And so when the Christians began to share their message of love in their early days, they equated this Holy Day, the time of the Sun's rebirth, to the birth of the Son of their God, who brought a message of love and hope. Through the middle ages the celebration of Christ's Mass remained linked to the Holly, the Ivy, and the Oak, to the death of the Wren, to the longest night and return of the light. It has always been a time to celebrate with one's loved ones, exchanging gifts made during weeks when one is forced indoors; it has always been a time to share what we can spare with those less fortunate to help them through the hungry and cold months of winter.
In a modern age of science and materialism, the sacredness of both faiths has been superceded by a flurry of abundance for retailers and marketers. In a society ruled by a week of five days of eight hours apiece, we no longer have flexibility to honour natural cycles; no one has time to produce the handmade gifts of years past. Instead, we buy our loved ones large expensive gifts...many of which are designed to entertain or to save time. For time seems to be one of the most precious currencies of our modern existence...especially in December.
For most of this month, the bulk of people around us are wondering how much they can afford to spend for gifts they feel obliged to buy even if people probably don't really need them; they are pushing through crowds in shopping malls, listening to endless repetitions of what was once sacred and inspiring music; they are cursing traffic jams in their hurry to get to places where there is no parking anyway; they are worrying about the dinner party they need to put on and whether old Uncle Jim will drink too much again, and whether Granny Jones will hold it against them. Then there are the people who are feeling depressed because they don't have the sorts of happy families that all the pictures of this season assume. The ethers are full of worry, hurry, impatience, irritation, inadequacy and depression.
All this at a time when our instincts are saying, "Go inward. Enfold yourself in the darkness around you like a soft beloved blanket and feel the peace there."
It's no wonder that those of us sensitive to energy flows feel fried in December!
In this essay, I'm going to share some of the ways that I have found to deal with it. If you have other coping mechanisms, by all means share those with us, too.
The major thing I try to do is slow down the rush by spreading it out more. I make a point of trying to have my shopping finished by the end of November...earlier if possible. If I see something that someone on my list might like, I buy it, whether it's October or February. As soon as Samhain is over, I pull out my stock of goodies and figure out what else I need. I buy groceries in December but not much else.
I try to spread the major jobs out so that I can enjoy one a day rather than doing them all at the last minute. I'll put up the tree one day and make shortbread the next. A couple of days later I'll make tarts. I time my trip (pray Goddess singular!) to the post office for a time when there is likely to be a short lineup. I get my cards mailed early enough that I don't have to answer individually all the letters sent by relatives I've never met.
I try to have all the major jobs...including my dinner party, done before Yule. Then when Yule comes, I start into my Midwinter ritual.
I make a bunch of candles that I give as gifts to my pagan friends. At the same time I make a large candle that will burn for many hours. On the longest night, I will sit in the darkness for a long time...grounding, letting the peace of the night enfold me, remembering my mortality and the earth that is the source of life for us all.
Someone asked recently in the House O' Chatter about the seeming contradiction that we celebrate the Goddess as Crone at Samhain, and then She is giving birth at Yule. At the time I did my "enigmatic witch" act and said it was part of the mystery of Goddess and women that she can be all ages simultaneously. I realised later as I sat with this question that the mystery is deeper and larger than that. The spark of the Sun at Yule is much less of a physical birth involving the labour of an animal mother than the spark that starts seeds stirring in the earth. The Goddess at this time is in the phase beyond Crone-hood; She has left the body to decompose and become one with the soil that nourishes all life, and Her spirit is out flowing in the infinity of the stars.
This is the aspect of the Goddess I have been trying to embody on the longest night for many years: the sense of being one with the Earth...and all the creatures that are nourished by it; the serenity that comes of realising how senseless are the worries that we take on as individual egos; the joy of dancing with the stars and galaxies. It's very hard to be sucked into the whirlwind of worry when one sees the larger picture.
Once I am thoroughly grounded, I imagine myself as the seed within Her womb...and I re-vision myself as I would like to be when I am born again with the new year. I think of the strengths I would like to nurture and the limitations I would like to release. I think of the habits I would like to transform and the goals I wish to reach toward. And as I grow in my dreams and vision, I eventually become too large and active for the egg I made for myself...and I am reborn. At this point I light the candle I have placed on my oak log. And I let the flame symbolise the new me that has been born, along with the returning Light.
From that day for the next twelve days (what I have defined for myself as "The Thirteen Days of Yule,") I spend some time in the darkness, grounding as much as I can of the frantic energy around me. Then I light the candle and envision it's light sending out love, peace, hope, and health to all who are open to them...for the highest good of all. It creates a little island of peace I return to as I do the rounds of social obligations.
This is what Yule has evolved into for me...so far. I have no doubt it will continue evolving. That's the nature of everything She touches. This year, one of the things She is asking me to do is take more joy in those social obligations. Well, if I'm as big as the Earth and Stars, that shouldn't be impossible.
Wishing a happy, healthy, peaceful and joyous Yule (and of course, as a good Kookian I must add CHOCOLATE!) to all of you who have filled this year with light and love for me....
Love and Blessings,