Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Thoughts 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 Yule (the Winter Solstice), the joyous and time honored observance celebrating the return of light to the northern hemisphere. Tomorrow's festival begins at sunset tonight, and it is one of the four pivotal astronomical points in the calendar year, the others being the Summer Solstice (Litha), Spring (Ostara) and Autumn (Mabon) equinoxes. The I Ching hexagram in the first paragraph describes Yule more eloquently than I ever could. For humanity south of the equator, the reverse is true, and they are celebrating Litha (the Summer Solstice) when they begin edging toward shorter days and longer nights.

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. The word "solstice" has been around in one form or another for centuries beyond measure, coming down 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) *s(u)wen, an alternate form of the root *sawel- 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 during the holiday season, 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 happily reacquainting myself with the wealth of solstice lore, rituals and customs there.

Light is a scarce quantity here in winter, and we northerners are looking forward to a few more minutes of sunlight every day until June when the gentle slide downhill begins again - there will be feasting and silliness here and no mistake. The first few months will be frigid going, but hallelujah, there will be sunny days now and again, and a few more minutes of solar illumination every blessed day.

I will build a fire in the fireplace downstairs with logs from the Lanark highlands and 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. They would have watched winter skies hopefully for signs of the light returning, and how they would have rejoiced when the earth's northern hemisphere began to tilt back toward the radiant entity dancing at the heart of our solar system.

We stand again at winter's 'still point of the turning year'. Beau and I will take a walk in the woods tomorrow and leave small gifts for our wild kin, food stuff like grain, apples, suet and seeds. Then we will return home for clementines, gingerbread cookies, candlelight and mugs of Constant Comment tea. We will look out as night falls and give thanks for the fruitful darkness and the returning light. Happy Yule to you and your tribe.


Gill said...


Marti said...

May the light of warmth and friendship warm you on this Winter Solstice. May the blessings of the elements hold you in wonder and may you feel the quiet joy that comes with this season.

Barbara Rogers said...

Happy Solstice turning to you and yours!