The Dark Time

by Shadow Hawk

(Originally found at http://www.paganlibrary.com/stories/dark_time.php)

It is the time of the Long Night, and I have laid my thick mantle upon the ground. The branches are bare, the water hardens, and life slows to a crawl.

Those that could have long since fled south to the warmth of my brother, Fire, and the lands of the Sun, while I walk the Earth that lays Submissive at my feet.

My breath runs hot, and my eyes are cold. Death is in the air, and the Moon reflects red off of my Horns.

Glistening like diamonds, the stars fill the night sky, and the wind howls like a lonesome wolf, and I feel the pulse of Her that fills my veins with heady wine. I lift my muzzle to the sky, and bugle my challenge loud and far. Who will meet my challenge? Who will Dance the Dance of Life with the Lord of Death? My hooves ring like steel against the stone beneath the snow, sparks lighting up the night, and the sounds of my movement shakes the slumbering trees.

From the forest, a soft glow appears. A woman old, and wrapped warmly against the wind approaches. Frail she seems, but there is fire in her eye. “I will dance the Dance” she says. Her legs begin to shuffle and sway, while I watch, intrigued by the woman, and I begin to answer her motion with movement of my own. And the Dance unfolded.

Round the forest we whirled, and the wrinkles slipped away from her. Younger she became, as veil after veil fell away, taking the years with them. The Stars danced above in silent awe, while the Moon flooded us with cold light.

Faster and faster the dance went and our eyes grew wild with the thunder of the pulse of the dance, and our feet drummed the dance, hooves and horn, laughter and the slapping of feet pounded out the beat. And the steam rose from our bodies.

The Earth herself split open from the Dance, and I led her down, down into the depths of the Earth, and she shed her veils along the way, twirling and swirling, and the Dance moved on. At last, I stood in the place of my Power, and the Throne of Death stood silently waiting.

“Milady, will you stay here at the Throne of Death with me and dance the Eternal Dance, for I am struck by your beauty and would have you for my Companion”.

“No, for I love you not”, was the reply.

Looking at the Radiant Woman who stood in front of me, I said, “Milady, you have Danced the Dance of Life with me as none has Danced before, what Boon may I grant you?”

With stars in her eyes, she replied, “I want the spirit of my Son returned to Life. I want to know the secrets of Death.”

“None has asked such a boon, how dare you so much?” I asked.

“The Earth needs my Son to live. They must have the light and joy of Spring, the Heat of Summer, and the Harvest of Fall to survive. They need my Son. The Dance must go on” she softly spoke.

“Then kneel, and learn the Secrets of Death”, I answered.

And I taught her, with pain and scourge, with laughter and love, with youth and age and darkness I taught her. I showed her the heights and the depths, and at last, I taught her the peace of the Slumber of the Dead.

Laying my Lady down in the Earth, she would sleep, and dream of Spring, and of the Dance, and the Seed in her belly would swell and bring life to a new world. And she and the child would Dance, and Sing, and grow old, and the child, lover, king will die. Once again, as the Circle goes round, she will come to me in the Woods, and we shall Dance the Dance of Life once more.

But for now, it is quiet and dark, and the Moon is bright, and the wind howls, and I walk the world alone.

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The First Yule

by Laurel

(first found at http://www.paganlibrary.com/stories/first_yule.php)

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a beautiful young woman lived on a blue and green island. She had many friends on the island, fairies, trees, flowers, rabbits, deer and birds… but she was the only person who lived there. She wanted to share her friends and her secrets with other people just like her, so she began to give birth. Every month when the moon was hiding, she gave birth. For the first six months, she gave birth to daughters with dark skin and eyes. For the last six moons of the year she gave birth to fair skinned daughters. On the seventh moon of every year the First Mother gave birth to a magickal, sacred oak.

As the years turned, many, many daughters were born, and quite a few oak trees as well. The daughters played games with the animals and each other, they climbed in the branches of the oak trees and gathered flowers with the fairies. One day the first born daughter of the First Mother gave birth herself. The First Mother was very proud and happy, her favorite friend Oak Tree(who was very wise) gave her a silver crown to wear and told her that she was now a Grandmother. Soon many of the daughters gave birth, and the island became an even happier place, full of babies and big girls and mommies who all played together with the animals, the trees and the fairies.

One winter night when the moon was hiding, one of the daughters gave birth to a baby that was different from anything they had ever known. It was not a daughter, it was not even an oak tree, it was a baby BOY! It was a very dark cold night, the longest winter’s night of the year, so all the daughters and all the animals were snuggled up together to keep cozy and warm. After their excitement of seeing a brand new baby born passed, the daughters and the animals realized that the baby boy was not feeling well. He was not as strong or as warm as the babies and trees that were usually born on the island. They all began to worry about the new baby, and tried to help keep him warm. The animals with the furriest coats pushed up close to the mother and baby, the fairies sprinkled magick dust above him, and the little girls sang wonderful songs and danced around and around the room.

