Today’s guest post is by Aurora J Stone who blogs beautiful poetry at ‘Gray Bear in the Middle‘
I find the most challenging aspect of these Winter Feasts and Festivals is finding an appropriate way to prepare.
I grew up a Christian. I grew up in an Evangelical Anglican home. My father would not allow our Christmas tree in the house until Christmas Eve. We kept Advent. I admit it was easier when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, because the rampant monster of commercialism did not seem so obvious. Though we had the tree and the presents, but first we had church.
However, the fullness of time I left the faith of my father for the Faith of my Fathers (and Mothers), when I began to answer the call and quested after a modern way to live more in tune with the old ways of believing. Ways connected more closely with the natural world, where the teachings and lessons were found in Nature, the dancing leaves of the trees, the mysterious languages of the animals, the silent presence of the rocks, the ephemeral drifting of the clouds, and the waxings and wanings of the moon, not between in the covers of a book or the walls of a building. This led me in time to Druidry whose song I heard most clearly and whose path I knew I was bound to follow out into the landscape and from there my soulscape.
This radical change in perception, of religious and spiritual orientation, of course meant I lost the spiritual calendar I grew up with and held to for nearly a half a century. I lived as much by the liturgical calendar as the societal/cultural one. It was disorienting not to have set rites and rituals that were familiar from long use, not to have time organised and plotted so all I had to do was plug in and go with the spiritual flow, almost without thinking.
At the same time it was liberating and exciting. I began to understand in my blood and bone the meaning of the seasons and the days that the Druid/Pagan calendar sets aside to honour the cyclical steps on my spiritual and religious path. I admit I struggled. I admit days suddenly happened. In part over the past decade this has taught me that I am responsible to the gods and ancestors and spirits of the land that has welcomed, claimed and taught me the ways of belief to which I now hold body and soul, heart and mind as being the true expression of how I perceive and life the spiritual life.
One year I found a way to prepare for Yule, the Winter Solstice and the Season of Greatest Darkness. I borrowed from my Advent understanding and devised a ritual to make the deepening darkness and the slow return of light, extinguishing candles instead of lighting them and after the Deepest Night relighting the same candles in turn to mark the change in the balance of light and dark. The past few years, for personal reasons, I have let this ritual slip. Yet this year I have been more aware of its absence than in others of recent time. I think this is a good thing. It does not make me feel guilty I have not yet begun to prepare, only aware that I have missed an opportunity I will not have as much time for another year to think about particular things in a discrete context. So, I am called to greater mindfulness as I go forward. I am bid pay attention and pull back from what is madly swirling around me to heed what is gently pulsing within me.
This year I begin my preparations later than I would like, but I am preparing. I am setting aside time for reflection and sitting with the darkness and perceiving its power. One thing I know: Until I allowed myself experience the rich cold darkness of Winter in all its wonder and depth and mystery, I did not experience the joy and breadth and glory of the vibrant hot light of Summer.
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Do you have some thoughts you’d like to share about this time of year? Send them to me at verdant at paradise dot net dot nz and I’ll publish them – there’s still time :)