Welcome, Yule!

Every winter solstice, my spouse and I do a simple household ritual involving (amongst other things) beating the bounds of our property (i.e. a tiny suburban lot)… much to the bewilderment of our dogs and likely to our neighbors.

The core of the ritual is right towards the start, when we turn off every light in the house and observe a moment of silence, breathing in the peace and stillness, feeling the turn of the year.  Then we light a candle and recite this poem by Susan Cooper (a perennial part of the Washington Christmas Revels and all other Revels celebrations):

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreens;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new years sunshine blazed awake,
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us – listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land,
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now – this year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!

Wishing a safe, peaceful and joyous Yule to you and yours…

Poem for Brigid

A little context here: in the second act of the Washington Christmas Revels this year, the “Forest Queen” led the other women in the cast in a piece dedicated to Brigid:  they created two symbolic wells on stage, with a lantern in each.  All the women were veiled and had crowns of lights; they were singing Hildegard von Bingen’s “Ave Maria”.  My spouse later asked me about some detail of what they were doing on stage, and I replied, “I can’t help you… I was having an ecstatic religious experience.”

They lay out two wells in cloth, on stage;
Two lanterns candle them, and suddenly
Her eyes regard me.  I am caught up,
Unstuck, suspended in the tree-trunk,
Lightning-stroke connection of flame and pool,
Of land, sea, and sky; the long lines of
Singers, veiled, light-crowned, pass by me
Down the aisles, and all I can do is ring,
Struck by the voices, the light and shadow;
I peal out in my mind: praise, praise, praise,
And hope I can do my tiny part to pulse
Her peace throughout the world.