The Quiet Time Between the Turmoil of 2019 and the Unknown of 2020
I love candles. I mean, I really, really love candles. I especially enjoy thematic candles for various seasons and occasions, and Yule is one of those occasions when it is particularly easy to find beautiful themed candles to use on my altars. In fact, I typically hit up various stores right after Christmas to buy candles for next year on the cheap, and I usually check for them when I visit thrift stores. It’s astounding how many people will buy a fancy candle for the holidays, be too scared to ever light it, and eventually donate it to charity.
I have a whole drawer full of candles that were waiting to potentially use this Yule. Our current main house altar is rather small, so space for a glorious candle display is limited. For this December full moon most of the altar was taken up with a couple workings, and so at the beginning of December I just brought out one wintery pillar candle to put on the altar. My expectation was to set up a second temporary Yule altar on an end table for the solstice, where I would get to delight in numerous other fancy and thematic candles in celebration of the holy day.
When the full moon had passed, and the spell candles burned down to nothing, the altar sat. I wanted to clean it up, change it up, and light it up again. After all, that’s what this time of year is for! Light all the candles! Bring light into the darkness! Celebrate!
But it wasn’t right. My intuition told me the time was not right. The house altar needed to sit, to remain dark, untouched, and I wasn’t sure for how long.
I had some very rough interactions online the day of the full moon, and my chronic illness decided to flare up particularly bad, but that wasn’t the whole of it. There have been many times when tending the altar helps a bit during a flareup, or helps to ease my stress levels or sort my thoughts when I’m having a rough time.
Those things were part of it, but they weren’t the whole of it. The altar needed to sit. I needed to sit, to just be, to let the world move past me uninterrupted , at least until after Yule, and possibly a little longer than that.
There are times to stir the brew or it will singe. There are times to leave the baking alone in the oven or it will collapse.
There are times to be active in the world to create manifestation. There are times to sit in contemplation while the world moves into a different place where manifestation is easier.
Winter, and the Winter solstice in particular, isn’t just about the returning of the light. Sure, that’s a fun part, and there is a lot of value to be found in celebrating that life continues no matter the circumstances. It’s beneficial to take time to value the good things in our lives, to gather with friends and family. But that’s not the whole story. The higher in latitude or elevation you go, the more deep winter is about life hunkering down and resting through the lean, cold, limited light months, so that when the light and warmth returns life is ready to break forth in bounty once again.
Leaves and needles mulch in the dampness under snow and rain, slowly creating nutrients to feed the trees and bushes and grasses. Hibernating animals nestle down in their shelters to sleep out the winter, often giving birth during those lean months. The sanctity of darkness provides a nurturing place where life can shelter from inclement weather, and be fully prepared to burst forth when conditions are more favorable.
2019 was a very unexpected year for me. I am an artist, but in recent years I have created very little art due to chronic illness. I’m not looking for sympathy. It’s just a fact that my illness requires that it is the first consideration in anything I do, so it always matters when I talk about events and accomplishments and plans in my life. I managed to create a few drawings during the summer of 2019, and at the same time I also started writing. As I came into the fall months and my symptoms returned to their normally uncooperative state, I stopped drawing again, but I was able to continue writing.
There has always been a writing aspect to my creative works, but in the past it has mostly taken the form of tutorials and documentation. I had considered writing a book about my experiences with an emotionally abusive family for years, but last summer I suddenly went from vaguely considering the idea to cranking out chapters like I was on fire. Then I decided to start blogging about witchcraft, and joined Agora on Patheos in October. It was incredibly invigorating to find something I create consistently, even if it wasn’t the painting and drawing my soul yearns for.
My holiday season tends to be rather low-stress and low-demand as holiday seasons go, but it’s still a busy and stressful time of year, and it does adversely affect me. My pace of writing slowed, and I found it nearly impossible to work on the book by mid November, of course immediately after proudly declaring that I was managing to write consistently despite my illness.
But it wasn’t just the stress, the busy-ness of it, or even my symptoms. This 2019 solstice season demanded that I stop, rest, and shelter in the darkness. As someone whose body forces them to rest far more often than they would like as it is, that’s a particularly frustrating thing. However, I also have enough experience with years of ups and downs to recognize when resistance is an exercise in futility.
So, the candles stayed in their drawer while the cats steadily dismantled the decorations on the tree, and the altar stayed dark and untouched.
I rested in the darkness.
I pulled out Breath of the Wild, a video game I hadn’t touched in weeks. I let myself be distracted by TV and movies. I met with a couple different friends in honor of the holiday season. I spent Christmas night at my partner’s parent’s home. I snuggled with our cats. I very deliberately avoided political news as much as possible.
I rested. I turned my magic gently in, slowly transforming my hopes and dreams and ambitions into fertile soil that could be built upon. I let the darkness of the season wrap around me like a warm snuggly blanket in a pillow fort. I let things settle, so that when the light returned, I could hopefully see more clearly how to accomplish the things I want to do without getting bogged down in stress or collapsing under an overabundance of obligations.
I needed to stop doing in order to see how to do the things that are most important to me.
I needed to rest in the darkness in order to more clearly illuminate my path.
Yule came and went, but the need to rest in the darkness stayed. On Christmas eve I didn’t have the distraction of video games or TV, so I found myself catching up on some reading. It was a bit of a “so that’s what’s going on” moment when I read New Moon in Capricorn for 2019. I’m not one to bother charting out my future astrologically, but well-described astrological events do tend to reflect what I’m doing in my work. As predicted, the pressure to hermit started easing on the new moon, and the evening after the solar eclipse I happily took some time to remove the old spellwork from the altar and light a couple candles.
That one Yule-themed pillar candle is almost gone, having been burned down significantly during the full moon at the beginning of the month. When it is gone, that will be it for 2019’s Yule candle display. Resting and nurturing myself was more important than forcing a celebration when the time wasn’t right. There will be other times and other years for that, and if it feels right, I can create fun candle displays for other holy days through this winter.
I have no idea what 2020 has in store for me, but I do know that I am stretching my arms, ready to face it. I know where I want to focus my limited energy. I know what I want to accomplish, and I have a plan for how to do that.
As the light returns, it’s time to make things happen.