final day. Following the winter solstice, the days will begin to grow long again. The yew is associated with immortality and longevity. In some Wiccan traditions, yew is sacred to the crone aspect of the triple goddess, who makes her appearance in the darker half of the year. When it comes to the yew, the winter solstice is a good time to accept change for what it is and stop seeing it as an obstacle. Don't fear new things, choose to embrace them!


Working with this part of the Wheel

When we look at working with this part of the wheel we have to think about what it means and its relation as a whole to the rest of the wheel.  This is one of two occasions that the sun appears to be standing still in the sky, a time when the sun rises and sets in the same places.  It is seen as the time when the sun is reborn, and from this point the days begin to grow longer and the sun starts to become stronger again.

This is a good time for taking heed of things, don’t spend all your time rushing around, take time to rest and build your strength for when the sun becomes stronger.  It is seen as a time for restoration, a time to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. 

Again this is just an outline of this time of year, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and hopefully we are now starting to work with the Wheel so we can start to appreciate the old ways and maybe bring some life back into them.

As always I will end on one of my poems, I have recently written this and it is called “The Magpie” I hope you enjoy it.



 The Magpie in the Birch tree sat

Looking to the ground

Deciding when to take the chance

For a tasty worm he found

Upon his black and shiny wings

He begins his flight

To gently land on dew-soaked grass

As day comes from the night

The early bird does catch the worm

Or so the story goes

But fending of the hunger

Is what this magpie knows

He has no time for stories

As he hops along the ground

He tries to get his daily fill

Before others come around

Majestically he struts about

With plumage black and white

Watched by all the smaller birds

Who keep out of his sight

He walks around the grass so green

Pecking at the earth

Enticing out the juicy worms

For all that he is worth

Then from out of nowhere

Soaring up on high

A sparrowhawk emerges

The magpie’s caught his eye

Quicker than a blinking eye

The sparrowhawk descends

To catch his early morning prey

Is this the magpie’s end

The magpie’s heart is beating fast

As he quickly looks about

Looking for a place to hide

His future is in doubt

He spies a gap within a hedge

And speedily takes flight

The sparrowhawk is closing

He knows it will be tight

He holds his breath and flaps his wings

His sanctuary’s near

He reaches safety in the leaves

His eyes are wide with fear

The sparrowhawk he turns around

He knows he’s lost his prey

The magpie smiles inwardly

He’s safe again today

The moments pass, and from the hedge

The magpie soon emerges

To search again for juicy worms

Upon the grassy verges.


As always my friends thank you for bearing with me, I hope you find this interesting, let me know if you want to no more about anything.

Take care my friends, stay safe

Blessed be /|\