The First Song
A tale of how Yule got its name
This is the story of the very first song; it is a true story, as all stories are, if you believe in them... This story begins a long, long time ago, when the Earth and Sun gave birth to the first beings --- the very first plants, and animals, and people. It was springtime, and the Sun shone warm and bright from his high perch above, and Earth, proud mother that she was, held and fed her newborns and relished them with tenderness and love. It was a time of joy, it was a time of great delight.
The Moon waxed and waned time and again in the night sky, and the children of the Earth grew well and strong through summertime. They played and danced, and Earth and Sun watched over them.
Then autumn came, and the Earth began to sleep much longer every day. She grew tired and pale, she could no longer feed her children, and had no strength to grow new life. High above, the Sun grew distant, and took longer to return each morn. The nights grew longer too, and cold winds blew where none had blown before.
And then, one day, Earth went to sleep and never did wake up. She wrapped herself in a blanket of snow, and rested her tired head on pillows of dried leaves, and she did not wake up. Her children could do nothing to rouse her from her slumber. They prodded her, they called to her, but she would not awaken. In the sky, the Sun was nowhere to be seen, and the children of the Earth felt fear, and also felt despair. This was the longest night that they had ever known.
"What shall become of us?", they pondered. "Earth Mother sleeps, and Father Sun is oh so far away that we can barely see him in the sky. He is much too far to hear our call. What shall we do?"
So they brought their questions and their fears to the Moon, the sister of the Sun, for they knew not where else to turn. She closed her eyes, and took a slow, deep breath, and looked within herself, and awoke thoughts that had never been awakened until then.
She opened her soft eyes, then said, "When hope is lost, the best way to get it back is with a song. Climb you the tallest trees, the biggest hills, the highest mountains, and yule a song to reach the Sun." (Now, "yule" is a word from one of the most ancient tongues. It is related to words like "yell" or "yodel", and it means to call out in a song).
But the first beings had never heard a song, so once again they sought the Moon's advice. "How shall we yule?", they asked. "How shall we sing a song?"
"Take the best of what you have", she said, "the best of what you are. Take what you love, take what you cherish most. Take your joys, your dreams, your fondest hopes, and weave them all together in a sound."
And so they did. They climbed atop the tallest trees, the mountains and the hills. They stood on all the places that would bring them closest to the Sun. They shut their eyes, and thought and felt the best of thoughts and feelings, and dreamt the finest dreams. And, as they did, their voices rang and made a bridge of song across the sky, to reach the distant Sun.
He heard, and turned, and smiled, and wrapped himself in all his light and warmth, and sped to where the yuling voices called. As he drew near, the sleeping Earth did stir, and dreamed a dream of spring. The wheel of life made its first round, and hope and joy prevailed. And ever since, that time of year has been called Yule, in honor of the song.
But the first song did not end. It had such power, such eldritch allure, that the first beings kept singing it throughout. And then the second beings born of the Earth took up the song, as did the third. And so it ever since has gone, through seasons and through years, until this very day.
At times the song is very soft, and scarcely can be heard above the din and clatter of our lives. But when Yule comes, it rises and it swells in memory of that night when the Sun heard, and light and life were spared .
And so do we, upon this longest night, gather with those we love and who love us, and stand upon the body of slumbering Earth, and light the log with last year's coal, and lift our voices soaring to the Sun, and join the song that first was sung so very long ago.
We sing our thanks to those who went before, and sing our fondest wish to those who come behind. We bask in the returning light of reawakened hope, and welcome Yule.
© 1994 Andras Corban Arthen
This story, told by Andras, is included in MotherTongue's newest recording, "This Winter's Night", available from the EarthSpirit Community.