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.
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.