Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Solstice Wreath

The grim news has come to my attention
that something in the world has come unfixed —
owls no longer haunt the fir lined alley
appearing out of the dreamtime as we pass,

indeed whole souls have gone missing as if being
has itself gone dim — like an old man’s seeing.
A vital light is missing from the world, by which I mean
that ephemeral gold that spins the seen

and unseen worlds together. In my life
I don’t expect to see a springtime swelling
of the shriveled nut so many spirits
have become. What’s to be done?

This is the winter solstice of an age,
although the season’s worst is yet to come.
What’s delicate and true has come undone:
is the only fitting answer
a pure and focused rage?

Today I wove a wreath of bone and fir
and filbert withes, twined in sacred holly,
incense cedar from an ancient tree.
I wove, affixed a star, and spoke a spell:

“Let this circle stand as the gate of winter
sure passage to the days of lengthening light.”
And then I whispered names in the fragrant bough
Lacing love like a scarlet ribbon through the fronds.

Long I wove and dreamed back friends and kin,
each great soul calling back the sun.
I thought at last, “My life here is not done.”
And some bright star rekindled from within.

Sandra Brown Jensen

The shortest day and the longest night in the ever turning calendar of the seasons, Yule is classified as a "low holiday" or lesser celebration on the Wheel of the Year, but it has always been one of my favorite observances. If you live as far north as we do, this festival in the heart of winter is one to observe with thanksgiving and reflection, with song, mulled cider, fine munchies, tales, firelight and rowdy vibrant fellowship.

From this moment onward, we will gain a few minutes of precious sunlight every day until the Summer Solstice on June 21. Let the bells ring out, and the games begin, but first, there is the shoveling of snow - this is the north, and the world beyond the windows is white, white, white. There are no worries about a white Christmas this year.

For some reason, I always find my Yule post vaguely unsatisfying - I write and rewrite, scan DVD after DVD in my archive, searching, always searching, for an image which will somehow encapsulate the magic of this ancient snowbound holiday. When I have finished and uploaded my post, I continue to feel that I have not done justice to the day and its timeless rites of illumination and new beginnings.

Sandra Jenson's lovely poem is printed at the beginning of one of my favorite books on solstice observances, Richard Heinberg's Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth's Seasonal Rhythms Through Festival and Ceremony, published by Quest in 1993. Her poem is a poignant tribute to the winter day on which we celebrate the triumphant return of old Helios, the ascendance of light in the fertile darkness of winter. This year we need such words more than ever. Happy Yule to everyone!


Mystic Meandering said...

Thank you Cate, and same to you! May you be renewed this Solstice. We are in an Arctic freeze this Winter Solstice; came down from Canada yesterday afternoon. :) And about an inch of snow fell last night. We are -13 at 8:30 this morning, with a high of 0 degrees they say. Brrr. But I love it! What a wonderful way to celebrate the Solstice! (from a warm house of course :)

Belle said...

Happy Yule!!

Pienosole said...

A joyful Yule to you!✨