Posts Tagged ‘Yule’

Here we are with the three plants that historically most represent the season, for the decorated tree is a relative newcomer. The soft light of the sunrise shows us the three dancing in a circle, while a passage tomb is also in the background. The cycle of life and death embodied.

Have a beautiful day!

Holy, Ivy, and Mistletoe 

First, we see three people personifying the well-known greenery of winter celebrations: Holly, Ivy, and Mistletoe. Holly is considered a masculine plant and represents protection, among other things. Ivy is a feminine plant and represents death and rebirth, among other things. Mistletoe is a sacred plant representing fertility and more. All three of them were brought in during the winter because they were green and symbolized that life continues even in the dead of winter. An interesting folklore bit is that whichever plant – Holly or Ivy – came into the house first in winter indicated whether the man or the woman would rule the house for the year. 

Also note the background – it appears to be a passage tomb or a similar ancient structure in the background with the winter sun rising up, possibly the solstice sun, which strengthens the concept of death and rebirth in this card. And even a hint of a sleigh and elf are on one side, suggesting gifts, travel, and festivities for the day.

StoryWorld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews, art (this card) by Maggie Kneen

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Happy Monday and Blessed Yule to all! My family and I had a beautiful and relaxing time at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas this weekend, and we used the time to have a mini Solstice celebration. Even in winter, the area is gorgeous with craggy hills and small mountains, streams and waterfalls, cedars and bare limbed redbuds and oaks, moss and lichen, and beautiful light.

Now we are home and have more energy from the fresh air and short hikes. Hopefully, we can keep the spirit of the forest with us and spread it around a little.

Blessing of the Solstice!

The Christmas Carolers

Caroling is just one classic activity to express joy of the season. I remember with fondness caroling with Girls Scouts at nursing homes, and I also enjoyed our local high school’s Vespers concert the previous four years (sadly, Covid canceled this year’s concert). Of course, I feel this card is saying to take part of whatever bring you the joy of the season, whether it’s baking cookies, vegging with wintery movies and popcorn on couch, or long walks in the woods.

But if you look closely, this card also tells you to watch out for those Scrooges who want to put a damper on your joy and celebrations. Also note the elf and Jack Frost helpers in the foreground – they can be tricky too. Don’t let them spoil your fun!

Storyworld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlinn Matthews, art (this card) by Debra McFarlane

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Well, here is the card for our weekend, and it would appear we need to watch our Ps and Qs. The holidays can bring on a lot of stress, so be aware if you need a break or start to snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it. (I’ve already fallen prey to that!)

Have a great weekend!

The Frost King

This is a complicated figure, The Frost King. In the Russian folktale about Father Frost, he can be very generous and helpful to those who are kind and polite. As is the case in many similar folktales, he can also leave someone for death if they are rude or lazy.

Here, we see him peering through a cozy window, his touch leaving beautiful patterns of frost on the window. With him are many little frost fairies and small winter creatures to help him with his plans. He sometimes likes to play tricks on people, but not always. Perhaps our card says to be our better selves today in order to avoid the tricks of the Frost King and instead reap his rewards? What do you think of the Frost King’s visit?

Storyworld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlinn Matthews, art (this card) by Tomislav Tomic

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We continue Yuletide messages, and today’s bear is a great one for anyone needing encouragement.
Have a lovely Thursday!

The Polar Bear

Bears are often seen as protective and fierce, and here we have a polar bear carrying a girl on an adventure by the light of the full moon. Behind them is a cozy home with a couple folks watching her leave – at least one of them is a child as well. Notice how she doesn’t look frightened at all? She knows the power of the bear is with her and will guide and protect her.

I think we might be getting the suggestion that we should seek a powerful ally in a forthcoming journey, whether it’s an adventure or a journey to a new job, home, relationship, or connection to spirit. Don’t forget that we are not alone. Even if you do not believe in deity outright, the symbolism of a powerful ally like a bear, wolf, or eagle can empower us. The cold of winter and the dark season need not frighten us when we are prepared.

Storyworld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlinn Matthews

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This is no elf on the shelf, so give him a good look. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone!

The Christmas Elf

Though the Christmas elf is normally associated with the workshop where the toys are made, here we see one in the woodland setting surrounded by animals: an owl, a deer, a woodpecker, a bird and badger, squirrels, and even a little rodent in there. What would make the little guy leave the shop and take time in nature? Of course, most elven lore indicates a strong association with nature, rather than just being production machines for the man in red.

