Saturday, December 20, 2008

For Yule - The Solstice Wreath

The grim news has come to my attention
that something in the world has come unfixed —
owls no longer haunt the fir lined alley
appearing out of the dreamtime as we pass,

indeed whole souls have gone missing, as if being
has itself gone dim — like an old man’s seeing.
A vital light is missing from the world, by which I mean
that ephemeral gold that spins the seen

and unseen worlds together. In my life
I don’t expect to see a springtime swelling
of the shriveled nut so many spirits
have become. What’s to be done?

This is the winter solstice of an age,
although the season’s worst is yet to come.
What’s delicate and true has come undone:
is the only fitting answer
a pure and focused rage?

Today I wove a wreath of bone and fir
and filbert withes, twined in sacred holly,
incense cedar from an ancient tree.
I wove, affixed a star, and spoke a spell:

“Let this circle stand as the gate of winter
sure passage to the days of lengthening light.”
And then I whispered names in the fragrant bough
Lacing love like a scarlet ribbon through the fronds.

Long I wove and dreamed back friends and kin,
each great soul calling back the sun.
I thought at last, “My life here is not done.”
And some bright star rekindled from within

Sandy Jenson


The shortest day and the longest night in the ever turning calendar of the seasons, Yule is classified as a "low holiday" or lesser celebration on the Wheel of the Year, but it has always been one of my favorite observances. If you live as far north as we do, this festival in the heart of winter is one to observe with thanksgiving and reflection, with song, mulled cider, fine munchies, tales, firelight and rowdy vibrant fellowship.

From this hallowed moment onward, we will gain a few minutes of precious sunlight every day until the Summer Solstice on June 21. Let the bells ring out, and the games begin, but first, there is the shoveling of snow, for we are in the midst of a blizzard here in the north, and the world beyond the windows is white, white, white. It will remain that way for several days and nights to come, no worries about a white Christmas this year...

For some reason, I always find my Yule post vaguely unsatisfying - I write and rewrite, scan DVD after DVD in my archive, searching, always searching, for an image which will somehow encapsulate the magic of this ancient snowbound holiday. When I have finished and uploaded my post, I continue to feel that I have not done justice to the day and its timeless rites of illumination.

Sandy Jenson's lovely poem is printed in the frontispiece of one of my favorite books on solstice observances, Richard Heinberg's
Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth's Seasonal Rhythms Through Festival and Ceremony, published by Quest in 1993. Her poem is a poignant tribute to this stormy winter day on which we celebrate the triumphant return of old Helios, the ascendance of light in the fertile darkness of winter.

Happy Yule to everyone!


Anonymous said...

Lovely, Cate. I'm very much looking forward to the lengthening of the days.

Shell said...

Happy Yule to you, too. I am glad of the sun's return to us all.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a lovely post and particularly enjoyed the poem with the photos. No snow here so I enjoyed yours.

Sky said...

and to you, too! beautiful icy tree limbs against the blue sky.

Anonymous said...

Blessed Yule!

~Flaneuse in DC

Quiet said...

The picture is beautiful - lace like.

Solstice does not seem to be celebrated in the same way here, or possibly because I am quite solitary in my observance.

Yule occurs in Summer here and we have so far been blessed with comparative cool and even a little rain.

Many blessings to all.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I found a copy of Heinberg's book used for $1.50, so I ordered it - thanks for the tip!