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Posts Tagged ‘winter solstice’

This year, in addition to the Yule ritual we’ll be doing tomorrow night with our little study group, I’m planning to loosely follow along with Three Cranes Grove for their “Yule Along”. It’s a set of 12 “feasts” between the solstice and the new year, intended to bring reflection and celebration of the season. I like the idea a lot, and though I’ll be traveling for part of it, I definitely want to do some of these activities.

This is what they have suggested, as well as my plans for each day:

  • 12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer (Woden) – I’ll do an offering to the Wild Hunt (mostly propitiatory – while I honor the Hunt, I don’t want them hanging around my house!)
  • 12/20 Mother’s night/Idesa/Solstice vigil (to be posted that day) – Yule Ritual to the Idesa and Frige, with bonus Solstice Vigil Candles lit from the setting sun, to be burned throughout Yule. Opportunity for oathmaking here; I am considering an oath towards this new study group, to solidify my commitment to them.
  • 12/21 Solstice Day – Baking! Lighting candles! Hooray for the Sun!
  • 12/22 Nature Spirits – Offerings to the nature spirits
  • 12/23 Feast of Fools – Not sure yet what to do here. This is typically about role reversal, but I may just do something silly with my husband/friends.
  • 12/24 Alfar and housewights – housecleaning and offerings to the spirits of my home
  • 12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – Presents! Hooray!
  • 12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – Celebrating being warm with my family.
  • 12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – More presents, this time with extended family. I need to figure out how to work evergreens into this.
  • 12/28 God/desses of the household (Frige) – Knitting! Lots of knitting, as I’m working on two big projects right now.
  • 12/29 Shining ones – Offerings to Thunor, Frige, and Ing Frea
  • 12/30 Bringing in the boar (Ing Frea, deities/spirits concerning oaths) – Roast beast! (Roast beast is a feast I don’t mind in the least!) I’ll make pot roast and consider my new year’s resolutions and any oaths I am considering making.
  • 12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – Party! Big party at my house, with friends and games and fun and champagne. I’ll initiate a conversation about resolutions, and maybe do some divination regarding the new year.
  • 1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time – Clean up, take down, and put away all the holiday stuffs. Get ready to go back to work, cook lunches, and make some pre-prepared meals. Basically return to the normal routine.

Some of these will be a little difficult, but I think planning for them in advance will make sure I stick to it. I love the idea of making Yule a “season” – a time of feasting, sacrifice, and honoring the various Gods and spirits of my path. I think this is a fun way to do it, and it means a little bit of sacred time each day, instead of trying to cram it all into one day and getting burnt out.

What are you doing to celebrate the Solstice/Yule? Any family traditions you have that you’d like to share? I’m always looking for new traditions to borrow and try out!

Blessed Yule!

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My winter solstice ritual was performed on Thursday December 20, in the mid-morning. It was a bright, beautifully sunny day, and so it seemed an appropriate time to welcome back the Sun. Ideally I’d perform this ritual at dawn, but at dawn I was taking a sick cat to the vet, so the best laid plans didn’t quite work out.

This was a solitary rite, following the full ADF COoR. For this ritual, I honored the Earth Mother in an unnamed aspect; the Gatekeeper was Cernunnos. Sulis was the primary patron(ess) of this rite. I brought the following offerings: silver for the well, cedar incense for the fire, candles and cinnamon incense for Sulis, and a bottle of good hard cider for the Kindreds (as I can not drink ale or whiskey). The ritual, being for Sulis, is loosely based in the Gaulish hearth culture.

I was very pleased with this ritual. I felt like I had more depth and understanding of the COOR, and though I mixed up some of the offerings, I feel like it was a successful rite. (I forgot to give the silver to the well when I created the cosmos, but I rectified that after I lit the fire!) I’m finding a more comfortable voice to speak my rituals in, and I felt that adding inflection and feeling to my voice added inflection and feeling to the ritual itself. My work with increasing connection helped as well, as I definitely felt the portal open when I asked Cernunnos to open the gates. I don’t know that I felt a strong presence from any particular Kindred, but I did feel like I was doing this ritual with the presence of other beings. I also was more familiar with this ritual, so I didn’t feel as much like I was “just” reading it. Some of that probably is helped by my having put my ritual text in a nice binder, so I have something to hold that isn’t just print outs.

Things I will not do in the future – I am a little unsure if I’ll do an offering that includes alcohol at 10am. Since I used the hard cider both for the offerings and as my drink for the blessings, it was a little odd to be drinking that early in the day. I think I’d have been happier with just plain good cider, and leave the hard stuff for afternoon rituals. I also started out the ritual feeling rather rushed for some reason (probably because I was doing the ritual on a day when I was also preparing for holiday travel). I noticed it around the point of the Two Powers meditation and was able to slow myself down and really feel the energy of the rite.

