The ADF Yule Ritual I attended this past weekend was the second High Holiday ritual I’ve recognized, publicly. The celebration was informal – more communal than liturgical – and it left me longing a bit for the smell of incense and the dim, candle-lit ambiance of Samhain.
Yule does not invite the same somber, solemn tone that one might find at a festival honoring those who’ve passed, but it is High Day where we recognize the annual point of greatest darkness. For me, the rebirth of the Sun is only relevant when I am encouraged to rest with the darkness; to genuinely remember and honor the darkness. There is cause for celebration because we are in the act of surviving the long, cold Winter.
There was a moment during the Yule ritual where this type of remembrance became manifest. A participant in the ritual, holding up the horn of mead, payed her respects to (and I’m paraphrasing) “a really awful year”. I heard these words, and my heart ripped open. Her darkest day was felt, and through the very act of raising the horn in a toast she was calling for the light to return, to bring renewal and rebirth to a weary soul.
I don’t wish to sound dire or morose. I’m not suggesting that Yule be akin to group therapy, or that we all must poster our ritual space with signs of our pain and suffering in order to be joyous. I’m simply seeking a balance of light and dark, and sometimes that balance falls more on the dark side.
When I was a child, and very much surrounded by and nurtured in the Christian tradition, I did not understand why there was such an urgent need for a Savior. Sin, a cornerstone of the faith, was more than my little kid mind could grasp. Now, I’m less a little kid, and sin is still problematic. The concept does not really belong in the Pagan paradigm, but I’m reminded of it as I think about this idea of acknowledging the dark as we await the coming of the Sun.
Perhaps there is a parallel.
Our darkness – the pain and suffering we experience, the regret we feel over poorly made choices – it is real. We may not see it as a result of some original mistake by our mythic “first parents” – that myth may mean nothing to us. But, all people, regardless of creed or tradition, are subject to the darkness.
We are all in need of the Sun to return.