The Magick Of Yule
Yule marks the longest night of the year, it is celebrated as the Midwinter Solstice around December 21st. Ever since Samhain, we have journeyed deeper and deeper into the dark, bringing awareness to our shadows, and learning how to illuminate our own path. On Yule, we end our long journey and emerge from the darkness more knowledgeable and grateful for the light.
Yule is about hope, from out of the deepest, darkest night of the year comes a “new born” sun, full of promise for days of greater light and warmth. During Yule we are symbolically reminded that light comes out of our darkness, the chaos in our lives, the heartbreak and the pain we sometimes endure. It teaches us the lessons of the Mythical Phoenix that rises up from the ashes even in the face of death and destruction. It teaches us of new beginnings, and the continual rebirth of the sun illustrates for us that destruction is mere fantasy. Life and energy go on eternally.
☼WHAT IS YULE?☼
Yule is celebrated at the Midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. The word Yule comes from the Norse word “Jul”, which means “Wheel.” Yule marks the rebirth of the Sun and is one of the oldest winter festivals ever celebrated.
At Samhain, the Goddess followed the God into the Underworld and the Earth began its long winter slumber. As the Wheel turns to Yule, the Goddess is with child and gives birth to the tiny Oak King, God of the waxing Sun. The Old God or Holly King is defeated and returns to the Underworld to rest until Summer Solstice when he will again be reborn as Lord of the waning Sun.
The Oak King and The Holly King
The Holly King rules over the darker half of the year from Midsummer to Yule, he is God of the Waning Year, the Winter King. Holly is an evergreen that can survive the harshness of winter’s chill and represents the winter-tide. At Yule, he surrenders his life to the young light Oak King, God of the Waxing Year and his twin, who rules over the light part of the year from Yule to Midsummer. The Oak King represents new life and rebirth. Both rules for half of the year, both fight for the favour and love of the Goddess and both surrender their life force for the well-being of the land. In truth, they are one.
The Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. He is the Sun God who brings back hope and light. He is also known as the Horned God, and each day the young king grows bigger and stronger, the sun begins to wax and the days grow longer. All that is hidden will begin to emerge. Life grows stronger, another life cycle has begun.
Yule marks the first day of winter, the sun reaches its most southerly declination - which means that the earth's north pole is tilted furthest 23.5 degrees away from the sun. In the exact moment of the Winter Solstice, the sun is directly overhead the tropic of Capricorn. The sun’s maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest and this is the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
Forces of dark and chaos reach their height of power but it is also a moment of victory of forces of light and cosmos because every day from this day forward becomes a little bit longer and lighter.
History of Yule
Since the early Neolithic times, The Winter Solstice was considered one of the most important dates of the year. This has been confirmed by numerous archaeological sites from which ancient civilisations observed the sky. In sacred sites all around the world there are megaliths placed in circles. One of the most known sites is “The Goseck Circle” in eastern Germany, which is the oldest known Solar Observatory constructed by Europe's first civilisation, long before the cultures of Mesopotamia and the pyramids of Egypt. The site was used to mark the exact points of sunrise and sunset at the Winter Solstice. There are many sites around the world that have been proven to have been used to worship the sun, and indicate the importance of the solar cult. Another famous site is Stonehenge in Southern England and Newgrange in eastern Ireland, both around 5,000 years old.
Traditions of Yule and its symbols
Yule, or Winter Solstice traditions are many and generous, and are shared not only with Christianity with the birthday of the Christ Child, but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions and indeed more recent ones. Yule is the original Christmas and many of your favourite traditions we celebrate today are derived from this Pagan holiday. It is difficult sometimes to identify their exact origins, but they are all very familiar in our Western culture even if we don't recognise the symbology behind them.
Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. The ancient ones saw beauty and power in the evergreens ability to last all throughout winter, when much of the world withered and waned around them. Each has a symbolism of its own.
Mistletoe is a great healer and protector and was reputedly a highly respected magickal herb for Druids, who collected it only at their high holy days of Midsummer and Midwinter. The druid priests would use a golden sickle to harvest mistletoe from oak trees, which they regarded as teachers and sacred beings. The ancients devised elaborate ways to carefully cut the mistletoe to ensure it never touched their hands or the earth and placed it in a white cloth. It's magical properties are believed to be connected to the fact that it lives between the worlds, between sky/heaven and earth.
In Norse mythology, chief God Odin and his wife Frigg, the goddess of love, had a son named Baldur. When Baldur started having dreams of his death, Frigg was heartbroken and made a pact with the elements that nothing in their realm could harm him. A jealous God named Loki constructed an arrow out of the Mistletoe plant and shot Baldur with it through the heart killing him. Legend says that Heart broken Frigg weeps for her son and her tears and kisses brought him back to life, making the plant a heroic symbol of love and this is why today we kiss under the mistletoe to bring love and happiness for the year ahead.
Another evergreen of protection, holly's spiky bristles are believed to repel unwanted spirits. Newborn babies used to be sprinkled with 'holly water', water in which holly had been soaked, especially potent if left under a full moon overnight. Holly is sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld Goddess, and symbolises everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the re-birth of the Sun/Son.
Evergreen symbol of immortality and resurrection, growing in a spiral reminding us of reincarnation and rebirth. Sacred to Osiris, where His death and resurrection was a central theme in Egyptian religion. Sacred also to Dionysus, god of vegetation, blossoming and the Return of Spring.
Tree of regeneration and rebirth as no other - it sends up new trees from its roots and grows to a very great age. It is deeply connected with the spirit realms and the ancestors. Often used as the central 'world tree' in ritual spaces and was often planted in graveyards. Very poisonous.