But the baby boy couldn’t get warm enough and soon he was too cold and tired even to cry or to drink the healing milk from his mother. The First Grandmother was so afraid for the baby boy. She tried to hide her tears from her daughters and ran out into the forest. The snow was very deep and full of white glitter. She tried to walk but it was just to deep. So her friend the owl carried up above the snow filled clouds deep into the magick forest where her firstborn, most sacred wise friend Oak lived. The First Grandmother intended to ask Her friend for advise about the baby boy. When the owl reached the clearing where the sacred First Oak tree lived, the Grandmother gasped! There was no snow on the ground there, and in the middle of a perfect circle lay her friend the Oak. The tree had Fallen to the ground and broken into a pile of logs and branches. She rushed to kneel beside the broken tree, and her teardrops turned into sparkling icicles on her cheeks.

While she was trying to understand what had happened to her dear friend, a coyote entered the circle and brushed up beside her. First the coyote kissed her tears dry, and then whispered a secret in the First Grandmother’s ear. The Grandmother nodded, and with the help of the coyote and the owl, she gathered some of the branches from her oldest friend Oak and they returned to her daughter and the baby boy.

Using the gifts from the Oak, and the secrets from the coyote, the Grandmother built the very first fire that anyone on the blue and green island had ever seen. The fairies were shocked, they had never seen anything dance like that without wings. The animals laughed, they had never seen colors so bright except on springtime flowers. The daughters didn’t know WHAT to do, they had never felt anything as warm as the summer sand on the beach in the middle of winter.

The mother brought the baby boy close to the edge of the fire, closer than everyone else( they were still just a little bit scared of this new thing called fire). The baby boy opened his eyes just a little bit, and began to wiggle his fingers. Then he smiled and moved his toes too. When he was warm enough, he snuggled with his Mother and drank her milk, soon everyone was certain the baby boy would be okay. They were all so happy, they danced around the fire singing their favorite special songs and giving little gifts to the fire.

The baby boy grew up strong and happy because of the gift of the First Oak Tree. He had many sons of his own, and taught them all to plant acorns on the seventh dark moon of the year so that there would always be many, many oak trees on the island. Every winter, on the longest coldest darkest night of the year, all the people who lived on the blue and green island built a very special fire. They brought in a special tree and honored it with shiny ornaments and glittery fairy dust. They picked one very special branch or log and sang their favorite songs while they decorated it. Then they would give this beautiful log to the fore as a present… and all the children would hear the story of the gift of the First Oak tree.

On the longest night of the year, whenever you light a candle or build a fire, remember the story of the First Grandmother and the coyote who told her the secret. No matter how cold and dark it seems, The Sun will always be reborn and bring us warmth and light again.

A story for Yule in These Times

(Originally found at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/naturespath/2016/12/yule-story/)

A story for Yule in these times.

The story is told that in the beginning, there were two gods who were brothers. And like many brothers, they struggled with each other for ascendance and power. One brother was the King of the forces of life, light, and warmth. He wore a crown made of green oak branches and brought with him all growth and vitality, fertility and abundance. He was called the Oak King.

His brother was the King of the forces of death, cold, and darkness. He wore a crown made of the prickly holly branches and brought with him all withering and decay, stillness and hibernation. He was called the Holly King.

The brothers were identical in strength, and so year after year the same pattern was repeated. Each year, the Oak King would grow strong and mighty and during his time of dominance, the light would gradually increase, bringing with it warmth and abundance. But each year, at the height of his power, he would be thrown down by the Holly King. In the wake of the Holly King’s victory, the light would gradually wane, and as it did, cold would come and the land would go dormant. But at the height of the Holly King’s power, he would be challenged again by the Oak King and would fall. And the cycle would repeat again and again and again.

Alone, the brothers were equals, but soon there came a race of beings known as people. The people watched this cycle, and pretty soon, they began to take sides. The people loved light and warmth, and they feared darkness and cold. And so, each year, they would celebrate the victory of the Oak King, but they would mourn the victory of the Holly King. When the two struggled with each other, the people would lend the strength of their voices and their bodies, their minds and their spirits to the Oak King, but the Holly King was without their support. And so time went by.

Over time, the people’s adoration of warmth and light only grew, and so they began to invent ever new ways to find light in the darkness and warmth in the cold. And finally, if they wished it, they could spend all of their time in the light they had created, and they could be warm all year long. But their efforts to stay always in the light and the warmth were not without consequences.

