Last year during the Halloween season, one of my favourite vegan Instagrammers posted a lot about celebrating Samhain instead of Halloween – a traditional pagan holiday that is associated with witches. Since looking deeper into alchemy and gaining connection to the universe and to the elements, I was quite drawn into the idea of celebrating Samhain and adding it to my list of October activities.
The only issue is that these holidays celebrated by witches occurred in the north, so their festivities aligned with the seasons. Here in the Southern hemisphere our seasons are completely opposite to those in the North, and since Wicca is generally a naturalistic religion it is suggested that those in the Southern hemisphere should celebrate the Sabbaths in accordance to the seasons relevant.
I am not a witch, and I do not plan to be, but I love the particular holidays that are observed with the dramatic changing of these seasons. Things such as the Winter solstice, the summer solstice, Samhain, and the Yule. I don’t celebrate a lot of western holidays like Easter and Christmas, but I thought these tidings of the year would be an excellent way to pay homage to the Earth. Samhain is celebrated with Halloween, and Yule with Christmas, so while it is hard to pay homage to these holidays here in the Southern Hemisphere, I can still focus on marking the Winter and Summer Solstices . If you’re like me and need a bit of a guide, here are some ways that this can be done:
Celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere at 3.54pm on 21st June but is usually celebrated on the 21st December during the yuletide season. The Winter Solstice is marked as the shortest day and longest night of the year and celebrates the return of the sun. It is usually part of a Christmas tradition but as in the southern hemisphere it is nowhere near Christmas, there are a few changes that can be made to suit the climate.
Have a familial meal:
In ancient times, the winter solstice was the last day in which animals were permitted to graze the land, before being slaughtered for their meat, so they wouldn’t die in the harsh winter conditions through lack of food. Pagan cultures would mark the solstice with a feast, in which families would come together to enjoy what would often be the last meat dish of the winter. As a vegan, this is not a kind of feast I would be participating in, but the Winter Solstice is still a good time to have friends and family over for a delicious (vegan) meal by candlelight.
Serve Yule Log Cakes:
Yule logs are an integral part of the Christmas/Yuletide season as they generally signal the official start of the 12 days of Christmas. Their traditions heil from Scandinavia and it is seen as a need to keep the yule log burning throughout the winter solstice to ward off evil spirits. For those who did not have fireplaces in their homes, they then had a yule log placed in the middle of the kitchen as a Christmas decoration, but today this has been replaced into a cake version to enjoy during the timeframe instead. This year, as I do not have a fireplace of my own, I will be making a vegan yule log cake to enjoy during the longest night of the year with my friends.
Decorate with Orange Pomanders:
Due to their shape and colour, oranges have come to symbolise the returning of the sun following winter solstice and were scattered around the home on solstice eve as a decoration, and also a wonderful way to fill your home with spicy fresh fragrance. To create an orange clove pomander, you’ll need a large orange, some cloves and a ribbon. Tie the ribbon around the orange to create a hanger, then poke the cloves into the peel.
Celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere at 4.19am on 22nd December, but is usually celebrated on the 21st June in the middle of summer. The summer solstice occurs as the day that has the most daylight hours of any day during the year and the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt towards the sun. Unlike the association of the Christmas holiday during the Winter Solstice, the Summer solstice has other rituals which are easier.
Have a bonfire or a backyard BBQ:
Celebrate the outer and inner fire with a summer bonfire. The central belief is that the fire deters evil spirits who roam freely as the sun turns south. People in Estonia and Latvia believe that the fire scares mischievous harvest-ruining spirits, so the bigger the fire the further away the spirits keep (so the better the harvest will be). You can play the drums, dance, drink and celebrate with your loved ones and bring in the night, but if you are in a hot area like I am here in Australia, a bonfire may not be the best due to high temperatures and fire conditions. In this case, have a backyard BBQ and invite your friends around to celebrate the sun.
Seek out a sun ritual:
There are many rituals that Wiccans do to thank the universe, the sun, and the fire for all of its properties to heal and support and inspire you. The Summer solstice is also called Litha, and many different rituals can occur, as well as decorating a household alter in Litha’s name.
Forage for your own food:
Summer is a time when the earth is warm and the growth are plentiful, and it makes for a perfect time to get outdoors and forage for your own food. You can pick you own fruits from orchids, gather herbs and salad ingredients to make your own salads, and pick berries straight off the bush and put them into your mouth. Foraging for your own supplies is also a great way to connect back to nature and to the Earth as well as thank it for the bounty you receive.