I find myself wondering about these yearly traditions and the magic Christmas brings. But I also feel perhaps a wandering sadness that it's become slightly more about consuming rather than the deep rituals of the Winter Solstice, that can be traced back for centuries. I'll do another Solstice post soon, but I found myself pondering Yule, and it's history and how it's linked to the Winter Solstice. So I took some time to read about Yule, where it comes from and its traditional roots.
Yule is one of the oldest winter solstice festivals, originating from the ancient Norse thousands of years ago. Its roots are complicated to trace, although there are several theories about how and why the festival was celebrated.
It began as a Norse(Norwegian) festival called jol,
The festival carries themes of light, fire, and feasting. Traditions that are still called upon today in our current culture. Some historians think that sacrifices were an important part of the observance, either to the gods and other supernatural beings (such as elves) or to the dead or both. Some contend that the original festival was a sort of Norse Day of the Dead, with the god Odin as a major player; among Odin’s many names was Jolnir, and among his many duties was acting as a god of the dead. However, this has been disputed in recent years, at least one historian positing that jol was a new year festival intended to set the tone for the months ahead.*
Later, when Christianity came to the British Isles, Christians adopted aspects of the pagan festival into a celebration of the birth of Christ. As Christianity began to spread in the 4th century, the Christmas feast day was set on December 25 by Pope Julius I to align with the Roman pagan holiday Dies natalis solis invicti, “the birthday of the invincible Sun.” The rest is history.*
So, there's the mini history lesson, if you're religious this time of year has specific meaning, but perhaps for those of us, like me, who are looking towards Celtic, pagan and other ancient rituals, we often find these ancient traditions were taken and re-shaped in the guise of new religion. So how can we make these important moments of the year ours again?
For me, it's learning more about the season, the moons, the rituals of old. People may call it witchy, but really it's a deeper connection to nature. Instead of fighting against nature we start to lean into it.
It's not always easy, this time of year is the time to slow, hibernate, call on the feminine so we can soften, reflect, sleep, eat well, drink warm tea, read, and be nutured. I find for me, it's one of the busiest times for the business, which leaves me reeling slightly. But I still put things in place, so I am honouring the winter darkness and seasonal change.
I'll share a few of these:
+ Not getting up so early. I understand this is not possible for everyone, but I am self employed, I tend to work in the evenings and quite late sometimes, swings and roundabouts. But I used to give myself such a hard time, a lot of life coaches telling me/us we have to get up at 5am in order to achieve anything, to be optimising and being our best selves. I'm not saying this isn't true, but my counter argument is we might end up doing ourselves more damage. Perhaps with the dark mornings and low light, we might move through our mornings slower, sipping warm tea, while journalling, planning, and meditating. Planning our exercise or morning rituals at other times in the day.
+ Eating soup, stews, curries and warm lovely things. I've become slightly obsessed with a hearty soup and warm homemade bread. I live alone and sometimes struggle to get enough nutrients, I don't have to time to prep and put together elaborate meals all the time, again, this can sometimes make me feel shame, that I'm not being the perfect yogi, or healthy enough. I've been cramming stuff into big pans to make soup, throwing in herbs and spices, ginger, garlic to see me through the week.
+ Lighting a candle and read a good Novel. I joined the library this year, it took me far too long, and it's become a bit of a life-line. Even going to the library makes me calm, I like wandering the aisle and seeing the other people there quietly reading. I fear I'm settling into ''later life' at the grand age of 37! But my goodness I love a great book.
+ Swimming. For me, cold swimming hasn't been a thing this year, the weather has been too shoddy. So I've started heading to the pool, it's bringing me joy, helping me stay fit and also makes me feel connected to my late Nan, who swam until she was 80.
+ A slower yoga practice. Doing what I can, when I can, knowing when to push and when to soften. I've not had the energy to do a very strong practice, I find it easier to push while I swim in the pool or at dance, so I've been using my yoga practice to channel a moving meditation, going slow, unfolding, and breathing deeply. This month I've had to navigate loss and more grief. It makes me very tired, so I, once again, am learning to lean into compassion and trying to find a softness when I practice.
+ wellbeing practices. I've gifted myself, 3 soundbaths over this period. I also go to gentle yoga on a Wednesday. I also practice online with yoga nidra recordings and soundbaths. I have warm baths and lie on my shakti mat. I take my vitamins and lions mane. Hugs. Friends. Alone time. Allowing myself to feel, sit with difficult stuff. Walk when I can. Watch TV. Eat Mince pies. Sleep. Cry. Grieve. Watch Comedy. Laugh. Cook.
I hope this blog post helps a little, giving you maybe some permission to rest, to cut yourself some slack. To winter!
Check back soon for a special Solstice Ritual Post!
Free Winter meditation, a throw back to last Winter