He leads us up to the foot of the hill,
but there we stop: not yet for us
to take those final steps.
Where the sun stands still
on earth’s high curve, a woman rises:
bright black splayed on red.
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Happy tiding and many blessings!
Our Samhain/Halloween post went over great last October so we though we'd try a repeat performance by gathering all of our posts for Yule and the Winter Solstice from over the last month or so. As before, we've also included some extra bits from around the web that we thought you might find interesting.
We hope you have a very merry Yule and a happy New Year's! Cheers!
As I mentioned in a recent post, the winter season prompts within me a desire to withdraw and reflect, mirroring the natural rhythm of the earth which so clearly says: let things go, it is time to hibernate.
This year I cocoon with my new baby. Though I have three other children, this new baby was the first child whose development and arrival perfectly mirrored the wheel of the year. Conceived during the first month of the new year, taking root in the darkness of winter’s end, beginning to bud during the springtime and coming into full bloom during the summer. And, then, with the season’s spiral turn into fall, when many beautiful things are harvested, his birth: October 30, into my welcoming hands in the sunlight bright morning in my living room. Now, with the steady progress of winter, we curl together in a small, new world. We cocoon in the cave of our own home, the size of the world re-sized to the size of my bed, kitchen table, and rocking chair. This is the fourth trimester, the time in which the baby continues to develop his nervous system and continues to live within the context of the mother’s body. I am his habitat. His place. His home is in my arms.
At the winter solstice I can’t help but be aware that the earth is rushing inexorably towards its fatal crossing of the ecliptic on December 21. After that longest night, the sun will rise a tiny bit earlier, set a bit later. Before I know it, the year will have changed again, and life will have moved on as I sleep, whether I am ready for a new year or not.
Deep in the quiet night, curled up beneath the warm of my down coverlet, I ponder the fragile balance of light and darkness, remembering that the Tanach says in Genesis that G_d separated the evening and the morning, then called them the first day. In ancient Egypt, all life emerged from the water, but soon began the same sort of bicameral division, first into firmament and waters, then into snakes and frogs, and eventually into ta, the land of Kmt, and Hapy, the great river of life surging through it. Ages later, modern science told us a new story of cell division and multiplication. The act of creating would seem to necessitate divisions....
And so it is Yule. Unlike Christmas (and even unlike the Winter Solstice itself), Yule is not a single day, and its arrival is not determined by a single calendar date. It is a dark tide of energy that arises, generally on or around the Solstice, and Yule proper lasts for twelve nights, ending in Twelfth Night (which usually falls on or around Christmas Eve).
Its coming is not always predictable; one can plan for Yule and then feel the tide of energy arrive a day early, or a day late. In this modern era, most people are so harried by the commercialism of the Christmas season that they barely even notice when the tide comes in, if they notice at all. I own an online shop and my day job is in customer service, so I certainly am not immune to the hectic atmosphere that prevails. In the midst of the flurry of shopping and making, it can be difficult to feel the moment when the land whispers to you: “It is now.”
Our ancestors (in the Germanic countries) referred to Yule as Rauhnacht, the “rough nights” or “raw nights.” The Yuletide energy is not a gentle one; it is harsh, glaring, strident, echoing the energies of the Wild Hunt that rules this season. It actually meshes pretty well with the frantic shopping and feelings of desperation and often despair that surround Christmas. It can manifest in irritation and snappishness (tempers have been short in my household all week long), or in a surge of energy that one does not know how to channel. Many people respond to it by feeling the need to retreat from the world, to nest with books or movies—which is actually a wise choice. Traditionally, Yule was a time for gathering a home with families and friends—not just to celebrate the return of the sun, but because it was considered a dangerous time. The roads, the wildness, all of the in-between places were particularly dangerous; there was too much chance of encountering the Hunt, or even being taken by it. Only witches, seidhr folk, sorcerers, and other societal vagrants would choose to be out and about on these nights.