Winter Solstice: A Witch’s Yule Story
Author: Lady Abigail
It seems that this year the Yuletide season hit the stores even faster than last year. We seem to expect that rush from commerce, to make a buck. While we are out buying our Thanksgiving turkey, we expect to hear, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” But this year I noticed, while I was picking up candy for the trick-or-treaters, that Bing Crosby was already playing over the stores’ intercom systems. Then, driving home that evening, I noticed one of the homes in my neighborhood already had up holiday lights, to include a fully decorated tree in the window.
I just don’t think the ancients had any idea that the day we honor the returning of the sun was going to be turned into such a money-making occasion. I am personally proud of the fact that our Pagan traditions and celebrations are in no way responsible for this one.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday of Yule and the celebration of the Winter Solstice. I decorate, put up a tree, and prepare a delicious Yule feast. We exchange gifts and even sing Yuletide songs. And while it may seem odd to most, I am normally undecorated and have everything packed away by the 25th.
But, I didn’t always have the freedom to celebrate as I desired. I celebrated the Winter Solstice and Yule within the disguised decorations of Christmas. Perhaps all this misplaced jubilation is one of the reasons for the ‘holiday blues’ so many have during this time of year.
The confusion I dealt with surrounding the Winter holidays was my own. I knew the truth, but I learned as a child that speaking of it was not acceptable. You could talk about Christmas, Santa, gifts, and eating, but not the truth. Even today, our Pagan children are not allowed the freedoms of their holiday beliefs.
Yet, once I allowed myself the freedom to rejoice within the Solstice Rites and Yule, I found the inspiration to enjoy it all, even when I am sitting with family members, who have no idea what I believe, on the 25th of December.
Winter Solstice and Yule, which I learned meant, ‘Feast of the Wheel,’ was a celebration of the ancients. Solstice celebrations were not concepts practiced only by the ancient Europeans; these traditions and customs of honoring and welcoming the sun can be found throughout history, being celebrated by people on every continent. I learned that in this rite of Winter, we welcomed not only the coming of a new year, but the excitement and preparation of the rebirth of life. It was a time of readying and a time to reflect; a time to help others and honor those who had passed into the veil.
One of my favorite parts of this holiday is the tradition of the Yule Log. This Yule Log is a Witch’s Yule Log and is, perhaps, done a bit differently than others of which you have heard. A Witch’s Yule Log is used to call the spirits of your loved ones that have passed.
I can see my Great Grandmother’s house as clearly as if I was there today. It was made of wood; grayed by time and age. There were great stones which made the fireplace wall and flat ones stacked at the corners of the house that held it up from the ground. In the Winter, the back porch was filled with wood waiting for the fire. The windows give a warming, luminous glow from the candles placed in them for the holiday. And in my eyes, as a child, that was what love and peace must surely have looked like.
In December, it was fiercely cold, even in the house. You had to wait until the fires were rekindled and had time to warm each room. I didn’t always look forward to getting out of my cozy soft bed. It was warm and I liked being in a little nest of my own. I would sink deep into the down mattress, bundled tightly in my Great Grandmother’s handmade quilts; each quilt made from tiny pieces of the past, filled with stories of people and lives long passed from this world. But, I only needed to be called once, quickly grabbing my clothes and running into the kitchen where it was warm. I would stand behind the stove where the pipe came out of the wall and there I would dress, being cautious not to touch any part of the red hot stove.
I remember how I looked over and, on the kitchen table, saw a small box wrapped in green and red cloth and tied with brown cord. I was so excited and wanted to find out what might be in the box. My Great Grandmother sat down at the table with her cup of coffee and told me that I could open it. I shook it; it felt light. Then, as if I was performing some great act of discovery, I opened the box to find a big chuck of shiny, gray charcoal. I looked at my Great Grandmother with a curious eye, wondering what secrets this small black stone might possible hold. Smiling back at me, she said, “This is a key, a key to a doorway of those we love, but no longer see.”
That evening at sunset, Yule Eve, my Great Grandmother asked me to help her bring in the big log we had picked for the Yule fire. She stirred the coals in the fireplace, then put the small piece of charcoal from the green and red box onto the coals.
Soon, the small piece of coal began to glimmer again with new life. Then we carefully placed the new Yule Log into the fireplace. The shadows within the room danced from the light of the fire as it grew within the hearth. I lay on the floor looking into the fire, my chin in my hands, as my Great Grandmother begin to explain about this key of Yule. As she told me the stories of family that had passed, and of those she loved, I could sense the room fill with the spirits of those of whom she spoke. I began to see them as she did and to share in the memories of those all about me.
The Yule Log is burned to open the doorway between the veils. The small piece of charcoal is the key to the thinning of the veils. It allows the years past, and today, to join, that the spirits of our loved ones who have crossed over may join us during this holiday season. As long as the Yule Log burns, the spirits of those you love may cross, but only until it burns out.
While the Yule Log burns, you may talk, see, and visit with all those you love that have passed on to other planes. It is a time to share the stories of family and those you loved. It is a time to share traditions and honor those who have given us our history. This is not a scary thing, but something we look forward to each year, in love and joy.
Before the Yule Log burns to its end, you must take a piece and save it for the next year. (Of course, you must make sure it is completely out, a cold coal. I know this is silly to say, but if I don’t, someone will get burned.) Save the bit of charcoal until the next year, preferably in a red or green cloth.
The burning of the Yule Log and sharing the past is also a part of the magick used to assure the turning of the Wheel of Life or bringing on of the seasons. We are joined with our past as we look forward to our future. Maybe this is where the saying, “May the Spirit of the Season be with you always,” truly comes from.
May your holiday be filled with the magick that really makes up the season. Have a shining Solstice, happy Yule, and blessed New Year.
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