Friday, December 18, 2020

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)

Here we are again at winter's 'still point of the turning year'. The ancient festival of Yule falls on Monday, and its observance begins at sunset on the night before, Sunday, December 20. This hallowed day celebrates the return of the light, and it is one of four pivotal astronomical coordinates in the calendar year, along with the summer solstice (Litha), the vernal equinox (Ostara) and the autumn equinox (Mabon). The I Ching hexagram in the first paragraph of this morning's post describes the occasion more eloquently than I ever could

Yule (also called Midwinter, or simply the Winter Solstice) is one of only two times in the  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]. Solstice simply means "sun standing still". At the beginning of our wordy trek is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) form *seH₂wol-, *sH₂un- meaning simply "sun". Of course, it is earthlings and our dear little planet home who are in motion, and not the magnificent star that lights our way.

December days are short and dark and cold, and there are 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 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 Monday - 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 blue sky too.

I build a fire in the fireplace downstairs with an oak log from my favorite grove in the Lanark highlands, and I think of the ancestors and their seasonal rites. Huddled together for warmth in their caves and bothies, they would have fed the flames burning on their open hearths and lighted tallow candles to drive the dark away. They 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.

Beau and I will have a quiet Yuletide lunch with a dear friend on Monday. We will take a long walk in the woods and leave small gifts for our wild kin, parcels of grain, apples, suet and seed. Then we will return home to candlelight and mugs of fragrant tea, to clementines, cider and gingerbread cookies. We will look out as night falls and give thanks for the fruitful darkness and the returning light. My beloved will be here with us in spirit - he always enjoyed celebrating the solstices and equinoxes, and he loved our Yule festivities most of all.

On Monday evening, a radiant first quarter moon will grace the sky, and this year's winter solstice will be something special. On that night, the planets Jupiter and Saturn will seem so close together that they look like a double planet. Such an event is known as a "great conjunction", and Monday's occurrence is the closest conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn since 1623. Look for the two planets together, low in the western sky until an hour or so after sunset. 

Happy Yule to you and your tribe. May the returning light grace your life.

5 comments:

Barbara Rogers said...

Hoping the season brings you much happiness, good health, and friendship.

Valorie Grace Hallinan said...

Have a wonderful and blessed solstice.....

Dot Everhart said...

How do I sign up to enjoy your emails everyday? Thank you.

Jennifer said...

Happy and blessed Yule to you, dear Cate.

Belle said...

I love these posts so much - thank you, always, for creating them. Happy Yule!