Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year

Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.

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A Season of Mystery

   Yule nearly passed me by this year. My husband and I have been working around the clock, it seems, and the days leading up to Yule were no different: long days at work, scrambling to keep the house neat and the children fed and in bed at reasonable hours. We missed the opportunity to collect sunfire, and because of this it feels like something is lacking this year. It almost feels like the mystery has gone out of Yule.

   Over the years I have come to learn that we need mystery in our lives. Overall we believe what we can see, though some of us (many) are willing to believe that which we cannot. And therein lies a truth.

     As children we wait so eagerly for Santa, squeezing our eyes closed trying to fall asleep as soon as possible. There is mystery to the holidays: how does Santa know if we've behaved? How does he come into our house without waking our parents (or the dog)? My children were taught that through the long dark night the Red Man travels the world, leaving children gifts to honor the birth of the sun. Once the younger ones are asleep the older children join in the night's ritual, prayers for the rebirth of the sun we know will rise again. Yet still we beg for its return just as our ancestors did in ages past. For the ancient agricultural people the sun was then savior: without its light there would be no food,and following famine, death. Today in our fast-paced, electronically-driven, anything-can-be-purchased societies, the only people who desperately need the sun in order to survive are those brave people who continue to farm. (Yes, consumers need it too, but all too few of them actually recognize that fact.)

     Because we know that the longest night of the year is due to the earth's rotation and not because the Crone swallowed Gwydion in a game of chance or that it was devoured by Fenris, the Solstice holds little mystery for many people of the world. There are those of us who remember, however. We remember the fear our ancestors must have felt as days grew colder and darkness crept in earlier and earlier, until one day the sun disappeared over the horizon at nearly midday. What could have happened? This had occurred at nearly the same time the preceding winter, and the sun had risen triumphantly the next morning, but would it do so again? What was to be done should it fail to return? And so bonfires were kindled, torches lit, and families gathered together to wait out the long dark. As the first feeble rays of the newly-born sun lit the edge of the earth the rejoicing began with song and dance, reenactments of the sun's death and rebirth, feasting, and the exchanging of gifts, practical items like cider, cheeses, woven baskets and carved bowls, a warm cloak, or perhaps a small pot of banked coals for someone whose hearth fire had gone out. The mystery of the sun's early departure had been survived, not solved, but all had weathered the storm, so to speak, and should the sun again grow weak and sink away the following winter people would know, and manage.

     As science advanced the winter's solstice was easily explained away, but the traditions held on because they were beautiful and joyful. Mysterious. As adults we remember the enchantment and the mystery, too excited to go to bed but knowing we had to or Santa Claus wouldn't come. Others fondly recall the story of the tiny amount of oil that burned strong and clear for eight nights, a beacon of mystery and hope.

     Knowledge is power, we are told. But mystery? Mystery is the recognition of the person we used to be. It is the acknowledgement of the world that was, the world that evolved into what we know today with all its beauty, faults, limitations, and joy. We lose a part of ourselves, our most basic, fundamental self, when we no longer seek the mysteries that linger in our world. In explaining away the unknown a key piece of humanity was explained away as well. Children understand the need for mystery. We adults would do well to heed them.

     Brightest blessings to you and those you love in this beautiful time of mystery and enchantment.

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I am a writer and poet living in western Massachusetts. I have a degree in English Lit, with a focus on the nineteenth century, and am working toward a degree in Women's Studies as well. My work has previously appeared in The Pagan Activist, The Pagan Review, GrannyMoon's Morning Feast, and The Montague Reporter. I am currently working on a series of children's books, a novel trilogy, and a poetry manuscript (I simply can't do one thing at a time!). I also have several random fantasy-based short story projects that I attack once in a while.   I am a Dianic Pagan and practice Kitchen Wicca, and am also a Reiki Master. For a glimpse into my own little corner of reality, you can stop in and visit me at Ellie.


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