Friday, May 8, 2009

Yule Meditation

Imagine that the room exists in this “other time and other place”, perhaps as a part of a stone-and-log house tucked far off in the forest…

At the south of this rustic room you see a heavy, old-looking door set into the wall. It is of heavy wood and hung with a wreath of holly. You go over to the door and push on it: the door opens easily and beyond you see snow, trees, and white-covered hills in the distance under a late-afternoon Sun. Although you know the light wind and the snow about your feet must be cold as you step through the door, you still feel warm and comfortable as though the talisman that you wear gives you the warmth your body, your hands, and your feet need from within. You are dressed as you deem appropriate for this trek through a world of snow and magick. You pull the door shut behind you, noting that it is set into a small stone hut with a straw-thatched roof.

The trees are lightly powdered with snow, and there is the sound of distant wind in the trees. A path leads off to the east, away from the declining Sun, and this you take. The snow crunching under your feet is usually ankle-deep, though sometimes drifting more, sometimes blown away to bare ground beneath. There is a chill and a bite in the air, though the cold does not bother you.

The path leads on down into the snowy forest. Overhead low, heavy clouds are moving in, with the promise of more snow likely. There is the sound of wind in the treetops and somewhere a raven calls in the distance. A few flurries of snow swirl about you as you continue on the trail that slants down farther into the evergreen forest. There are tracks in the snow before you, and you can see that others have been here quite recently.

There is a scent of wood smoke in the sharp, cold air, and ahead you can hear the sound of bells somewhere ahead, and distant voices. The trees open out into a clearing ahead, and you can see a small, ornate village; the picturesque type you would expect to see in the mountains and the snowy forest. They are half-timbered, with slanting roofs of thatch and shingle. Smoke rises from the chimneys, and there are candles in the small windows, behind the thick, tinted glass. Your path becomes the one short street in this little village as you continue along. There are people here, dressed in rough, archaic styles; laughing, drinking and singing, with children yelling and running through the snow and hurling snowballs from time to time. Although this is a village of peasants and foresters, it is a joyous one, particularly at this season. Wreaths of holly and ivy are hung on all the doors and the good smells of cooking waft from within.

A group of men in rough, fur-trimmed coats walk and stagger past with steaming tankards in their hands, attempting to sing in harmony some song that is festive and almost familiar. Although there are many people about, none seem to notice you as you walk down the packed snow of the street.

Ahead is a cluster of people of all ages, laughing and shouting together, for something seems to particularly spark their merriment. As you approach the children, women and men happen to move apart somewhat and you see that there is an old, bent woman there, leading a goat about whose neck is a garland of straw and ivy. The old woman is laughing with the rest and is obviously the center of attention. She waves her tankard at some of the men and shouts a suggestion that reduces them to laughter. From a large, old bag, once ornately embroidered but now dirty and tattered, she pulls out a small carved toy and gives it to a child, and another to a young girl who takes it and hugs her. She tugs on the rope about the goat’s neck and pulls him along towards you. Then the old woman looks up and sees you. She grins a near-toothless grin, pulls her shawl closer about her head and beckons for you to come nearer. She swats at her goat, who has begun to butt against her.

She is cheerful, lively and quite ugly, with warts and even a bit of a beard on her angular chin. Her voice is like a crow, but she is obviously much liked here and definitely the life of the festivities with her raucous and bawdy good humour. She comments that you are very obviously a stranger here and that it would surprise the locals if they could see you, as odd as you look. But she welcomes you, then turns toward the forested hills which rise on the other side of the small village; she points with one gnarled, bent finger. The old woman tells you to go on out beyond the town, to the old stone circle on the other side of the hills and wait there. She says goodbye, then cackles with laughter as she turns toward a pair of boys who are pulling on her tattered cloak, threatening to swat them with her broom and turn them into toads. They laugh and run and she talks to her goat, who also has been nibbling on her raggedy clothes. Then she hobbles over to a group of women to begin an animated, loud conversation. You continue on down the street. The people about you seem not to notice you as they celebrate this season, singing and calling greetings to one another.

