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- the winter solstice

21/22 December = Northern hemisphere
21/22 June = Southern hemisphere

Sometimes called midwinter, Yule marks the shortest day and, since the worst days of winter are usually to follow, is more accurately 'mid-year'. The sixteenth-century poet John Donne called this time 'The year's midnight', when 'The world's whole sap is sunk'. However, Yule carries within it a paradox - just as the winter solstice commemorates the annual demise of the sun's powers, it witnesses its rebirth. This is why Yule is also known as 'Sun-return'.
Yule is the time when the Goddess labours to bring forth the Star Child, and in fact Yule was called 'Mothernight' by our northern European ancestors. For witches who celebrate God and Goddess, this is the Solar God who, by the time of Ostara, will grow into the young man who impregnates the young, fertile aspect of the Goddess, and another Star Child who will succeed him the following Yule.

=Solar rebirth=

However we see it, the symbolism of this solar rebirth is mirrored in our celebrations. At the darkest time, when the Earth seems bare and forlorn, we bring evergreens into our homes- holly for protection, ivy for the faithful promise that life endures, mistletoe for fertility. In the first days of winter, these remind us that Earth will be green again. We feast to lighten our hearts and share the fellowship of others to warm ourselves from within when all around seems bleak.
The importance to us of human company at Yule is evident in the numbers who travel to sacred sites to witness sunrise or sunset together. Although the surface of the Earth is denuded of its most luxurious greenery in the dark season, below the surface seeds are sleeping, ready for germination. Witches take their cue from this to use the darkest time to delve into the deeper places of our minds and spirits, to meditate and bring back new ideas, projects and developments in our lives.
In our rituals to mark Yule, we look for the invisible sun; the vital inner spark which, re-energized, will keep our spirits and our physical energy going through the winter. The candles we light to rekindle the fires of Sol also symbolize our desire to relight our inner Sun. 'As above; so below', as the Wise say.

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