Thursday, 22 December 2011

The wolves are running...

Solstice day. Shortest day. Midwinter. The dark is at its height, the wolves are running, the shadows looming.
And what do we humans do when the dark gathers around us? We light fire. We retreat to our caves. We hang in there. We dream.

Sometimes this time of year can feel so hard. It can feel like everyone is out there, partying, playing, spending, smiling. And then it’s easy to beat yourself up if you’re not feeling like the life and soul of the party. Yet, hang about. Solstice, Christmas, Yule, was never originally about drunken bacchanalia – that was saved for the warmer festivals! Getting shit-faced is certainly one way of dealing with the dark, but it's not the only one.

You know, Christmas wasn’t always about marketing and hype; about stuffing your face and wrecking your credit cards. It wasn’t about rigid rituals and drear duty. Once upon a time, it was about getting through the dark days; about cosying up to the hearth; about celebrating the people we need to survive – not necessarily the people we like!
Yes, there are fights. Tell me about it. This week it seems like every evening ends on an argument. However hard you try, misunderstandings arise. But that’s part of Yuletide too. In the old days, Yule saw a ritualized combat between the King of the Waning Year and the King of the New Year (the Holly King and the Oak King). Two men would strip to the waist and fight with swords or bare hands while the women…drummed. And doubtless admired their muscles.  Rows and arguments are as natural a part of this season as the holly and the ivy.

For those who say bah humbug to the lot of it, it’s worth remembering that humans have celebrated this turning point of the year for millennia. Remember Mithra, the ancient god supposedly born in a cave at this time – surrounded by the zodiac (and attended by snake, bull, lion, dog). The concept of a god born in midwinter is common throughout ancient religions of the world. What is our Yule log but the World Tree, the Tree of Life. As far back as 2,000 BCE, the ancient Mesopotamians decorated trees with ribbons in honour of fertility and life.

I don’t really go to parties any more. I let the guys go down the pub alone. I prefer the fire-side. I love to sit with just the light of the flames, watching them jump and dance and flicker, see stories in their salamander colours; watch the shadows they throw up around the walls of my cave. Usually I sit in silence – for the sound of the fire is music enough, isn’t it?

What am I saying here? I dunno. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel ‘Christmassy’? Don’t feel guilty if the thought of your relatives descending makes you want to murder? Ditch the idea of perfection because it don’t exist? Or maybe, just maybe, just stop for a moment or two in the hurly burly – listen to a flame (a candle if not a fire); breathe; just be.

I wish you a peaceful solstice, a merry Yule…light in your darkness. Love.




Oh and a couple of posts I've read recently on this theme - here and over here...

13 comments:

zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

Good post.
You got me with the wrestling match though....*drools slightly* as I am allegedly going out for New Year with the kung fu posse, all tats and piercings and muscles(them, not me!) Partners are also supposedly coming but I have a feeling not many!
Wish we had a fire; not had a real fire since Darkest Norfolk rectory days.
xxx
Viv

Exmoorjane said...

Yeah, well inspired a lot by you, Viv...one of those links goes to your post. Yup, open fire is one of my two total luxuries - fire and bath. :)

The Owl Wood said...

Christmas is surely the time of year when we all run out to the shops, drag home as much as we can, pile it up and then sit on top feeling inadequate.

An open fire, a glass of something, a mince pie and a good book to aloud read to the dog.

Sheesh, I need to get out more.

Sessha Batto said...

a fire! oh I'd kill for a fire - all the hearths were torn out of our house by the previous owners (leaving very questionable large holes that sifted coal dust into every room)I don't celebrate Christmas (not being Christian) so I kind of coast through this all too tense season . . . and I'm good with that. The boys do parties and such, I stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet of this time of year and just breathe!

skycladtherapy said...

Well said - thank you.

Zoë said...

The house smells like Christmas today, have a Ham cooking and Braised spiced red cabbage and apple slowly cooking away. Ive done all my shopping, done all my wrapping and giving, now I am just happy to potter over the next few days making the family feast.

Oddly last night after your email I was researching, and kept seeing a howling wolf in silver - every time I saw it I thought of you. Bizarre huh?

We don't party either, most the time we are bloody antisocial truth told. I collected a log though and will put it on the fire tonight.

Tyson said...

Thank bloody hell for this fantastical post. xo ♥

Rebecca Lochlann said...

Excellent post, thank you!

Cait O'Connor said...

Thanks for these words Jane, just what I needed.

Internet Geek said...

Thanks, Jane darling - I needed this bit of perspective. Our change of lifestyle has necessitated a re-evaluation of how we celebrate. While I'm thrilled to finally create a meaningful holiday season for my family, that ol' childhood guilt still creeps in and whispers in my ear that if my kidlets don't have oodles of retail merchandise under the tree, I've failed as a mother. In fact, you've inspired me to write a blog post as well - only wish I was sitting in front of the fire with you whilst composing it! *grin*

jscolley said...

"Once upon a time, it was about getting through the dark days; about cosying up to the hearth; about celebrating the people we need to survive – not necessarily the people we like!"

Love this line. Wishing you a joyous holiday season and a prosperous new year.

Fennie said...

Happy Christmas, Jane. And so glad you have written about Yule because it could well be that Yule in cockney rhyming slang signifies blog - as in Yule log - blog. No? well you know me I just throw them out there and let them bounce around. can't get the staff these days for anything better. Anyway have fun and a hug. Fenniexx

Alexander Hamilton. said...

Depending on how many balls you drop, your voice will get deeper. 'The wolves are running' wot an evocative line that is, I know of only one other person who would know the referance.