Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A blessed Yule

We tend a fire throughout the longest night to coax the sun's return. The tired sun, held in the arms of Night, grows younger and younger, to be reborn at dawn. What a miracle it is to live on this watery planet suspended at just the right distance from the sun for us to grow and thrive. Metaphor and stories abound: The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light. Hope is kindled in the shadows, in squalor and rejection, in a crowded city, on a mundane journey. The Divine must be tended like a helpless infant. But the literal is also worthy of awe: food, heat, wind, ozone, garden, growth, dinner. Photosynthesis. Delicate, chance-in-a-million life.

From our vantage on earth, the sun sleeps long and wakes slowly. Did our "primitive" ancestors worry its return? Even philosophers like David Hume - sophisticated, post-Enlightenment - wouldn't guarantee the sun's rising again. So we keep vigil through this night. We greet the dawn with wonder and relief. Summer is still a promise and a dream. Dream the long nights. Bask in the warmth of your tribe. Stoke the fire, and hope the future into being.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Yule altar

A few years ago - I don't remember when - I began a tradition of building an altar dedicated to peace on my fireplace mantle. This morning I built one again. As someone who grew up loving Christmas, it's important to me to claim this season as my own, and to bring a mix of the solemn and festive to my own Pagan, Wiccan holy day. I celebrate Yule intimately, with my lover and perhaps a few friends. Then I fly to my parents, where we still celebrate Christmas. I treasure the quiet of the solstice before the bustle of Christmas, and I try to keep this time of year quiet and home-centered if I possibly can. Yesterday, Adonis and I took our new puppy, Lugh (his real name, not an alias!), out into the snow to cut down our Yule tree. Now she stands proudly in our living room, in a corner with two windows, next to the fireplace. We will string her with white lights. The altar - the mantle - is decked with gold and blue paper stars strung beneath it. There are crystals, stones, candles, and a bunch of dried white sage. A hurricane glass filled with brightly colored Christmas-tree ornaments from Target. A card with a dove carrying holly berries in its mouth. Tarot cards: an image of the sun from Adonis's Soul Cards; The World from the Gaian Tarot; Lakshmi (X: Fortune) from the Goddess Tarot; and the seven of pentacles from the Druid Craft Tarot. Images of the Goddess: a statue of Kwan Yin in meditation, holding a small orb - the earth; a painted icon of Mary as Goddess of Peace; a Healer sculpted by a local artist; a stone egg with a spiral on it, from Iceland; a snake, also crafted by someone locally. A small statue of a woman kneeling in prayer. An inukshuk from the Inuit in Canada. A small vial of oil from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

We've been spending the last few nights with fire lit, cooking at home, cuddling with the dog, and my reading aloud from Pride and Prejudice. It's a damn near perfect life.