Every year we write about the joys of Yule that brighten the season: creative gift-giving ideas, the burning of the Yule Log, the festive boughs of fir and holly—and of course, much-needed ways to de-stress after all the holiday madness. But can Yule be done differently, with a different focus? How can we celebrate the Winter Solstice in a way that might enrich us even more?
Here are a couple of ideas. In Deborah Blake's Circle, Coven & Grove, she gives you ready-to-go rites, rituals, and celebrations for the entire year, including the eight Sabbats. It's perfect for busy witches who don't always have time to do all the planning themselves. The Yule celebration her circle adheres to includes a fun gift-giving game, while her ritual acknowledges the less tangible gifts of friends, family, health, and love. But there's more. In her words, "there is a gift that we traditionally ask for at this time of year—peace on Earth, and goodwill toward all. In these troubled days, we need this gift more than ever." I couldn't agree more. Whether you'd like to use her words or create your own homage to peace, it's a sentiment that is too easily lost among all the wrappings of the holiday season, both literal and figurative. Try to make world peace your main focus this holiday season. See how it changes your perceptions of the holiday, the carols, the frenzied masses at the mall. Surely it is a beautiful ideal to aspire to at this time of year.
Great Goddess, Great God, please grant this boon
Bring us peace, and bring it soon
With Winter's quiet and snow's pure fall
Bring peace to the world and joy to all
With each white flake let love give birth
Bringing calm, serenity, and peace on Earth
So mote it be
(Excerpt from Circle, Coven & Grove by Deborah Blake)
Ever wonder what Yule looks like in the Dianic tradition? After all, most witches view the Winter Solstice as the time when the God is reborn as the sun begins to wax, with the Goddess playing the role of the fertile mother. Besides the fact that this is not a fertile time of year (few creatures actually give birth in the middle of winter, because survival is so tough), Dianic Wiccans see the Wheel of the Year from the perspective of the Goddess, and do not celebrate the God's mythic journey as part of Her mysteries. Instead, the Winter Solstice celebrates the Goddess in her dark hag of winter aspect, as she begins to take leave of the physical world so the new solar cycle can begin. And, contrary to many traditions, this is not really a festival of light—it is the darkest day of the year, after all.
As Dianic Wiccan author Ruth Barrett writes in Women's Rites, Women's Mysteries, "this time brings the promise of light, not the actual delivery." She insists we should honor and value the dark and the much-needed rest it brings, rather than focusing on the bright commercial lights of our modern society
"In the darkest part of the year when the days are shortest, Nature asks us to slow down and enjoy a cup of warm tea, to be with loved ones, to listen rather than to speak. Under the ground, the earth silently sleeps. Seeds rest in suspended animation, and the animals hibernate. In contrast, we humans rush frantically to the malls, stressing ourselves with activity when we really yearn to rest, dream, and gather strength in our bodies for the season of renewal."
This Yule, look inside and inspect your dreams, faith, and spirit carefully. Some of Barrett's suggestions for the season are to spend time consciously in the dark, to stay up all night in the darkness, waiting to witness the sunrise, or to share a fire and warm food and drink with your loved ones. Not too bad for a more grounded, introspective celebration of this solstice. Sometimes quiet joy is the most special kind of all.
Of course, if you love the good old Yule traditions that are tried and true, and don't feel like experimenting this year, that's fine too! For a very traditional look at the Winter Solstice, including games, recipes, decorations, and creative gift ideas, check out our perennial Yuletide favorite, Yule by Dorothy Morrison. Have an enchanted Winter Solstice!