The walls between the worlds are thinned;
The Gods’ might is at its peak,
The wights and the dead walk freely among the living.
Let us remember them on this Mother Night.
~ from a Heathen rite posted on the Internet some years ago, original source unknown.
This is the Eve of the Winter Solstice.
This is the great celebration of Mother Night.
As far as we know, our ancestors did not have atomic clocks or satellites to help them dissect Time to the nanosecond. Instead, they had to figure by their keen observation, by dead reckoning, by the plants and animals, by the stars, Moon, and planets.
And that is why they named this time “Solstice,” because it comes from the Latin “solstitium,” from sol, which means “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.” For several days, in fact, it will appear that the sun’s arc from sunrise to sunset is unchanged.
The long, steady darkening that our Old Ones watched, ever since mid-June, now appears to pause… and then…. one day, the sun will rise a little more to the north east, and the daylight is a little longer. And so the days can be seen to lengthen, and all can know that even now as we enter the doorway to Winter, Spring is a certainty.
Mother Night is observed in honor of the Dark Goddess, who holds us at our beginnings and our endings. She may be Frigga, or Freya; she may be the Morrigan, the Baba Yaga, the Cailleich, or nameless. But this is Her doorway, after which the days of Yule begin.
In the words of this Heathen ritual:
“Well have we worked this year, and now our work is wrought. So Perchte sees my full spindle; my house is swept, my candles lit. There shall be no more spinning these days; the loom lies still, the distaffs do not turn while the wih-nights last. These Yule nights are a time for the mind and body to rest, while the soul reaches out to the Gods.
“These twelve nights represent the coming year. It is a time set aside from the old year and the new, and a time when the greatest wyrds are turned. Perchtenlauf and the Wild Hunt ride during this time. And the walls between the worlds are thinned; the Gods’ might is at its peak, the wights and the dead walk freely among the living. Let us remember them on this Mother Night.”
It is also a night for honoring the People of Peace, toasting and giving thanks:
“Hail the holy Elves, Shining of the harrow,
Whole Ye hold the Hearth,
Mighty elders of old. Turn our minds toward you!”
In their beautiful book, The Winter Solstice, John and Caitlín Matthews write, “There is a moment of silence that occurs every year… a moment we have all experienced at least once in our lives, maybe more than once. It can silence a great city like London or New York, and it can bring stillness to our hearts, whoever and wherever we may be.
“That moment is like no other. It offers the promise of new beginnings, of the clean slate of new year, and it incorporates the breathless expectancy of Christmas night itself, when a familiar figure enters our lives and changes them briefly.”
Do you recall such moments? Times when you stepped out of the rush, and were flooded instead with quiet wonder? Have you ever gazed off into the Winter’s night sky, in search of a Star?
This pause between Dark and the return of the Light is an ephemeral moment, full of magic. Tonight, give yourself time to allow the fertile dark to fill your awareness.
Be with it, without fear, without the need to distract yourself. The days preceding this year’s turning of the Wheel have been dark indeed. Yet notice how calm, how tender, how instructive it can be when we hold space and cease our lashing out.
This night can be a balm for the sometimes too hard-shiny-bright intensity that shuns this time of year’s great, but not always comfortable gifts. Although it may be bittersweet, the Dark reminds us of our own mortality, and the deep surrender of all things, even the Earth Herself, to times of darkness.
Only by that awareness, can we wisely set our priorities and weave with intention the measure of our days.
If you are keeping Solstice vigil, it will be time to light the fifth and final candle in your Solstice Sunwheel first thing tomorrow morning, as this year, Solstice arrives in the wee hours (6:12 am, Eastern time) in the United States.
By tomorrow, most places will have seen the mighty sunrise of Solstice. This shall be the Great Turning of the Wheel which we have joined together each Sunday night for. This shall be the dawning whose gates we now throw open for the Promise and the Rebirth.
But before that birth, enter now the dark quiet Mystery of this Mother Night.
May She bless you well.