Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice at the Cottage

The winter solstice and the celebration of Yule marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night.  The days get shorter and shorter in the winter and this day marks the mid-point the that some call the first day of winter, or more accurately, midwinter. After the solstice, the days will begin to get longer again.

Many people celebrate in many different ways, pilgrimages to sacred sites alligning with the rising sun like Stonehenge or New Grange, many do big group rituals and parties, or solemn solitary observances of the rebirth of the sun. Yesterday I celebrated quietly at our new small town cottage.

If you follow my social media you might know that we recently moved our home and studio from the country house of Aelfheim to the 115 year old small town house, Oak Haven Cottage. We love our charming new home and workspace, but between the move, illustration deadlines, and making sure our Etsy orders continued to go out regularly, I haven't had much time to blog.  I thought the quiet peace of the winter solstice was a perfect time to catch up here.
Miss Freya likes it here too, she's having a moment of zen, doing a little doggie yoga on the couch under the light of the Yule Tree.
At sunset I lit a candle that I crafted myself using recycled wax, magical oils, herbs and positive intentions. I placed it in a pretty glass tumbler with gold decorations and surrounded it with holly, ivy, and oak. One of my favorite Yule observances is to light a vigil candle at sunset to burn all through the longest night, symbolically keeping the light of the sun during its longest rest.  I had some interesting dreams through the night, all guiding me into the newly growing light ahead.
Our Yule tree is decorated differently than usual. My standard traditional decorations are in the very back of our storage shed, and tons of random stuff is piled in front and in top of it. I could have dug it all out, but in an effort to simplify, I opted instead to "make do" with some red and gold dollar store decorations this year. I found some bells to represent the ringing in of good vibrations. Various stars on the tree represent magic and the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Glittering pine cones hold new life within and remind us of the vibrancy that remains even though the darkest night and the coldest winter. 
After I lit my vigil candle, I went outside to see the sunset and look around, connecting with the spirits of the land. I walked around observing quietly in the early evening on this sacred sabbat.
The light glowed merrily from the window of the attic studio, Dan was up there working on orders for our Etsy customers, I would go up and assist him shortly. The big white oak offers its energy to this turn of the century house. I wonder about the past residents and imagine their faces gazing out of that window, how the sights have changed over the years.
My cauldron of sage has taken up residence on the front porch, it's still got some life in it here at midwinter, I wonder if the green will last until spring.
We have no outlets outside, so solar lights frame the doorway. I like the symbolism of gathering the sunlight all day so that the lights glow with that energy at night. As a bonus, my electric bill doesn't increase because of adding holiday lights, very earth friendly. I'm planning to get more strings of solar lights for next year! 
This fairy is camped out by another solar light in a garden bed. I think she's wondering if there are bulbs or other annuals beneath the earth resting and dreaming of the coming spring. I'm looking forward to discovering what wildflowers will spring up in the yard, which birds will browse at the bird feeders, how the sunlight will fall so I can decide where to plant a a few things in the spring and summer. 

Until then, I'll spend time getting to know the rhythms of small town life.

Blessed Be,