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Northern Hemisphere: December 20-23
Southern Hemisphere: June 20-22
Themes: rebirth, quiet introspection, new year, hope, setting intentions, celebration of light
Also known as: Winter Solstice, Midwinter, Alban Arthuan, Saturnalia, Yuletide
Celebrated on the date of the Winter Solstice, Yule is the point on the Wheel of the Year when we acknowledge the beginning of the return of the light. The nights have reached their longest point, creating a sense of darkness that is almost overbearing. The air is cold, the deciduous trees are completely bare, and for those in northern climates, the season of snow is in full swing.
Yet as far as the Sun is concerned, this is a turning point toward increased daylight, and the promise that warmth of the growing season will eventually return. The longest night will now be behind us, and the Sun will stay with us later each day, rising ever higher in the sky until the Summer Solstice, the turning point on the opposite side of the Wheel.
However, it will be a few weeks before this is noticeable, as the increase in daylight is only gradual at first. The Sun actually appears to not alter its path across the sky at all during the days around the Winter Solstice. In fact, the word “solstice” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “sun stands still.”
Likewise, much of Nature seems to be still at this point. Birds have migrated south, many animals hibernate, and the snow covering the ground seems to have a quieting effect on the landscape. This is a time of turning inward, hunkering down, and tuning in to our deepest selves.
Many people see these short days and long nights as a time of self-reflection, spiritual study, and intention-setting for the coming year. But before the deep winter sets in, we gather with friends and family to celebrate the renewal of the Sun and the hope that comes with emerging from the darkness. This has always been a traditional time for both spiritual observance and merriment, and still is today,
as we can see in the many different holidays and festivities associated with the start of the winter season.
In many Wiccan traditions, Yule is the start of the new year. The seasons of the Wheel, and the annual story of the God and the Goddess have completed the circle and now begin again.
The Goddess gives birth to the God, fulfilling the intention the divine pair set when they coupled at Beltane. As the Sun God, his symbolic death and return to the underworld at Samhain led to the darkness of the past six weeks, and now his rebirth brings back the light. The Goddess has transformed once again from her Crone aspect back to the Mother, who will now rest awhile from her labor and emerge rejuvenated in the spring.
This segment of the mythological cycle is at the heart of the Wiccan understanding of reincarnation—after death comes rebirth into new life. The Sun illustrates this truth through its cyclical disappearance and reappearance. The Earth, which never disappears, represents the never-ending presence of the divine Universe.