The Witches Digest for December 21, Winter Solstice
The Witches Guide to Yule
Today is Thursday, December 21, Winter Solstice
Thursday is the day of the planet Jupiter, dedicated to Thunor(Thor), God of thunder and agricultural work. His parallels in various European traditions are Zeus, Taranis, Perun, Perkunas and St. Olaf. The faith of the Northern Tradition holds Thursday sacred, just as Islam reveres Friday, Judaism the Sabbath(calculated from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday), and Christianity, Sunday. This is why almost all adages about Thursday are positve, such as “Thursday’s child has far to go,” “Sneeze on Thursday, something better,” or “Cut nails on Thursday for wealth.” Thursday rules controlled optimism, energetic growth, physical well-being and material success.
Zodiac Sign: Capricorn/Pisces/Sagittarius
The Celtic Tree Month of Ruis (Elder) November 25 – December 22
Runic Half Month of Jara (December 13 – 27)
Goddess of the Month of Astraea (November 28th – December 25th)
The Pagan Book of Days
The Pagan Book of Days for December 21st
Winter Solstice, Yule, Midwinter, Alban Artheuan, Fourth Station of the Year/St. Thomas
The Druidic Alban Arthuan and Christian St. Thomas’s Day, when the poor are traditionally given money or presents. In former times the neeedy could ask for money, a practice known as “thomasing” or mumping.” The fourth station of the year signifies enlightenment, when the light is reborn within the womb of darkness.
The Pagan Book of Days
The Wiccan Book of Days for December 21, Winter Solstice
The winter solstice or shortest day, occurs around now, and is the signal for Witches and Wiccans to observe the Yule Sabbat. They are celebrating the rebirth of the sun, for from now on, the days will grow longer and the nights, shorter. As epitomized in Christianity by the baby Jesus, the sun is envisaged as a divine infant, the golden son of the Goddess, who will grown into a virile, all powerful, solar deity. Yule ritusl therefore express the intense hope that under the reinstated rule of the nascent Oak King, this dark winter period will soon give way to days of light, fertility and abundance.
On the night of the solstice, wrap up warmly and go out to await the dwn. Hail the birth of the child of promise as the pale solar disk rises above the horizon. light a candle to symbolize the rekindling of the sun’s energy, before retreating indoors to feast on a golden apple or orange.
Today We Honor The Legend of the Holly King and the Oak King
n many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him.
In the legends of some belief systems, the dates of these events are shifted; the battle takes place at the Equinoxes, so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. From a folkloric and agricultural standpoint, this interpretation seems to make more sense.
In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.
Franco over at WitchVox says that the Oak and Holly Kings represent the light and the darkness throughout the year. At the winter solstice we mark “the rebirth of the Sun or the Oak King. On this day the light is reborn and we celebrate the renewal of the light of the year. Oops!
Are we not forgetting someone? Why do we deck the halls with boughs of Holly? This day is the Holly King’s day – the Dark Lord reigns. He is the god of transformation and one who brings us to birth new ways. Why do you think we make “New Year’s Resolutions”? We want to shed our old ways and give way to the new!”
Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.
HOLLY VS. IVY
The symbolism of the holly and the ivy is something that has appeared for centuries; in particular, their roles as representations of opposite seasons has been recognized for a long time. In Green Groweth the Holly, King Henry VIII of England wrote:
Green groweth the holly, so doth the ivy.
Though winter blasts blow never so high, green groweth the holly.
As the holly groweth green and never changeth hue,
So I am, ever hath been, unto my lady true.
As the holly groweth green with ivy all alone
When flowers cannot be seen and greenwood leaves be gone
Of course, The Holly and the Ivy is one of the best known Christmas carols, which states, “The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.”
THE BATTLE OF TWO KINGS IN MYTH AND FOLKLORE
Both Robert Graves and Sir James George Frazer wrote about this battle.
Graves said in his work The White Goddess that the conflict between the Oak and Holly Kings echoes that of a number of other archetypical pairings. For instance, the fights between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and between Lugh and Balor in Celtic legend, are similar in type, in which one figure must die for the other to triumph.
