Yule – The Winter Solstice

Artwork by Astrocal

The Wheel continues to turn, and we move into Winter. The great pause. A time to reset, to continue the journey within, healing, learning, discovering our souls path.

Yule begins at the Winter Solstice, which falls around the 21st December. At Samhain, we honour our ancestors, we welcome the return of the dark and begin our journey within. At Yule, the Winter Solstice, we land at the depth of the darkness with the longest night, the darkness has reached its peak, the Sun stops its descent and for a few days rises in the same place, a magical liminal time, a time to embrace the primal mysteries of darkness and light, death and rebirth. Everything is suspended, waiting, the cusp and then we begin to notice, little by little, the light returning, getting stronger and longer and we know that we can begin our ascent into the light once more.

This is the time to do our inner work – to meditate, sit in the dark with our inner most self, to expose those dark parts of ourselves that we have hidden away, yet need the most healing.

This year, 2020, I don’t need to say, has been one of the most painful, frightening, challenging years that most of us have ever had to face. Time and again fear, confusion, division, conflict has reared its head – splitting families, friends and colleagues, as well as causing confusion and conflict within our own psyche. Yet, if we follow certain spiritual guidance, gurus, teachers, writings, then this is all meant to happen, this is our ascension, when we move into the Age of Aquarius, the next Golden Age, the 5th dimension. This is the time of the great paradigm shift, the coming together of humanity and the joining of the Divine Feminine with the Sacred Masculine… Doesn’t seem much like it does it!?!?

I am not an expert on any of this, and don’t have the scope within this newsletter to go into any depth on it – but I think we can safely say that we are all feeling this great shift into an age of higher consciousness. More and more people are thirsting to learn more about the mysteries of nature and the universe, to learn more esoteric and spiritual practices such as meditation, reiki, yoga, getting more creative, developing themselves spiritually and emotionally, which has a knock on effect of creating great inner and outer healing. We are learning that we are not separate, from each other, from nature, and from the Universe.

This year, covid, has been a huge pause, a reset… showing up the shadow side of everything, within organisations, governments, families, and ourselves!!! As we move towards Yule we are being told that December the 21st, the Winter Solstice, is going to be the pivot point… In 2020, December 21st, stands out as being a potent day, not just because of the Solstice, but also due to a very rare alignment taking place this year known as the Grand Conjunction.  The article posted by Forever Conscious has a great explanation, and I invite you to have a read, it may explain some of the things you have been feeling and experiencing.

Back to earth, and on a more personal level, I feel this has been part of the push I have had to bring people together into groups, do online meditations, start a YouTube channel and become a celebrant…none of this was on the radar a year ago!! So for all the fear and confusion of this year, there has been much learning, growing and personal development, it has been exciting and scary at the same time! And I want to thank all of you for supporting me, and being part of this journey – it has been an honour to connect with my soul family, and see and feel us all growing together.

Before I get on to the meaning of and celebration of Yule, and the Winter Solstice, I just want to share with you the date and details of my next online group ritual and meditation.

Art by Wendy Andrew

Yule Ritual & Shamanic Journey

Sunday 20th December 8pm

Yule is a time of hibernation. It’s the time when the sun stands still… the shortest day, longest night. Join me on this Shamanic drum journey as we venture into the cave with Grandmother Bear, to sit in the dark and to manifest our hopes, dreams, wishes and desires for the coming year.

you will need somewhere where you can be quiet, and be able to sit in the dark, several candles to light so that we can welcome the light back in together, and an idea or list of the things you wish to manifest for the coming year.

This is a zoom event, £6 investment.

I will do a screen share of a fire and Shamanic drumming sound. The beat of the drum is said to put you into a deeper meditative state quicker. Message me if you would like to join us.

AND even more exciting news… the cabin will be ready by then!!!! So I will be doing this as a face to face event too!! As a small group of 6 of us, either in the cabin or outside around the firepit if it’s dry, Saturday 19th or Monday 21st – If you are interested in this please let me know as places are very limited. Investment will be £10, Bring a drum or rattle if you have one, and we will take this journey and birth the idea of the seeds we wish to manifest in 2021 together!

It’s going to be a fantastic year, we just need to keep shining our lights, keep our connection to our soul tribe, focus on the positives and keep love in our hearts. As I always say, there are only 2 states of being, Love or Fear, always choose LOVE!!! …..and so to Yule.

Art by Janie Olsen

What Is Yule, the Winter Solstice?

Yule, or Yuletide / season, is another ancient festival, historically observed by the Germanic peoples, who celebrated The Wild Hunt,  with the God Odin and the Pagan Anglo Saxon Modranicht, but has been observed and celebrated by all ancient peoples throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It can be seen as The Suns birthday, and as such a cause to celebrate!