The tavern, stables and the houses are warm, cozy and ornate, with carved, half-timbered structures and small windows of leaded glass. As we proceed down the street part the last sod-roofed sheds and to the small fields, it once more becomes a path, with snow that crunches beneath your feet.

At the edge of the field the path passes beneath a high portal like an inverted “V”, made of two carven logs. You cannot make out any meaning to the angular letters of the strange alphabet carved on the portal, though where the two logs cross near the top the high ends look like stylized hawks or eagles. The last light of the setting Sun breaks through momentarily so that the high gate seems to shine like red gold as you pass through it.

The trail passes through the snow-covered underbrush and then into the blue-gray shadows of the forest, with snow flurries whirling down from the dimming sky overhead through the snow-covered evergreen boughs to either side. The air is sharp and cold, with the slight scent of evergreens and the delicate touch of occasional snowflakes on your face.

There is the sound of a bird in the distance, a sort of croaking “caw, caw” that must be from a raven, faint at first, then louder as it approaches. You look up through the snow-flecked dimness to see the dark shadow overhead. The bird obviously sees you and swirls down in your direction in a beating of ebony wings that shakes the snow from the trees all about you so that it falls like a miniature blizzard. The big bird lands on the broken trunk of a dead tree next to you, and the wind stirred by her wings is surprisingly strong. The swirling of the snow fades away and the large black raven is perched on a dead branch near to you, about eye level. The bird cocks its head to the side and looks at you with a quizzical, mischievous expression uncannily like the old crone you had met back in the town. You pause for a couple of minutes, looking at the raven as she looks at you. You listen, and perhaps you hear with your mind what the Old One has to say.


The raven decides that it is time to depart. With a loud, raucous “caw” she spreads her great back wings and beats them powerfully. The snow swirls suddenly about you so that you cannot see the bird, though you can feel the strong wind of her wings, lessening along with the diminishing sound of their beating as she flies away. The snow flakes, soft and cold on your face, settle about you and the raven is gone, though you can hear her call fading over the dark trees, far away. You continue walking along the snow-covered road.

The trees overhead are higher and thicker, and the evergreen forest darker and more dense on either side. You can hear the sound of some animal off to the side (perhaps a deer) startled by your passing, as it crashes through the undergrowth and snow falls from the bushes to the ground. There is the sound of wind in the treetops far off, then closer. Here and there sheets of snow fall from the boughs of the trees as the wind stirs them, and you are wrapped in the swirling snow for awhile as you continue. You can see little except for the path as you continue.

The wind fades somewhat, and the swirl of snow from the upper branches lessens. In the deepening dimness you can see that the trail has begun to incline upward and the trees are lower and thinning. You continue farther and the darkening sky can be seen more and more. The Full Moon has risen, and floods the sky and the treetops with bright silver light, though the shadows are still deep. The trees thin enough so that you can see you are at the edge of a great, open meadow - perhaps a plain - that stretches far to the north and the east.

A hill rises ahead and to the left of you and, in the still moonlight, you can see a high circle of standing stones atop the hill. You walk toward it through the slightly deeper snow, looking at the symmetry of the standing circle of monoliths and at the sparkling stars beyond, glistening in the bitter night air. All is still, and far overhead you can hear the calling of a flock of birds as they wing south. Their call fades into the distance as you reach the stone circle, to reach out and touch the icy rock of the first monolith. You walk to the center of the great circle and pause to look around. From where you came you can see the dark forest, and farther to the east seems to be mountains and perhaps more forest. Off to the northeast seems to be some clouds and perhaps a misting of snow.

Somewhere, far off in the distance, you can hear the faint howling of wolves and, somewhat closer, what might sound like the baying of hounds: hunting dogs of some sort. The wind begins again, soft at first from the north across the vast, empty plain. It is bitter cold, though the icy breeze does not bother you as it blows harder, whirling the snow before it so that you feel the cutting sharpness of the blowing snow. The wind is harder yet, with snow whirling about the black stone monoliths, the bright moonlight making it all look like whirls of silvery whiteness with icy spangles dancing between and about the great rocks.

