Yule blessings to you all!
On Monday, December 21, we celebrate the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The darkness has been rising, eclipsing the sun a little more each day as we tilt on the earthly axis. We have been turning away from the sun, moving into the darkness and away from the light. The night has arrived to embrace it, to become it, and to honor all of the gifts the shadow has to offer.
For three days, the nights are long and the days are short. We stand in limbo for these three days before slowly turning towards the light. This is a powerful time to employ the darkness, both metaphorically and literally. It is a time to rest, to rejuvenate and meditate. It is a time to anchor, to release and to dream. The Crone has reached the peak of her power. Her wisdom rings soundly in her words, and more loudly in the absence of them. Embrace the darkness, the shadow, and retreat. What gifts you might find in that inner realm can only be revealed to you.
On this winter solstice we feel the influences of a very powerful planetary conjunction. Both Jupiter and Saturn go direct in Aquarius on this day. Many astrologists believe that this conjunction signifies the full embodiment of the age of Aquarius, a time of great change.
We are influenced by Saturn, Cronos, Father of time and the material world. Saturn rules over Aquarius and has great influence over boundaries, rules, regulations and structure. Saturn is symbolized by the crow, the raven and the serpent kingdom. It has great influence on honor, dignity and self respect. Saturn's energy in this great conjunction is one of contraction and solidification.
Jupiter on the other hand, is expansive and embracing. Its influence in this conjunction allows us to embrace all that Saturn has anchored. It magnifies some of the restrictions of Saturn during this time, giving us something to push against. Jupiter provides an equal and opposite expansion. Like the grain of sand that makes the pearl, it is the pressure, the resistance, that springs forth change. Jupiter is a bridge to the personal planets and is connected to ascension, success, imagination and new concepts.
This powerful planetary event harkens a new era of change, one we are already witnessing today. We are being asked to honor and celebrate the element of air, breath, ether. What needs air? What needs our breath during this cosmic time?
The traditions of Yule and Winter Solstice span across many cultures and time periods throughout the world. Though the origins of many of these rituals and traditions is difficult to trace, most of them can be recognized by much of the western world.
In ancient Celtic times, Yule was celebrated as the return of the light. This night marked the rebirth of the sun, the first promise of the spring to come. It was a night celebrated with fire, dancing and singing. The ceremonial lighting of the Yule fire took place at dusk. After celebrating, socializing and feasting, each family took a piece of the burning Yule log home to their fireplace. The log would burn for 12 days before smoldering to ash. The ash was then spread out in the garden, a gift to the soil and the goddess of spring for a fruitful harvest in the year to come.
Evergreens, representing ever-lasting life, holly and mistletoe were hung in windows and around doorways. Mistletoe was greatly revered by the Druids as a protector and healer. It is never to touch the ground, for its magic lives between the worlds of the living and the dead. The white berries symbolize the fertility and semen of men and thus "kissing under the mistletoe" is said to bring good fortune and fertility to the couple.
The holly tree is another sacred symbol we see at winter solstice. The spikes on holly are said to ward off evil spirits. The holly tree is the keeper of the darkness, the guardian at the gate. The bright, red berries represent the blood of the feminine. Together, the holly and the mistletoe represent the rebirth of the sun. It is also during solstice when the Holly King who rules over the darker half of the year yields to the young Oak King. As the days begin to grow brighter, the Oak King grows stronger.
The Pagan ritual of the Yule tree emerged out of this love for the sacred evergreens. A living tree was brought inside during the colder winter months to keep the wood spirits warm. The tree was adorned with treats and gifts for the wood spirits to eat, keeping them sustained and nourished over the dormant winter months. Conifers in particular, symbolized spiritual ascension, their tops pointing North, towards the heavens.
However you choose to celebrate today, I invite you to call in your ancestors. Harness the energy great planetary conjunction in ritual for collective change. Every time you dive into your emotions, into your own inner world, your story, you are doing the collective work. Like the bees in the hive, we all depend on one another. It is time to hone in your skills and practice your own inner gifts in order to be in service to others. Take this time for yourself, rest, nourish, hydrate. A bigger time is coming my friends. It is time to prepare.
The Corona Anonymous (1871)
The Planet Saturn by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (1882)
The Planet Jupiter by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (1882)
Dark Sun, from Splendor Solis Anonymous (16th century)
North American Trees by Joslyn Lawrence, Song of Absolution