The winter solstice on St Thomas’ Eve (December 21st) is the longest night of the year. It was called Spinning Night as women could earn extra Christmas money through the long night hours. Dedicated to the Norns, Wyrd Sisters or Goddesses - called Urd (“What Once Was”), Verdandi (“What Is Coming into Being”) and Skuld (“What Shall Be”) - it was a time to weave the web of destiny.
‘The dark night of our souls’ marks the shortest day when the hours of daylight are at their least. The Anglo-Saxon word for this festival is ‘Iul’ meaning ‘wheel’. One cycle of the wheel ends and a new one begins. The Crone or wise woman is reborn again as a maiden at the Winter Solstice. ‘She Who Cuts The Thread’ or ‘Our Lady in Darkness’ calls back the Sun God. At the same time, this dark aspect of the Goddess, is in the process of giving birth.
It is a ‘time between time’ when young people traditionally reversed their sleeping position and placed their feet on the pillows. Between Yule and Twelfth Night people danced, sang and dressed up. This included the bawdy tunes of men dressed as women, called the ‘shield maidens’ and people dressed as demons to scare winter away. A theme of fertility and ensuring a good harvest underlay the festivities.