Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Our WInter Solstice Celebration

The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is perhaps the most magical day of the year.  I don't know if anyone can deny it.  The longest night, and shortest day, it is cloaked in wonder and mystery.  It is the time of the year when the Goddess becomes the Mother and gives birth the newborn Sun King (Lugh in the Irish Druid tradition).  It is a time signalling rebirth, and the flame of hope is kindled in our hearts as we slowly begin our journey out of the darkness and into the light.

In our household, it is of utmost importance that we greet the Sun King on this sacred day.  We have a spot that we have chosen that gives a clear view of the sunrise.  We like to arrive early, so no one is rushing and we can take our time getting comfortable.  As this is not where our altar is, we bring our own supplies of a candle and sacred Cedar to burn to start the ceremony.  We also have hot cocoa for the kiddos, as we know young saplings find it easier to focus when they have creature comforts!

We begin with reciting this ritual as the sky is lit with Lugh's new born fire.

Since the beginning of time, we have gathered in this season to
celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.
On the Winter Solstice, the darkest of nights,
The Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again
gives birth to the Sun and the new yearly cycle,
Bringing new light and hope to all on Earth.
On the longest night of winter,
and the dark night of our souls,
there springs the new spark of hope,
the Sacred Fire,
the Light of the World.
We gather tonight to await the new light.
On this night, the Maiden, who is also Mother
and Crone, prepares to welcome the Sun.
Let's now prepare to welcome the new light within.

As the Sun rises, we close our eyes in silence and raise our hands in the tree meditation, allowing the light of the Sun King to fill our hearts with hope as we enter this new year.

After the meditation is complete, we pack up and head home and have a large hearty breakfast, and then celebrate with Yule presents.  The rest of the day is spent meditating and reflecting on many topics.  On the importance of family, on the celebration of light, and in the honoring of the darkness of this day.  We honor the death of the Sun King, as we know the importance of the life cycle, that all life perishes and is reborn in some way.  We honor this death, this darkness, by eating our Yule Dinner solely by candlelight.  Our use of electronic devices is put on hold on this day.  This is in order for us to be in the present moment of this celebration, and to be fully involved with our family.

Another tradition that we have that is a hit with our little ones is the reading of the Yule Fairies story.  This lights up the eyes of our Daughters with wonder.  It is a sweet, fun way for them to to truly understand the importance of this day.  We do this on Yule Eve, actually, but it can be done on Yule actual as well.  Here is the story.

The Yule Faeries - A Winter Solstice Story

A group of little Faeries huddled in their home deep under the roots of a giant oak tree. They were safe and snug in their tiny underground cave lined with dandelion fluff, bird feathers, and dried moss. 

Outside, the wind blew cold and the snow fell softly down to cover the ground. "I saw the Sun King today," the faerie named Rose said as she pulled her mossy cloak tighter about her. "He looked so old and tired as he walked off through the forest. What is wrong with him?

"The great oak said he's dying" answered Daffodil.
"Dying? Oh, what will we do now?", Little Meadow Grass started to cry, "If the Sun King dies, our little plant friends will not grow. The Birds will not come and sing again. Everything will be winter for ever!" Lilac, Dandelion and Elder Blossom tried to comfort their friend, but they were all very sad. As they huddled together, there was a knock on the tiny door. 

"Open up, Faeries," called out a loud voice. "Why are you hiding instead of joining us in our Solstice celebration?" Rose opened the door and the little gnome Brown Knobby pushed inside, shaking the glistening snowflakes off his brown coat and hat. 

"We are too sad to celebrate," Daffodil said wiping her eyes, "The Sun King is dying, haven't you heard?" 

"He is dead you silly Faeries." Brown Knobby's round dark eyes sparkled with laughter. "Now hurry, or we'll be late for the celebration!" 

"How can you be happy and laughing?!" Elder Blossom stamped her little foot and frowned at the gnome. "If the Sun King IS dead, it will be winter always. We will never see the Sun again!" 

