Every year, as the days get shorter, I’m reminded that one of my favorite holidays is almost upon us. Yule, which will be celebrated on December 21st this year, is the final sabbath on the pagan Wheel of the Year and also marks the Winter Solstice. That means bring on the wassail, Yule logs, and holly!
For witches and non-witches alike, Yule can be a great time to harness creative energy as both a celebration of the year that’s past as well as a guide for what’s to come. So as we move toward the end of December, here are a few ways that I’ll be using Yule to help me in my writing.
TAKING STOCK IN THE YEAR
We’ve reached the end of 2018, which is an accomplishment all its own. But there’s more to it than just tossing out the calendar and tacking up a new one. Many spells for Yule encourage you to look at how far you’ve come over the course of the previous twelve months. That means if you’re a writer—or a creator of any kind—be proud of what you’ve done this year, and perhaps just as importantly, don’t be afraid to share it. I know too many authors who feel sheepish or guilty about talking too much about their accomplishments. Don’t fall into that trap; you deserve to spread the word on what you’ve done in 2018. Write up an Award Eligibility post. Share or re-share good news from this year, be it a story acceptance, a review, or finishing up a long-simmering project. Talk about the things you’re proud of having accomplished. There’s no shame in taking joy in what you’ve worked hard to create. In fact, it’s a bigger shame not to talk about it. So get the word out there. You’ve earned it.
REGROUPING & RECONNECTING
While December is a perfect time to look back on what was, it’s also a wonderful point to start planning ahead. For me, Yule serves as a moment to pause, be present, and focus my attention on what I want from the coming months. This time of year, I’m a big believer in lighting the altar candles—red for passion and survival, green for prosperity—and meditating on their flames as I decide what to work on next. Of course, if you’re not quite so witchy, it can be as simple as asking yourself a broad question like “What are my goals for 2019?” To be fair, that’s probably at once simple and not so simple, since our goals as artists aren’t always static ones, but Yule can be an ideal moment to make some general plans, while also realizing that those plans might very well change as 2019 unfolds.
Also, as I’m moving into the New Year, I’m doing my best to reconnect with people close to me. Obviously, more traditional holidays like Christmas force many of us together anyhow, but that isn’t always conducive to reconnecting on a meaningful level. After all, it’s been said more than once that the holidays are stressful on everyone. So to bypass some of the usual tension of the month, I’ve been trying to take some time out to talk with fellow writer friends about our plans for the next year. Even a couple brief conversations here and there can keep me invigorated and focused on the months to come, and that can be particularly crucial as we endure the darker days of December.
HARNESSING THE DARKNESS
Speaking of darkness, Yule is indeed the darkest day of the year. As a horror writer, that should make this time perfect for my creativity. However, that’s easier said than done. As so many of us already know from experience, the darker months can profoundly affect mood, which along with the aforementioned stress of the holiday season, can cause December to be a less-than-fruitful month. Still, the brighter days of spring will soon be on their way, and that alone is worth celebrating.
In the meantime, I’ll be lighting some candles, sipping some wassail, and getting to work on something—anything—before the end of the year. It might be a blog post, a new short story draft, or just a few notes on a new novel. Sometimes, I tell myself that I need to finish an insurmountable number of projects to be successful, but what I’ve learned more often than not is that simply making a little progress can go a long way to my feeling better about writing. After all, creativity isn’t a direct path. It can—and often does—take the long way around. And if nothing else, Yule reminds us that the darkness is only temporary.
Happy Yule, and here’s to a great and highly creative 2019!
YULE OIL LAMP RECIPE
To make your own Yule Oil Lamp, glue a wick to the bottom of a mason jar. Then fill the mason jar with seasonal accoutrements (e.g. pine, blue spruce, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, slices of lemon and orange). Once finished, pour vegetable oil into the jar, leaving about half an inch of the wick unsubmerged. Add a few drops of essential oils, such as orange, cinnamon, or bergamot. Light & celebrate!
*As always, be very careful with candles, especially oil-based ones, and never leave a lit candle unattended. We want everyone to stay safe this winter!*
Yule Oil Lamp directions courtesy of
Gwendolyn Kiste is the author of The Rust Maidens, Pretty Marys All in a Row, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare, Shimmer, Black Static, and Interzone, among others. A native of Ohio, she currently lives on an abandoned horse farm outside of Pittsburgh with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. Find her online at gwendolynkiste.com.