I am currently sitting vigil as I write this post. It is a tradition I have followed annually since I began practicing the Craft over thirty years ago. Yule is a powerful Sabbat for me, and one of my favorites. There is deep magick in the longest night of the year. The opportunity for powerful transformation waits in the space between the dying of the light and the birth of the dawn.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, what the movements of the sun must have felt like to our ancestors. Every year, the days grew inexplicably shorter. The winds turned colder. Without astronomical understanding, it was as though the life-giving sun had turned its face from us. Everything on the planet descended into darkness.
For our ancestors, the winter was a time of horror. In its merciless heart, wolves howled and death waited for anyone fool enough to wander the shadowed wilds of the world. Ghost stories are not a holiday tradition by accident. They were told in an attempt to keep folks gathered close, to hold the darkness at bay, and to warn of what waited outside the boundary of the light of the tribal fires.
The Wheel of the Year slowed, coming to a stop on Winter Solstice. It lingered there, the light failing, consumed by night. Sacred rites and sacrifices were held to call the sun back, for without its light, all would die. People kept vigil, waiting for the sun to rise. That rebirth was welcomed with celebration as our ancestors waited for the days to lengthen again, watching the pendulum of the solar year swing again towards the light.
These days, we know better. We do not fear that the sun will not rise on Winter Solstice morning. We understand the rounds of our planet around the sun. So, if there is nothing to propitiate, if the rebirth of the light is guaranteed, then why sit vigil?
It’s true. You cannot replicate the ignorance and its accompanying fear that our ancestors had. But As Above, So Below. There is a greater symbology in the rebirth of the sun. If you do not sit vigil, the sun will still rise tomorrow morning. It does not need you to say prayers and summon it back from the abyss of night.
Therefore, why lose sleep? Why watch for the dawn?
The Magick of the Longest Night
There is a stillness in the Winter Solstice that is unlike any other time of year. As the Wheel slows and the light fades, entropy increases. That’s right. There’s a reason the holidays feel more chaotic…they are!
Then, on Winter Solstice, the Wheel comes to a near stop. Darkness is at its height, subduing the light. The night of Winter Solstice is quiet and deep. It is like a scrying mirror for the introspective soul as we consider all that has happened in the last year, all we are forced to leave behind.
For Death is pitiless. We enter the world naked and alone. And we leave it the same.
Use It Well
As I sit vigil tonight, I will be thinking about this past year. Everything I have accomplished. My victories and the laurels they brought. My defeats and the lessons they taught. I shall number my blessings, all the things I have laid up in store to get me through the winters of my life. I will listen to the wolves that tried to devour me and laugh by the fire and tell them, Not today.
While the world is still and silent and I can hear my heart clearly, I will plan for the future. Clear sight is possible when the night is dark and void of light. There are no shadows cast and nothing to fear. I will speak with my gods, share with my loved ones, and commune with my own spirit that sometimes gets neglected in the frantic rush of daylight.
I wonder who else will read these words and spend a moment contemplating with me in the darkness. For you and I…we are community. We share a hearthfire of belief and our faith pushes back the fear of the dark of death and the chaos of the unknown.
And tomorrow, when the sun rises, as it crowns the horizon and is born again, my spirit will be renewed. Not because the Wheel has turned, but because I turned with it.
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