O, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer

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The winter solstice has always been an important day for me. It’s my second-favorite holiday in the Wheel of the Year (which, as an eclectic pagan I kinda-sorta follow, though I’m prone to forgetting a few spokes, and I often insert other things stolen from the Romans as they feel relevant to my life), and it’s definitely the one I’ve most often celebrated with a group. Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I had a small group of dear friends that would congregate to see each other through the Longest Night. Some of my favorite memories are of those sleepovers, whether we were huddled around candles on a kitchen floor, holding hands and confiding our hopes and fears in fervent whispers, or, as we got older and spent less time together during the rest of the year, just catching up with each other, reviving our friendship, and eventually giggling ourselves into exhaustion. It’s been harder to get together the past few years — when you’re all adults with careers and significant others and such, it’s just not that easy to get together for a sleepover — but I always take a little time to remember those nights, and I apply that same spirit to my solitary practice.

Yule is, for me, a lot about clearing out the old and refocusing myself on the new. I use it as time to re-evaluate. It’s a sort of preemptive New Year, really, when I can look back on what I’ve accomplished and commit myself to trying harder, working harder, being better in the year to come. And, it’s a time to let go of the things and emotions that are no longer productive. I think part of why I’ve always liked Yule is because it’s a reminder that I can redirect myself, reinvent myself, even, whenever I choose, whenever it’s necessary. However dark things might seem, nothing lasts forever. The night will end; the sun will rise.

I often mark holidays with Tarot readings, which I keep record of in a journal. It’s a nice way to track where my head’s been at, month to month, and it’s a good contemplative practice for me. I don’t use it strictly as divination, but it does help me sort out my thoughts and make sense of my life in constructive ways. Last year’s winter solstice reading ended with the card Temperance in the Advice slot. My comment to myself at the time was “This is not awesome advice to give to someone like me.” Moderation has never been my strongest suit. I feel things intensely, and not just bursting out with everything I feel as soon as I feel it is a skill I’ve had to learn over a lot of years. So I wasn’t sure what to make of it then — it’s not a card that turns up for me very often. I couldn’t suss out what its message to me was. But looking back at 2014, I can see the sense in it now. A lot of this year has been about learning patience and about endurance through flexibility and resilience. There’s a difference between stagnation and fruitful development. I haven’t always had the good sense to see the difference between the two, but I think 2014 taught me a lot about (3)

This year’s reading, conducted lakeside at sunset, at a park near my parents’ house, ended with Strength. The card stands for courage, resilience, perseverance — an even more powerful message to receive today, considering that it’s always been one of my personal signifier cards. It’s particularly beautiful in my current deck, an image I always find inspiring. Perhaps this means 2015 will be a year to come into my own, to let my inner fires burn as brightly as they may. At least, I hope it will be — and the beautiful thing is, by living like that’s going to be true, I can make it so.

So, whomever you are, whatever you wish, good luck to you on this, the Longest Night. May it pass swiftly, and may you be safe and warm and loved in these dark hours. When the dawn rises, may it do so on a brighter and better year. Whatever you’re working on in the coming months, I hope you have joy in it. If you need to refashion yourself, may you find the courage to do so. If you need to be stalwart in who you are and what you want, may you have the strength to hold on. Happy Solstice, and here’s to the next turn of the wheel!