“Verily at the first Chaos came to be…”
“Early in the morning of time there was no sand, no grass, no lapping wave. There was no earth, no sun, no moon, no stars. There was Niflheim, a waste of frozen fog, and Muspelheim, a place of raging flames. And in between the fog and fire there was a gaping pit–Ginnungagap. For untold ages crackling embers from Muspelheim and crystals of ice from Niflheim whirled around in the dark and dismal pit.”
–D’aulaires’ Norse Gods and Giants
“Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things.”
–Starhawk, The Spiral Dance
“One dot, that’s on or off, defines what is and what is not, one dot.”
–Peter Gabriel, “Growing Up”
With the First Night we recall the beginnings of creation. What was there before there was the universe? The Void contained all, limitless potential unbounded by the spark of creation. No will, no destiny, no law…simply infinite possibility. And yet, in all of its potential, there was no ability to manifest, to create, to make a choice. Void would first have to recognize Self before our dream could be ignited.
There are three ways to know the coming of winter: the flip of a calendar page; the rising of the Hunter in the night sky; frost defying the morning sun.
Following the deer trail deep into the woods.
New Year’s ended up being a fabulous women’s retreat at a dear friend’s home in Maine. There was as much laughter, tears, and divine ridiculousness as five women could possibly summon!
We kept with our Grove’s New Year’s tradition of a divination extravaganza after the stroke of midnight, January 1st. W. did wonderful tarot spreads for all us ladies, but I also kept with my yearly drawing of the ogham for a month-by-month forecast of 2017. Being a Druid, I use a tree ogham, but of course there are color, bird, and even word oghams that could be substituted.
Since there weren’t any ogham sets handy, I instead cut 25 slips of paper and used those for the fews. (This is one of the nice things about both runes and ogham as divinatory systems: they can be constructed on the fly with whatever materials are at hand.)
June-uilleand/gooseberry or honeysuckle
December-ohn/furze or gorse
The lessons of Ioho are already apparent only a few days into the month of January. One political regime is giving away to another in the U.S. and people are looking to their ancestors for wisdom and guidance in surviving whatever lies ahead. This is the shaman’s tree, the axis mundi, evergreen and sometimes bleeding. Sharing in its strength can only bolster us for what lies ahead.
Yule’s emphasis (for me at any rate) is on family and community. The coming together, the sharing of food—it all strengthens the bonds between individuals as we move into the harsh winter months.
Gods know that 2016 has been harsh. We need celebration and family (chosen or otherwise) desperately.
I have mixed feelings about gifts. By and large, I decided not to do gifts, and have been greatly enjoying the freedom from giving up the practice. The exception to this is my mother, whom I want to spoil just a bit this year. But releasing oneself from the obligation of hitting the mall in search of things that we don’t really need is tremendous.
Grandparents do, however, delight in giving things to the kids. I think they would be sad if they couldn’t express themselves that way. And my son, well, this is certainly a holiday for children, and he’ll doubtless be enjoying the spoils, as it were!
It’s been wonderful to see our family traditions change, making space for the things we like, weeding through the things we don’t. And it’s even more wonderful to realize that we can continue to evolve our practices as we grow. This is what tradition should be: repeated activities which strengthen and inspire the people who perpetuate them.
Merry Yule to all, and to all a good night!
Deep within the still center of my being, may I find peace.
Quietly, within the silence of this grove, may I share peace.
Gently, within the greater circle of humankind, may I radiate peace.
—The Druid’s Prayer for Peace
Now that the stories of the beginning have been told, the time comes to pause and take a breath. In the revival Druid tradition when we give peace to the quarters, we note that without peace, no work can be.
Before launching into the feasting and ritual that marks the remainder of the Twelve Winternights, take this day and night to sit for a moment, and be still. This is the Feast of Breath, with nothing more important than the endless flow of inhale and exhale.
We swear by Peace and Love to stand
heart to heart and hand in hand.
Mark, o Spirits, and hear us now,
confirming this, our sacred vow.
—The Oath of Peace