Omens Drawn

  • Uath (Hawthorn) – Fear, Despair, Cleansing, Challenges
  • Onn (Gorse) – Easy Travel, Wheel, Movement, Fertility
  • Ceirt (Apple) – The Otherworld, Shelter, Choice, Vision

You are going through a period of discovery, and fear comes with all new things. This period will be cleansing for you, can be easy if you don’t fight the process, and will lead to a time of great fertility. Through this process you will gain new vision and wisdom, and see things how they really are.

I’ll admit that drawing Hawthorn is a little unsettling, but I think it’s fitting to the challenges that any new path will bring. It’s also a little odd to draw both “easy travel” and “challenges”, but if I take a very literal approach, it could just mean my holiday trips will go easily.

Overall, I think this omen is positive, indicating struggles now but a good outcome later. My instinct is to relate this somewhat to my search for a hearth culture. I’m thinking too much about it, and not letting the process of change happen. I’m actively resisting some parts of that process, which is leading to a good bit of fear. Also there are some Gods whose presence I am uncomfortable with, and one of those seems to be nudging me lately, which is definitely a bit fearful! Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have thrown out my planning and done a different ritual, but I didn’t think of that until after I was done. Maybe I’ll do a second one and see how this other hearth culture feels.

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This isn’t much of a secret Druid tip, so much as just a good way to celebrate the Solstice in a way that pretty much anyone can understand. It’s also the latest you’ll be able to get up and see a sunrise, so if you’ve not done that in awhile, today’s a good day for it (or tomorrow morning). Make sure you get up 10-15 minutes before the actual sunrise, so you have a chance to make a cup of tea or coffee and find a good watching spot. (And hopefully it’s not still snowing where you are!) Take some deep breaths, honor the return of the sun, and be reminded of the beauty in the natural world at liminal times like sunrise. It’s a good time to be a Druid.

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I’ll be doing my Yule ritual today – an ADF style ritual honoring Sulis, modified slightly from the ritual found in the Crane Breviary. I’ve been enjoying looking through the rituals there, and this one seemed to fit the kind of ritual I want to have. I need to look more into the Order of the Crane – it seems like a good balance of inner and outer workings, and like it might provide more of a community than the DP is currently. While I appreciate everything that the DP has to offer, I’ve not felt that it’s brought me much into connection with other Druids, and that’s something I’d really like to have. Plus I just think the Crane symbolism is really rather spiffy.

Husband unit and I will be opening our gifts this evening as well, since we’ll be celebrating multiple times. It always seems like we end up with our own celebration on or just before the actual Solstice, and then various family celebrations happen around their holiday of Christmas. Still, multiple chances to give (and get) presents is OK with me!

I’m not really ready for the holiday season to be “over” though, and I intend to keep the greenery out in the house for awhile, even if I take down the tree. Though the light will begin to be stronger again, it’s still going to be winter for awhile, and I really enjoy the look and smell of evergreens. Most of mine this year are in baskets with florist’s foam, so they’re staying healthy and fragrant.

If you’re one of the people in the path of the winter storm, I hope you have a beautiful, snowy Yule and that the blizzard conditions don’t cause you or your loved ones any harm. Here in the swamp, we’re going to have a slightly cooler, very windy day, but no real effects from the storm front. It would be nice to have snow for the Solstice, but that is extremely rare around here (as is snow any other time during the winter). Still, the cooler day will be nice for having a fire in the fireplace, and maybe it’ll feel a little more like winter today.

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Yule is the festival that occurs on the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year. It is generally celebrated on December 21, though the actual Solstice may happen a day or two earlier or later, depending on how the calendar lines up with the astronomical phenomenon of the Solstice.

The primary Neopagan celebration at Yule is that of the rebirth of the Sun. The Goddess-cycle says that She has been pregnant since the Spring, and the God, her lover, was slain at the harvest, ushering in the darkest part of the year. Now He is reborn and the light returns to the world.  This is also seen as the time when the newly birthed Oak King defeats his twin and rival, the Holly King, to rule for the coming “light” half of the year (the two will switch roles at Midsummer).

Common celebrations include bonfires and all-night-vigils to welcome the sunrise after the longest night of the year. Also common is gift-giving, feasting, lighting lots of candles to celebrate the return of light, and decorations of evergreens, to show the promise of returning spring and green things. This is the turning point of the year from dark to light, and though the coldest days of winter are still ahead, the increasing sunlight is a sign that spring will come again.

