Way back in 2001, when the towers fell, I mourned for a long time, like most Americans. I think we were all in a collective shock. When the holidays drew close, it was hard for me to know whether to celebrate, whether we should…I was very confused. The year before my mother had died shortly before the Solstice and that year had been spent in mourning as well. I wanted the sparkle. I needed it, but I felt guilty wanting to focus on gifts and ritual and the holidays. I sat down and really thought about it, and this poem came springing out…and I realized what my answer was.
And for those wanting to know a bit more about our Yule traditions, it’s all in the poem. The Oak King rules over the waxing half of the year, the Holly King over the waning. On Winter Solstice they battle and the Holly loses. On Summer Solstice, they battle and the Oak loses. And so it goes on, a cyclical battle that never ends, ever turning the Wheel of the Year.
A Merry Yuletide To All
by Yasmine Galenorn
(copyright 2001, all rights reserved)
T’was two days before Yuletide and all through the coven,
The Witches were baking sacred cakes in the oven,
Astrologers were eying the stars for great omens
The bards were penning their stories and poems.
The Norsemen were blasted on grog and on ale,
The Celts hoarded mistletoe while it was on sale.
The New Agers were dreaming of angels of light,
As the snow piled up through the long winter’s night.
Yuletide was coming, Yuletide was near
And all that we craved was a little good cheer.
The trees sparkled with light in this season of snow,
This year gifts seemed bigger, or maybe not so,
Cookies and cakes and roast hams and roast geese
Filled the tables with promise, the promise of feasts.
Parties and dinners abounded this year,
Though underneath all lurked the presence of tears.
The rain in my town poured down, cold as sleet,
The skies overcast were, as usual, bleak.
I took a deep breath and I trimmed my fake tree,
(I’d rather not cut down a real one, you see).
And wondered again at how traditions brought peace,
And how these few baubles could make my pain cease.
The year had been hard, many lives had been lost,
And my heart surged with winter’s white frost.
I turned off the lamps and plugged in the lights
Circling the tree, they were shining so bright.
I curled by the fire, my cats at my feet
And listened to silence, and to my heart beat.
No elaborate ritual planned for Yule night,
Just a few friends and my loved ones held tight,
Just a few thoughts for those not as lucky as me,
For those sitting alone, by a mourning-dimmed tree.
As I curled by the fire, in front of my eyes,
A man dressed in holly showed up by my side.
“What the…?” I asked as the cats raced down the hall.
Home invasion? Freak psycho? Just a tad off the wall?
He shook his head and with a chill in his eyes,
Sat on the sofa and gave a soft sigh.
“My dear, I’ll save you the trouble to ask.
Answers you want, to give answers—my task.”
His breath swirled with ice, his hands crackled with frost
The Holly King—visiting? Perhaps he was lost?
I offered him grog and I offered him cake
But neither treat would the Winter King take.
I knelt at his feet, questions filling my heart,
“How can we celebrate in times that are dark?
Are we just kidding ourselves anymore?
Does the Mother still care? Have we outlived our lore?”
He put his hand on my shoulder, wiped a tear from my eye,
Leaned forward and whispered, “Tomorrow I die.
Tomorrow I meet my brother and fight,
Then descend into the long winter’s night.”
“Then why are you here?” I grabbed for his hand.
“You’re doomed, and yet you still travel the land.
You bring the beauty of winter, the keen chill of ice,
You’re here in my home, gifting me with advice.”
He held tight to my fingers, he would not let go,
His smile remained, his eyes clouded with snow.
“I bring you beauty because it’s my nature and force,
I travel the land—it’s our lifeblood and source.
I will die tomorrow, others have died today,
And not every trouble will vanish away.
And not every hunger will feed, not every tear dry,
But to ignore beauty for pain is to let your soul die.
He lifted my chin and whispered, “Listen to me,
Let go of the guilt, set it loose, set it free.
Be grateful for that which the Goddess has sent,
Help those who you can, and give prayers where you can’t.
Don’t deny yourself celebration and mirth,
For the joy that you feel, to more joy it gives birth.
Don’t dwell on the pain, on the death, on the tears,
You’ll only empower more anguish and fear.”
And I saw what he meant, a world driven by pain,
Where fear ruled out courage and kept us in chains.
Where tears became bars of a cage holding us in,
Where laughter and music and joy were all sins.
And I vowed that my magick would not build that world,
And as I so vowed, the energy swirled
And swooped and rose and the Holly King laughed,
He kissed me soundly and winked as he danced.
The lights on the tree grew bright, shimmering clear,
The gifts given with love no longer seemed shallow cheer,
The garlands smelled fresh, the rain turned to snow,
Then the Holly King said, “I really must go.
I’ve a battle to lose, a duty to season,
And as to my death—you know there’s good reason.
The world cannot live in perpetual cold,
Even the Holly Lord must fade and grow old.”
I reached up to his wizened face, gave him a kiss
As the room clouded over with fog and bog-mist.
He gave me a hug and then pulled back near the tree,
And as he vanished, he was waving to me.
I opened the drapes to see snow sparkling like gems,
Covering the trees—every bough, needle and limb.
And I fixed myself tea and thought of the night,
What a wonderful gift—the gift of clear sight.
Tomorrow our friends on our home would descend,
And we would be here to welcome them in,
We’d eat and we’d drink, exchange gifts, in the light
Of a fire that crackled all through the night.
And we’d mourn the Holly come Yuletide Day,
We’d turn the Wheel in our nouveau ‘ancient of ways’.
We’d drive back the darkness with song and with mirth,
And welcome the Sun King as the Goddess gave birth.