The Nameless Day

Rhagfyr 23ain, y Diwrnod Dienw, December 23rd, the Nameless Day, the day following heuldro’r gaeaf, the winter solstice, is the extra day of the year whence comes the expression ‘a year and a day’. Its addition to the lunar year renders it similar in length to the solar year. It lies outside the named tree-months of the traditional pagan, or pre-Christian, calendar, and is associated with yr uchelwydd, the Mistletoe, or Holl-iachâd, All-heal, but that is not the name of the day, as it is nameless.

The day has no name, because it is a time set apart, and because the newly reborn – born anew with the New Year, have yet to be named. Their names, like those of the newly reborn y Celyn, Holly, bride of the y Dderwen, Oak, and Oak will be assigned on Noson y mamau, the Night of the Mothers (or, the Fates), which the Christians appropriated as Christmas Eve.  One’s name in a pagan sense is the expression or embodiment of one’s destiny, and on Noson y mamau the destinies of the reborn Holly and Oak are foretold, and all practitioners of the ancient traditions scry their own destinies for the year to come through divination.

The Nameless Day after Yule is the most sacred of the year for Celtic traditionalists. If possible, it should be spent quietly in solitary meditation; so that one may experience in her or his own person the mystery of rebirth. This is the secret referred to in the Cân Amergin, Song of Amergin, for this day, ‘Who but I knows the secret of the dolmen heb eu cerfio, the unhewn dolmen?’  Dolmens marked the womb-like graves of heroines and heroes, and as yet there are no names carved there. Now we have come full circle around the Olwyn y Flwyddyn, Wheel of the Year, and we see the journey differently than when we started.  As the Wheel turns, may our understanding continue to change and grow, and may it always be so.

The Nameless Day, according to the ancient pagan calendar of the Celts, is the one day of the year when the world of mankind and the mysterious world of the spirits touch, when the veil between the terrestrial and the celestial is at its most translucent of the year. On Noson yr uchelwydd, the Night of Mistletoe, to which it is also referred, Noson y Dydd Dienw, the night of the Nameless Day, the the longest night of the year, one’s supplications to the spirits, the heavens, the divine, are thought to be most clearly heard, most readily heeded. 

Mistletoe was believed by y Derwyddon, y Gweledydd Derw, the Druids, the Oak Seers, to be a powerfully magical plant, requiring reverential care in its harvest. A golden sickle was used, ensuring that the Mistletoe did not fall to the ground.  It was, instead, delicately removed from the branches upon which it grew. Mistletoe found in the branches of the sacred Oak was especially esteemed as it was thought that it was placed there during a lightning strike which gave it a particular power. Fighting warriors who met beneath the Mistletoe would lay down their arms and make peace, a forerunner to the custom of kissing beneath the Mistletoe at Christmas.

Mistletoe is the other side of Oak. As a symbol of divine power, the berries of the Mistletoe are believed to embody the essence of the divine. Pressed Mistletoe berries release a generative liquid which is used in traditional spells and rituals. Mistletoe is thought to ward off evil, and creates a formidable shield against the Dark Arts. It is also believed to promote healing in a myriad of ways. (Warning: Mistletoe is highly poisonous. Never ingest or apply on skin).

(All italicised words and phrases are Welsh.)

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