Generations passed and generations again and the people did not at first notice the shifts in the balance. But finally, they could ignore it no longer. The people began to notice that darkness was disappearing from the land, driven out by millions of lights the people had created. Animals, birds, plants, even people began to suffer the effects of light unbalanced by darkness.

But it was not just darkness that was disappearing. Cold began to flee, too. The whole world began to get warmer. Summer began sooner and lasted longer. Ice that had been frozen far longer than the longest memory of the oldest person in the land began to melt. Migrating birds and animals began to be confused about when to begin the migration. Plants found themselves rooted in climates that no longer supplied their needs. The air was changing, and the winds that had brought rain and taken it away again began to flow in unexpected directions, causing drought here and flood there.

The people began to see that their support of warmth and light over cold and darkness had altered the balance of the whole world. They began, slowly, one at a time, to realize that the Holly King was dying. And for the first time, this thought filled them with fear. What would happen if the balance continued to be destroyed? Could they even survive in a world without the Holly King?

And in the world of the gods, the Oak King realized it, too. And though they had been competitors all these many centuries, he also realized that he loved his brother deeply, and could not live without him. The longest night came, and the Oak King and the Holly King met again, but this time, the Oak King had no heart for the fight. He lay down his sword and spear. He came, open-handed to his brother, who was struggling just to stay on his feet. The Oak King wrapped the Holly King in a tight embrace. And he promised to set aside their enmity and to help his brother heal. On the night when he usually claimed ascendance, he realized that the world was already too warm and too light. And so, he laid the great Oak crown on the head of his brother, took his hand, and each supporting the other, they went out into the world to see what could be done to restore balance.

Chalice Lighting Coloring Page

Unitarian Universalists can use different words for the chalice.  Here is one common set.

LIGHTING CHALICE

“In the light of truth and in the warmth of love
we gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.”

EXTINGUISH CHALLICE

“We extinguish this flame but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.  These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.”   

-Elizabeth Selle Jones

COLORING PAGE

Chalice Coloring Page Thumbnail

To Carry the Light Forward

Chalice Lighting

 

If we are lucky, we will all get a chance during our life to know someone who becomes for us an exemplar of living. And if we are really lucky, we will recognize how they ended up passing on some of their goodness to us. If we are lucky.

But one thing is certain. No one – not one of us – entering this world can escape the cost of living. The price we pay is this: To live in this world we must accept that someday we will have to die. To love what is alive, we must accept having to lose what we’ve made precious through our care. To be fully and fiercely human, we must accept having to be breakable and sometimes broken.

When we stop to notice how their life gave us a path and a little light to see by…. (light chalice)… it helps encourages us to help carry that light forward. Though each of us carries forth in this world a small flame, we know that the ability of that light to brighten the world depends upon the many others who learn to walk with it in their hearts. We light this chalice today to honor the life and living of a truly bright light, (Name).

When The Wind Stops

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Title: When the Wind Stops

Author: Charlotte Zolotow

Illustrator:Stefano Vitale

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Paperback: 32 pages

Themes: Circle of life, Cycles, Seasons

SYNOPSIS:

Where does the wind go when it stops?

When a little boy asks this question at the end of a happy day, his mother explains that the wind does not stop-it blows away to make the trees dance somewhere else.

Reassuringly, she tells him that nothing ever ends, it simply begins in another place or in another way. Rain goes back into the clouds to create new storms, waves fold back upon the sea to become new waves, and the day moves on to make way for the night, bringing the darkness and stars for the little boy to dream in.

Charlotte Zolotow’s lyrical prose and Stefano Vitale’s rich illustrations make this a beautiful celebration of the cycle of life.

Song of Amergin

As you say each line of the Song of Amergin, stop to reflect on what it means in the natural world, and how it applies to you.

I am the wind across a deep wide lake. 

I am the wave over the endless sea.

I am the stag of seven tines, racing through the woods.

I am the eagle in the afire, flying above the rocks.

I am a flash of light from the sun above, bringing heat to those below.

I am the blooming plants, bringing the sustenance and beauty.

I am a wild board, powerful and strong.

I am the salmon in the water, swimming endlessly upstream. 

I am the hill where poets stroll for inspiration. 

I am the head of the spear that draws blood in battle. 

I am the god that puts fire in the head and honor in the heart. 

 

Take time to reflect on each of these thoughts. How do they apply to you and your place in the natural world?

Stretch your arms, and take in a deep breath. If you’ve been sitting, stand up.  This is a warrior’s song and to really feel it’s power, you should be on your feet facing the sky.  These last few lines can be shouted at the top of your lungs if you feel like it.

Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills? 

Who can tell the ages of the moon? 

Who can tell the place where the sun rests? 

Thing about the answers to these questions. How do they apply to you and your everyday life? How do they apply to your spiritual journey?

Take a few more minutes to think, and when you are ready, begin your trek home.