Yule and the Turning of the Wheel

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Garden at Midwinter

Origins of Yule

The great Festival of Yule, beginning at the time of the Winter Solstice and lasting for a full twelve days, summed up the cycle of the Celtic year.

Bealtaine Cottage candles in the window

The word Yule, according to the Venerable Bede, came from the Norse word Iul meaning ‘wheel’ and suggested that this was the time when the Great Wheel of Existence had completed its circle.

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“In later Celtic folk-belief, Yule had a dual meaning, it symbolised the death of the old year and heralded the birth of the new…

winter sunrise at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardens

Although the ground was cold, it would soon be warm again and Nature would burst forth at the festival of Imbolc.

The low-point of the period of Yule became the central festival of a number of formal religions, one of which was Christianity.

Bealtaine Cottage Midwinter Garden

 

After Yule, the Great Wheel began to turn again, bringing the festival of Imbolc around once more. Gradually some festivals assumed less importance and four great functional festivals – Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain dominated the Celtic year. Many of these became major Christian holy days – Imbolc became Candlemas (1 February) with its own rhyme: ‘On Candlemas Day, Throw a candle away’.

Christmas Eve in an Irish CottageChristmas Eve, 2012 at Bealtaine CottageChristmas eve moon above Bealtaine CottageChristmas Angel 2012In Ireland, because of its close association with the goddess Brigit, it became Saint Brigid’s Day.

Where the festivals of local deities persisted, they became ‘pattern days’– the feast of a local or patron saint.”

From Complete Guide to Celtic Mythology by Bob Curran

winter solstice 2012 at Bealtaine Cottagemidwinter cottage 015midwinter cottage 012

The winter solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point, as it marks the shortest day, when the hours of daylight are at their least. It also the start of the increase in the hours of daylight, until the Summer Solstice, when darkness becomes ascendant once more.

Midwinter mist at Bealtaine Cottage

This Yule, my family will gather at Bealtaine Cottage for a coming together, a “gathering,” to celebrate and mark the Great Turning of the Light, before dispersing to celebrate with others the wonderful celebration of Christmas.

friday 10 12 10monday morn 6 12 10 014monday morn 6 12 10 006Yuletide continues to be marked at Bealtaine Cottage through to it’s end on the first day of January. A time of great hope and lifting of one’s head towards the ascending sun.

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Moving with Orion Towards Midwinter

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The signs are everywhere…

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Nights drawing in…

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Unexpected sunshine on frosted mornings.

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The bare beauty of trees silhouetted against clear winter skies. 

Full Moon at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

As Orion strides across the evening sky, we draw closer to the Winter Solstice and the darkest, stillest, nights of the year.

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Winter Solstice celebrations begin on the 21st of December, a time of hope and joy for all, regardless of belief or religious observances.

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Magical Midwinter!

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Ancient tribes all over the world observed rituals around Solstice time.

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We too can  celebrate Winter Solstice, integrating it into our own traditional celebrations.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

A chance to step outdoors and observe the night sky.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

An opportunity to nurture and develop connections to family and friends.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

From this day, there are 22 days to go before the descent into the Midwinter Solstice.

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Yes, the coldest days precede the Spring, so January rarely feels like the prelude to that beautiful season!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

But, here in the West of Ireland, with Imbolc on the first day of February, the signs are there for all to see, as new life emerges from the frozen earth.

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January at the Cottage

Re-cycling

The cottage is warm and cosy, thanks to heaps of old timber 

collected over the summer months.

Old wood flooring, pallets and posts have been stock-piled. Most

were sodden wet,

but have dried out well and give off super heat!

You may be wondering at the pic…yes, it snowed a little today and

this was snapped around 4pm.

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January Work

  • Plant trees
  • Clean out land drains
  • Prune fruit trees, mainly apple.
  • Prune bushes
  • lift and divide perennials
  • Wash tunnel inside and out   

Oh…and how could I forget…take Jack on longer walks!

Reflections

There are times when it can seem impossible to see the wood for the trees, as the old saying goes…and this time after the midwinter can appear confusing, as winter and the beginnings of Spring tend to merge and fade.

It remains a time of hibernation on cold days and Spring activity on sunny ones. My advice is simply to ‘go with the flow.’

Most of all, enjoy the days of this month and measure the gradual lengthening of each one.