Winter window display
As you may know, we change our main window display every couple of months so that its theme is in keeping with the Wheel of Year. We decorate the display with a different theme and we put a different Museum object in the window which links with the seasonal theme. We changed our display in November and we have just had some wonderful additions to it so we thought we’d tell you all about it!
These are the texts that appear in the window display:
Stag’s Head by Artist Marti Dean
Of the animals connected with witchcraft and magic, the stag is closely associated with the Horned God of Witchcraft. With roots set in the pagan histories and traditions of Europe, the symbolism of the stag has been represented in a variety of ways, from the Neolithic painting of the antlered ‘Sorcerer’ within the cave Trois-Frères in France, to the Gundestrup Cauldron, a piece of Iron Age silverwork depicting the Celtic antlered god Cernunnos.
For some modern witches, the stag–god Cernunnos is recognised as the horned god of nature and magic, and thus is celebrated in the rituals, art, and magic of modern witchcraft. This anthropomorphic sculpture of a green stag with branch-like antlers symbolises the magic of the regenerative force in nature. The objects hung on the antlers will be changed throughout the coming year.
For the Winter Solstice or Yule, the stag’s antlers have been decorated with snowflakes and white goose feathers in celebration of winter and Goddess Holda.
The Wheel of the Year
The Ancient Festivals
The year can be divided into eight major festivals which mark the passage of the Sun through the year and relate directly to the agricultural cycle. This is significant to many people (including witches)
The current festival is: Yule or Winter Solstice
On or about December 21st
The ancient festival of Yule celebrates the Winter Solstice when the sun has reached its lowest ebb. The days are short and the nights long but from now on we will notice the Sun returning.
The Sun child is reborn, a time to rejoice.
It is no coincidence that the Christian Church chose this time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the bringer of light. Christmas festivities may be a continuation of a much more ancient pagan celebration
Decorate your home in the ancient way with sacred mistletoe and holly.
This is a time of promise, a time to look to the future, a time of preparation.
Museum object in the window: Mother Goose Statue
The origin of Mother Goose is almost certainly the Central European Goddess Holda. Night-flying wild geese were believed to be Holda and her spirit companions flying through the sky. In some legends her companions were the spirits of the dead, but it was also believed that living humans could join her. During the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries a number of accused witches confessed to taking part in these flights, specifically mentioning Holda by name. The term ‘Mother Goose story’ – which seems to mean ‘folktale’ – apparently originated about the same time.
Holda was a Nature Goddess, with many wild animals sacred to her. As well as taking the shape of a goose, she could appear as a beautiful young woman or a fearsome crone. She was a story-telling oracle, and also someone who tested people by setting them dangerous or misleading challenges. She is probably the prototype of many of the witch-figures who feature in fairy tales.
The Goddess Holda actually appears in one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as Mother Holle, a mysterious old woman with magic powers who tests two young sisters, rewarding one and punishing the other. She was said to wear a cloak made of goose-down. Snow was supposed to be the down falling from her cloak (although another, perhaps more modern, version of the folklore had it that snow was Holda shaking out her goose-down quilt).
One rather charming legend tells how she was travelling through the countryside on a wagon when the axle suddenly broke. A local carpenter made her a new axle, and when Holda had gone on her way he went back into his workshop and found that all the wood-shavings had turned to gold.
The Mother Goose pantomime story is in many ways a classic example of a dark mythology transformed into a light-hearted morality tale, but the important thing is that the three crucial elements are still there: magical transformation, magical test, and magical animal.
New addition to the window display for the festive season: these wonderful Jolbocken goats (loaned to the Museum by Gillian Nott).
Many thanks to Gillian for this information and for the loan of the Yule goats! They look fantastic in the window, tie in with the Northern European theme it already has and our visitors will love them when we re-open for a week on December 26th.