A few Yule seasons back, I was wandering through Union Square losing sensation in my fingertips and filled with that particular blend of holiday mania, equal parts joy and terror. At The Strand I saw old friends, nightclub performers I used to dance on tabletops with, and wondered what if that was still my life? An on and off again relationship came to a sudden halt appropriately outside of Grand Central Station as they remarked, “we’ve been cursed by bad timing” and I couldn’t help but wonder is that really it? I loved my daily work but had no real chance of advancement at a place that no longer felt like home. It had been a grim season of “what ifs” as my life had entered a period of profound stagnation. Yet something so potent that resulted from that specific Yuletide season was embracing the gift of reflection that comes from being alone.
Auld Lang Syne loosely translates into “old long since,” or “days gone by,” and it’s a song we always hear and often butcher when attempting to sing on New Years Eve. Of Scottish origin, the song became crystalized by the poet Robert Burns. Along with Joni Mitchell’s “River” and Vince Guaraldi’s perfect jazz score to A Charlie Brown Christmas, my Yuletide traditions and playlist focus on reflection. Yule, or the Winter Solstice on December 21st, marks the longest night of the year when we hold a nostalgic, poignant and bittersweet cup of memories to sip on throughout the dark, winter night. It can be the most wonderful and most hellish time of year, but ritual, regardless of faith, provides a balm to soothe many wounds. It also marks the beginning of Capricorn season, all about the importance of upholding traditions, family foundations and legacy. On December 22nd, a Full Moon in Cancer blossoms in the sky, granting us a moment of balance with the Divine Feminine and Masculine energies. Capricorn, the old goat, famous for his endless hard outer work is faced with its opposite moon in Cancer, focused on psychic inner work, healing, and birth. At Yule, the child of promise, the God is born from the Goddess and he brings with him the potency of sun, reminding us that even during the longest night, the sun will always rise again.
Yule is an ideal time to think about what ideas and dreams you’d like to birth in the New Year, while reflecting on the lessons and wisdom of days gone by. A ritual inspired by my season of lamenting the many “what ifs,” is writing down each and every “coulda, shoulda, woulda,” on paper and burning them in a Yule bonfire. Whether you create a small fire in your cauldron or light the paper from a candle and then toss out the ashes, the act of letting go of unrealistic expectations, pressures, or invisible bonds can help alleviate the wounds from the past year. Some with fireplaces burn a Yule log, but with a cauldron one can easily enjoy the smells of the season by burning bayberry incense, pine resin, cinnamon powder, and frankincense on charcoal tablets. Gazing into the flames of a Yule candle to symbolize the returning light can help open up the third eye to meditation, where you mind can wander and reflect back on the year’s events. After all this solitary magic, make sure you have time planned with loved ones and partake in baking, eating, trekking out in nature or sipping hot cocoa, enjoying the bonds of family and friendship that are always more meaningful than any gift.
Yule is a holiday that reminds up about the importance of trusting in the magical threads that weave our lives together. The collective unconscious, fate, destiny or what some call coincidences, I call magic. As the year slips through our fingertips, give yourself the gift of time. Be present with your feelings, grand or small, celebrating the gift of life and connection as other witches will also be lighting their candles, igniting their fires and dancing under the Full Moon this midwinter season.