Its branches bring healing and joy to the home, burning it will purify.
The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift from local villagers, it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal evergreen, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smoulder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.
It was traditional to make wreaths from evergreen - the Wheel of Life as evergreen. These were hung on doors or laid horizontally and decorated with candles - later becoming the Christian Advent Wreath
The Yule Tree
Introduced into modern times apparently by the German Prince Albert in Victorian times and we love it. In ancient Rome, pine trees were an essential part of Goddess groves. On the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes in pots. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. It was the festival of Saturnalia. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months - food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.
This is the festival of light out of darkness and the tradition of lighting candles is ever popular. Red, green and the gold of the Returning Sun are the colours of Yule. Deck your home and altar with evergreens and candles.
Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winter's Solstice can be found throughout history long before modern Christianity and Christmas were born. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the winter solstice, boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists believed their Sun God is reborn on the 25th of December. On Yule itself ancient Scandinavians lit bonfires to honour Odin and Thor. This festival always having been closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods, it should come as no surprise that the Christians, also used this time of year for the birth of Christ.
This is THE Birthday of the Sun/Son! Since ancient times the giving and exchanging of gifts has been a vibrant tradition of this festival. On Yule, gift giving should be thoughtful, giving a gift that will spark emotion or create a memory is the real reason we should give gifts.
If you haven't seen this particular person you're gifting for a long time, instead of buying them something for the sake of them opening something, why not try a thoughtful gift such as a dinner for the two of you in a lovely restaurant, or a cinema ticket, something you can share together, have a proper catch up and create an ever-lasting memory.
Altar Decor: Antlers, evergreen, Holly, mistletoe, pinecones, yule tree branches, yule log, dried fruits and herbs, clove studded oranges, Sun ornaments, gold, white and red candles
Symbolism of Yule:
Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, New Beginnings, Planning for the Future.
At Yuletide, the Goddess is in her dark aspect, we celebrate her as the Wise old Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess 'She Who Cuts The Thread' or 'Our Lady in Darkness', calling back the Sun God. Yet, at the same time, she is in the process of giving birth to the Sun God who will re-fertilise her and the earth, bringing back light and warmth to the world. Here just a few of the different ways you can bring the magick of Yule into your life and celebrate this sabbat:
- Decorate your home with sacred plants connected with Winter Solstice: evergreen wreaths & boughs, mistletoe, holly, and ivy.
- Forage for a tree trunk or fallen tree branch in your local park. Set it aflame in your fireplace, a hearth, in a bonfire, or by burning candles on, in, or near it. If you use candles in lieu of burning the log - decorate it with symbols and colours of the season.
- Decorate your home home with fairy lights to represent the Sun. Use electric lights or candles.
- During the solstice after the sun has fallen, turn off all lights, experience the longest night of the year and reflect. Later turn the lights back on to symbolise the birth of the New Solar Year.
- Learn about Yule's holidays foods, symbols, customs, and lore - incorporate what you learned into your celebration.
- Meditate on the setting of the Sun and the rise of the moon.
- Create a Yule altar and invite the spirits of Yule into your sacred space for blessings during this season.
- Sit in silent meditation and reflect on the year gone by, think about all your blessings, everything you are grateful for this year no matter how big or small.
- Join with others in celebrating Pagan Yuletide. This is a communal holiday. Attend a ritual, host a party, listen to holiday music and go see Christmas lights. Celebrate the return of the sun together!
- Donate to a charity of your choice.
- Bake holiday treats to leave outdoors for offerings to the spirits and Gods. Eat those treats together with friends and family or donate them to holiday meals at homeless shelters.
Animals: Bear, Boar, Squirrel, Stag, Sow, Tiger
Birds: Eagle, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Owl, Robin, Snow Goose, Wren
Colours: Gold, Green, Red, Silver, White
Goddesses: Aphrodite, Fortuna, Gaia, Hel, Holle, Ishtar, Isis
Gods: Apollo, Attis, Balder, Dionysus, the Green Man, Lugh, Odin, Ra
Herbs: Blessed Thistle, Chamomile, Ivy, Mistletoe, Rosemary, Sage
Incense: Cedar, Frankincense, Juniper, Myrrh, Pine
Metals: Gold, Silver
Stones: Bloodstone, Clear Quartz, Diamond, Emerald, Garnet, Ruby
Trees: Apple, Birch, Cedar, Chestnut, Fir, Holly, Juniper, Oak, Pine, Yew
Zodiac: Capricorn, Sagittarius
Spell workings of Yule: Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.
The Spirit of Yule
Hope is the basic mystery of Yule, if you can imagine long ago at the dawn of civilisation, an ancient human was worried about the sun's decline under the horizon which threatened the sun’s disappearance leaving eternal cold darkness.
After Yule, people had reason to celebrate because the Sun had begun to rise again, the light was born again. It did conquer death, but it's still far from strength because many cold and dark days will have to pass until the coming of new spring.
Yet hope is restored. This teaches us that even the most difficult life situations are never lost. Yule is a reminder of the rebirth that always comes after death.
While all of nature is sleeping, and the rest of life seems dead or dormant, the evergreen trees such as Holly, Mistletoe and pine, we are reminded that there is no death, life is eternal.
The rise of life over death, calls us for a spiritual awakening, brings us closer to our creator and bonds us with Mother Nature.
Above all, Yuletide is a Celebration of the Return of the Light, the promise fulfilled of Light birthing out of Darkness.
It is a time to share Love and Celebrate with our community of Friends and Family.
And the Wheel Turns...
Blessed Be! xxx