Magickal Goody of the Day
Get Ready for Yule by making Your Own Yule Log
As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the days get shorter, the skies become gray, and it seems as though the sun is dying. In this time of darkness, we pause on the Solstice (usually around December 21st, although not always on the same date) and realize that something wonderful is happening.
On Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days, it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place… and then the amazing, the wonderful, the miraculous happens.
The sun begins its journey back to the north, and once again we are reminded that we have something worth celebrating. In families of all different spiritual paths, the return of the light is celebrated, with Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, bonfires, and brightly lit Christmas trees. On Yule, many Pagan and Wiccan families celebrate the return of the sun by adding light into their homes. One of our family’s favorite traditions – and one that children can do easily – is to make a Yule log for a family-sized celebration.
A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice.
As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil or salt.
Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.
Because each type of wood is associated with various magickal and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.
In our house, we usually make our Yule log out of pine, but you can make yours of any type of wood you choose. You can select one based on its magickal properties, or you can just use whatever’s handy. To make a basic Yule log, you will need the following:
- A log about 14 – 18” long
- Dried berries, such as cranberries
- Cuttings of mistletoe, holly, pine needles, and ivy
- Feathers and cinnamon sticks
- Some festive ribbon – use paper or cloth ribbon, not the synthetic or wire-lined type
- A hot glue gun
All of these – except for the ribbon and the hot glue gun — are things you and your children can gather outside. You might wish to start collecting them earlier in the year, and saving them. Encourage your children to only pick up items they find on the ground, and not to take any cuttings from live plants.
Begin by wrapping the log loosely with the ribbon. Leave enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon. In our house, we place five feathers on our Yule log – one for each member of the family. Once you’ve gotten your branches and cuttings in place, begin gluing on the pinecones, cinnamon sticks and berries. Add as much or as little as you like. Remember to keep the hot glue gun away from small children.
Once you’ve decorated your Yule log, the question arises of what to do with it. For starters, use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table. A Yule log looks lovely on a table surrounded by candles and holiday greenery.
Another way to use your Yule log is to burn it as our ancestors did so many centuries ago. In our family, before we burn our log we each write down a wish on a piece of paper, and then insert it into the ribbons. It’s our wish for the upcoming year, and we keep it to ourselves in hopes that it will come true.
If you have a fireplace, you can certainly burn your Yule log in it, but we prefer to do ours outside. We have a fire pit in the back yard, and on the night of the winter solstice, we gather out there with blankets, mittens, and mugs full of warm drinks as we burn our log. While we watch the flames consume it, we discuss how thankful we are for the good things that have come our way this year, and how we hope for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next.
Incense of the Day
3 Parts Wood Aloe
2 Parts Coriander
1 Part Camphor
1 Part Mugwort
1 Part Flax
1 Part Anise
1 Part Cardamom
1 Part Chicory
1 Part Hemp
Burn to cause apparitions to appear, if you REALLY want this to happen.
Gemstone of the Day
Herb of the Day
Deity of the Day
In Greek mythology, Styx is a deity and a river that formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld (the domain often called Hades, which also is the name of its ruler). The rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe, and Cocytus all converge at the center of the underworld on a great marsh, which sometimes, also is called the Styx. According to Herodotus the river Styx originates near Feneos. Styx also is a goddess with prehistoric roots in Greek mythology as a daughter of Tethys, after whom the river is named and because of whom it had miraculous powers.
The deities were bound by the Styx and swore oaths upon Styx. According to classical myths the reason related for this is that during the Titan war, Styx, the goddess of the river Styx, sided with Zeus. After the war, Zeus promised every oath be sworn upon her. Zeus swore to give Semele whatever she wanted and was then obliged to follow through when he realized to his horror that her request would lead to her death. Helios similarly promised his son Phaëton whatever he desired, also resulting in the boy’s death. Myths related to such early deities did not survive long enough to be included in historic records, but tantalizing references exist among those that have been discovered.
