As I get older, I find myself uninterested in traditional holidays. Take Christmas for example. It is easily distinguishable by its customs: A Christmas tree, wrapped gifts, Christmas carols, and Christ. But as I have come into my identity as a queer person, I’ve grown to question these customs: the unnecessary cutting down of trees, the waste produced by gift wrap that is quickly torn off things we have been convinced we need to buy for the sake of a company’s profits only to be discarded in landfills, and the way in which people have perverted the message of Christ.
Thankfully, years ago, I came across the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel of the Year is a pagan celebration of the cycling of our four seasons: Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Fall Equinox. While there are only four seasons, the Wheel is composed of eight Sabbats: Four Greater Sabbats (Imbolc, Beltane, Lamas and Samhain) and four Lesser Sabbats (Yule, Ostara, Litha and Mabon.) This year Yule falls on Monday, December 21st.
Yule, a celebration of the Winter Solstice, is translated from the Norse iul to mean “wheel”. Whether we realize it or not, Christmas is rooted in Yule. In his book The Path of the Green Man, a book about gay spirituality, Michael Thomas Ford discusses his thoughts on how Christianity and capitalism have warped Yule. “It doesn’t take much effort to see how this Pagan festival was Christianized to make it acceptable to the church. Christ takes over the role of the sun, while his mother Mary, assumes the goddess role. More distressing, at least to me, is the commercialization of the holiday. Yet, the original power of Yule can still be felt in many of the traditional carols, and even good old Santa retains some of the Pagan about him, resembling as he does a magical figure who arrives to bestow blessings on those who would believe in him.”
I choose to begin my journey through the Wheel of the Year with Yule, a representation of the return of the sun. With it comes light, life, heat and creation. I celebrate it as a ritual of initiation. A search for my sun.
I begin by choosing an object to represent my sun. In previous years, it was a crystal I would wear everywhere I went. This year, I will be choosing my wooden mala or Tibetan prayer beads. On my journey, I plan to grow its light.
Next, I take time to reflect on this year's experiences. This is accomplished through a journaling practice. I find that it is important to acknowledge both the good and bad experiences I have had. If I am to be whole, it is counterintuitive to censor certain parts of myself.
Finally, at night during the Winter Solstice, I write a letter to myself discussing what I envision this year's journey to be along with what I hope to achieve. In line with the tradition of the Burning of the Yule Log, I will go for a walk in a local nature preserve to find a few small branches to take with me and burn alongside my letter. The burning of my letter represents the end of the previous year's journey while its ashes signify the start of the next.
This week, join me as I extend a few of my Yule traditions with you. On Monday 21st, I will host a reflective journaling event where we will answer questions about ourselves and share them with the community. The questions can be found below. You can submit your response early through email or on Monday via social media. On Wednesday 23rd, I will be hosting a mediation session via Zoom at 7pm. Here, I will read a short story and lead a guided meditation. For more information on attending, please reach out to me.
Questions: What are the positive and negative experiences that have shaped you into the person you are today? Who is it you are looking forward to becoming this year? How will you achieve this?