Deep to on High: Traveling the Way of the River

A Wiccan priestess/UU minister transplanted from Central Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon, helping those who seek intimacy with the One Who is Many—Male, Female, Both, and Neither—through ritual, seasonal observance, mythology, divination, and examination of current events.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Celebrate Solstice with Me

Yuletide celebrations of most kinds from traditions all over the Northern Hemisphere, capture my imagination. Ice-skating on frozen rivers in Quebec. Outdoor festivals in the short days of Scandinavian winter where traditions ancient and new blend together seamlessly. The famous outdoor Christmas markets in Germany where people come together for all the sun they can get in the darkening days. The gorgeous, books-and-chocolate tradition of Iceland.


In my own background, these are the days of Advent, when violet and pink candles lit my home and church. These are the pregnant days of waiting, of joyful hope for what is here among us and is not yet brought all the way to fruition. Soon enough will come the Hanging of the Greens and the great blessing of services of Lessons and Carols.

Those pieces, though, those lovely elements of Advent, are not part of my practice now, though I admire them and their layered symbolism.

Nowadays, my sense of December is the faster-and-faster tumble toward the deep dark and its response—the slow and dimly lit path back toward light and warmth. In my experience, Yule is the holiday most necessary for human life and community.

What?! What about Beltaine? What about Samhain? What in the name of all the gods am I talking about?!

It’s cold out there, folks. (Though storms and temperatures are wildly out of control, it’s still cold, for now.) It’s cold. Where I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, everyone has a vitamin D deficiency and we glance up this week at the strange and unusual crystalline sunlight breaking the weeks of mist-heavy clouds. We should probably all lie naked on our porches at the sun’s height and get what we can while we can!

But it’s cold. It’s cold.

But fire burns bright, hot, hopeful, warm, and inviting.

The sun hides further and further behind the horizon, and so we light our candles and our hearths and our electric twinklies on eaves and gutters, porches and fir trees.

We spike eggnog and punch with warming spirits, bake cookies in warm ovens, and give gifts with eyes warmed with the joy of generosity.

Yule is a way of saying, “I need you to survive.”

In my household, we also remember Yule as a time to remember that without the sun, there is no life on earth, nothing to survive.

And so, from the time we turn our lights out on Yule eve until the morning after Yule, we have no electric lights (except some LED fairy lights that I can’t resist keeping up) to push against the gloom outside.

The sun won’t rise until near 8:00 and will go down just before 4:30. My friends in Fairbanks will be in daylight for only some four hours. Here in Oregon, we will look to the east from our third-floor window, and see what glow we can (depending on the wintry cloud cover) that morning. And in mid-afternoon, we will look out over the west hills of the city and watch the sun make its last relinquishment.

From the time we wake up, we will each light a single candle at our bedside. That candle lights a votive in the bathroom. Small lights as we move through the house, just whatever we need to light our way.

Sometime before sunset we will bake cookies. By candlelight. (The next day, the kitchen floor will surely reproach us, covered as it will be in flour and sugar.) And then as sunset approaches, the table will shine with candlelit china and silver glinting into the darkness. A feast for two will hold down the table, and we will admire one another’s faces in the golden gleam of lit beeswax.

After sunset, we will shamelessly steal from Icelandic Christmas, exchange gifts of books and chocolate, and take to snuggling and reading…and the candles go out. One by one, like the furling of a ribbon, the candles’ lights disappear. The details of our home disappear to our eyes until we come back to bed and our little bedside lights by which to read.

And once our eyelids droop and books are closed, the remaining chocolate tucked into its wrappers, even those lights go out.

And we hope for earthly peace in the heavenly dark.

I should mention that it has come to my attention that another wonderful blogger, Cat Chapin-Bishop, has a very similar practice. I invite you to read her 2008 piece about her practice:


On which note, I should mention my upcoming retreat, Going into the Dark, Saturday, December 16, 2017. Check out the link if you’d like information about a day of restoration, renewal, and the cultivation of peace in a time of frenzy and fear.

Blessings on your midwinter, my friends. Be well.

Last modified on
I am an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, and began my Pagan studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people, in ceremonies as large as 400 in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks and tulip poplars, and in rituals as small as a couple of folks in a living room. I am an affiliated UU minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA. I also provide spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—and have for over 15 years. Over that time, I have been with individual people of many faiths and none as they explored, encountered, and shared their relationships with the Divine. You are welcome to my spiritual accompaniment page for a fuller invitation.  


Additional information