Off to the northeast, from out of the blowing, bitingly cold snow you hear the hounds again, closer now. You hear other sounds from other creatures: yapping, howling, caterwauling screams, and, as they draw closer, even some gibbering which do not sound like they come from any animals of which you know. Always, there is the deep baying of the hounds in the distance, drawing closer. You ease back across the stone henge through the driving, sparkling snow to one of the great stone monoliths, and stand against it in the shadows to watch what is approaching this place.

From the northeast to the southwest you can see something dark and shadowy run swiftly and silently across the center of the stone circle. Then others rush past behind it, both large and small. Some call raucously, others howl and shriek in strange voices. They are hard to make out through the driving snow. Most look like some kind of animals, though many are hulking, misshapen creatures with eyes that glow scarlet in the snowy dimness, and white, long teeth that glisten in the moonlight. The ground rumbles with their passing and the snow swirls all the more densely in and around the circle of dark stones. More of the chaotic, bestial things come, stamping with the baying of the hunting hounds ever closer behind them. They scream, bellow and even laugh wildly, though there seems to be no intelligence, no mind, no sanity to any of them. You feel the almost physical waves of raw elemental power, chaotic and uncontrolled, that seems to be all about these strange, fearsome things, passing through the dimness of the whirling snow like a wild waterfall of greys and blacks.

The belling of the hounds is close now, and the horde of fleeing, shadowy creatures begins to thin, for most of the herd seems to have gone past, heading off to the southwest into the driving snow. A few last ones come lolloping through, some seeming almost human, some very bestial, others large, huge, and hulking, their jaws slavering and their harsh breath clearly audible through the icy wind. Then for a few moments the stone circle is empty again.

A group of large animals pause at the edge of the circle, and you can sense that they are looking about, sniffing the air, listening for a moment. Then the deep, bellowing bark of the hounds fills the air and they run through the stone circle, eyes glowing yellow in the darkness. One of them passes nearby, sees you and pauses for a moment. It is a very large, powerfully built animal with a massive, thick neck and sharp teeth; its body is dark, but the head is definitely red in colour, seeming almost to glow in the dimness. The great hound sniffs the air in your direction, regards you closely with its glowing, yellow eyes and runs off to follow the others of its pack, giving a deep, barking voice as it chases after the chaotic horde.

Again all is still and silent in the stone circle, except for the blowing snow and the silver of the moonlight. Then a glistening figure in silver armour, mounted on a large, white horse, appears between two of the great standing stones nearby. You see the rider’s helmeted head, with the broad spread of glistening silver antlers, turn toward you; he snaps the reins and the big horse walks over to halt in front of you in a jingling harness and with breath steaming in the bitter cold wind. The rider looks down at you.

His full armour glistens brightly in the full moonlight, ornate and finely fashioned armour of a very old style, looking familiar as though you can almost remember having seen it somewhere, long ago. The polished helmet has the visor closed, so that you cannot see his face. The helmet is set with antlers seemingly fashioned of pure, sparkling silver and wreathed in holly and ivy. There is a definite sparkling glow in the air about his head and his antlers. A long sword in an engraved, jewelled sheath hangs by his side, as does a large, ornate hunting horn. He lifts his silver-gauntleted hand and raises his visor with an almost musical chime.

In the full moonlight the face of the horned rider is extremely handsome, almost supernaturally so, as befits the rest of his appearance. From what you can see of his hair it is almost like sun gold, (or of silver, for you cannot really tell in the moonlight). He smiles at you and wishes you a joyous Yule, then adds that not many come here any more, and it is good to see those of the Old Ways once again. He laughs in a voice which is rich and musical and tells us to come again at a time when he is not so busy. He points off to the east and says that if you head off in that direction you will find another who will be happy to see you, just over the next hill and through the veil of snow. He tells you to just remember that space as well as time may vary in these lands, for you are beyond the far boundaries of the world of men.

His great white stallion snorts and stamps the ground restlessly. He reaches forward to pat the neck and scratch the mane of his mount. “Now I must be going. These lands have to scoured clean by the rising of the Sun.” He calls farewell, snaps down the glittering visor of his helmet and slaps the reins, nudging the horse with his boot heels. As the great stallion leaps away he waves to you, the glistening silver of his armour and his antlered helmet almost seems to throw off sparkles in the bright moonlight. While the armoured rider disappears between the tall standing stones, he is reaching for the horn that swings by his side. Then he is gone, though you hear the rich, pure tone of his horn, echoing and re-echoing across the snowy plains, and in the far distance the calling of the hounds answers back. Then all is silent and still once more, except for the blowing snow.