With the ending of the longest night and the returning of the light and the sun comes the promise of better things to come! We can begin to formulate our intentions and plans for the Spring, the first shoots of bulbs may begin to emerge. The message of the solstices is about balance – the balance of the light and the dark – the balance of things within ourselves, the balance of life and death.

The Story of Oak King and The Holly King

The Holly King, the god of the waning year, comes into power at Midsummer, and rules over the dark half of the year, but with the returning  light at Yule he surrenders his life to the young Oak King who then takes up his mantle as god of the waxing year and rules over the light half of the year, from midwinter to midsummer. According to ancient pagan belief, they each rule for half of the year, fighting for the love and favour of the Goddess, and both give up their life force for the good of her, for the well-being of the land. In truth they are one and the same entity.

Traditions of the Season

This story is a similar one and played out in different cultures across time around the world, and the traditions are abundant and varied. As with most Pagan traditions, they were Christianised, with the Suns birthday becoming the Son of Gods birthday, The Christ Child, but many of the ancient customs remain.

The Evergreens

Bringing nature and greenery into the home is an ancient tradition that we still do today! Evergreens represent everlasting life, and that despite the land looking dead and barren, life is still there and will return. Each one has a meaning and symbolism of its own.

Holly – this symbolises protection, bringing it into the home would bring good luck. Symbolising the old year, the holly king passing – it’s traditional to burn the holly sprigs you bring into the home on the yule fire. Its red berries represent feminine blood – a symbol of fertility!

Ivy – is a plant associated with long life and resurrection, often continuing to live long after the tree it has grown on has died – a reminder of the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Mistletoe – a plant sacred to the ancient Druids, regarded as a powerful healing plant, full of magic because it lives between the worlds, between the sky and the earth.

Yew – the yew is seen as the greatest symbol of eternal life – living as they do for thousands of years. It is deeply connected to the underworld and the spirit realms, to the ancestors. It is also connected with regeneration, as many trees can grow from an ancient central tree. Because of  its association with life after death you will always find yew trees in graveyards. It is highly toxic.

Pine – is a very cleansing and purifying tree, burning the wood and the boughs will help keep disease and illness from the home.

Making a Wreath or yule log from the yule evergreens was a way of bringing their energies into the home, the circular wreath another symbol of eternity. I make one every year, and will do a YouTube video this year of mine.

Candles – yule is a festival of light, so bringing candles into the home is a way to drive out the darkness and herald in the return of the sun.

The Yule Tree – Pines and firs were acknowledged as symbols of rebirth and life, and they were brought into homes in the depth of winter to remind the people that new life would return. It was also believed that the wood spirits inhabited the trees (this is where we get the expression “knock on” or “touch wood”, for luck) and bringing them into the home through the winter would shelter them from the harsh winter so they would bestow on the family good luck.

Yule Log – Northern Europeans, and The Vikings celebrated and honoured the winter solstice by burning a huge log at yule, either oak, ash, cherry or pear, and they would keep it alight through the darkest days of winter, saving the very last piece to relight at the following winter solstice celebrations.

As you can see, the traditions of Yule / the Winter Solstice are many and varied, culturally and globally, but deeply entrenched into our psyches. However our modern lifestyles have meant that we have lost connection with why we do these things. Ceremony and ritual are so important for our sense of connection, not only to each other, but to our past, our Ancestors, our karmic pattern.  Yule and the winter solstice have been overtaken by the over-indulgence and excesses of the Christmas rush. Pressures and stress override our systems, and many of us feel depressed, and anxious. We put so much of this on ourselves!, and it can feel even worse because we are told that we should be feeling happy, celebrating in the way that the advertisers on tv and social media are telling us to and portraying.

It doesn’t need to be this way – implementing a simple routine of self-care into our lives can make massive differences in how we cope with this time of year. Just to pause and slow down, take just 5 minutes a day to bring a mindful breath practice into your life will make a huge difference. We are designed to retreat within at this time of year, and now more than ever, self-care is paramount. Eating well, keeping a positive mindset, looking after your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being with practices like meditation, yoga, walking in nature, will keep your immune system healthy and boosted.

Book a treat for yourself, learn a new skill, connect with like minded people (your soul family), slow down…and then slow down some more!.

At AuroraStar, I not only give beautiful relaxing treatments, I run meditation groups, classes and 1 to 1’s, as well as teach Reiki at all levels – Reiki is the ultimate self-care tool!! The world, now more than ever needs healers! I am running Reiki 1, 2 and 3 courses, as well as workshops all through 2021.

