“Bring Back the Light: Celebrating Solstice” ~ Asha Lightbearer
Join us for our online Sunday Gathering as Asha invites us to celebrate Winter Solstice, when the longest night of the year comes to pass and the sun is reborn. Let’s look at how this translates into our own lives.
A revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the Deaf and hard of hearing, including prayers, readings and songs.
A Prayer of Discernment:
Today, O God of all days,
give me an experience of your heart.
Draw me deep into your very being,
into the core of your love for me, others, and the world.
Give me a glimpse of others the way you see others:
loving them, forgiving them,
and delighting in the way they give glory to God
through their very existence.
Help me to discern out of that open place of deep affection
so that I too might be a useful vessel of your love in the world.
Closing prayer of light and peace:
Where there is confusion, may we seek wisdom.
Where there is haste, may we move in calm.
Where there is division and hatred,
May we take the lamp of love as our guide,
And walk in the light of its peace.
“Bring Back the Light: Celebrating Solstice” ~ Asha Lightbearer
Dec 20, 2020
Good morning, thank you so much for having me back. It’s always a pleasure to be here with you.
And today, I am here to talk about you. And from a slightly different perspective, I know Chris mentioned it last week and was talking about the woman of Christmas, and some of the history of Yule, solstice, Christianity, and how all these things kind of merge together. But I would like to look at it from the physical world perspective. Lots of times we have a tendency to think of spirituality as, something that we’re bringing into us, or some high ideal or something apart from the physical world, as if the physical world is something to transcend. And I don’t see it that way at all. My highest and best, or should I say “deepest and best”, spiritual experiences or experience of spirituality, have been nature-based spirituality, and the practices that I embrace now.
I’ve tried a bunch of things, but this really works for me, and it is slightly different. I see nature as divine in and of itself; and the spiritual experience is to be had in this world, in nature.
That’s my perspective. It may not work for you. It might work for some of you. I don’t know. But that’s what I can share is my own experience.
So today, what I wanted to talk about is, yes, Yule stood for the return of the sun, s-u-n, the sun coming back was sacred to the tribal peoples. They needed their crops, they needed their livestock fed, they needed to survive the winter. You can understand why that would be a sacred day to wait for the return of the sun; and you would celebrate because, you know it’s the promise that is coming of life to begin again, and basically save you all from the elements.
But there’s a whole other layer on top of that. That’s kind of like a necessity layer, but in the physical world, there’s another layer once you get past the need to survive. There’s also the layer of being present here, now, in this present moment. You hear about that all the time, “The Power of Now”, mindfulness, this that. It’s no different in paganism, or neo-paganism, whatever you want to call it, my witchy ways, except that I am focused on being in the body in this place, as an integral part of that experience.
And so being here, and… I think I mentioned Cernunnos is the horned God, which Yule celebrates the birth (or rebirth) of the horned God, which is the sun, right? And Cernunnos, signifies or symbolizes vitality, vegetation, growth, the hunt, action. So, when we are embracing the promise of Yule or we’re celebrating Yule and embracing the promise of the return of the sun, we are also transitioning from a period of cocooning and reflection, introspection, and gathering around the home and hearth, back into a forward movement of action. We can take action. We can be present in the physical world. We can manifest, not only by thinking, seeing and envisioning things, but actually working toward those things in the real, physical world.
That’s one of the key elements that I see both in stoicism and in nature-based spirituality, for me, is that we are putting feet to the high ideals that we hold and taking action and making steps and being present in the world in a physical way that hopefully leads us to the embodiment of those ideals.
So, talking about Yule as a time of promise–we already said it’s the promise of the sun, we know it’s going to come, we can’t see it yet because we’re at night still before the sun returns, but we know it’s going to come–that is the promise of the earth to us. And that’s what we’re celebrating at Yule. In this longest night, we’re celebrating the morning coming and the return of light.
I wanted to read you this Yule poem by Patti Wigington. It’s about Yule, and you’ll see it’s about the physical aspects of Yule, but there’s an extra element at the end. Let’s listen.
The Wheel has turned once more, andPatti Wigington
the earth has gone to sleep.
The leaves are gone, the crops have returned to the ground.
On this darkest of nights, we celebrate the light.
Tomorrow, the sun will return,
its journey continuing as it always does.
Welcome back, warmth.
