The autumn sun;
The chill when it goes
Behind a tree.

The sunlight of the shortening autumn days is so weak that in a shadow, the air is cold.  In that, we feel the weakening of the Yang active energy and the growing of the cold, inactive Yin energy of the waning year.




Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice — Wintersonnenwende — Great Yule.

Ian Capper [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Ian Capper [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

With that long-celebrated day, the sun will then begin to rise higher in its arc across the sky, the days will slowly but surely grow longer, and light and warmth will return to the world.

In the hokku Wheel of the Year, the Winter Solstice is at the very bottom — the most Yin time. But on that day a spark of Yang becomes apparent in the darkness and cold of Yin, and will begin to grow. All since Midsummer’s day, Yin has grown to dominance in the year; but now Yang will grow and grow until it becomes dominant. We will now be on the rising turn of the Wheel of the Year instead of its falling.

Here are a few lines from an old carol appropriate to Great Yule, the Winter Solstice:


All hail to the days that merit more praise
Than all the rest of the year,
And welcome the nights that double delights
As well for the poor as the peer!
Good fortune attend each merry man’s friend,
That doth but the best that he may;
Forgetting old wrongs, with carols and songs,
To drive the cold winter away.

Let Misery pack, with a whip at his back,
To the deep Tantalian flood;
In Lethe profound let envy be drown’d,
That pines at another man’s good;
Let Sorrow’s expense be banded from hence,
All payments have greater delay,
We’ll spend the long nights in cheerful delights
To drive the cold winter away.

‘Tis ill for a mind to anger inclined
To think of small injuries now;
If wrath be to seek do not lend her thy cheek
Nor let her inhabit thy brow.
Cross out of thy books malevolent looks,
Both beauty and youth’s decay,
And wholly consort with mirth and with sport
To drive the cold winter away.

This time of the year is spent in good cheer,
And neighbours together do meet
To sit by the fire, with friendly desire,
Each other in love to greet;
Old grudges forgot are put in the pot,
All sorrows aside they lay;
The old and the young doth carol this song
To drive the cold winter away.



Ash commented on GLAD YULE!

This is a wonderful carol & really lifts my spirits just as the Yang rises & grows. Where is this carol from? What are its origins?

David replied:

The text dates at least to the early 17th century.
The tune is 17th century.

You will find some free MP3 renderings of the tune here (some with words):

You will find more verses and information on its history here:

It is a very pleasant song when sung in a lively and happy fashion, and it should be much better known.


In two days — December 21st — comes Great Yule, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  It is the bottom of the Wheel of the Year, the point at which the forces of Yang are at their weakest and Yin at its strongest, through the effects of that will not be felt for about another month.


It is also the time, as our ancestors knew, when the arc of the sun across the sky is at its lowest point, closest to the earth.  They saw this as the time when, as things in the universe looked to be at their most gloomy, the sun was then reborn, and so its arc across the sky would begin rising higher and higher, the days would begin growing longer, and warmth and light would gradually return to the world.  No wonder it was seen as an important time to celebrate and “make merry.”

Later, of course, the Christian Church took advantage of this, and began celebrating what it decided to be the feast of the birth of Jesus close to the time of the Solstice.  That is not surprising, because the day of the rebirth of the “Unconquered Sun” was an important celebration in Rome at the beginning of that millennium, and Church officials “co-opted” it to take advantage of that, with their notion that Jesus was the “Sun of Righteousness,” and that he, as a god, was born at that time too.  Of course no one really knew when Jesus was born (or even for sure if the Jesus as depicted variously in the New Testament even was ever a definite historical figure), but at that time all was politics and propaganda. Even churches began to be  erected with an East-West alignment.

You have probably heard the old Gregorian chant once used as a lead-in to the Christmas season, now often sung as a carol at Christmas,  O Come O Come Emmanuel, referring to Jesus.  One verse of it (in Latin) is:

Veni, veni, O Oriens;
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

Come, come, O Rising Sun
Shine on us in your coming,
Dispel the clouds of night,
And drive away night’s shadows.

With no change at all, that verse would make a good Yule song.

Yule, then, is a time to rejoice in the knowledge that the cold and privations of winter will not last forever, because the sun and light will return, and we will no longer see the old and harsh face of Mother Nature, but shall see her once more as the beautiful young maiden of springtime.

Yule brings us light and hope and rejoicing at the time of greatest darkness in the world.

Glad Yule, everyone!



Sōseki wrote this summer hokku:

The red sun
Sinks down into the sea;
The heat!

The sun sinks into the sea every day, so what is different about this that makes it worthwhile and not just a commonplace?  It is the combination of the redness (very yang) of the sun combined with the intensity (we see it in the exclamation point) of the heat (also yang).  Both are unified by the flat horizon of the sea to give a very strong physical sensation, which is what we look for in hokku.

The heat of the day is already there as evening nears.  But it is the largeness, the redness of the setting sun that brings out its magnitude; we not only feel the heat, we see it in the redness.

The setting is “the heat.”
The subject is “the red sun.”
The action is “sinks down into the sea.”

As I have said before, we can write countless hokku on countless subjects using the combination of setting, subject, and action.