Self-care can be something a simple as running yourself a bath with some of your favourite bubble bath or bath salts and a few candles, or taking a few minutes a day to read a proper book, creating a quiet corner for yourself, and learn to practice Hygge!!

The Danish Hygge – Let’s Cozy Down for Winter!

Along with Samhain, Yule is one of my favourite festivals. I welcome the chance to nestle down for winter – cosy fires, twinkling lights, lots of meditation and fire gazing! This year already I am noticing that it’s only mid November and many people are putting up the decorations already – after the rough year we have had it’s peoples need to feel good, to bring a bit of joy and sparkle in to what has been a decidedly crap year!!

The Northern peoples of Denmark have a word / feeling for this – Hygge (pronounced “hoo – ga”) it’s more of a concept rather than being able to be translated into a single word, and encompasses the feeling of cosy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life. If you have ever enjoyed that feeling of snuggling up in front of a fire on a cold wintry day, candles a glow, or taken pleasure in a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate indoors on a rainy day then you have experienced hygge – without even knowing it!! If you’d like to learn more about this, then there are many books now on the subject, such as the great ‘The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well’ available on Amazon.

Hygge has become a bit of a fashion buzz word of late, but the concept is ancient – as we turn into the dark and cold days of winter, and the shortest day at the Winter Solstice, it is easy to feel depressed, to get overwhelmed by what seems like the endless dark days, and cold, wet, damp ,weather. For our ancestors winter could literally mean death and starvation! So the importance of huddling together around a cosy fire, socially interacting with one another, sharing of food, resources and stories not only kept them going through those long dark days, but also kept them alive!!

There is another physiological reason why sitting around a fire is so relaxing and good for us – studies are showing that fire may have influenced the development of the human brain! Fire is associated with creativity, dreaming, deep meditation. Not only has fire served our most basic needs for survival for cooking, heating, protection etc, now research into cognitive evolution, a field of study  that brings together psychology, anthropology, neuroscience and genetics, suggests that fires most lasting impact was how our responses to it altered our brains, helping endow us with capabilities such as long-term memory and problem solving.

Sitting around a campfire in a social setting would have provided a social relaxation effect that would have benefitted the whole group and would have provided relaxation and activated calming behaviour. Studies have shown that sitting around the fire can lower blood pressure. There is something deeply primal about social gatherings around fire, fire “fires” up responses within our reptilian brain – the amygdala, which is why we all enjoy large social gatherings around bonfires! – think bonfire night, May Day / Beltane, the summer solstice, in fact our ancestors always had bonfires going at any outdoor celebration (called Balefires ).

We know that looking at the blue light on our smartphone screens, laptops and tv’s are not good for us, particularly at night. Blue light supresses the release of melatonin in our brains, which leads to a lower quality of sleep, which in turn can lead to a variety of negative health effects. However, not all of us have access to a real fire or wood burner to create hygge, but we can turn off the technology, light candles, cuddle up with cosy blankets, and invest in a salt lamp! Salt lamps give off a warm red glow, similar to that of a fire, so they trigger those calming relaxing responses in the brain, as well as having a host of other benefits, such as promoting negative ions, soothing allergies and cleaning the air!

Promoting Self-Care & Creating Hygge

Another way of promoting self-care and creating hygge for yourself is to come into AuroraStar Holistic Therapies and have one of my relaxing treatments, such as my Winter Rebalance Package.

You can come and cosy up on the warm couch, soft snuggly blankets tucking you up, in the glow of candles and salt lamp, while enjoying a deeply restorative bespoke combination of treatments, including reflexology, reiki, aromatherapy, sound and crystal healing – together, these will balance your mind, body and spirit! I am also working in a different way, in line with the energetic shift that has been happening, to bring healing and massage in a slower, more connected way, which I am calling myofascial healing rebalance. This is a very gentle, but deeply powerful massage that works with your body, to help soothe and reset the nervous system that can cause blocks, tightness and pain in our fascia. It is really helpful if you have painful conditions like fibromyalgia, or long held muscular tension, enabling you to give yourself permission to let go.

Or why not treat someone you love with a gift voucher, so they can experience hygge at AuroraStar too?

The winter solstice speaks to us of balance – if we can create balance within our lives we can begin to slow down, to create harmony and to align with our inner guidance and intuition, and we need to access this now more than ever.

Yule blessings to you all, may you have a peaceful and balanced Winter Solstice, may you and all your loved ones stay healthy and well. I am looking forward to 2021, to connecting with you all online and in the physical, and sharing all the exciting therapies, training, courses and workshops that I have planned.

Much Love and green blessings, Sam xxx

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