The sun has turned, the solstice passes and we stand with the heart of the dark about our shoulders and the wan light of dawn caressing us with quiet promises of warmer tomorrow, a spring full of life, a summer of warmth the call of life, where the heart of the dark is filled with the chains of the past, the voices of the dead, and the cold certainty of costs for what we survived.
This is a valuable time. There is time to gather together and wassail hard in the heart of the dark, to stand in the teeth of privation and loss, the dead hard upon the ground, the loss of jobs, the terrible cost of just surviving bitter upon your tongue, turn your eyes to the fire and charge your glass and howl your defiance at the abyss of darkness not with a snarl but a laugh. Reach out to those who have less than you, for nothing like your own privation teaches you the value of half a loaf and half filled cup, the little you have shared is a greater gift than scraps from some fat lords table. Given in solidarity, not superiority, in hopes brighter days attend giver and receiver, not given to make clear who is master and who beggar at the feast.
There is work to be done as well, work to be done in deciding what we will carry with us into the new year. All those you have lost hang about you, ragged ropes of unresolved grief will neither let them rest nor let you remember. All those boasts you made, tasks you undertook, battles you took up, promises you made, obligations you undertook hang about your person, unseen, unexamined, and undischarged.
Take this time to sit in the dark, let the fire blaze bright, be it candle or hearth, and take up a warming drink, be it coffee or whiskey, whose heat, bite, bitterness and comfort will give form to what we do now, will give focus to what we give our heart and mind to, and will make possible the dropping of the barriers, the fear, the shame, that kept us from dealing with what must be dealt with until now.
The Yuletide is upon us, the dead and living are separated by a veil thinner than a whisper, what was, what is, what will be tremble and twist about each other separated by less than a whim, less than a thought, not even a word. This is a time of flux, a time of power, a time of loss; but loss of what is for us to take up.
If we dare.
Those we have lost, we cling to them like a miser to gold pledged in payment. We refuse to let go from us those who have passed on, not because we do not acknowledge their death, but because we refuse to let go the place the held in our life. This is cowardice, and costly. The living are lost. To cling to them is to cling to the rotting flesh and seared bone fragments of the corpse. It is sick, self destructive and selfish. Raise your glass to them that passed and wish them well on their way. Hel has received them, they are in the mound with their ancestors, safe from all want and hurt, it is only our cowardice that binds them to the moments or months of their death. Remember their dying forever, or let them pass and remember them as honoured dead; remember the gifts they gave you in life, keep bright their memory and reclaim what you shared in life, untainted by the trauma and rage of death and loss.
We have failed. Oaths spoken not redeemed, challenges taken up that we fell short on, tasks that defined us, that we took pride in and built worth through were lost or taken from us. Gifts we have given brought not joy but hurt, praise given was taken as mockery, and aid offered was wound not weal as intended. The tattered strands of wyrd from each of these broken threads bind and tangle us, fouling all work we undertake and bringing ill luck to all bright weavings we attempt.
Now is the time we sit by the fire, in the cloaking darkness, and strip ourselves naked as we dare not do at any other time and place. Naked not of cloth, but of justification, denial and defense. We take each thread, like so many thorn girt vines, and unwind them from us. We let the wounds in our skin weep bitter blood of loss as we weigh each failure, own it, look without defense as we accept the shame of it, the fear it instills in us, we own it, accept it, seek to learn from it. Raise your glass and offer to it, then cast it to the fire to burn. Choose not to carry it forward, but to cast it into the fire you must first accept every single thorn, each element of the failure, of intent, of effect intended or unintended, of effort, or result. If we do not own each thorn of the whole bitter strand from spindle to shank, we will never be free of it, and it will foul all that we try to weave this year.
We are not what we were. I am old, so I tend to measure my year in loss of what I once could do, once could contribute and can no more. This too is foolishness, and weakness. Clinging to the self I chose to remember and ignoring the self I have won. I am not what I was, and if I strive with the tools I once had in the struggles I once owned all I can do is fall short. I am not what I was, and attempting to be can only make me a failure. I have new tools, and honestly where old thorns and blades would find vulnerable flesh there is only iron hard hide and cold white bone. That which once could bind and bleed me will mark me no more, and the tools I have now in the tasks I take up with them promise me challenges as fierce as ever I knew, and ones that suit the tools that come now to my hand.
Those who are young, you too are not what you were. You have long measured yourself against your betters, ever and always measuring yourself now against them at their peak. Your peak is yet to come, and its limits are not yet known. Let go the limits that you accepted last year. You may feel yourself far less, as defeat strips away your youthful optimism, but what you didn’t notice gaining was an understanding of what your true potential may yet be. Old tools applied in new ways have left you able to face things you long accepted were beyond you, new challenges faced in the year past have caused you to learn new skills, even if that skill is only the ability to endure what you never had to before. Let go who you were, or you will fall short of the victories that could be yours, the growth that should be yours, and the worth that has been won by the deeds you have not yet learned to value.
Weep for those you have lost, weep for your failures. Laugh at your foolishness, smile at the bright memories you find tangled in the loss, recognize what the hardships and loss have left you in gains, for nothing wyrd weaves us is without both wound and weal, both cost and learning.
We paid for what we survived this year past. Time to let go what the old year held, and give ourselves fully to the year ahead. The harvest is in, the counting has been done, and before the ground can be broken and sewn again, you must let go the last.
Drink your cup to the dregs, let the bitter lees remind you of the cost of the year, and the warmth of drink fill those hollow places the losses left in us. Fill them with acceptance of what was, and determination to do better, weave brighter, or at least not make the same mistakes again. Stare into the fire, and let it burn every dark strand of loss, look past the flame into the mirror of the darkness at your loss, your humiliation, shame and failures, then raise your chin, raise your eyes and nod. I have seen you, I acknowledge you, I claim you as my own, but I deny you any hold on me. What you deny will rule you, what you claim you command. Face the coming new years dawning unfettered and fearless.
“Hail, day! | Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here | with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.
“Hail to the gods! | Ye goddesses, hail,
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom | and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.” –Sigrdrifumol 2-3