Normally, I might suggest that this is a reminder that as we are busy with all of our events and gift buying, it is good to take some time to appreciate season for what it is. But for many of us, those activities have been restricted this year already. But have we used this time to truly relax and appreciate the smaller, quiet ways to enjoy the season. Are you holding up indoors or remembering to enjoy nature in even small ways, such as feeding and watching birds, bundled up strolls in a park or nearby trail, or even caroling with your family? Remember to appreciate the beauty of the wildlife in your area.

What does this card remind you to do?

Storyworld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews

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This is a sweet and warm card, but it also brings a reminder not to fall into a materialistic trap. What does it say to you?



The Christmas Wish

It’s a tradition generations old – making a Christmas wish list for Santa. What I love here is that, as the children carry on this tradition, there are little elves and sprites all around them listening and taking notice. Not only do they see if we’ve been “good or bad” but they can also see what we already need and have. As we make our wishes this holiday season, it’s good to remember what we already have and not ask for excess – or even to ask something for others who have less than they need. These children are clearly loved and cared for – they have books and toys and a warm home – and let’s hope they (and the generations being raised now) have learned to ask with a humble and appreciate heart. And to learn to see the magic around them.

StoryWorld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews


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Blessings, everyone! This is fun-looking fellow – what is your take of Uncle Holly?


Uncle Holly

This is a jolly looking fellow who seems to be doing something very Santa-like  – making a list and checking it. Uncle Holly is a character in a short play about Father Christmas and his secret twin brother (Holly). At Selfridges store in the UK around the 1950s, Uncle Holly was a character children spoke to instead of Santa (I’ve also found that he was the person they spoke to before visiting Santa’s lap).

Let’s not forget that Holly, in Celtic tradition, is half of the battle for the year: The Holly King (winter) and the Oak King (Summer). Holly itself reminds us of the earth’s energy and vitality when most other plant life has gone dormant. It reminds us of hope and generosity.

StoryWorld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews

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These two cards were being rather jolly together, so they both get posted. Once again, this isn’t an oracle deck but a storytelling deck, so the interpretation is loose.


The Christmas Carolers

Caroling is just one classic activity to express joy of the season. I happily remember caroling with Girls Scouts at nursing homes. Of course, I feel this card is just saying to take part of whatever bring you the joy of the season, whether it’s baking cookies, vegging with wintery movies and popcorn on couch, or long walks in the woods. But if you look closely, this card also tells you to watch out for those Scrooges!

The Christmas Star

It can be hard to find our way in today’s world, but it might help to remember that the pretty star on top of your tree means so much more than mere decoration. Regardless of your religious affiliation, stars are our guides in the physical world, so they represent guides for in ourselves as well. Don’t forget to look up and find your bearings before getting too caught up in actions and life.  This star is also reminding us of the beauty of nature – something I can always get behind!

StoryWorld: Christmas Tales by John and Caitlin Matthews

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As I sat at home the first night of the new year, I enjoyed one of the last nights of my Yule tree. It’s a pretty little tree, and I enjoy all the different ornaments, as I’m not one for that uniform tree look. Soon, I’ll be packing away the ornaments and lights, cutting a piece of the stump to save for next year, and taking what remains to the back of the yard the birds to take shelter in.

The whole way through this process, I will be grateful for having had the tree, being able to afford it, and so on.

Gifts are received in gratitude.

Gifts are received in gratitude.

For several days after Yule and Christmas, the gifts I received from both my blood and soul family lie nestled under the tree. Though it may seem odd, I do this to take a few days to appreciate the thoughtfulness of family and friends. A few gifts couldn’t be there – there’s no way I’m putting the handmade rawhide rattle from a dear friend on the floor in a house with four dogs or the twisty cool scarf crocheted by a friend when my cat’s eyes gleam whenever she sees it – but just seeing most of these things and the loving intent behind them always makes my heart fill with gratitude.

This has been especially good for me to keep in mind this holiday season. Frankly, 2014 was heartbreaking year for me. What we first thought was my Mom suffering from dementia turned out to be an undiagnosed liver disease. She was gone about two months after we knew what we were dealing with, and life for my family is forever changed – including the holidays. It would be easy to be bitter about it, and I have had my moments. But aside from the fond memories of Mom and traditions that she instilled in me, I have found myself very grateful for the family and soul friends that helped me through this year.

I’ve also been focused on the idea of gratitude more recently due to working through Spirit Walking by Evelyn Rysdyk with a small study group. A book on shamanic practice, one of the first active things she has you do is a daily practice of gratitude, literally with a small offering of cornmeal, herbs, or something similar, along with a meditation. It’s a simple practice, but I’ve found it meaningful even though I’ve only done it for a few days. How often do we have days or even weeks go by without being thankful for what we have been given? And for those who like a hands-on element to their practice, this fits the bill better than just the words of a prayer.

