Merry Christmas to one and all! When I was a child, I always preferred Christmas Eve more to Christmas Day. I think that was because it was the pinnacle of anticipation and excitement. And also because it was a fun night of revelry at my beloved Grandmother’s house. We ate good food, unwrapped gifts, laughed, talked, and we kids were allowed to sample our parents’ highballs. I can still remember peering out the window with my cousins, trying to spy the Christmas star (and Rudolph’s nose!). My mother and I lived with my Grandmother for over ten years, and the first Christmas without my Grandmother was a very difficult one. I really felt the darkness of the season. She was the glue that held our extended family together. But, time marches on, and for the last few years it has been wonderful to make new Yule and Christmas traditions with my husband and some of my other family members.
Thus far, this dark half of the year has brought an unexpected gift of warmth from Mama Gaia. The weekend after Thanksgiving, my husband and I headed to the park, and I felt like a mole blinking in the fierce sun after too many rainy dark days. And in the midst the sunshine and scores of other cheerful walkers, the realization hit me like a freight train that autumn was over, and winter had begun! The last time I had been to the park, there were myriads of golden, scarlet and orange-clad trees, creatures rustling in the undergrowth, and plenty of fallen leaves to crunch. Now there were bare trees, standing like the bones of giants, bleached or pealing monoliths in a quiet graveyard. They swayed gently in the wind. How had it happened so fast? But I was also struck by how far I could see in the park. New vistas I had not noticed before (it is a very hilly, rolling park) were open, and the atmosphere was completely different. It was harsh, but very beautiful.
In nature, the code, the pathway, the map is always in front of us. The seasons guide us through each phase with subtle changes, clues, visions. Through the bareness of the trees we see new things, new horizons… things that were hidden in the midst of all that was verdant. Death brings clarity. Death brings fertility and the chance for new growth. The darkness holds terror, but also limitless possibility. In darkness there are no boundaries. The soul, if bolstered by the seasons’ lessons that came before, can stretch to its fullest potential and breathe a sigh of relief. I once read that Aristotle tells us that that which is beautiful is also terrible. How fitting that we finally recognize the beauty in our shadow selves, embracing the dark half of the year as equal to the light, quivering before its awfulness and looking it in the eye, loving each part of ourselves so that we may evolve, and give that love back to the Universe.
Even so, I’m always looking for that Christmas star- that little pinpoint of light in the midnight hour that reminds me that just after the darkest moment, light will return. Perhapss that is why I’m really drawn to the energy of The Star card during this time of holy days which commemorate the birth of light into the world,
The Star from The Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert
Following a gentle glow through the darkness and into the light half of the year seems like the perfect thing to do at this moment, just as the three Wise Men followed that Christmas Star. Rather fittingly, Stella Maris, or Star of the Sea, is an ancient name for the Virgin Mary, one of the manifestations of the Great Mother during this season. It is also another name for Polaris, the guiding star.
One of my favorite bands, The Medieaval Baebes, recreates a lovely hymn to Stella Maris on their album “Salva Nos.”
There is a gentle peace to The Star, which seems to embody that same peace we all want to experience during this time of year (and which modern life often seems bent on destroying). As the heavenly host said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Celebrating the time between the winter Solstice and the new year has deep roots reaching back to the time before Christ, and writer Waverly Fitzgerald has a wonderful post at her website Living In Season about this liminal time of year. May you have a holiday season of laughter, of revels and of good times with kindred spirits. May the light of the Star be with you, and peace be to you.