According to some versions, Styx had miraculous powers and could make someone invulnerable. According to one tradition, Achilles was dipped in the waters of the river by his mother during his childhood, acquiring invulnerability, with exception of his heel, by which his mother held him. This is the source of the expression Achilles’ heel, a metaphor for a vulnerable spot.
Styx was primarily a feature in the afterworld of classical Greek mythology, similar to the Christian area of Hell in texts such as The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost. The ferryman Charon often is described in contemporary literature as having transported the souls of the newly dead across this river into the underworld, although in the original Greek and Roman sources, as well as in Dante, it was the river Acheron that Charon plied. Dante put Phlegyas as ferryman over the Styx and made it the fifth circle of Hell, where the wrathful and sullen are punished by being drowned in the muddy waters for eternity, with the wrathful fighting each other. In ancient times some believed that placing a coin (Charon’s obol) in the mouth of the deceased would pay the toll for the ferry to cross the Acheron River, which would lead one to the entrance of the underworld. If someone could not pay the fee it was said that they would never be able to cross the river. This ritual was performed by the relatives.
The variant spelling Stix was sometimes used in translations of Classical Greek before the twentieth century. By metonymy, the adjective stygian came to refer to anything dark, dismal, and murky.
Styx was the name of the daughter of Tethys and Oceanus, the goddess of the River Styx. In classical myths, she was wife to Pallas and bore him Zelus, Nike, Kratos, and Bia (and sometimes Eos). In those myths, Styx supported Zeus in the Titanomachy, where she was said to be the first to rush to his aid and for this reason her name was given the honor of being a binding oath for the deities. Knowledge of whether this was the original reason for the tradition did not survive into historical records following the religious transition that led to the pantheon of the classical era.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2015 December 2
Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Tightly gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region’s entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula’s distance of some 1,500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.
Last quarter moon and Jupiter December 3
Tomorrow morning – December 3, 2015 – you can see the moon and the king planet Jupiter quite close together on the great dome of sky. Watch for these two worlds no matter where you live on Earth. They’re up in the wee hours, higher in the sky before dawn. Just look for the brilliant starlike object close to the moon in the predawn sky on December 3, and sure enough, that’ll be the giant planet Jupiter.
The moon on December 3 will be at or near its last quarter phase. The last quarter moon will come to pass on December 3 at 7:40 Universal Time. Although the last quarter moon happens at the same instant worldwide, the clock reads differently according to time zone. At U.S. time zones, the last quarter moon falls on December 3 at 2:40 a.m. EST, 1:40 a.m. CST, 12:40 a.m. MST – and on December 2 at 11:40 p.m. PST. What does it all mean? It only means that – depending on where you live worldwide – the moon might or might not be above the horizon at the instant that it reaches the crest of its last quarter phase.
Meanwhile, all of us will see an approximate last quarter moon, in the shape of half a pie, on the morning of December 3.
By the way, the moon and Jupiter will be even closer together on the sky’s dome on the morning on December 4.
Jupiter is very bright, but another planet up before dawn outshines it. In fact, two celestial bodies – the moon and Venus – outshine Jupiter in the morning sky before sunrise.
But there’s not much chance of mistaking Venus for Jupiter, or vice versa, on the mornings of December 3 and 4.
On these dates, Jupiter shines closer to the moon on the sky’s dome than Venus does.
Later on in the first week of December, 2015, the waning crescent moon will swing by the red planet Mars and then Venus.
What’s more, people in central and eastern Africa can watch the moon occult – cover over – Mars in the December 6 predawn/dawn sky; and people in northwestern North America (Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, Northwest Territories) can witness the moon occulting Venus in their December 7 predawn/dawn sky.
Bottom line: In the predawn hours on December 3, 2015, the moon will be at or near its last quarter phase and shining close to the planet Jupiter on the sky’s dome.