Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cosmic shift

So much is being said about the 21st of December this year.

December 21st is always the winter solstice, the darkest longest night of the year.  The ancient Celts, observing the turning of the light through the agricultural year in these northern climes, called it ‘Yul’ – meaning ‘the turn’. 

I expect you are familiar with the symbol of Yin and Yang, that depicts how everything contains the seed of its opposite, and thus is the rhythm perpetuated that maintains the balance of life. 

So it is with Yul: that deepest darkest night bears the seed of light – the infant light which grows and strengthens through the coming months until midsummer.

The Christian missionaries who brought the gospel to the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, wisely forbore from confronting and destroying the old religion.  They worked with it, seeking parallels and comparisons, and placed the feast of Christ's Incarnation at Yul – the celebration of the infant light born into the deepest darkness of a world lost in darkness; the light that shines in the midst of darkness but cannot be engulfed or overwhelmed by it.

Therefore in the Celtic calendar both before and since the coming of Christ, December 21st has always marked new beginning.  The old year died at Samhain, the Day of the Dead (in the agricultural year this was the time of slaughter), in the Christian calendar All Hallows (it’s All Hallows Eve of course – Hallowe’en – but for the Ancient Celts the day began at sunset not sunrise).  There then followed No-Time, when all lay dormant, in the place of waiting between the dying of the old at Samhain and the birth of the new at Yul.  The Christian missionaries consecrated this time into Advent – the waiting time, thinking of both the coming birth of Christ and the end of all things in the coming again of Christ – both Alpha and Omega (0-mega, the Big Zero, death) are held together in the blended themes of Advent, No-Time, the waiting time.

This year is different.  It is the year when the Mayan Long Count of days comes to the end of the 14th b’ak’tun, and ushers in a new age.   This is a threshold of similar importance to our new Millennium; it is a doorway, it marks a shift.

Just as in the symbol of Yin and Yang the seed of the new is seen embedded in the old, and in the ending of the old year the infant Light is born in the darkness at Yul, so now a shift is occurring – for those who speak in this language, you might say “Aslan is on the move”.

Not grasping the implications of the time, many are laughing at it, mocking the ‘end-time’ fearfulness that abounds, making jests and boasts about how they will prove it all to be so much rubbish when they wake up still alive on December 22nd.  They have not understood.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, who knew?  A small group of shepherds came to find him in the stable, that’s all.  You might say, it was all something and nothing, an anti-climax, a non-event; and how misjudged such an assessment would be.  The great unfolding of salvation had begun, the reconciliation of heaven and earth; Aslan was on the move.  It just didn't show up at first.

When we crossed the threshold of the new millennium, many clergy I knew at the time belittled it as nothing but one more day in the calendar, and I wondered as I listened to them where had they been?  I never saw such a shaking of the tree as there was in those days.  My own life fell apart as comprehensively as it could without actually ending.  This was also true of others I knew.  It was indeed a time of cataclysmic change, and a seedbed for further changes we have seen since; economically and politically, for instance, the 21st century balance is unfolding as very different from the century before.  Same with the previous millennium threshold, when Europe began to emerge from the Dark Ages into the flowering of Christendom.

I do not know what this new shift is, exactly, or what it will begin.  I suspect that partly depends on us.  But I think it will bring a winnowing.  I think our chaff will fly.  And I think it will be wise to understand that because we will still wake up on December 22nd, it doesn’t follow that nothing is any different, that no change has occurred.


365 366 Day 354 – Wednesday Dec 19th

One of several pairs of scissors.  We had enough, and then were sent several pairs free with the sewing machine we bought a while back.  So the scissor collection needed pruning.


Ganeidaz Knot said...

Hmmm. I haven't followed the Mayan thing. Too much math involved for me & depending on how you count & whether you use solar, lunar or a combination of both it may not be our Dec 21 anyway.

Just the same I have sensed over the past 12 months or so that there is a huge change happening. There will be a winnowing ~ & a harvest. There will be a paring ~ & a grafting. People are going to have to decide where they stand & their choices will have unforeseeable consequences. Our only safety is under Christ's shelting wings.

Ember said...

The place of safety - the eye of the storm - as I understand it, is the holy Name of God; "the Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are safe." The Name of the Lord is the great I Am, the sacred presence of God.
Every day I am practising finding the way in to his holy Presence, my refuge against fear and all that undoes the soul.

Ganeidaz Knot said...

Are we saying the same thing? Sorry for being slow this morning. Lack of sleep & too much anxiety are not a good combination.

I was thinking of Psalm 91:4 ~ which is such a lovely image & reminds me of Jesus words to Jerusalem, about gathering her as a hen her chicks.

Elin Hagberg said...

In Sweden it is 'jul' still to this day even though Christ entered somehow once the nation changed religion but many old beliefs stayed. It was and to an extent is believed that the old come and visit around Christmas and one should leave something eatible out in case your dead relatives want a snack. You should also make sure you don't go to church to early in the morning because the dead will celebrate mass before the living does and one does not want walk in on them. I have never felt that Christmas is very Christian here it seems more a celebration which is in tune with the old gods and not with Christianity but I still like it!