"Silly little child-Faeries." Brown Knobby grabbed Dandelion by the hand and pulled her to her feet. "There is a secret to the Winter Solstice. Don't you want to know what it is?" 

The Faeries looked at him in surprise. "Secret?" they all said. "What secret? We are only new little Faeries, you silly gnome. We've never been to a Solstice celebration before." 

"Come and see. Come and see. Get your capes and come with me." Brown Knobby danced and jigged around the room. "Hurry, Hurry, don't be slow! To the Sacred Oak Grove through the snow!" He danced out of the door and disappeared. 

"What did that gnome mean?" Rose asked as she gathered up her cloak of dried rose petals held together with cobwebs and lined with goose down. 

"I don't know, but the Lady lives in the Sacred Grove." Meadow Grass pulled on her hat.
"Perhaps if we go to see the Goddess, She can explain what Brown Knobby was talking about".
The Faeries left their snug little home and trudged off through the snow toward the sacred oak grove. The forest was dark with only the light of the Moon shining down through the thick fir branches and bare limbs of maple and hawthorn. It was very difficult for them to get through the snow because they were very, very small. As they waded through the wet snow and shivered in the cold wind, they met a fox. 

"Where are you going, Faeries?" the fox asked. 

"To the sacred grove," they answered, they were cold and shivering. 

"Climb on my back and I will take you there swiftly." 

The fox knelt down so the Faeries could climb up. Then he raced off through the dark.
"Listen!" Lilac said as they neared the Grove of Sacred trees. "Someone is singing happy songs. A LOT of someones." 

The beautiful music carried over the cold, still, moonlit air. It was the most beautiful music the Faeries had ever heard. The fox carried the Faeries right to the edge of the stone altar in the center of the grove, then knelt down. 

"Look!" said Elder Blossom as they slid to the snow covered ground. "There is the Maiden and the Mother and the OLD Wise Crone, and many other Little People." 

"They are all smiling and happy," said Lilac as she looked around at all the creatures. 

"All the animals are here too," whispered Dandelion. "Why are they all looking at the Mother?"
The Faeries moved closer to the three Ladies seated on the altar stone. The Mother held a bundle close in Her arms, smiling down at it. The Maiden reached down and took the Faeries gently in her Hands. She held them close to the Mother so they could see what She held. 

"A Baby!" the Faeries cried. " A new little Baby! Look how he glows!" 

"He is the newborn Sun King," said the Maiden smiling. 

"But Brown Knobby and the old oak tree said the Sun King was dead," the Faeries answered her. "How can this little baby be the Sun King?" 

"That is the great secret of the Winter Solstice." The Old Wise One touched the baby's cheek with her wrinkled hand. "Every year the Sun King must come to the sacred grove during the darkest days of winter where he dies. I take his spirit to the Mother who gives him new life again. This is the way for all creatures, not just the Sun King." 

" You mean everything lives and dies and lives again? the Faeries looked down in wonder at the baby Sun King, nestled in the arms of the Mother. 

" Yes, Little Ones," answered the Old Wise Crone. "There is never an end to life. This is the great mystical secret of the Winter Solstice." 

The Faeries laughed because they were so happy. 

"I think the little Sun King should have gifts," said Rose. "I will show him where the wild roses bloom in the early summer." 

"And, I will teach him to call the birds and listen to the songs of the wind," exclaimed Dandelion.
"When he is older and stronger, " said the Mother, "then the flowers will bloom at his touch, the birds will return to sing their songs, and the air will be warm from his breath, and winter will be gone for a time. Then the Sun King will run and play with you in the forest." 

The little Faeries sang to the Baby Sun King, songs of the coming spring, the sweet smelling flowers, the bumbling bees, and all the secrets of the forest. And all the creatures within the sacred grove sang with them. Then the fox took them back to their snug home under the roots of the giant oak tree where they dreamed wonderful dreams, waiting for the warmth of spring and the fun they would have with the little Sun King.
Blessed Be!

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