Last week I was driving at evening through Nashville singing along to Annie Lennox’s grand new recording of ‘The First Nowell,’ roaring at the top of my lungs as I do in the car, when I exploded into tears. Which doesn’t make any sense, because I am pagan.
I wasn’t crying because I believe that Christmas birth was the start of our world’s salvation, and I wasn’t crying because it was my second post-divorce Christmas, because that would have felt different. It was ecstatic crying. I was crying because listening to that song I was a little girl again, innocent and unreasonable, her heart erupting at the sweet shepherds and sheep looking up at a squadron of angel wings tearing the cold night sky. I cried because the song was beautiful in the moment, but also because I knew what it felt like when the song was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in the universe. I was feeling both at once, across time.
Yule is a time-travelling holiday. In the first publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843, the story is subtitled ‘A Ghost Story of Christmas.’ Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, a hooded figure representing a future that has not yet come to pass, but is still malleable. A Christmas Carol is a time-travel story. It’s a Wonderful Life is also a time-travel story, in which George Bailey’s decision in the present retrocauses his past to change.
The Winter Solstice is timeless. Just as the Sun stands still, there is a pause in the fabric of time itself, in the timespace between the night and the light. Time collapses around and on the Solstice, when we also stand still. It is cold so we have to go inside, and we stop just long enough for all the past that we have been running from to run right over the top of us.
We get avalanched with emotions right now, many conflicting, especially if we have had changes in our life: we feel the presence of the Christmases we have had; as well as the Christmases we will never have in all the Might-Have-Beens, the quantum futures that we may not ever know. Past and future press on us.
The early winter is the year’s Dreaming. P.L. Travers writes of the ancient aboriginal Dreaming that within it is time and timelessness, ‘space, too, and spacelessness; matter, spirit, life and death, everything and always… the everlasting nonexistence from which existence rises.’ So in the cauldron of the Mother Night, in the womb before the spark of the Sun begins to expand into the next Solar Year, all times mix together, including our personal times, all of our lives: Christmases Past and Present and even Yet to Come.
So no wonder that at Yuletide we feel everything, because it is all here. All times are Now. For me, each Christmastime has its own feeling-tone: the tides when I was Catholic; the tides when I was asserting my paganism; my childhood Yules; my married Yules; my post-divorce Yules. I can feel my old selves layered over each other, uneasy cohabitants with the present, coloring and influencing it. Very challenging to be ‘in the Now’ when ‘the Now’ can mean many things at once!
This year’s Solstice is a regular time bomb, too, ready to go off: a full moon lunar eclipse, the rarest of rare fourth Full Moon since the Autumn Equinox; the sun rising at the precise moment the moon is setting, so both objects will be regarding each other, horizon to horizon. Magically, an eclipse itself is an extra moon cycle concatenated within the larger one. It is a super-accelerated mini month. To be up all night on this night, through the eclipse to witness that dawn, will be like being in the time vortex, the center of time itself.
You can do magic then, or not. It may be too much to ask for, in this avalanche of moods and moons, to do a ritual. It may be all you can do simply to get up and go look at the ruddy moonshadow. I certainly would not put any more pressure on you. Simply know, if nothing else, that it is happening, and that there is a deep, causal reason that you might feel insane right now. You are living many lives at once. So if you can’t think of what to wish for, wish for happiness, and that your future self welcomes it when it arrives.
There are still Christmases yet to come. When you wish into the two full moons of the Solstice eclipse, wish for the best of those. It is this time of year that sets our hearts breaking with love. What we pine for, is that. What we hope for, is that. What we are, is that.
Blessings of Yuletide to you!