An Introduction to Yule

Yule is Celebrated on the Winter Solstice which falls on or around December 21st – 23rd.

This is the longest Night of the Year, and from here on out the Days begin to get longer again. It is the height of the Dark Time of the Year being the shortest Day.

At Yule, where the Days begin to get longer again, we Celebrate the Rebirth of the God, the Sun. Opposite on the Wheel from Litha, where the Goddess became pregnant with child, here she gives birth to him anew.

Yule is also known as the Festival of Lights.

Yule is one of the most Universally celebrated Sabbats, and in Ancient Rome was part of a longer Holiday called Saturnalia, which was the greatest Festival of the Year.

It is from Saturnalia that we receive our image of Father Time (Saturn).

In the rise of the Christian Empire, the celebration of the Birth of Jesus was moved to December 25th, to keep in line with the Birth of the Sun God – now it’s the Birth of the Son of God.

Yule was actually the First Pagan Sabbat to be Christianized.

The God

The Oak King is reborn at Yule, and so is the celebrated God here. He is also known as the Sun King and the Giver of Life.

Any newborn God or any Sun God can be celebrated at Yule, some of the common ones are Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, the Oak King, the Horned One, The Green Man, Mabon and the Divine Child.

The Goddess

The Druids celebrated Dagda, father of Brighid.

Any of the Mother Goddess or Triple Goddess may be celebrated at Yule.

In Druid custom we would have honored Brighid, the daughter of Dagda. She brought to us the art of Fire-tending and the secrets of Metalwork.

Goddess commonly celebrated are Brighid, Isis, Freyja, Bona-Dea, Demeter, Gaea, Diana and the Great Mother.


Yuletide Knowledge

Holly

Holly would often decorate the doors, windows and fireplaces of the Home.

It represents the Masculine Energy in honor of the reborn God, and its prickly thorns are said to ward off evil spirits. It green leaves symbolize the Holly King and represent Hope and the Red Berries represent his potency.

Wreaths

Made of Holly and Ivy these wreaths, often adorned with Holly, decorate the outside of the homes.

This is to invite the Nature Sprites and Spirits to come join the Festivities and bless your home through the Winter.

Gift-Giving

The original gifts given would have been baskets of Evergreen boughs and Wheat stalks, dusted in flour.

In the basket were Apples and Oranges to represent the Sun; and the Evergreen itself showed Eternal Life. The Wheat Stalks represent the Harvest’s we were relying on to get through the Winter and the Flour is the triumph of Light and Life.

Caroling

We would drink of the Ale or Cider as we sang songs and celebrated.

The merriment and Festivities would bless the Ale and Cider we later use to adorn the Yule Log, and would also invite Nature Spirits to the Sabbat to bless our home!

The Caroling be accompanied by Wassail (this comes from the word “hael” meaning to “be well”), a drink made of Ale, Honey and Mulling Spices. This would later be poured over the Yule Log to share those blessings into the Fire to bring it into the home and world as it burns!

Most often the Caroling, would be done by Children to symbolize the youth and longevity of the Newborn God.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe would be hung as a decoration, symbolizing the perpetual Fertility of Nature.

The Mistletoe represents the Female Energy of Yule, the green leaves show the Fertility of the Goddess and the white berries are the Seed of the God who impregnates her.

This is known to the Druids as “The Seed of the Divine” and at Midwinter’s Festival they would journey deep into the woods to harvest it. They would harvest it with a sickle and catch it in Evergreen Boughs so it could not touch the ground and lose its potency.

The Tree & Yule Log

A symbol of eternal Life, the Evergreen Tree represents that nature can never truly die, only slumber.

This originated with the Yule Log, the highlight of the Winter Solstice. The log would have been from an Ash Tree.

The original Yule Tree symbolizes Yggdrasil the Norse Worldtree, and it is also a wood that symbolizes the Sun. It would be adorned with pinecones, berries and other fruits that were Sacred to the God and Goddess.

By tradition, the tree was harvested from the land on which the Sabbat was held, or given to the homeowner as a Gift – it could not be bought.

It was brought into the home, doused in Cider or Ale, dusted with Flour and decorated with Seasonal Greenery. The log would then be placed on the fire to burn throughout the night, then smolder for Twelve Days (The Twelve Days of Christmas) before being extinguished with another ceremony.

Burning the Yule Log symbolized bring light back into the Hearth, and thus the Home and our Hearts, and through us the entire world!

It is about the fulfillment of wishes, and protection through the remaining Winter Months and into the Spring.

In modern day Traditions we ring bells to ward off the evil spirits and herald the new day, and we light candles which are often held in a log-shaped holder.

Fun Fact, the first recorded use of a “Christmas Tree” was not until 1605!

~John William

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