Welcome back, light.
Welcome back, life.
Shadows go away, darkness is no more,
as the light of the sun comes back to us.
Warm the earth.
Warm the ground.
Warm the sky.
Warm our hearts.
Welcome back, sun.
So, I think that poem begins to touch on the shift from the physical gifts to the intangible gifts of a heart centered space. And for me, this is one of the greatest gifts of this holiday season in the winter, in the dark. It’s the change of our hearts, and the feeling that you get–it sometimes is in the air–and people are kinder. They’re more open. They’re giving. There is some magic that happens at Yule, at Christmas. It’s undeniable. Most of the time, this is the experience that we see if we look for it.
And that’s why I sang the Solstice Carol this morning, because I think that song perfectly embodies that. It says ‘the long night draws near, but all who need comfort are welcome by here’. Then it goes on to talk about ‘the sick and the poor, the hungry, the lost, all our our children, no matter the cost’. It’s about taking care. It’s about connecting. These are the intangible gifts of Yule, the things that we can’t put our hands on, but we feel most strongly; and for me, these are the spiritual aspects. This is my spirituality.
Here’s another poem that I wanted to read. This as a Celtic-inspired Yule blessing, again by Patti Wigington.
“The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame,
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.”
And again, where does that poem go? Straight to the heart.
For me, that’s what being witchy is. That’s what the whole concept of a hearthwitch is. I would consider myself a hearthwitch, which you can shortcut it and just say “heart witch”, in my opinion, because it’s all about creating a sacred space in your home. It’s about cooking with love. It’s about being mindful of what you’re putting in what you’re doing. It’s about all things that bring you that feeling of community, and care and warmth, and sacredness; and that is spirituality in and of itself.
And all of those things I just mentioned are physical tasks. They’re things that you do. But what’s important is the energy that you put into your work as you do it, and the intention that you’re setting in your space.
So for me, the gifts of Yule, and I’ll call them the spiritual gifts of Yule, are…
CONNECTION – We are connected to our family, to our friends, to our loved ones, whatever that relation may be. We are connected through ritual.
Ritual is a part of spirituality. And what are our rituals?
It doesn’t have to be bells and smells (as people say about the Catholic Church, right?). It’s… Gift giving is a ritual. Feasting together is a ritual. Spending time around a fire, whether that’s a Yule fire or Yule log or a bonfire or just the fireplace and you don’t even celebrate Yule, it doesn’t matter. It’s about the time that you’re connecting and the intention with which you do it. Maybe there are more stories behind that log, and you’re going to tell your family members what that Yule log stands for in your tradition, or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re just going to share stories of times past. It doesn’t matter. It’s about the connection.
Melanie has talked before about ‘God is between us, in the space between us, in our relations’. And I think that a really important part of nature-based and pagan, neo-pagan, witchy spirituality is those connections.
We also have an opportunity to connect with the earth and the animals.
We can feed the animals. It sounds silly, but there is something magical about just putting out some cracked corn and watching the animals come and eat the corn, or even coming back the next day and knowing it’s gone, and knowing that they had some.
When I was a child, my grandfather used to put out cracked corn for the bunnies and the deer and the squirrels, and maybe some nuts sometimes for the squirrels, and birdseed for the birds. And we would celebrate the cardinal that would show up, because up north, they’re much rarer than here. And it would fill our hearts with joy and awe to see the little animals coming and eating what we had put out for them.
There is something really magical and special about that. If you’ve never done it, you should just try it. It might be harder if you live in the city, or in a dense suburb, but where we live here, we have deer everywhere. So we’re going to try and find some cracked corn and rekindle that ritual that I had as a child. Look how long it’s stuck with me–many, many, many decades–and it’s still an important part of who I am. So that shows you the power of ritual and connection.
Also, the earth, we’re going to connect with the earth.
A lot of us, we have Yule trees, or we have wreaths on our doors. Those are both evergreen, which is a symbol of life continuing even through the dark period. And the berries of the holly that we put on the wreaths and all the different kinds of evergreen bushes, when you put those things together… especially in a circle, because you know a circle in paganism is a pretty big deal, it’s the circle of life, it’s the continuation of everything, the cycle of the wheel, so it’s important… and when you put that evergreen on there, you’re just showing the continuation of life and celebrating that, even in the dark.