You pause for a few moments, listening for faint sounds disappearing in the far distance, then walk in the direction which he pointed. The snow thins as you walk away down the hill from the stone circle, and you see that there is a faint path in the snow; perhaps some sort of a trail which is on the frozen ground beneath. The touch of occasional snowflakes is soft against your face as you continue, the wind fading and the stars coming out more clearly overhead. It is still and silent by the time that you reach the bottom of the hill and start up the next. Looking up at the sky to the north you notice what seems like pale curtains of light, shifting and shimmering, glowing in rays and sheets of yellow, blue, red, orange, green and violet.

Patterns that are vague, yet bright, seem almost to crackle in the moonlit night sky, ever-changing, far off in the star-spangled night. As you reach the top of the next hill you see that the rippling and changing lights stretch from the horizon to far overhead, spreading to cover the entire northern half and more of the sky constantly moving, changing sheets, flowing beams, and sparkling, iridescent curtains of colour crackling above.

The snow crunches beneath your feet and all is bitter cold, though you do not feel the chill. As you start down the hill you see that at the bottom is the edge of a large, hard-frozen lake that extends out to the far northern horizon. The ice is smooth in most places that you can see, and powdered with snow. Far out the ice has broken, by the winds, most likely, and tumbled up into what look like mountains of angular white here and there. These high, tumbled mounds catch the moonlight oddly. Some of them seem to glow from within pale elf-fires, cold and desolate. You are near the edge of the lake now, and begin to walk alongside it. Examining the lake carefully, you see that between the great ice-mounds the lake surface still has broad and far areas which are smooth and unbroken, glistening in the moonlight with the pale colour of the borealis.

You walk farther along the edge of the frozen lake, with the snow crunching beneath your feet. Perhaps it is only a trick of your eyes, but the northern lights seem to grow richer and more vivid in their rippling and flowing colours; although all is silent, it seems as though you should hear a buzzing and a crackling from the brightening colours in the sky.

Looking more carefully out toward the north across the wide expanse of the glittering lake, it seems as though you can make out a sparkling in the north, like stars glimmering just at the horizon. You pause and gaze closely at the sparkling and the glittering, and by degrees we can now make out, far off across the ice, a great, lofty structure which looks to be of crystal, as though fashioned from the ice, the stars and the glowing and shifting lights in the sky.

As your eyes adjust you see it more clearly now, a far distant castle out on the wide lake, or beyond it. Its towers are impossibly high and slender, of pale, icy blue and violet. It is a slender, high sculpture of delicate, crystalline beauty, glistening in the moonlight and the rippling rainbow colours of the northern lights. The great castle is far too delicate, too high and insubstantial a structure to be fashioned by human hands.

There seems a mist of snow out on the lake surface near the castle, and a movement. From out of the mist comes a faint blue-violet glow, brightening as you watch, for out of the glow something is approaching swiftly across the lake. It comes rapidly, and now you can make out that it is a sled of some sort, drawn by animals. You can now see three of them. It draws nearer, and the sound of sleigh bells becomes clearer, jingling and tinkling across the ice. It is a sled, pulled by three large reindeer hitched side by side under a carved and painted wooden arch, harnessed with many bells which sound constantly in the icy air. You see that the sledge is painted and carved intricately, glistening in the moonlight and the aurora.

There is a nimbus of frosty light about the driver and sole occupant of this now slowing sled, about the sledge itself, and about the three antlers beasts which draw it, their breaths glowing in the cold air like blue fire. The driver of the sled is a woman, you now see, with long, blue-white hair, touched with shadows of gold, blowing over her full fur collar as she rides. She wears a long coat of glistening iridescent furs and intricately embroidered gloves. The jewels that she wears catch the fire of the aurora borealis, and of the moonlight, glittering like ice at her neck and scattered through her hair. Her features are perfect and finely chiselled, like a sculpture in pale ice; definitely, this being seems to be “not of this Earth.”

