The Twelve Holy Nights

As we are reminded in Ecclesiastes (3), there is indeed a time for everything. Luckily, we are about to enter a time, which is oft considered to be a time out of time, a moment for personal reflection, taking stock, and regrouping for the future.

The 12 nights between the winter solstice (21st December) and 3rd January are recognised as special in various traditions: Twelvetide (English), Raunacht (German), jul (Nordic), and jól (Iceland). Custom and folklore consider this to be a period during which ‘time’ stands still and there are many traditions and rituals practiced during it.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to hear a talk given by Melanie Reinhart (hosted by the Faculty of Astrological Studies) entitled The Twelve Holy Nights, during which she suggested an astrological approach to this special time using the amazing artwork of the Dutch artists, Johfra Bosshart –

The idea is to spend time each day with one of the  12 zodiacal images in any way which feels comfortable. For example, you may simply jot down a few words that come to mind whilst looking at the picture and then considering how those words fit together to inform your experiences (both happy and otherwise) during the year just passing as well as what you’re hoping to achieve in the next year coming. 

You might also journal about dreams or other events occurring on each particular day. Likewise you might choose to draw or paint or write a poem or even make music. Any mode of expression that appeals to your special interests is worth trying although it may be helpful to take a simple, uniform approach to each of the 12 days. In essence, you are undertaking a ritual and like setting the table each night for dinner, all ritual is enhanced if we arrange our space in advance making orderly plans on how to next proceed.  

Melanie reminds us that although these are 12 days/nights/zodiac signs involved, we would do well to bookend this period both with a preliminary day/evening of preparation as well as a final day of pulling it all together. 

Although traditionally, many start with the evening of the solstice, I’m following Melanie’s suggestion and setting aside some time on  Christmas Eve (24th December) to prepare. Perhaps I’ll set up a small altar, light a candle, set out a vase of flowers and make ready my pen and paper. On Christmas Day (25th December), I plan to begin, as taught during Wiccan ritual, by grounding myself in my body, calling on the four quarters, and then drawing a magic protective circle. Then I’ll commence with the work at hand (having set my intention for said work on Christmas Eve) and when finished, close the session by giving thanks for this opportunity to do this special work at this special time, before bidding adieu to each of the four quarters and opening my circle.

During the 12-day period it is a good idea to take careful note to things that don’t go to plan – raised tempers, accidents, or other disturbing incidents. Rather than focusing on such things, it is important to ritually release them else that negative energy may well follow you into the new year. 

Finally, this year is especially wonderful to undertake such tradition/ritual during the 12 Twelve Holy Nights. For many, 2021 has been especially turbulent, not the least because of the series of Saturn/Uranus squares that have marked it. But on 24th December, the last of those squares perfects, marking the moment when the worst of that energy will have finished. Then on 29th December, Jupiter moves into Pisces where he brings real hope for a brighter future and on the 2nd of January, a New Moon in Capricorn. It’s difficult to imagine a more auspicious time to release the old and set oneself in good stead for the new. 

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