Then you also have tied to those things–look at the wreath making–you also have CREATIVITY.
We have the opportunity to make gifts for each other. It could be a wreath, it could be bath salts, or body scrub, or it could be homemade goodies. I know some of us have baked piles and piles and piles of sweet treats with their family members, and that is a sacred time–with a family member, whoever you’re doing it with, friends, doesn’t matter.
And also, when you’re giving them away. You’ve made these gifts from your heart with love. How is that not a spiritual task? How is it not a spiritual experience?
We forget that spirituality is in, or can be in, all of these things if we’re present and mindful of it.
So we bake these gifts or we make… Spoiler alert! I’m going to make some granola. I love making granola! It’s delicious! So I’m going to make some granola and put that in our goodie boxes, because Paul and I are making our gifts this year to give to our family members. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it’s done with love and intention. And that’s what magic is all about. That’s what manifesting is all about. That’s what, for me, spirituality is all about: holding the sacred, especially in everyday tasks—chop wood, carry water, right?
And that’s also what the hearthwitch is about. And I think I said this, but hearthwitch is “heart witch”, in my opinion. It’s about creating that sacred space. When you’re decorating the tree with your family members and you’re connecting, you’re creating a space that gives you a feeling when you look at it. And that feeling is peace or love or joy, or connectedness or whatever it is, but you are creating a sacred space. So we have a Yule tree, just like we would have a Christmas tree.
People also come together and do singing right? Every year, most of the time, One World has a get together at Christmas where we tend to end up singing. Whether that’s with an instrument or acapella, it’s not relevant. The point is we get together and we do our best and we laugh and we have fun and we do it together, and that is creativity.
And Yule also, and Cernunnos, brings that passion, that fire of life, the drive, the energy, back to us–fertility, vitality–and that is also in creating music or art or whatever else. So that I can come into this as well, especially if we’re making artistic gifts. I have a family member who does paintings, and that’s her gift, literally and figuratively. It’s what she has received from spirit and what she gives to others as well.
And last, but not least, GRATITUDE.
Yule brings gratitude, at least it does for me. The holiday season brings gratitude because I am much more aware: of the people I love, the opportunity be together, the energy and the warmth and joy that I put into making our gift baskets, the fact that I can make those little gift boxes for my family members.
There’s so much to be grateful for, and sometimes we just take the physical world and the natural world for granted. We just think that because it’s always been there, it’s always going to be there, and it’s just part of life. We drive on the road and we keep going. We build our house on the mountain and we keep going. You know, some of us are very tied to… we love to be at the lake or at the ocean, and people can kind of resonate with that a little bit more… but we forget about the earth that’s right under our feet when we walk up from the street to our home, or in our backyards.
If we treat these things differently, and we look at them differently, as sacred, and we make them a sacred space, then that’s what they are. And that’s what they become. And that’s what they bring to us. And we can remember that, and we can be grateful for all of these things.
So these are some of the traditions that are neo-pagan, traditions of Yule.
Sounds a lot like Christmas. I think some of you are going to realize, it’s pretty much the same stuff, as Chris mentioned last week; but what’s important to me is not whether I believe in a baby Jesus, or Cernunnos, or the birth of the horned God to the Goddess. It’s about what happens at this time of year. It’s about the magic in my life, the magic in my relations, and the whole experience as part of the world, part of the physical experience of Yule, and the spiritual in these everyday moments.
That’s what’s important to me: how we treat ourselves, how we treat the planet, how we treat others.
So in closing, I’d like to share this Yule poem by Susan Cooper.
“So the shortest day came
and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries
of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
to drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
to keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us—listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land;
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.”
Thank you so much for sharing your time with me. And from our home to yours, we send you blessings of love, peace, joy, warmth, gratitude and cheer this holiday season. Blessed be.
Asha Lightbearer is a gifted intuitive who brings us her experience of nature-based spirituality, its wisdom and rewards. She also hosts the Totally Witchin’ podcast, an empowerment show for crafting a peaceful, satisfying life by helping you tap into intuition, body wisdom, and spiritual guidance. To learn more or listen to Asha’s podcast, visit TotallyWitchin.com.
“Solstice Carol” written by the Wyrd Sisters
“Home for the Holidays” written by Robert Allen
This service aired on December 20, 2020.