Frazer wrote, in The Golden Bough, of the killing of the King of the Wood, or the tree spirit. He says, “His life must therefore have been held very precious by his worshippers, and was probably hedged in by a system of elaborate precautions or taboos like those by which, in so many places, the life of the man-god has been guarded against the malignant influence of demons and sorcerers. But we have seen that the very value attached to the life of the man-god necessitates his violent death as the only means of preserving it from the inevitable decay of age.
The same reasoning would apply to the King of the Wood; he, too, had to be killed in order that the divine spirit, incarnate in him, might be transferred in its integrity to his successor. The rule that he held office till a stronger should slay him might be supposed to secure both the preservation of his divine life in full vigour and its transference to a suitable successor as soon as that vigour began to be impaired. For so long as he could maintain his position by the strong hand, it might be inferred that his natural force was not abated; whereas his defeat and death at the hands of another proved that his strength was beginning to fail and that it was time his divine life should be lodged in a less dilapidated tabernacle.”
Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.
Patti Wigington, Author
Published on ThoughtCo.com
The Witches Yule
Yule: the Winter Solstice, Yuletide (Teutonic), Alban Arthan (Caledonii)
December 20 – 23 Northern Hemisphere / June 20 – 23 Southern Hemisphere
This sabbath represents the rebirth of light. Here, on the longest night of the year, the Goddess gives birth to the Sun God and hope for new light is reborn.
Yule is a time of awakening to new goals and leaving old regrets behind. Yule coincides closely with the Christian Christmas celebration. Christmas was once a movable feast celebrated many different times during the year. The choice of December 25 was made by the Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.
The Christian tradition of a Christmas tree has its origins in the Pagan Yule celebration. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when a spirit was present.
Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree.
The colors of the season, red and green, also are of Pagan origin, as is the custom of exchanging gifts. A solar festival, The reindeer stag is also a reminder of the Horned God. You will find that many traditional Christmas decorations have some type of Pagan ancestry or significance that can be added to your Yule holiday. Yule is celebrated by fire and the use of a Yule log. Many enjoy the practice of lighting the Yule Log. If you choose to burn one, select a proper log of oak or pine (never Elder). Carve or chalk upon it a figure of the Sun (a rayed disc) or the Horned God (a horned circle). Set it alight in the fireplace at dusk, on Yule. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days. Traditionally, a portion of the Yule Log is saved to be used in lighting next year’s log. This piece is kept throughout the year to protect the home.
The Winter Solstice has been celebrated for millennia by cultures and religions all over the world. Many modern pagan religions are descended in spirit from the ancient pre-Christian religions of Europe and the British Isles, and honor the divine as manifest in nature, the turning of the seasons, and the powerfully cyclical nature of life.
Most pagan religions are polytheistic, honoring both male and female deities, which are seen by some as two aspects of one non-gendered god, by others as two separate by complementing beings, and by others as entire pantheons of gods and goddesses.
It is common for the male god(s) to be represented in the sun, the stars, in summer grain, and in the wild animals and places of the earth. The stag is a powerful representation of the male god, who is often called “the horned god.”
The Goddess is most often represented in the earth as a planet, the moon, the oceans, and in the domestic animals and the cultivated areas of the earth.
In many pagan traditions the Winter Solstice symbolizes the rebirth of the sun god from his mother, the earth goddess.
The Winter Solstice is only one of eight seasonal holidays celebrated by modern pagans.
The winter solstice – Yule
Yule, which is also called the winter solstice, falls on December 21. Yule is the day that became Christmas. The main component is the evergreen tree, and beside it, everything connected to the sun – oranges, shiny crystals, gold, candles, and so on. The dominant colors are gold, white, red, green – but also black. The festival is exploited mainly for ceremonial festivities, or for treating health problems.
This is the time of year in which winter dominates the earth, so it is a time of leisure that is dedicated to the telling of legends and myths. It is the longest night, and wicca traditions include burning a log that was ignited before sunset and ensuring that it burns all night. “It is born with the setting sun, takes of its light, and guards its life until it appears once more, and then it (the log) dies and its ashes are collected on the good earth,” as is written in an ancient Celtic text. Yule trees are decorated anew every year (decorating an evergreen tree is a traditional pagan custom). The Yule meal includes many components that are considered “Christmas dishes,” such as sweets and cookies, roasts and stews. After Yule, the members of the wicca groups customarily exchange gifts, and it goes on until “Twelfth Night,” which is a Christian holiday known as “Little Christmas,” which began in the Middle Ages and is celebrated 12 days after Christmas.
