As we draw ever closer to the closing of the year, we reach an important turning point in our calendar, Winter Solstice.
Winter Solstice happens when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination in the year. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights in the Northern Hemisphere. This year Monday December 21st will mark the longest night of the year.
What does 'Solstice' mean?
The term 'Solstice' derives from the Latin word 'solstitium', meaning 'sun standing still'. On this day the sun seems to stand still and then reverses its direction as it reaches its southernmost position.
Traditionally Solstice was seen as a time to pause, to reflect and honor the past few months, whilst also looking forward to a new year, with the suns returning power bringing increased daylight, growth and energy to all of life again.
The Underlying Energy of Winter Solstice
With the receding daylight hours, the increased darkness is felt by all of nature and humankind, and that is why it's vital to utilise this time of the year as a period to rest, relax and reflect. Here I share an extract from one of Glennie Kindreds books which beautifully describes the underlying energy of Winter Solstice:
'The earth has been withdrawn inside herself. Winter brings the hardships of cold and shortness of daylight. Very little outer growth has happened, but deep within the earth, roots have been growing, bringing stability and nutrients to the plants and trees. New buds are slowly forming and deeply buried bulbs are beginning to send up their first hardy shoots. All of nature has slowed down, waiting for the energy to change and for warmth to return'.
'Due to the restraints of winter, we too have slowed down and begun to conserve energy. We have spent time withdrawn into ourselves. This dark time of winter allows us to enter into a dreamtime. As the outer world is darkened by shorter days and cloudy cold weather, the inner realms of ourselves can expand. This is a great opportunity for us to experience this world within, to get in touch with our thoughts and feelings and to make inner journeys towards greater wisdom and understanding of ourselves. It is a time to assimilate our experiences over the past year and to incubate new personal seeds, plans and ideas for the coming year. Now, with the return of the active outward energy the sun brings, all of this can slowly begin to manifest'.
Life will become active again from this point onwards, and being part of this natural yearly cycle means we too are reborn again at this time.
The Feast of ‘Jul’
Jul, or Yule as we more commonly know it, is the Norwegian name for 'wheel', and was a historic festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the Winter Solstice. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth as the year moved to a close, and then began rolling back again after the Winter Solstice in readiness for the coming year ahead.
People would light fires to symbolise the heat and light of the returning sun, and a yule log was brought in and dropped in the hearth as a tribute. The log would often be lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away, and was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and seen as a sign of fertility, usually strewn on the fields as fertiliser, for the coming years crops.
Create your own Yule Log
In more modern times, creating and burning a yule log is a tradition which can help as a simple ritual, to clear the way for changes and new beginnings at this great turning point of the year.
What you'll need:
1. Tie two to three pieces of ribbon or twine loosely around your log and then insert your decorative pieces within these, on and around the top and sides.
2. Write on one piece of paper/card anything you wish to let go of from the past year, and on a second piece any changes or things you wish to bring in for the coming year. Then fold these up.
3. You can use either your fireplace, or a firepit in the garden. Light a fire and once hot enough, gently place your log onto the fire.
4. Allow the log to catch light, be still in this moment and experience the stillness of midwinter. Meditate for a while on how you've been feeling these last 12 months and then when ready, throw your first list onto the fire, letting go all that you wish to release, allowing the burning of the flames to consume and extinguish that old energy no longer serving you.
5. Perhaps now take a small break to enjoy the warmth of the fire and celebrate with a mug of mulled wine, or hot chocolate. Then when ready, return with your second list throwing it into the fire with intent, focusing on the energy of the fires heat igniting and bringing forth light and positivity to you for the coming year!
Happy Yule All!