Outside the windows, snow is falling, falling, falling, and an icy wind prowls through the gutters, shaking the eaves of the little blue house in the village, coating the bare trees with meringue and discharging clouds of white into the air.
I pull the draperies closed and banish the darkness beyond the windows, taking refuge and delight in small seasonal rites. I brew pots of tea (one after the other), pummel loaves of bread, concoct fiery curries and spicy cookies, draw, read and dream, plot luxuriant gardens for next year (more roses and herbs, perhaps a whole Medicine Wheel garden) and forge grand schemes which will probably never see the light of day.
As dark as these times are, there is light around the next bend in this winding old road - in only a week or so, days will start to lengthen. Hallelujah! It will be months until it is truly warm and light here again, but at least we will be on our way, and Yule just may be my favorite day in the whole turning year. When it arrives, there will be celebrations and silliness, pomegranate wreaths and swags, candles, music and mulled cider to drive away the darkness and welcome old Helios back to the world. The Lord of Light is still here and dancing in his appointed place, but the seasonal wobble of the Old Wild Mother (Earth) makes him seem more distant than he is at this time of the year. It is we and the hallowed earth who are in constant spinning motion, and not the magnificent star at the center of our universe.
Between now and Yuletide, I light a special candle each Sunday at dusk in the timeless observance called the Solstice (or Advent) Sun Wheel. The tradition was initiated many years ago by the late Helen Farias and is continued every year by my soul sisters, Joanna Powell Colbert, Beth Owlsdaughter and Waverly Fitzgerald, to name just a few radiant woman spirits. It warms me to think that in lighting my golden beeswax pillar as the sun goes down, I join a grand and gently glowing circle of friends and kindred spirits in honoring the fruitful darkness and calling the sun home.
Do you have a seasonal observance of your own? Elderly magpie creature that I am, and ever a passionate collector of timely lore, I would love to hear about your own "before Yule" practices and customs.