We are an ever-changing, integral part of this Earth. We follow the Spiral of the seasons, never stepping twice in the same river of time. This cycle holds secret wisdom for us as Witches. The land upon which we live speaks a language all its own, and we are learning to listen. This is how we grow.
The Lady speaks: “It is so quiet now, and cold. My Love has gone forth from me, deep within me, and the children I have nursed at my breast are grown. I feel the spirits of the dead move within my belly…and I can almost hear the song of greeting they sing to my Dearest Love as He passes among them. He carries messages from Me, and from those still living: you are not forgotten…”
As we focus our attention inward through the time of Darkness, we gain access to the source of power present there. We seek its deepest secrets. All things hidden may reveal themselves, if we are open to that. However, this is also a place of danger, if we enter unprepared. There is madness here, as there is at Beltane. Those of us still wearing flesh can only stand contact with this realm for so long. We can draw down the veil that lives within us; remove the bandages from our own eyes and extend ourselves into the Dark Heart of the Universe. But only for a short time and only if we are disciplined and well prepared.
The Lord speaks: “What is this new song? It heralds a change. I feel a restlessness within me. My spirit children, soon I will be leaving you. My Lady calls to Me and Her voice has never sounded sweeter. It is nearly time for me to rejoin the living, but before I go, I wish you to know that a part of Me is with you always. I will always love you and remember you and return to you when it is your season…”
Winter Solstice brings the mystery of rebirth. With the return of the Sun, there is a promise that all will continue as it has before, year after year, Spring following on Winter’s heels. It is this promise that we stay up all night awaiting, a singular Solar event which gives us faith in the endless cycle of regeneration. As night falls, we watch the sky; this is the night, this is the night…Will He return? We hold vigil for Him, and for the Lady, His Holy Mother, who labors this night to bring our sweet God forth from the darkness. We sing and tell stories to entertain Her and each other while we wait through this longest night of the year.
The whole earth trembles with the Lady’s cries of purposeful pain, of desire for the other, of sadness that his coming forth will bring a separation. The planets, the elements, us… we are all her midwives, holding her hand, whispering encouragement, lending Her our energy. “I miss you”, She calls, “I want you, I will miss you…”All the voices in the Universe whisper to her, “We will wait with you as long as we must, Lady, and we will never leave your side.”
When we gather this night, we bring special foods, the bounty of our homes, to feast and feed each other. We exchange gifts and jokes as a way of further strengthening the bonds between us. At midnight, we sing to call ourselves back to our purpose. We bring forth the Yule Log, a piece of last year’s tree. With small candles, ribbons and stones, we adorn this symbol of the old year passing and the new one beginning. Intentions are set to invoke and release. Then we go to the fire circle and lay this wood down in a strong bed of flame, watching as it burns. Someone might offer a song now, or we may speak our thoughts quietly. After this ritual, we will ring the bell at each hour and sing again, to remind us of our duty to witness, be present.
Then, in the early morning, still in darkness, we leave the Homestead and head to the Ridge. We hike the 20 minutes up the hill to find our vantage point, as we have done all these many years. We watch the shifting skies. Sometimes we are blessed with rain while we wait. Sometimes we freeze and wonder why we always forget to bring a thermos of hot tea. We sit close or separate. We smile or cry or fuss. And always at the Moment, we become still.
“He is near”, the Lady cries, “sing to Him again, I know He hears you.”
From all the watchers comes a chorus, ecstatic in its harmony:
“We are awake in the night, we turn the Wheel to bring the Light, we call the Sun from the Womb of Night.”
And the blessed infant God slips from the warm darkness of His Mother’s body, his Holy light shining from between her thighs.
The Lady smiles through tears, “My love, I had almost forgotten Your brilliance.” The Sun smiles back, content to be small, for now…
This column appeared in an earlier form in the Winter issue of the Seed Magazine 2004.