In myths, the goddess gives birth to the god of the sun during the longest night of the year, and witches and wizards celebrate the birth (or rebirth) of the god of the sun.
Day-by-Day Wicca: A complete guide to Wicca from Beliefs and Rituals to Magic and Witchcraft (Astrolog Complete Guides)
History of Yule
A Festival of Light:
Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21. On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches at its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. As a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light — candles, bonfires, and more.
Origins of Yule:
In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting, merrymaking, and, if the Icelandic sagas are to be believed, a time of sacrifice as well. Traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing can all be traced back to Norse origins.
Celtic Celebrations of Winter:
The Celts of the British Isles celebrated midwinter as well. Although little is known about the specifics of what they did, many traditions persist. According to the writings of Pliny the Elder, this is the time of year in which Druid priests sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe in celebration.
Few cultures knew how to party like the Romans. Saturnalia was a festival of general merrymaking and debauchery held around the time of the winter solstice. This week-long party was held in honor of the god Saturn, and involved sacrifices, gift-giving, special privileges for slaves, and a lot of feasting. Although this holiday was partly about giving presents, more importantly, it was to honor an agricultural god.
Welcoming the Sun Through the Ages:
Four thousand years ago, the Ancient Egyptians took the time to celebrate the daily rebirth of Horus – the god of the Sun. As their culture flourished and spread throughout Mesopotamia, other civilizations decided to get in on the sun-welcoming action. They found that things went really well… until the weather got cooler, and crops began to die. Each year, this cycle of birth, death and rebirth took place, and they began to realize that every year after a period of cold and darkness, the Sun did indeed return.
Winter festivals were also common in Greece and Rome, as well as in the British Isles. When a new religion called Christianity popped up, the new hierarchy had trouble converting the Pagans, and as such, folks didn’t want to give up their old holidays. Christian churches were built on old Pagan worship sites, and Pagan symbols were incorporated into the symbolism of Christianity. Within a few centuries, the Christians had everyone worshipping a new holiday celebrated on December 25.
In some traditions of Wicca and Paganism, the Yule celebration comes from the Celtic legend of the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak King, representing the light of the new year, tries each year to usurp the old Holly King, who is the symbol of darkness. Re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.
Patti Wigington, Author
Published on ThoughtCo.com
Sing pagan solstice carols. Appropriate ones are: Deck the Halls, the Holy and the Ivy, Joy to the World, Tannenbaum, Wassailing Song, Green Growth the Holly. And there are others that can be slightly altered to fit Yule.
Decorate the Solstice or Yule tree. Decorate pine cones with glue and glitter as symbols of the faeries and place them in the Yule tree. Hang little bells on the Yule tree to call the spirits and faeries and purify your space. Decorate with items symbolizing what you want in the new year. Hang gold, yellow and red balls to symbolize the God and the Sun.
Light an enclosed candle, and let it burn through the night.
Stay up until sunrise to welcome the strengthening Sun.
Make a wreath decorated with pine cones.
String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on an outdoor tree for birds.
Glue the caps onto acorns and attach a red string to hang on the Yule tree.
For prosperity, burn ash wood.
Symbolically act out the struggle between the Holly King (an older man) and the Oak King (a younger man).
Yule blessings: wreath on the door, mistletoe indoors, food and clothing donations, sunflower seeds outside for birds, ring the bell to greet the Solstice Morn, and perform magick for a peaceful planet.
Gather up Yule greens after 12th night and save. At Imbolc, burn the greens to banish winter and usher in spring.
Consecrate the Yule tree — asperge with salted water, pass smoke of incense through the branches, and walk around the tree with a lighted candle saying:
By fire and water, air and earth,
I consecrate this tree of rebirth.
Make wassail: 2 cups cranberry juice, 1/4 cup grenadine, 1 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup rum (optional). (taken from Green Witchcraft by Moura)
Make classic eggnog.
