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Yule and the Return of Light and Hope

Although winter for us in the Northern Hemisphere is shrouded in dormancy and darkness, the December Solstice also marks the turning of the sun when the days slowly get longer.

Throughout the ages, the winter season has been celebrated by many cultures and has held many names. Yule is another name for the season of the Winter Solstice. There are several origins of the word Yule. For example, in the Old Norse, the word “jol” is a pagan festival celebrating the return of the sun. And interestingly, the Anglo-Saxon word for this festival is, “Iul”, meaning, “wheel”.  

Many cultures looked at the changing of the season as the turning of a wheel; and the solstices, equinoxes and quarter days as spokes on The Great Wheel of Life.

I used to dread these short days and the long, colder nights. That was until I began to reach down deeply into my own roots and lineage and something inside me awoke. I began to experience for myself humanity’s deep, inner connections with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world. As the days got shorter and darker, I noticed a longing for the coming light and that would enter into some metaphorical womb and I naturally began reflecting on the past year and asking:

Where was I this time last year?

What happened on my journey?

What did I need to leave behind?

What was calling me forth in the New Year?

For most of us, the increased darkness leads us into our own dark night of the soul. This never fails me. Yule is deeply rooted in the final cycle of the year. It is both a time for shedding and seeding.  

yule 1


“It is at this time of year that the Goddess plays a dual role. As her dark aspect, “she who cuts the thread” she discards what is no longer needed. As her light aspect she is in the process of giving birth to the new Sun King who brings renewed hope and light into the world. It is a time of death and rebirth”.

This time of year has taught me that in order to bring in something new, a void needs to be created. One way I do this is to have an experience of completion and to let go of what n

 longer will serve what is waiting to be birthed. In a culture that seems to be so ready to “get on with the next thing”, sitting with and contemplating what got done is often over looked.

I would like to share a completion practice that I have found useful.

  1. See it and name it. Choose three of your big achievements from the past year. Your milestones. Maybe you got married or divorced. Had a child or sent a child off to college. Maybe you held your first workshop.
  2. Describe it. What actually got done? What are the measurable facts about it? Be objective. Notice if you are addicted to “never good enough”. Did you meet your target but then see that there is more to do?
  1. What did it take? What would a video camera NOT see? What did it take from you? Did you pull it off even though you were terrified? Did you do it anyway even though you had a broken heart?
  2. Regard it. What did you learn? How did you grow? How do you have more substance now that you accomplished this? Is there something more to do?
  3. Let go. Is there anything you need to let go of that is no longer needed? If so, acknowledge it and declare yourself complete on 2015!

What does the season of Yule call forth from you? What are your practices?

May you experience the victory of light of darkness in your world!



  1. Anita

    December 21, 2015 - 11:01 am

    Thank you for reminding me!

    • Alison McLean

      December 21, 2015 - 11:55 am

      Thank you for connecting. It is so nice to hear from you!

  2. Kim Shea

    December 22, 2015 - 6:39 pm

    This post was very thought-provoking. I started a new business, sent my second child to college, and learned my oldest child is transgender and began dealing with that. It has been a year of tremendous growth, some pain, and some accomplishments. Thank you for opening up this internal dialogue for me.

    • Alison McLean

      December 28, 2015 - 3:00 pm

      Kim, that is a tremendous amount of accomplishment for a life-time…let alone a year! A could only just imagine and am deeply curious about what it took from you that the world doesn’t see. I acknowledge you for your good and hard work.

  3. Lesa

    December 23, 2015 - 10:24 am

    It’s good to take time to reflect on our past accomplishments because its so much easier to focus on what we haven’t gotten done. This is particularly true when it comes to our house. We bought it out of foreclosure 4+ years ago and it came with a rather long to-do list, much of which we haven’t tackled yet. This can feel very discouraging, especially since I work at home so am constantly reminded of our long list of projects. Pausing periodically to count the things that we HAVE done not only reduces my stress level, but also helps me to feel more optimistic that we will one day have the house we dream of.

    Thanks for the reminder that its good to take some time for reflection.

    • Alison McLean

      December 28, 2015 - 3:09 pm

      Yes, Lesa, I agree. Reflecting on what I have accomplished reduces my stress level too. It also gives me the confidence and the encouragement to continue to make strides towards my goals. I am a firm believer that great things are accomplished one small step at a time.

  4. Jeannette

    January 6, 2016 - 3:19 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to go within, reflect and let go of what we no longer need. I am in a time of learning to let go of my tendency to not honor my own needs and desires. I appreciate the meaning of the turning of the sun and the return of hope and light for new cycles and growth.

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