The full moon hovered brightly over the land last eve and Yule was nigh. The 12 days of Christmas was originally the 12 days of Yule. Festivities, bonfires, hearth fires, the yule log, the decorated trees, feeding the birds and other wildlife, exchanging gifts, and checking on the elderly and homebound fill the days of Yule leading to new year.
It is a quiet morning here in my cozy home. Father Sun peeks through the windows while climbing to start the day. I sip my warm coffee, the earthiness and steam filling the air. We keep the lights on the tree on often. Just sitting in my rocking chair watching the glimmering lights, scanning the many ornaments that hold place as story tellers, makes me joyful and calm. I put a Christmas album on. My favorite is Andy Williams. The presents are piled on the bed ready to be wrapped in paper and bows.
The birds outside sing and dart about. The fat squirrel looks at me through the window. She is out of bird seed. Sweet thing; I wish blessings on all the wildlife. A young eagle landed in the tree the other day and we sat together for some time. The geese fly overhead noisily, their synchronized flying like swimmers in the sky. Upon this great landscape of earth is such a lovely place to live. I am thankful each day for health, for life, for family, for this cozy home where the hearth fires burn.
Yesterday I did ceremony on my friends who are getting married beneath the full moon by a fire outdoors. Today I get the honor of officiating their wedding. Tomorrow we are off to my cousin’s, the next day to our friends’, home again for Christmas eve and my children will all gather here. Santa knows to come to Grammie and Pa’s house. Christmas morning will shine bright with the love of family. A late Hannukah celebration with family and my daughter’s birthday round out the festivities before the new year dawns with promise and light.
What are your plans for the holidays, my Friends? From our home to yours, I wish you the happiest Christmas and a blessed Yule. May you be with those you love and may peace fill your home.
My granddaughter spent the night. This morning in the cool of the dark morning I pulled the soft covers up under our chins refusing the late dawn. The smell of coffee wafted in the door. The cats purred and stretched. Bits of light cascaded past the window to announce the winter solstice. Last night was the darkest and longest night of the year.
Maryjane and I went out last night with a small bow of pine from the Christmas (Yule) tree. We lit the end of it and let the smoke rise up to the bright stars above (the only kind of bonfire allowed on an apartment balcony!). We said hello to Kat as well as our animals, friends, and family that have passed on to the next dimension among the star people. We said thank you for all the many blessings of the year and welcomed the new sun.
The people of the world for centuries upon centuries have held bonfires and feasts to celebrate Yule. Using precious food from their dwindling larders as a way of letting Mother Earth know that the people trusted her to provide for them in the fields of Spring. Bonfires on the darkest night, perhaps a bit of spirits, food, and festivity sang through the cold night air.
Today starts the sun’s presence growing stronger over the next six months. Each day it will be light a bit longer. Yule is a celebration of light and renewal. The 12 days of Christmas was actually the 12 days of Yule, beginning on the winter solstice and lasting until New Year’s. Greenery was thought to protect the home from illness and bad luck and as much Fir as one could put in their humble abode was good. Boughs of greenery were decorated with ribbons and candles. From the Yule log, to the 12 days of Yule, to the birth of the new sun god by the virgin goddess all seem to ring of coincidental familiarity. This is the time of year to be close to the hearth, family, and loved ones, and to celebrate the light growing each day.
This is the time of the year to review our lives, our habits, and decide what will make us better, happier, and more peaceful people. May your day be filled with light!
I am intrigued by history. Fascinated by it. I learn from it and am entertained by it and live by it. So many modernized things were not for the best, in my humble opinion. Of course with my long flowing skirts and aprons I, myself, look as if I skipped out of another time period. There is so much to be learned from the history of our people and so many lovely things that if added to our life would make it all the more sweet, meaningful, magical. Samhain is one of them.
Now I do not consider myself wiccan or pagan. If I were to put my spirituality in a box, I am Catholic. A Catholic married to a Jew. We raised our children in a Christian church and they are now oddly Atheist. One of my best friends is Catholic married to a Buddhist who used to be, along with his parents (also our dear friends) Mormon. Our family and friends are all different races and religions and in the end we are all connected to one source. I am fascinated by the similarities in religions and histories across the world.
If you are like me and had most of your family come over to America in the 1700’s you will find that you are missing customs that would have been brought over. I am a bit saddened that we have zero cultural ties left. Most of my DNA will lead back to a strong Celtic heritage mixed in with some Dutch, Yeopim and Cherokee Indian, and Black French, but what they used to celebrate has been lost. So we create our own customs.
Samhain (pronounced Saw-win) dates back long before the Christian festivities (and the Hollywood made festivities too) and was an agrarian holiday. Now that we are homesteaders we understand these holidays so much more. Homesteading has become our lifestyle, our day in day out, our entire life is marked by nature and the seasonal shifts all around us. Instead of a smart phone, the changes in the natural world around us make our schedules.
Samhain is the end of the calendar season. The beginning of rest. The livestock were humanely butchered, the pantries were full, the fields were empty and the weather kept farmers indoors more. The folks that died over the past year were now mourned. Agrarians kept so busy during the late spring and summer that once things slowed down things really started to sink in. That is the case with us as well. And if we were all honest it is not just losing folks to death that bothers us, it’s any regrets we feel too. My friends and animals are in a better place, I know this. I am heading their same direction. It is the natural cycle of things. Not a new phenomenon for things to die. But I feel bad that I didn’t return Rollie’s phone call. That I nitpicked everything with Nancy so much during our time together pursuing our Farmgirl business, that we didn’t achieve her dream of a large farm to table dinner, partially because of my attitude. I feel bad that there are two more young widows out there who lost husbands. That I didn’t hold Loretta when she was dying. That I was so frustrated with my old dog. That I chose to put to sleep (so feel as if I murdered) my beloved cat. These things start to settle in as I spend more time on the homestead with less to do. If I knew they were going to die….or that I was responsible….these things set heavy on the soul.
Samhain was a time to light the bonfires as protection from evil spirits, the veil was thin between October 31st and November 1st and you could talk to your lost loved ones and perhaps they could communicate with you as well. It was a time of contemplation and respect.
In our modern world we do not take time to contemplate anything. The crafts and chores that were done that created a methodic rhythm have been replaced with fast shortcuts, things that do it for us, and no time to actually think. If we could take some time to work out our sorrows and talk to those that left, we could free up our hearts and minds and allow more joyful living to take place.
I will spend Halloween day with Emily and Maryjane trick-or-treating at a local mall then in the evening I will light candles. I will commemorate and talk to and say goodbye to those I have lost. My animals are our roommates, farm mates here. They are my people. Their loss, even the farm animals, is just as sorrowful to me as losing an old friend. They are included in my festivities. I will set some extra plates and invite them all to dinner along with Doug (who is thankfully still with the living) and give thanks for my life and ask that my friends and animals that left say a prayer for me, forgive me, and that they be at peace. I will be thankful for the harvest, all those still here, my own life, and for the year ahead.