Celebrating Yule at the Winter Solstice: Understanding the Great Wheel of the Year

Yule reminds us that when things are at their bleakest, darkest point, and when we are perhaps without any hope at all, something shifts, the Wheel turns, and the Light returns! Life continues! Yule assures us of Life's ability to renew itself, even from the apparent brink.

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🎄 Happy Yule!

Hang on a minute . . . Yule??

"Don't we celebrate Yule at the end of December? Isn't Yule the same thing as Christmas???" 🤔

Yeah . . . nah and nah.

I mean, yes, those living in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Yule at the end of December. But as we explored in my earlier article on Samhain, the Sabbats are not celebrated on specific dates on the calendar. They're not like a birthday that is recognised on the same day every year, no matter where you happen to be travelling on the planet.

Instead, they celebrate one of the eight major astronomical or seasonal events that we experience each year: the March and September Equinoxes, the June and December Solstices, and the four cross-quarter days in between them.

And, therefore, the date we celebrate the Sabbats will not only change from year to year . . . but, more significantly, it will change depending on which hemisphere we're living in. 'Cause, as we all know, when it's Winter here in Australia, it's Summer in Finland, or Ireland, or Canada. Right??

Well, Yule is celebrated at the Winter Solstice.

And today is the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

So, today is the day we honour and celebrate Yule!

Let's energetically align with the magic and energetic cycles of Life where you actually live, rather than unquestioningly adhering to a calendar that is created for the Northern Hemisphere.

(Of all the Sabbats, I think this change of dates gets particularly tricky to grok with Yule. Why? Because the Christians co-opted this ancient Pagan celebration and re-named it Christmas, supposedly for the birth of Christ. Celebrating a birthday makes it feel like it should be locked into a specific date on the calendar, right? So, if you'd like to celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus on 25 December each year, please go ahead. But I'd encourage you to separate that from the celebration of Yule or Litha, i.e. the Sabbat of the Summer Solstice. They have nothing to do with each other.)

From the Dark of the Moon to the Dark of the Year

Each month, for a short couple of days, we experience the Moon's Dark Moon phase. This is the short period of time between the Moon's final waning and when She is again illuminated by the Sun. The New Moon occurs right in the middle of this dark period.

At the Dark of the Moon, we simultaneously hold space for the mysteries of death (9) and rebirth (1). And we realise how intimately these sacred processes are entwined.

It’s a time of darkness and letting go, as well as a time of faith and preparation for the new beginnings that beckon us forward. It's a time of ritual; a time to make course-corrections; and a time to dream into our New Moon intentions for the coming month.

I'm sure many of us celebrate the New Moon, regularly.

Well, this is exactly where we are now, but on a greater scale.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, tonight (i.e. 21 June) is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. We are being held in the darkest part of the year.

Put another way, Yule/Winter Solstice is the Dark Moon or New Moon phase of the year.

But instead of lasting for just 2½ days (like the Dark of the Moon each month), Yule is a season that lasts for roughly 7 weeks. (This year, Yule spans from 21 June to 6 August.)

How to Engage the Energy of Yule

At Yule (or Winter Solstice), we are crossing a sacred threshold.

The Old Sun is Dying and, in the same night, the New Sun is being born.

A whole new cycle begins.

At Yule, with the dying of the light of the old Sun, we identify those aspects of our own Light that need to die, too. Yule invites us to consider the habits, fears, beliefs, conditioned patterns, relationships, addictions, and worn-out stories that need to be released, if we are to move forward into the more empowered, authentic Life that we've envisioned for ourselves throughout Samhain. As the Dark Moon phase of the whole year, Yule is our chance to let it all go, with the full energetic support of Life itself!

So, tonight, write down everything you want to release, and burn it in your hearth fire or your vigil candle tonight, if you’re going to hold vigil for Yule (see below).

(Can you feel the 9?)

There may also be areas of life that you thought had ‘died’. All may have seemed bleak, hopeless, and lifeless, and perhaps you’d given up on something. Or perhaps there are parts of yourself that you'd rejected, or denied, or repressed.

And yet, Yule reminds us that just when you thought all was lost, something shifts and you realise it’s not too late. In fact, you’ve still got time! All is well. You can still embrace the path or the opportunity you thought you’d lost. And you can reclaim those parts of yourself that you'd long forgotten. The new born Sun is coming! (Can you feel the energy of rebirth in the transition from 9 to 1?)

Yule is simultaneously when the fragile new Sun is being born, heralding a new Light into the world. It's the New Moon phase of the year, as I keep saying! So, too, are you invited to birth new aspects of yourself, of your Light into the world (1), unencumbered by all you have released with the dying Light of the old Sun (9). And, in this rich darkness of the year, you are called to hold and protect the tender visions that you received at Samhain, like seeds waiting in the rich, dark, loamy soil of the Earth. This is not a frightening darkness. It is the darkness of the womb, the darkness of the night sky just before dawn . . . it is nurturing, caring, protective, and full of promise.

(Can you recognise the 1, the presence of a new spark of life, a new possibility, waiting to be fanned into a strong flame over the coming months?)

New Year Intentions:

Just as we set our intentions at the New Moon each month, this is the time to set our New Year Intentions (aka Resolutions) for the year ahead.

Yes, NOW. Not at Litha, in the heat of our Summer Solstice!

Just as we don't set New Moon Intentions at the Full Moon, we don't make New Year Intentions at the energetic height of the year, at the Summer Solstice. Do you see?

  • Winter Solstice = New Moon.

  • Summer Solstice = Full Moon.

To put it plainly: Yule = The Winter Solstice = the New Moon Phase of the year = NOW

Astrologically, we can think of Yule as collectively crossing the threshold from the 12th House into the 1st House, each year . . . crossing the Ascendant, and beginning a whole new cycle around the Astrology Chart.

Numerologically, Yule is like collectively crossing the threshold between Epicycles . . . moving from the dying of the light in Number 9, into the birthing, initiating energy of Number 1.

Infographic: The Eightfold Cycles

I created the infographic, below, to show the correspondences between:

  • the eight seasonal events of the year;