A small daily offering or rose petals and lavender buds is my physical token of gratitude.

A small daily offering or rose petals and lavender buds is my physical token of gratitude.

Coming off the holidays, it’s easy to see how lack of gratitude seems to play a part in the stress and problems that people have with this time of year. Gifting has gotten out of hand for a lot of families, and there’s an idea that the holiday meal should be perfect and the decorations flawless. Along the way, the idea of enjoying time together and keeping small but meaningful traditions for the holidays has been largely lost. No wonder so many people are frustrated with it all.

With the start of a new year comes the obligatory list of things we intend to do (or not do) this. Lose weight, quit smoking, eat better, meditate more, spend more time with family, fix up your house, etc. – we all know the usual suspects.

We also know how often we all keep these resolutions. In early January, the gym parking lot will be packed. By the end of February, the traffic has lightened considerably.

Why does this happen? I’m sure there are many contributing factors, but I feel that a lack of gratitude certainly doesn’t help. Achieving a healthy lifestyle from a position of hating your body isn’t a great start. At some point, you’ll need to truly love yourself in order to see positive changes through to successful completion or into a habit. Seeing all the changes you want to make in your home without appreciating that it’s doing the basic job of sheltering and keeping you safe is losing sight of the purpose of a home. If you want to make home improvements, be grateful that you have a home to improve.

Not that there’s anything wrong with improvement, but don’t lose sight of what you already have. Plant your seeds for the future from the rich soil of gratitude; otherwise, you’re trying to grow a garden in the Wasteland.

Hope this post didn’t ramble too much – I have to admit a cold is making my head a little groggy.

Until next time, bright blessings!


PS: You can check out Evelyn Rysdyk’s blog here.

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Though the Winter Solstice is technically tomorrow, I wanted to take a minute today to wish everyone a blessed Yule, Christmas, Hanukah, or whatever winter celebration you prefer. Most cultures have special observations around the Winter Solstice, so I hope everyone finds the hope and light of the season no matter what name they call it.

I am definitely ready – the Yule tree is up with my favorite ornaments front and center, the dogs’ stockings are hung with care, lights are on the porch, and my baking cabinet is well stocked!

Another tradition for this time of year is gift giving. As such, I decided to round up a Top 9 list of dream gifts for Avalonians (surely you didn’t expect a top 10 list from a Celt?).

Here goes:

9. The entire Mists of Avalon series with a guide to reading them in story chronological order.

8. Complete set of dishtowels, potholders, dishware, and bakeware with an apple pattern. We do love our apples, don’t we?

7. Wall mural of the Tor.

6. A Chalice Well Gardens-inspired water feature for the yard. Oh, yeah!

5. Your very own Round Table.

4. Remodel of one room to be transformed into Merlin’s Crystal Cave.

3. Dinner with Nicholas Mann, Mara Freeman, or the Matthews. Oh, and dessert.

2. Full scale replica of an ancient wooden barge.

And (drum roll please) the best gift for an Avalonian is:

1. An all-expenses-paid trip to whichever place the recipient believes to be Avalon (of course)!

What’s that, you say? You want realistic gift ideas for Avalonians? Oh, well, that’s pretty easy too:

  • Jewelry or cloak pins featuring the Chalice Well cover design, chalices, swords, and even triquetras or triskeles can be popular with us.
  • Did I just mention cloak pins? Then it goes without saying that some of us like cloaks!
  • Apple-themed items including consumables. (Can you say apple wine or hard cider?)
  • Mists of Avalon book and/or movie
  • The Legend, Arthurian, or Llewellyn tarot decks – or the Wisdom of Avalon oracle deck. All are wonderful.
  • Framed photo(s) of a favorite Avalonian site (Glastonbury’s Chalice Well or Tor, the Isle of Man, and so forth).

Hmm, that’s all I can think of for now without delving into a mile-long list of books. So what’s your idea of a top-notch gift for an Avalonian?

I hope you all forgive my having a little fun today – but it is hard for me to be terribly serious at this time of year. The scent of fir tree in the living room and cookies in the kitchen just makes me giddy.

And I promise that I haven’t forgotten the posts about healing. They were started but sounded preachy. And none of us need to be preached at, right? So I’ll be rewriting them before posting – hopefully next week when I have a break from work.

Until then, I wish you all a joyous holiday season and a blessed 2012!


© 2011 PJ Graham

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