She comes closer,, slowing, and you can hear the thin sound of the sled’s metal runners on the ice. The woman pulls back on the reins as she comes neat to the edge of the lake alongside you, and her horned beasts slow and stop. They are restless but they wait, their breath misting blue in the moonlight and their eyes the colour of the sky-fires above. You walk toward her as she regards you closely, looking at your hammer pendant and magickal jewellery. Then in a clear voice like the sound of crystal she tells you that you are welcome in her realms, as are the worthy ones who truly seek the ancient ways.

She looks deeply into your eyes, for you are close now, and her eyes seem to like deep pools of luminous blue flame, drawing in a portion of your consciousness. No words are needed as you begin to know of her, for she speaks directly to your mind. She knows of the distant stars, and of the vast distances between them.

Though she is inhumanly beautiful, like the far-flung aurora of the northern skies, you have the feeling that nonetheless she is ancient beyond the ages. All unchanging, she has seen the ebb and flow of vast aeons of time. She has known the times when the titanic mountains of ice stretched to the skies, and marched slowly far to the south. She has known the distant times before that even, when these icy lands were warm, and other strange races walked the emerald-green Earth. Then she speaks more to you in the silence. And in the silence, you listen.


Then she smiles at you, a cold smile, and points with one elegantly gloved hand to where your path now sparkles in the snow before you, as though frost had marked the way for you to go. She waves farewell and, in a voice like the winter wind, gives you her blessing as she slaps the reins and her great deer begin moving, the sled turning and moving rapidly away across the ice toward the crystalline castle in the distance. You watch her as she disappears rapidly toward the high structure.

Then you notice that the rippling and flowing colours spread across the dark sky have shaped into what seems to be a vortex, a column of intense light and power rising from the faceted, glowing castle up high toward a bright star directly overhead. A column of light and colour rising from the very core of the Earth perhaps and flowing on out beyond the very stars. Then the icy wind rises, and swirling snow obscures your view again, so that all you can see is the Moon and some of the colour flowing in the sky.

You begin walking toward your path marked with the glistening frost. Ahead, just above the horizon, is a single very bright star, and the path points directly toward it as you walk on through the swirling snow blown by the bitter cold wind. You walk up the first hill and down the other side, away from the lake, guided by the glittering trail of frost and the star before you. You go on, and it is as though you are in a trance with what you have seen, knowing only the wind and the blowing snow. If you should happen to stray from the path, the lines of frost will unerringly draw you back again on the path which now inclines more toward the south as the wheel of the sky turns slowly with the Moon. You become conscious that there are low trees now. How much time has passed you are not certain, but you are among hills and low mountains again, and evergreen forests have begun to rise on either side.

You hear the sounds of bells, chiming clear in the cold air and the distant sound of sleigh bells, soft and musical in the distance. You rouse yourself as you walk and look about to see that the tall pines about you are laced with delicate, misting snow and glittering icicles. The wind has faded and the air is still again. Sparkles of light glisten here and there in the snow and ice ribbons in the trees, reflecting and refracting every colour of the rainbow. The bells are clearer, and the glistening in the trees are more bright; you realize that they are more than simple refractions of the Moon and the northern lights.

You smell wood smoke ahead, and your path breaks out into a good-sized clearing before you. A large, half-timbered manor house stands there, its leaded-glass windows sparkling with candles and many-coloured sparkles of jewelled lights glistening even along the flowing curves of the old-style, heavy-shingled roof. The yard before it is bustling with activity as a noisy crowd of short, stocky, gnomish men and women hurry about, preparing for what seems to be some sort of celebration, carrying flickering lamps and gaily wrapped packages, talking and laughing. You can hear cheerful singing in the distance. They do not notice you as you walk toward the big house. There are sleds, and antlered beasts of burden hitched to them.

A figure appears at the door before you, sees you and waves for you to come over to him. He is a big, cheerful man, large and heavy, dressed in brightly-coloured, fur-trimmed leathers. His hair and beard are full and white, and when he laughs the windows seem to rattle, so deep and rich is his voice.

