Monday, December 22, 2008

Yule 08

I had such a moving experience at Shadow Grove for this sabbat that I scarcely know where to begin to talk about it. I supposed the beginning is the best place!

The evening started with hors d'oeuvres and some sabbat-appropriate crafting. We made corn garlands and coated pine cones with peanut butter and seeds so the critters of the forest could have something to eat during this time when this area is quite barren.

After dusk, we gathered in the lower room of the house for a run-down of the ritual and to get started. Down an immense flight of stairs that descends into the forest, there is a path that wraps around a gathering place and over a little creek to the ritual circle. Grove rituals usually start at that water crossing, where participants and smudged and cleansed and sent into the circle. This ritual was working a little differently.

Pre-ritual cleansing took place in the house. We each took an unlit candle with us and gathered on the deck. In a dark procession, we descended the sixty-step flight of frozen stairs to the ritual circle.

The theme of Yule is bringing back the light. After the longest night, the sun will slowly begin to take hold again, until it dominates the skies in the summer. For this ritual, we called on the sun, represented in fire, to bring back the light and fill our cold world with the blessings of its bounty. We took a flame from the ritual fire and, as we dismissed the quarters, lit our candles around the circle on that one flame. The procession then went back over the creek and up the breath-taking stairs, bringing back the light from where we started in darkness. It was, by far, the most beautiful Yule celebration I have ever been a part of or witnessed.

After that, we feasted, laughed, fellowshipped, and chose random names for our gift exchange. You may recall my crafting from my November esbat; the gift I made was a Chilean three-legged pig. They're usually made from pottery and exchanged between friends as a token of goodwill and luck. My little pig was crocheted in Yule colors of red, white, and green. The recipient, an extremely kind and loving person who makes a delectable beer bread said it made him smile every time he looked at it. This, of course, made me quite happy. My gift was a beautiful dream catcher made by the High Priestess' son. He is an extremely creative young man, and it just so happened that I needed a new dream catcher. As moving as the ritual was, it was also amazing to take part in this little Grove tradition. It seemed like gifts went to the person who needed them most.

The tradition of exchanging gifts at this time is centuries old. Early people would share what they had in abundance with their neighbors. This was usually crops or meat, or useful things like wool. Nothing was wasted and everyone had what they needed to get them through this time of year when things do not grow. We are blessed in this day and age to have stores that carry such necessities even in the bleak of winter, but the tradition lives on. Maybe none of us really needed any of those little trinkets, but you could tell they were all made with love and warm intentions, and we all do need that.

I hope you, gentle readers, had the brightest of bright Yules.

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