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Archive for December, 2007

And so in the week before Christmas, in the midst of the final screaming commercial frenzy that grips the nation, I find my thoughts, at last, turning to Yule.

Yule, winter solstice, Alban Arthan (call it what you will) for me takes place as a quiet personal festival before Christmas takes hold, family gathers, presents are exchanged and much food and drink consumed. Yule is spiritual, deep, a time when we are poised at the darkest moment of the year. We know the moment exactly – and this year it is at 6:08 am on Saturday 22nd December – when the sun stops moving south (from our perspective) and begins its journey back towards our northern lands, bringing light and heat with it. So we can, if we like, take a breath at that very minute, stand still with the sun, and then, ritually, take light back into our own homes and lives.

Not that I’ll be standing anywhere at 6.08 on Saturday morning. I’ll probably be screaming round the house frantically trying to get up in time to get into the car at 6.30 and head off to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise across the Plain. And only then if it’s not pouring with rain. I’m not one who can find spiritual fulfilment in standing in driving rain in the middle of a windswept landscape in the coldest December for years. So I’m a fair-weather pilgrim, at least where Stonehenge at Winter Solstice is concerned. For a start, if it’s raining you aren’t going to see anything rising across the Plain, apart from the water levels.

What I will be doing, whatever the weather on 22nd December, is my Yule ritual. I love the idea of the returning light, of Yule as a turning point, and my ritual focuses on bringing light into my home at this time of greatest darkness. I’ve always liked to have enough light. My childhood was punctuated by visits to elderly relatives who would sit, chatting away, while the daylight faded and the room grew progressively darker and darker until faces were hardly visible in the gloom. I would sit there thinking, ‘Why don’t they put the light on?’ and when, finally, the lamps were lit, it was as if life had returned to the room. So I start my ritual with just enough light to see by, and gradually light candles until the room is bright, then take the light, by a single candle, through my entire house, switching on all the electric lights until everything is brilliantly lit. It feels so good, so positive, and thoroughly in tune with the spirit of Yule. Let us all light many lights to lure back the returning sun!

And then, guiltily, let us nip round the house switching them all off again, for environmental reasons…

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