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The Kindred Path
June 17, 1974
The Longest Night of the Year
The ancients knew that the winter solstice was the longest night of the year — and that meant that the sun was beginning its long journey back towards earth. It was a time of celebration, and for rejoicing in the knowledge that soon, the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would come back to life.
The winter solstice falls around December 21 in the northern hemisphere (below the equator, the winter solstice is around June 21). On that day — or close to it — an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth's axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. On this one day, the sun stands still in the sky, and everyone on earth knows that change is coming.
The wheel of the year has turned once more,
and the nights have grown longer and colder.
Tonight, the darkness begins to retreat,
and light begins its return once again.
As the wheel continues to spin,
the sun returns to us once more.
Even in the darkest hours,
even in the longest nights,
the spark of life lingered on.
Laying dormant, waiting, ready to return
when the time was right.
The darkness will leave us now,
as the sun begins its journey home.
As the wheel turns, light returns.
The light of the sun has returned to us,
bringing life and warmth with it.
The shadows will vanish, and life will continue.
We are blessed by the light of the sun.
In its period of darkness, the winter solstice is an opportunity to go inward with deep intention, to care for our spiritual selves, our bodies and minds, our loved ones and families, and to prepare for the longer days ahead.
Yule, or Jól, is one of the pagan holidays or festivities that comes from the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples, which later the Celts of the British Isles began to celebrate. Thus, this pagan holiday was resumed in what we know “the wheel of the year” for the neo-pagans.
This festival was welcomed with a sacrifice in honor of Frey, the god of fertility and the rising sun. Here we celebrate the return of the sun, the rebirth and renewal (in general), as well as family, life, and fertility; it is a time of celebration, but also of introspection. It was not a single fest, but a set of festivals that lasted twelve days, beginning in the longest night of the year.
Yule was also a time of great reflection and a time remember loved ones. It is believed that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is very thin in autumn and winter, that is to say, the dead walk among the living. So, it is not surprising that this holiday is oriented towards family and to remembering those who are no longer with us.
Yule is a festival that is also associated with fertility, not from a sexual point of view but from a spiritual one. Sacrifices were made with the awareness that all death brings a rebirth. Also, this time of “death” of the earth, is the time of rest necessary before the gestation of life, because when the snow begins to vanish, the sprouts of Mother Earth will emerge.
A Winter Solstice Blessing
May you have a warm heart,
a creative mind.
May you experience inspiration and brilliance,
clarity and focus.
May you laugh richly and deeply.
May you circle and celebrate,
may you change and grow
May that which is waiting to be unlocked
And may you soar with the knowing
that you are carried by a great wind across the sky.*
The goddess known as Cailleach in Scotland and parts of Ireland is the embodiment of the dark mother, the harvest goddess, the hag or crone entity. She appears in the late fall, as the earth is dying, and is known as a bringer of storms. She is typically portrayed as a one-eyed old woman with bad teeth and matted hair. Mythologist Joseph Campbell says that in Scotland, she is known as Cailleach Bheur, while along the Irish coast she appears as Cailleach Beare. Her name is varied, depending on the county and region in which she appears.
According to The Etymological Dictionary Of Scottish-Gaelic the word cailleach itself means "veiled one" or "old woman." In some stories, she appears to a hero as a hideous old woman, and when he is kind to her, she turns into a lovely young woman who rewards him for his good deeds. In other stories, she turns into a giant gray boulder at the end of winter, and remains this way until Beltane, when she springs back to life.
Cailleach rules the dark half of the year, while her young and fresh counterpart, Brighid or Bride, is the queen of the summer months. She is sometimes portrayed riding on the back of a speeding wolf, bearing a hammer or a wand made of human flesh, and sometimes even wearing human skulls attached to her clothes.
Interestingly, even though Cailleach is typically depicted as a destroyer goddess, especially as a storm-bringer, she is also known for her ability to create new life. With her magical hammer, she is said to have created mountain ranges, lochs, and cairns all over Scotland. She is also known as a protector of wild animals, in particular, the deer and the wolf, according to the Carmina Gadelica.
In some Irish counties, Cailleach is a goddess of sovereignty, who offers kings the ability to rule their lands. In this aspect, she is similar to the Morrighan, another destroyer goddess of Celtic myth.
May the dawn of the Winter Solstice chase the dark away.
May it bring to you the promise of endless brand new days.
May all your sorrows vanish, and all your dreams come true.
And may the light of the Winter Solstice always shine on you.
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Jun 14 2021
I had to apply some security updates. I needed to take the site down for a few hours to complete everything. I did it in the middle of the night.. When hopefully, most of you wouldn't notice :)
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