The Witches Almanac for December 21st
Yule – Winter Solstice
Moon Phase: First Quarter
Moon Sign: Aquarius
Sun enters Capricorn 11:28 am
Lesser Sabbat – Winter Solstice, circa Dec 21
Jul (“wheel”, Old Norse), Saturnalia(Rome ~December 17 & 18), Yuletide(Teutonic), Midwinter, Fionn’s Day, Alban huan, Christmas (Christian~December 25), Xmas, Festival of Sol, Solar/Secular/Pagan New Year
yule goat (nordic), reindeer stag, squirrels, yule cat, Sacred White Buffalo, Kallikantzaroi-ugly chaos monsters(greek), trolls, phoenix, yule elf, jule gnome, squirrels, wren/robin
cat’s eye, ruby, diamond, garnet, bloodstone
bayberry, cedar, ginger, cinnamon, pine, rosemary, frankincense, myrrh, nutmeg, wintergreen, saffron
gold, silver, red, green, white
Tools,Symbols, & Decorations:
bayberry candles, evergreens, holly, mistletoe, poinsettia,mistletoe, lights, gifts, Yule log, Yule tree. spinning wheels, wreaths, bells, mother & child images
Great Mother, Befana (strega), Holda (teutonic), Isis(egyptian), Triple Goddess, Mary(christian), Tonazin(mexican), Lucina(roman), St. Lucy (swedish),Bona Dea (roman), Mother Earth, Eve(Hebrew), Ops(roman Holy Mother), the Snow Queen, Hertha (German), Frey (Norse)
Sun Child, Saturn(rome), Cronos (Greek), Horus/Ra(egyptian), Jesus(christian-gnostic), Mithras(persian), Balder(Norse), Santa Claus/Odin(teutonic), Holly King, Sol Invicta, Janus(God of Beginnings), Marduk (Babylonian)Old Man Winter
honor, rebirth, transformation, light out of darkness, creative inspiration, the mysteries, new life, regeneration, inner renewal, reflection/introspection
death of the Holly (winter) King; reign of the Oak (summer) King), begin the ordeal of the Green Man, death & rebirth of the Sun God; night of greatest lunar imbalance; sun’s rebirth; shortest day of year
honor the Triple Goddess, welcome the Sun Child
personal renewal, world peace, honoring family & friends, Festival of light, meditation
lights, gift-exchanging, singing, feasting, resolutions, new fires kindled, strengthening family & friend bonds, generosity, yule log, hanging mistletoe, apple wassailing, burning candles, Yule tree decorating; kissing under mistletoe; needfire at dawn vigil; bell ringing/sleigh-bells; father yule
nuts, apple, pear, caraway cakes soaked with cider, pork, orange, hibiscus or ginger tea, roasted turkey, nuts, fruitcake, dried fruit, cookies, eggnog, mulled wine
blessed thistle, evergreen, moss, oak, sage, bay, bayberry, cedar, pine, frankincense, ginger, holly, ivy, juniper, mistletoe, myrrh, pinecones, rosemary, chamomile, cinnamon, valarion, yarrow
The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore
The date varies from December 20 to December 23 depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. Yule is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun’s “rebirth” was celebrated with much joy. On this night, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days would become longer.
Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun. The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not “die” thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Divine). The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Sprites would come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to visit tthe residents. Mistletoe was also hung as decoration. It represented the seed of the Divine, and at Midwinter, the Druids would travel deep into the forest to harvest it.
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… it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, 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 smolder 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.
A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine, and flatten one side so it sets upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green, and white (season), green, gold, and black (the Sun God), or white, red, and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds, cloves, and dust with flour.
Many customs created around Yule are identified with Christmas today. If you decorate your home with a Yule tree, holly or candles, you are following some of these old traditions. The Yule log, (usually made from a piece of wood saved from the previous year) is burned in the fire to symbolize the Newborn Sun/Son.
–Adapted by Akasha Ap Emrys For all her friends and those of like mind–
Akasha, Herne and The Celtic Connection wicca.com.
The Wild Hunt at Yuletide
During the Wild Hunt ancestral spirits are thought to come back to earth. The deity who ruled over this is Odin, who is actually the leader of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt was traditionally a procession of spirits and heroes. In European traditions, during the twelve days of Yuletide (those last days of the calendar year), these spirits traveled in a procession to visit families and loved ones.
This may explain why, in Scandinavian lore, it is believed that the spirits of children were along for the wild ride on the night of the winter solstice for the purpose of coming back to earth to visit their parents. These children who had passed over were thought to be under the care of Frigga, so I suppose she turned them loose to travel with Odin so they could visit their loved ones.
