Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Solstice

This year the Winter Solstice falls on December 21 for the Midwest USA, under the waxing moon u.  If you're in the South it is Midsummer, I will post on that in our June.  For many traditions, the Yule is 12 nights and the Winter Solstice is 1 night.  Personally, like many of my main blessings, I use three marks to honor the day - past, present and future.  I start the night before on the 20th at sunset (4:20 pm).  I use it as the Mother's Night for the ancestors.  On Winter Solstice the 21st at sunrise (7:20 am), the present moment.  Ending with the 21st at the end of twilight (5 pm), the future.
Mother's Night is the first day of Yule.  I start it with lighting a candle next to my Yule Log.  (Don't leave flames alone!)  All this year has been guided by Frigg, mothers, grandmothers and other Ancestors o .  It is a time of the year when our deceased Ancestors are closest to us; this is when the dead are more active than any other time.   We all have worked hard and produced much over the years.  But now is a time to do something else, to reap the rewards.  Take a break.  Go look at the stars, listen to the wind, feel the warmth of the candle, warm the prayer beads or just touch someone.  Remember who you have been, your ancestors and the natural world.

The second part is the sunrise on the day.  It is a time to reflect where you are now.  Clean your alter, taking items outside to meet the rising Sun Sunna s.  Say thanks to her for returning, offer a sacrifice - food, mead or blessed oil.  Honor the beginning of the Sun's return and the breaking of Winter.  Do something today for others.  Have compassion for the homeless with food and clothing.  Go down to the animal shelter and help feed the lost pets.  Exchange gifts, even with strangers.  Tell your family and friends you love them.  Live today in the present moment - for yourself and family.

Finally close the holiday at twilight.  Hopefully you have taken stock of the past year and are beginning to think about the next year and what you would like to accomplish.  Resolutions are promises made to try and accomplish something, a training tool.  An oath is binding, fail an oath is to lose yourself.  Tonight I write down oaths under the Moon Manni d.  I then offer them up to Freyr along with the Yule Log burning for Thor.  When lighting the new Yule Log it should be with the charred remains of the previous year's log, which is keep to guard the house.  Usually my Yule log burns for a few days into the New Year.  May your New Year be filled with happiness, wealth and health.

But there are many names to this holiday and many ways to celebrate it.



Note from Silver Book of Shadows...

For people of nearly any religious background, the time of the Winter Solstice (about December 20) is a time when we gather with family and loved ones.  For Pagans and Wiccans, it's often celebrated as Yule (Jul), but there are literally dozens of ways you can enjoy the season.  Words during this night are said to bear great weight and power.  It is a time to count blessings, take stock and lay a course for the future.

Yule is celebrated on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.  It is one of three greatest blessings of the year.  The date for Christmas was chosen by the roman Emperor Aurelian in the third century, to coincide with the feast of the Unconquered Sun.  So, for both these feasts, we see a strong association with the power of the Sun. Many pagan traditions were incorporated in the Christmas feast.  Boniface introduced the Christmas tree, which was a Germanic tradition. Also, Santa Claus is a blend of St. Nikolas and the God Odin.

Celebrations of the Norse New Year, a festival of 12 nights (Yule), is the most important of all the Norse holidays. On the night of December 20, the God Freyr rides over the Earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing light and love back into the World. In later years, after the influence of Christianity, the God Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival.

Yule signifies the beginning and end of all things; the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the World.  During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest energy and the dead are said to roam the Earth. The God Odin is the leader of this Wild Ride; charging across the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.  In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir's journey.  In return, Odin would leave them a gift for their kindness.  In modern times, Sleipnir was changed to a reindeer and the grey-bearded Odin became the kindly Santa Claus or Father Christmas.
North is associated with the sacred element Earth, the season of winter, night and death. An altar may be placed to the North during rituals associated with honoring spirits of the dead, Dark Goddesses, observing winter holidays or during the dark moon.  Some symbols for North Earth are the fertile land, soil, hands, evergreens or mountains. Colors commonly associated with North are black, green or brown.  For Wiccans, the altar tool known as a pentacle, a disc inscribed with a pentagram, represents the North.

Seek Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.  Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.  Understandings of justice differ in every culture, as cultures are usually dependent upon a shared history, mythology and/or religion. Each culture's ethics create values which influence the notion of justice. Although there can be found some justice principles that are one and the same in all or most of the cultures.  The Tiwaz Rune t is balance and justice ruled from a higher rationality. Tiwaz is a warrior rune named after the God Tyr who is the Northern God of law and justice.  The rune of sacrifice of the individual (self) for well-being of the whole (society).

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice." - Martin Luther King



Encourage light in times of darkness. This light is represented in various ways: the unconquered sun, the star of Bethlehem or simply by the ritual use of candles. Burning candles throughout the night is a practice of both Pagans and Christians. Christians still perform a midnight mass, a symbol of keeping the light burning in the darkest of the night. Pagans let candles burn all night long to give strength to the Sun on the longest night of the year.


Welcome Back the Sun

The ancients knew that the Winter Solstice was the longest night of the year -- and that meant that the Sun was beginning its long journey back towards Earth.  It was a time of celebration and for rejoicing in the knowledge that soon, the warm days of spring would return and the dormant Earth would come back to life. In most Wiccan groups or covens, Yule marks the rebirth of the Great God in the form of the solstice sun.  On this one day, the sun stands still in the sky and everyone on Earth knows that change is coming.


The sun returns! The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.


The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

Gift Giving

The exchanging of gifts is one of the core aspects of the modern Christmas celebration, making the Christmas season the most profitable time of year for retailers and businesses throughout the World. Gift giving was common in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, an ancient festival which took place in late December and may have influenced Christmas customs. On Christmas, Christians exchange gifts on the basis that the tradition is associated St. Nicholas with Christmas and that gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were given to the infant Jesus by the Biblical Magi.


Yule Log

Yule was an indigenous midwinter (Winter Solstice) festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples, absorbed into celebrations surrounding Christmas over time with Christianization.  If your family enjoys ritual, you can welcome back the sun at Yule with this simple winter ceremony. The first thing you'll need is a Yule Log. If you make it a week or two in advance, you can enjoy it as a centerpiece prior to burning it in the ceremony.  For some Norse sects, Yule logs were lit to honor Thor, the God of thunder. Feasting would continue until the log burned out, three or as many as twelve days.  You'll need a fire, so if you can do this ritual outside.  Jumping over the flames brings luck and purification.  This rite is one the whole family can do together. 


Solstice Evergreen

Another ancient midwinter custom is decorating with evergreens to represent Yggdrasil. The Romans decorated with rosemary, bay, laurel, holly, ivy and mistletoe. The holly and ivy were both important midwinter plants in Great Britain and Ireland, as seen in the mysterious medieval carol which mentions the rivalry between them.  The Norsemen had a tradition that enemies who met under a bough of mistletoe were obligated to lay down their weapons.  (There is an interesting tale told about the Death of Baldur that explains this mistletoe use)  The Christmas tree is of more recent origin.


  Beneath the tree of light and life,
  a blessing at this season of Yule!
  To all that sit at my hearth,
  today we are brothers, we are family,
  and I drink to your health!
  Today is a day to offer hospitality
  to all that cross my threshold
  in the name of the season.


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