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Darkness and Light’s Return: A Ritual for Yule

In the darkness, I hear the wind. It speaks in a timeless language that I have all but forgotten except in my dreams. Here and there a familiar word but all is confusion and mystery. I feel left out, uninformed. There is too much to know and, to learn, to understand, and I am overwhelmed in the face of my ignorance.

In the darkness, I yearn for fire. The black that surrounds me steals my confidence and every sound and lump of shadow turns to threat. There was a time when I knew these things, when I held power over the events of my life. I dare not move for fear of doing the wrong thing, and I languish, unfulfilled.

In the darkness, the deep river of time relentlessly carries me onward, and I am lost in the flow. With no landmarks to guide me, nothing to buoy me, I flounder and choke, my needs unmet and unheard. I’ve lost sight of where I am, where I’ve been, and I don’t know where I am being taken.

In the darkness, the boundaries of the cavern restrict and confine me. The immovable boulders and bottomless holes make the going a perilous venture and impedes my progress. Afraid of movement but unwilling to remain still, my screams of frustration rebound against the walls and are my only company.

You enter this space in darkness on the longest night of the year. Our bodies have felt the impact of the lessening light and have called out for the return of the Sun. Our moods have shifted, and like those animals that prepare for Winter hibernation, our bodies begin to slow down and are less willing to part with the life-sustaining nutrients and fats that we ingest.

Perhaps it is we in this modern age who feel the impact more than our predecessors, as we continually adjust our environments to suit our desires. We need be neither too hot nor too cold; we have sources of light when we wish it and the fortune of plentiful food in great variety in our cupboards or markets or restaurants. Because our sources of artificial light extend our work and play time, our bodies are out of synch with the natural rhythms of the seasons. In the midst of all this comfort, there is still an indefinable sense of loss, whether we are aware of it or not, and we yearn for that which we cannot name.

We all wish an end to darkness, to times of difficulty and pain. We are so fortunate to have so many remedies and entertainments easily at hand, and yet it is easy to take it all for granted. How different would our lives be if, next fall, we chose to store enough food for the Winter and promised ourselves not to buy anything new until the Spring? What if we turned off the television and computer and lived with what entertainments our own minds and talents could conjure? We would find ourselves yearning for foods that we are used to obtaining by the mere passing of paper at an ever-open marketplace. We would find ourselves challenged to create amusements and diversions, or to be filled by those created by others in this world of Hollywood blockbusters and top 40 hits.

Even with the plentitude of pastimes that surrounds us, Winter is dull and without life, and we must look harder to find the beauty of our beloved Earth instead of it being handed to us as though we were spoiled children calling for sweets. Turn back to your younger days and find the wonder again in the intricate patterns of frost on the panes; the dazzling sparkles of ice-touched grass that seem sprinkled with diamonds; the brittle crunch of ice under your boot-clad feet; the safe comfort of home as you come in after a cold afternoon and warm yourself inside and out.

At this blessed Yuletide, we honor the turning of the Wheel as we hear the God speak in His two voices.

(The two halves of the God stand back to back and turn slowly together as they read. The Holly King wears a crown with holly leaves on top -– Oak leaves are on the bottom.)

Holly King: Now We have come ‘round to Winter.

Oak King: Now ends Our time in the darkness.

Holly King: My pace slows as I near the end of My journey.

Oak King: My pace quickens as I eagerly move toward My destiny.

Holly King: On the longest night, My reign ends.

Oak King: On the shortest day, My reign begins.

Holly King: Autumn brought death to the vibrant ambrosia of field and tree and to strong young animals. With them, I laid my head upon the stone most willingly, and with them, died.

 

Oak King: Spring will bring the promise of life while the earth lies in seeming death, and all that fell in sacrifice will be born anew as the earth wakes to again create Her bounty.

 

Holly King: Before me waits My Lady, slayer and Queen. From Her I learn of the true wealth that comes from giving of the Self, and that life continues beyond the certainty of death.

 

Oak King: I sit at the knee of My Lady, Mother and companion, and learn from Her the ways of growth and life and the playfulness of youth.

(The crown is turned from holly-side-up to oak as it is passed to the Oak King’s head)

Holly King: I settle into My rest, listening to the slow song of the sleeping earth, and reflect upon the things that darkness has shown Me.

 

Oak King: I walk strongly into the darkness with the assurance that all things shall pass, and I know that even though I cannot see, I am not alone.

 

Holly King: In the heart of darkness, I submit once more to the Wheel’s turning.

Oak King: In the heart of darkness I take up the crown to bring you light.

Holly King: From the darkness, into light.

Oak King: From the light into darkness.

Holly King: My brother brings the light to make the cold days easier to bear.

Oak King: While my brother brings gifts of life even as the light fades.

Holly King: We are halves

Oak King: Of the same

Holly King: Spinning endlessly

Oak King: Changing always

Holly King: Growing and dying

Oak King: Burning and fading

Holly King: The two become One

Oak King: As the One splits apart

Holly King: Dying

Oak King: Living

BOTH:Again.

Here we honor the passing of the dark and where it has led us. Without darkness, there is no light; without hardship, there is no gratitude and understanding; without pain, there is no relief.

This is a night of choice, a balance point from which the direction of your life will tip one way or another. Do you choose to allow yourself to rest gently in the arms of the Mother? Or do you bring yourself forth into light, birthing into a new world and way of being? The Spanish phrase for giving birth is “dar a luz”, to give to light. What light do you give, and what is given to that light? Do you bring light, share light, or reflect light?

In the light, the whispering trees sparkle with frost like a million diamonds in the shine of the moon. I now know that I don’t have to understand everything – it’s the listening that is important. I am grateful for the dark, as it caused me to accept my limitations and to work beyond them.

In the light, I find the answers and my fears melt in the burning of knowledge, for fear cannot live without shadows. The spark of desire and determination rekindle within me and I have newfound motivation and vitality. Grateful am I for the dark that tested my strength, for I discovered energy and courage I did not know I possessed.

In the light, I see the lines of my life clearly, forward and behind. I am able to release my expectations and accept where the flow of fortune takes me. I am grateful for the dark that took me where I was not expecting to go, and have learned to cherish the moments of my life.

In the light, I carve my own road and mark my passage on those things that sought to block me. The obstacles proved to be places of rest or reflection. Grateful am I for the dark that bound me, for it caused me to break from my self-imposed prison and ill-fitting structures to create a new form.

Grateful am I for both light and dark, for the candle-flame cannot dance without shadow. Though the going is sometimes not easy and we seem to sit in darkness forever, this time reminds us that Light always returns.