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Winter Solstice

December 21, 2013

The sun, nearing winter solstice, travels low across the sky in a multiple-exposure picture made in Maine in 2002.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT F. BUKATY, AP

For Neopagans in the Northern Hemisphere, the solstice is celebrated as Yule.   This year, the date falls on December 21st.  The precise date and time for the cross-quarter can be found at archaeoastronomy.com.

At the Winter Solstice, NaturalPantheist performs a ritual which begins with this prelude:

“As I stand here on this celebration of Yule, the sacred wheel of the year has turned once again and it is now midwinter. As my forebears did, I do now, and so may my descendants do in time to come. It is the Solstice, the longest night and shortest day. Today I celebrate the return of the Sun. Since the summer, it has gradually become colder and darker, but from this time forwards, the days shall get longer and lighter and warmer again. The Solar year has run its course and completed its cycle and a new year begins, bringing light, life and hope to the earth.”

He concludes with this poem:

When the earth is barren, the light is reborn.
When the animals sleep, the light is reborn.
When the leaves have all fallen, the light is reborn.
When the rivers are frozen, the light is reborn.
When the shadows grow long, the light is reborn.
When warmth has fled, the light is reborn.
In the darkest night, the light is reborn.

Glenys Livingstone of Pagaian transposes the solstice onto the birth of the universe itself.  Her ritual script sees all lights extinguished and, after a time in the darkness, a fire is kindled with the following words:

“We recall our Beginnings – the Great Flaring Forth, and our Grandmother Supernova Tiamat – Goddess Mother of our Solar system, of our star the Sun. This is our Cosmic lineage. We are Gift of Tiamat – Goddess Mother supernova. Out of her stardust we are born. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and trace elements. We are Gift of Tiamat – out of her stardust we are born.”

Pagaian Winter Solstice video

Jon Cleland Host of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo group celebrates the solstice with his family, including Yule log and sunrise viewing:

“A Yule log can be made and burned.  This is done by selecting and cutting the log, then taking it inside for decoration.  Kids can contribute by helping with the decorations.  Some Pagans use the log as a stand for candles, and light the candles (especially for apartment dwellers, or those without a fireplace) on Solstice eve.  Others actually burn the log on Solstice eve, lighting it with a small piece of the log from the previous year.  More can be found on the web about the tradition of the Yule Log.

“A tradition practiced in my family, but not apparently very widespread, is to get up to welcome the sunrise on the morning of the Winter Solstice.  This is often done from a location where the horizon can be seen, such as the shore of Lake Huron or Michigan.  The weather is often cloudy, so knowing the exact minute of the sunrise is important.  A short ritual can be done to greet the rising sun, and poems or readings can be read.  Long rituals are not recommended due to the cold temperatures usually seen on the morning of Solstice (not to mention that long rituals aren’t fun for kids).  After returning from that, the stockings are found to be filled, and presents appear.  In the past they appeared under the Yule/Solstice tree, this year they appeared in the center of our stone circle outside.”

Meanwhile, those in the Southern Hemisphere experience this time as Midsummer.

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