There is not a particularly notable celebration in the Celtic hearth culture for the Winter Solstice, though the Ancestors would still have been important at this time of year. In the Gaulish hearth, the midwinter feast of Devoriuros was a celebration of plenty, as well as of the renewal promised by the returning light. The Coligny calendar clearly marks the winter solstice, so there would have been some notation that the longest night had passed. (Our Own Druidry, 62-64)

I celebrate many of the secular traditions in North America that go along with this holiday, many of which have ties to the Neopagan (and older) customs of this time of year. I particularly enjoy baking cookies, giving gifts, hanging evergreens, and lots of candle light to illuminate the darkness. I also celebrate this holiday (and it’s Christian equivalent) multiple times, since each part of my family will have its own gift-giving and celebratory gathering, with a big feast as well.

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I do a lot of work to bring my Druidry into my life in a way that I can be happy with how it’s incorporated but also keep a very low profile. This runs me into trouble occasionally, but most prominently around the holidays.

My family is extremely Christian (they think being non-Christian is grounds for divorce, among other things), and so I have to smile and nod a lot, and let them continue to think what they want about me and what I believe. I need their support due to physical and mental health reasons, and I really value having a close relationship with them, so that arrangement doesn’t bother me most of the time. The good outweighs the discomfort, and it’s usually easy to dodge religious conversations or to talk generically about hope and blessings.

But around the holidays, it gets troublesome. I can sit through a Christmas Eve service without too much fuss (just like I sit through an Easter service every year as well), but it always feels a little hollow. I haven’t been struck down yet, but I am still not really comfortable in church, even if I love the Christmas carols.

I want to celebrate the Winter Solstice, to bring evergreens into my home as a reminder that the world will become green again. To decorate with the symbols of winter and nature. I can put up with Santa and the secular western Christmas holiday, but my family always gives me nativity sets and asks why I don’t have the advent wreath up.

I know that a lot of the symbols of this holiday are cross-cultural or have become secular. Many of the “traditional” Christian symbols, like Christmas trees, are borrowed from earlier Pagan ones and have become acceptable as part of the secular celebration of Christmas. Even if the actual Christmas Tree is a relatively young tradition, bringing evergreens into the house is quite old. Even the celebration of Christmas in December is a bid to appropriate an existing holiday and Christianize it.

Knowing all that, unfortunately, doesn’t help much with the practical applications. I’m expected to send Christmas cards. I use the excuse of not wanting to have to send out two different cards to send a very nature oriented, non-Christian-specific card, but it’s still seen as buying into their religious tradition. In return, I get a mailbox full of Jesus cards that I don’t want to put up on my mantle.

On some level, I appreciate being a closeted Pagan. It stretches my imagination, and I enjoy using symbols and items from Paganism to make the celebration of holidays my own in a way that other people will enjoy without knowing that they’re being Pagan.

I also truly love the decorations and celebrations this time of year. They give me the warm fuzzies, and I love participating in those traditions with my family. I love putting up holly and evergreens, pinecones and red ribbon, cranberries, oranges, and candles. I love having a tree decorated with white lights, red ribbon, birds, animals, and little nature scenes. My family has even bought into it, buying me new “Winter Woodland” ornaments for my tree every year (just as they buy snowmen for my aunt and Santas for my mom and snowflakes for my cousin). I even love a lot of Christmas music, though not the tinned, Christmas-Pop stuff they play in stores on eternal repeat. And cookies are pan-religious, right?

It’s easy to decorate for fall or spring, but for some reason decorating for Yule/Christmas is the one time that I feel conflicted, no matter how much I love and cherish having those decorations up in my house.

Even knowing that Yule/Winter Solstice and Christmas are pretty well intertwined, I still feel a bit like a bad Pagan. There are so many good, non-religious things to celebrate during the “Holidays” (which is one reason I love Thanksgiving so much), so I question why it bothers me so much. I can celebrate rebirth, family, warmth, hope, joy, blessings, and the new year without ascribing to any religion at all. I’m not sure why I still feel isolated by my beliefs in the midst of all the secular good vibes.

Even with a beautifully decorated tree in my living room and a hand-made wreath on my door, it puts a damper on my celebration to feel separated like I do. My Pagan beliefs are sustaining and meaningful, but I’m missing out on the community aspect of celebration. I think I’m just missing feeling unified with my family this time of year. Perhaps I should look into doing Grove work (though I’ll be out of town for the local Grove’s Yule celebration). I like being a solitary, but I also like working in a community, and this time of year I crave that community aspect more than others. (Odd for it also being a very introspective time of year in the Wheel.)

I don’t know that there’s an easy solution to all this. I’m obviously still going to decorate, and still going to celebrate on my own time. I’m still going to make cookies (in the shape of holly leaves and spirals), eat oranges to celebrate the sunshine, hang stockings, light candles, and give gifts.

Maybe I just need to work on accepting where I am, and just let myself love the holidays for what they are.

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