Hello everyone,

Research is a constant, ongoing process while writing historical fiction. Sometimes a fascinating tidbit surfaces that might be of particular interest beyond its use in a novel. As I continue to work in the historical fiction field, I will post those occasional points of interest here. Occasionally I muse on the writing process as well along with news to keep readers informed of what's going on with my books and other writings.

Please feel free to post comments--I'd love to hear from you.

The photo above is of Snowdonia in North Wales, which plays a large part in the setting of the Macsen's Treasure Series.


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Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Solstice

The poem that follows reflects an old Celtic tale about the change of seasons at Midwinter, or the Winter Solstice. The Holly King represents the "dark" half of the year. He defeats the Oak King at Midsummer by stealing the light and driving the world towards winter. Likewise the Oak King represents life and the "light" half of the year. When he defeats the Holly King at Midwinter, he brings the rebirth of the world and the plenty of the coming summer.

Monday, December 15, 2008

In the Spirit of the Winter Solstice

The Winter Kings

The land sleeps
wrapped in indigo cold
and sightless solitude
in the barren nighttime of the year,
crackling ice the only sound,
plumes of breath unseen,
the smell of cold on Midwinter Eve…

At sunset, the measure of the day’s end
and the beginning of the next,
the Holly King’s bitter cold laugh
haunts and howls—a lonely sound indeed.
His waxy green leaves and brilliant red berries
Rattle with his defiance.
He holds up his lantern, shows off his catch—
he has stolen the last of the light of the world.
With the roar of his laughter still in our ears,
he rides off on his stallion of darkness.

We’ve dressed in evergreen and scarlet,
Decorated the houses with sprigs of yew and pine,
to honour the gods, the spirits of the ancient ones.
Since Nos Galan Gaeaf —
the new year of the ancestors —
we’ve drawn deep within
the nourishment of home and hearth
just as the sun has withdrawn into its winter burrow —
In observance we snuff out the hearths,
the rushlights, the lanterns, one by one,
until the last is gone.
And in the hours of the absence of time,
We wait, huddled in the uncertainty of the dark.

the snow drifts in whispers:
he is coming,
he is coming…
Children whimper, their mothers hush them,
Fathers watch,
Waiting, waiting…
Will he? Will the Oak King come?
Will he defeat the Holly King and break the grip of winter?
He always has, since time out of mind.
But what if he cannot this one time?
Will we live in darkness forever more?

Across the frozen ground,
blown like ice on the colorless wind,
shadows stir like feathery gauze.
Through air knife-edge sharp with cold
the silence cannot be more complete.

as the midnight call echoes from rampart to watchtower,
a single sparkle begins across the night sky.
The Dragonstar—whispers haunt from the houses—
It streams golden fire-ice
a shimmering messenger
of Light
of Magic
of Miracle
and in a crystalline shower,
the Oak King bursts forth from the woods on his white stallion.
Into the center of the houses he races, to a pile of wood set high.
“Here is the light of the world!” he shouts,
and he sets his torch to light the wood.

Cheers rise;
in every home, hearth after hearth is rekindled.
The music begins.
We dance in rows and circles, sing, give gifts of sweets.
In a flurry of leaves,
the Oak King spreads acorns across the frozen land.
The Wheel of Time has turned—
the bounty of summer is on its way again.


Copyright 2005 Kathleen Cunningham Guler