Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Ramble Before Yule

After a time of decay comes the turning point.The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement, but it is not brought about by force; thus the movement is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason, the transformation of the old becomes easy. The idea of RETURN is based on the course of nature.The movement is cyclic, and the course completes itself. Therefore it is not necessary to hasten anything artificially. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time. This is the meaning of heaven and earth.
I Ching Hexagram 24 - Fu / Return (The Turning Point)

Next Thursday (December 20) is the eve of Yule or the Winter Solstice, one of the four pivotal astronomical points in the calendar year, and the I Ching hexagram in the preceding paragraph describes the event more eloquently. I ever could. Yule is one of only two times in the calendar year (along with the summer solstice) when the sun seems to stand still for a brief interval - that is what "solstice" means, that the sun is standing still. This week's word has been around in one form or another since the beginning times, and it comes to us from the Latin noun sōlstitium, itself a blend of the noun sōl [sun] and the verb sistere [to stand still].

For years, I visited the solstice pages at Theresa Ruano's Candlegrove site, and I was disappointed when her creation disappeared from the web for a year or two. Now the place is up and running again after a fashion, and I have been browsing happily through the wealth of solstice lore and customs there.

December days are short and dark and cold, dense clouds from horizon to horizon most of the time. Cloudless days are rare, blue and oh so beautiful, but they are the coldest days of all. The earth below our feet sleeps easy under a blanket of snow and glossy ice. For all that, there is a feeling of movement in the landscape, a clear sense that vibrant (and welcome) change is on its way.  Sunlight is a scarce quantity here in winter, and we look forward to having a few more minutes of sunlight every single blessed day after next Friday - until next June when sunlight hours will begin to wane once more. The first few months of next year will be frigid going, but hallelujah, there will be sunlight now and again.

I build a fire in the old fireplace downstairs with logs from a favorite grove in the Lanark highlands, and I find myself thinking of the ancestors and their seasonal rites. Huddled together for warmth in their bothies, they must have fed the flames burning on their open hearths and lighted tallow candles to drive the dark away, watched winter skies hopefully for signs of the sun's return.  They must have rejoiced when the earth's northern hemisphere began to tilt back toward the star that dances at the heart of our solar system.

Solstice customs here are quiet and of some years standing: a trek into the woods (brief this time around for health reasons) and a walk along the trail with grain, apples and cedar for the deer, suet and seed for the birds.  On the way home, we deliver fruitcake (an old family recipe) and Yule gifts to friends in the Lanark highlands, then return to the little blue house in the village for clementines and winter apples, for candlelight, firelight and mugs of tea. We will look out as as darkness falls and give thanks for the returning light.

4 comments:

Barbara R. said...

The bliss of sunlight comes with each bite of a clementine. Enjoy the warmth and the dark, my friend.

Tabor said...

It is the simple things that warm the soul.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

looked in your shop
want "just breathe"
what my son constantly tells me

can they go on magnets?

could not figure out
how to order on the site

breathe - it sounds so simple

sarah said...

How blessed you are in your Yuletide cosiness. It's a muggy horrid summer here. All the windows are open, the fan is going, there is little comfort to be found. May you receive much Yule joy and peace xx