Ember said...

Ganeida - yes, I believe we are saying the same thing. x

Elin - I knew about Yul and Jul - and God Jul to you my friend - but I didn't know about those folk traditions - how very interesting - the communion of the saints! x

Daisyanon said...

Thanks for this Ember, very interesting.

Ember said...


Julie Graff said...

Thank you Pen for this. Well said. Though everything may seem the same, everything will be different and new. Go with God, Ember, and we'll see you here on the 22nd--like always, but not like ever before. xxx

San said...

Beautiful words and much for me to ponder thank you for explaining and sharing x

Ember said...

Hi Julie G, hi San - waving! xx

Nearly Martha said...

Really facinating this. Enjoyed it very much thank you. I don't know if you saw the BBC version of the Nativity a couple of years ago shown over a week. I thought they brought out the wonder of the Magi really well. To most it was just a star but they knew better and their excitement and wonder and certainty that this was indeed a significant moment was wonderfully done. I found their faith inspiring.

Ember said...

Yes, loved those programmes! We have bought the DVD to watch over the weekend. x

Anonymous said...


Your thoughts re a winnowing, a pearing, a 'rifining' give much to ponder. you are not alone in sensing the shift; even the esteemed Geoffrey Robertson has warned of 'portents' that he suspects will unfold over the coming decade. Am I the only one who feels as though we are living in the 'Summer of 1914' all over again??? different players, same old saga.

Indeed, beneath Christ's sheltering wings is where we can and will find refuge and safety...'under the shelter of the Cedar Tree' as I say...

may you be richly and wonderfully blessed as we focus upon Christ's entry into the Earthly Realm two thousand years ago and contemplate his return during Advent, preparing our lives, hearts and souls to be ready for our King.



Ember said...


You're referring here to something Ganeida said rather than me:

"There will be a winnowing ~ & a harvest. There will be a paring ~ & a grafting. People are going to have to decide where they stand & their choices will have unforeseeable consequences. Our only safety is under Christ's sheltering wings."

Interesting thoughts! God bless you too - may your Christmas be happy and peaceful. x

Donna said...

This is one of those times when I read your blog and just want to click "like".
According to Wikipedia, the Mayans traditionally considered the five days following the Winter Solstice to be a dangerous time, and avoided going out or washing their hair. That would be a little inconvenient in our culture of last minute gift-shopping and lavish entertaining, but I thought it was interesting!

Ember said...

! Thank goodness I washed my hair today! x

Anonymous said...

Change for the better is such a heavenly concept! I am all for Romans 12- type transformation though for me it doesn't seem to come easy. This has been the hardest year of my life so far, but within it many things have changed for the better. You are right, we do not dare become complacent. And I have found refuge in the eye of the storm.

Ember said...

:0) x

Judy Morris said...

Thank you for this piece. Could the date of change be a little wrong? I think it probably could. I feel a change already, a big shift in the way people regard their governments, a desire to move away from big business, corruption, banking and war. A desire to live more simply.
I am almost sure that this world wide economic chaos has been sent to us as a sort of plague, and it is that which is starting the change. On a personal level, I am changing very much, becoming much more aware, and others tell me they feel the same.
I too feel safe in God, and hopeful for this new time. xxx

Ember said...

Indeed, things are changing! x

turtlebat said...

Thank you for this. I've been carrying your post around in my head since yesterday and it still provides more for thinking about. I have been thinking a lot recently about transition and simplicity, encumbrance and eschatology (personal and/or corporate), but maybe more in a liberation theology kind of way, and wholeness; your post provides more well-written food for thought. So thanks.

And I, as every year, will be celebrating Yule today, with Christmas metaphors
and thanks for the return of the light and the chance of a fresh start. :)

Ember said...

Turtlebat. Now, I like that name. Excellent. I see you are in Cambridge - one of my favourite places on earth, that I miss sorely since my beautiful mama came to live near us here in Sussex. She used to be in Saffron Walden, and part of the rituals of living meant happy days mooching around in Cambridge, sometimes evensong at Kings. And my father was a dab hand with a punt, so I have childhood memories of the slow journey along the Cam, stopping under the willows to eat sandwiches, trailing my hand in the cool river water.
Your profile shows you are definitely alive, if you see what I mean. Nice to meet you (forgive my forgettory if we have met before, I'm a rather batty old biddy these days).
Transition and simplicity - Diana Lorence (of Innermost House) describes simplicity as starting again. I still haven't finished thinking that through. Apologies - rambling!

maria said...

Yes, there has been a shift, but I think it is more internal than obvious at this time.

Everyday, the light of His Love is evident everywhere. It hasn't diminished nor has it wavered from its focus. But we tend to move away from the Light because it is too potent, to bright for our eyes to accept.

It is us that need to shift and change. He hasn't changed but we are the ones that need to make the choice.

Excellent words as always my friend. Good to read them again!

Maria b.

Ember said...

Yes - as you say - the great I AM, the mystery at the heart of things, remains constant, but a shift has happened, a new time is beginning, which will challenge us to radical change.