Friday, December 17, 2021

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 Tuesday, December 21, and its observance begins at sunset on the night before, Monday, December 20th. 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 vernal equinox (Ostara), the summer solstice (Litha), ) 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 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 clouds from horizon to horizon most of the time. Cloudless days are rare, and they seem to be the coldest days of all. The earth in the woods is frozen, but there is not much snow under the old trees, just deep drifts of crunchy leaves. Snow or no snow, there is a sense of movement in the landscape, a feeling that changes wild and elemental are on their way. The word chthonic comes to mind. Somewhere down there below our wandering feet, small entities sleep and dream and wait to rise when the world is warm again.

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 Tuesday - 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.

When I build a fire in the fireplace downstairs, I think of the ancestors and their seasonal practices. 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. How 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 next week. We will walk in the winter woods and leave small gifts for our wild kin. We will make sure that the birds visiting the feeders in our garden have suet and seed and bits of festive fruit. There will be candlelight and mugs of tea, clementines, cider and gingerbread cookies. We will look out as night falls and give thanks for the fruitful darkness and the return of Helios to the world. 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.

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

1 comment:

Barbara R. said...

Thank you for your good wishes for Solstice. I enjoy whenever you write about your thoughts over the high holy days of our turning of the wheel of the year. May your new year bring more abundant good health and happiness to you and your loved ones!