He claps you on the shoulders and welcomes you to his place, stepping outside to be with you. He waves toward his many servants, smiling, and says that the place may be rustic, but it’s cheerful, warm and quite a change from his more northern abodes. The big man looks around with a smile. “I was a god before there were gods,” he says, “Yet still of them all, I am remembered a little.” He pauses for a moment and looks off into the light-sparkling distance, wrapped in his own thoughts. He looks back at you with a deep chuckle and reaches for you in his big hand. “Here,” he says, “I have something for you.” You hold out your hands and he puts something into them that tingles and glows bright, warm, and with every colour of the rainbow, its light shining even on the glistening trees about you. You look at it and gaze at the bright, sparkling rainbow light that gives such a feeling of well-being and strength as it rests almost weightlessly in your hands.

He smiles at you through his thick white beard and looks deep within your eyes with his own bright eyes. “Remember,” he says. “From the stars you came, and to the stars you shall return. Know full well of your immortality. Keep your sense of winder, and work your life so that you strive for perfection.” He waves his big hand over yours, and the light settles into you, pervading you with a feeling of well-being, strength, and wonder as though you could see and know all things. Then it is gone, though you know that his gift is now within you.

He says, “Come, I want to show you something.” He turns toward the deep, snowy forest where there are lights and sparkles in the tree, and leads you on the path that goes deep within where elf-lights of every colour and hue sparkle and glow in and over the trees, within the bushes, and on the snowy ground all around you. The path glistens and glows, sparkling in reds, blues, greens, and yellows. There is thick snow on the ground and in the trees the place seems warm and filled with power, growing stronger as you walk onward. The air is filled with sounds of distant bells and music, gentle and sift, like carols you remember hearing years ago.

There is a clearing ahead, and the Ancient King who leads you stops and points at the vast tree, bigger than any redwood, whose base and gnarled roots are before you. Lights and mists are everywhere, as are the sounds of bells, tiny and faint, large and distant. There are scents in the air like incense. The big man points, and you see that the roots of the gigantic tree (lights glisten as high up into it as you can see) enclose a rustic house, stables and sheds as though they had grown from the tree itself. On closer examination, you see that they are indeed part of the gigantic tree.

The glow is bright as the cheerful, big man leads you on into the house within the tree. There are others here, though they are hard to see: people with features so fine and delicate that they could not possibly be human; beings stocky, massive and elementally powerful; animals, and creatures of pure, coloured light. The place radiates strength and power from every wall and nook. The others are going where you are going. Music seems to be everywhere.

You have passed on into the structure so that by now you seem to be at the very core of the vast tree, where the branches might go forever above us and the roots forever below. With all the others, seen and unseen, you enter the inner chamber, where the throne is at the heart of it all, rough like that which has grown out of the Earth, with the small bed nearby.

The light is bright, and the air is perfumed. The Mother is there, she who is at the center of all, holding the new Child in her arms. It seems hard to keep your eyes on the Lady, on the Child, for the light is brilliant, and it seems that vast power rises through the very walls and especially the floors of this rustic place to pervade all. It is as though everything is linked with flowing light that passes into and through you.

You bow and give greeting to the Great Mother. She smiles, and it is as if a forest suddenly burst into blossom. She looks down at her Child, proud of the new life which has come forth to spread everywhere.

Your bearded friend eases back, and you leave with him. You walk back through this place of elemental power and of life, and when you get outside he shakes your hand and clasps you about your shoulders. “It is time for you to go,” he says, “but be sure to come back again, to this, the Source.” He points the way for you on the path that glistens off indefinitely into the shimmering and sparkling dimness of the forest. You bid him farewell and walk away, down the path. It goes on, with the lights of all colours fading somewhat, the singing and then the bells fading into the sift and peaceful, glistening night of the enchanted forest.

You walk on, for how far you are not really certain, and then, abruptly, the path ends at the heavy wooden door set into a small stone hut under a small, thatched roof of straw. There is a wreath of holly on the door, and you realize that this is the place from which you started. You push open the door, and see within the room from where you started your journey. Perhaps hours have passes, or perhaps only minutes. You step into the room and push the door shut, then go over to where you can relax for a much-needed rest.

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