Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Ramble - On the Eve of 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

This is the day before Yule or the Winter Solstice, and the traditional observance begins at sunset this evening. It is one of the four pivotal astronomical points in the calendar year, and the I Ching hexagram in the preceding paragraph describes the occasion more eloquently than I ever could

Yule (Midwinter or simply the Winter Solstice) 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. The word "solstice" has been around in one shape or another for many centuries, 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]. At the beginning of it all is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form *seH₂wol-, *sH₂un- meaning "sun". Of course, it is earthlings and our dear little home planet who are in motion, and not the magnificent star that lights our way.

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 few years. Now the place is up and running again, 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 usually sleeps easy under a blanket of snow and glossy ice, although there isn't much snow here so far this year. Snow or no snow, 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 tomorrow - 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, and a few minutes more of it every blessed day.

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

Here we are again at winter's 'still point of the turning year'. My husband passed away a few weeks ago, and my friend Waverly Fitzgerald passed away a few days later on December 13th (Lucia's Day). I don't feel like celebrating this year, but Beau and I will take a long walk in the woods this afternoon and leave small gifts for our wild kin, parcels of grain, apples, suet and seed. Then we will return home for clementines, cider and gingerbread cookies, for candlelight and mugs of Constant Comment tea.

Tomorrow there will be a quiet Yuletide meal with friends. Tonight we will look out as night falls and give thanks for the fruitful darkness and the returning light. I think Irv will be here with us in spirit - he enjoyed celebrating the solstices and equinoxes, and he particularly enjoyed our Yule festivities.

When I awakened a few minutes ago in the wee small hours of the morning, a brilliant waning moon was rising in the southeastern sky. For a moment or two my sadness waned too, and my heart was glad. Happy Yule to you and your tribe.

5 comments:

Barbara R. said...

We are having a celebration of the dark on our Sunday service this week at the Unitarian Church here in Black Mountain. Then that evening I am honored to be part of a solstice celebration a friend holds each year. Happy winter solstice, Kate. I'm sorry your two loved ones have gone from this life, but am thankful that you hold them in your heart so warm and tender. They know.

Dee said...

Happy Yule to you! Celebrating is hard when our loss is so close. I'm glad you'll be with friends though. And, I really like to believe our beloveds are close to use all the time, but especially on our important, favorite holidays. Best to you. Dee

Tabor said...

When someone says they have lost someone they love I think how lucky to have had someone in their life that filled their spirit. What a tragedy to go through life without those memories.

Beth Owl's Daughter said...

Love and solace, dear Cate. Thank you for mentioning about our dear Waverly. I did not know she had departed us, but am grateful to learn it from you.

Wishing you a warm hearth, and gentle memories as together we honor this time out of time.

Paula said...

I am sorry for your losses and heartened that you continue writing and sharing, which shows your readers the true meaning of our continuous path from zenith to nadir and back again. Thank you.