I personally was surprised to discover that the Wild Hunt has more ties to Yule than any of the other sabbats we celebrate today. The Wild Hunt was traditionally a procession of spirits and heroes. After Christianity took over, in an effort to demonize the hunt, it began to be called the Parade of the Damned. It’s sad to me that they attempted to turn what was originally a joyous, mysterious, and powerful thing into something frightening. The Wild Hunt is also called Asgard’s Chase, Spirit’s Ride, and Holla’s Troop.
According to legend, if you were caught by the Wild Hunt, you had to keep going with them until they were finished. This was a type of spirit possession, and one where you were truly “along for the ride.” The only way to protect yourself from being swooped up and carried along on those wild winter nights was to consume the herb parsley. The folkloric treatment for the madness that follows having seen the hunt was also to eat fresh parsley.
On wild and windy nights the hunt is out. The procession of spirits led by Odin on his eight-legged horse is indicated by winter storms, howling winds, thunder, and lightning. Another of his cohorts along for the ride was the goddess Freya, a patroness of seers, a shapeshifter, and an all-purpose deity. Other deities along on the wild ride include Hulda (other variations are Holle and Holda). This is a northern German Mother goddess. Holland may have gotten its name from her: Holle’s land. Hulda/ Holle/ Holda was known as the Queen of Witches, and it was thought that Odin’s congregation of spirits traveled together with Hulda’s host of Witches.
In German fairy tales, Hulda is known as Mother Holly, or Mother Holle. She travels about in a long, snow-white hooded cloak. Hulda is a Snow Queen and is associated with Epiphany and fertility. It is thought that when she fluffed up her feather bed, the feathers fell to earth as snow. Hulda is thought to be surrounded by unborn babies. She is their guardian and releases them to be born into the world of men. It is not surprising to learn that she is a deity of fertility and birth.
From the Southern Alps we have Berchta. Offerings of dumplings and pickled herring were left to Berchta and put out on rooftops so she could “grab and go” as she flew by on the Wild Hunt. These wild, white ladies visited the home at Yuletide and were believed to be goddesses that could bridge the gap between the living and the dead.
Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch
Winter Solstice Spell
Perform on the night of Winter Solstice
Gather your supplies:
Small Amount of Hollyberry Oil
Small Amount of Mistletoe Herb
Clean, small piece of white paper (parchment if you have it)
Write a single word in red ink that represents what quality in yourself you would like to enhance with the dawning of the Yule Sun.
Sprinkle the Mistletoe Herb into the center of the paper.
Add three drops of the Hollyberry Oil on top of the Mistletoe.
Twist the paper closed with the Mistletoe and Hollyberry Oil inside.
Light the red candle.
From the flame of the candle, light the paper package on fire.
As it burns envision your wish fulfilled.
The spell is done.
The Yule Log
The tradition of the Yule logs dates back millennia. The origin of the word Yule seems to originate from the Anglo Saxon word for sun and light. People used to burn a yule log on the Winter Solstice in December. The Winter Solstice is the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight. Yule is celebrated by fire, which provides a dual role of warmth and keeping evil spirits away. Many people thought that evil spirits were more likely to wander the earth on the longest night of the year. All night bonfires and hearth fires kept evil at bay and provided gathering places for folks to share feasts and stories.
Winter Solstice marks the sun’s victory over darkness; the days would now grow longer. The cinders from the burnt log were thought to protect homes from lightning and the evil powers of the devil. The ashes were also sprinkled on the surrounding fields to ensure good luck for the coming year’s harvest. The largest remaining part of the log was kept safe to kindle next year’s fire.
The Yule log has waned in popularity with the advent of electric heaters and wood stoves. With no access to a hearth, fireplace or fire pit, modern folks are losing a sacred tradition. Today, we may still partake of the Yule Log tradition by creating a smaller version as a table ornament, embellished with greenery and candles, or the popular Yule log cake. As we eat a slice, we can imagine taking in the protective properties of the log.
Many enjoy the practice of lighting the Yule Log. If you choose to burn one, select a log and carve or chalk upon it a figure of the Sun (a rayed disc) or the Horned God (a horned circle). Set it alight in the fireplace at dusk, on Yule. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days. Traditionally, a portion of the Yule Log is saved to be used in lighting next year’s log. This piece is kept throughout the year to protect the home.
Whether you are burning a log or creating a centrepiece, different woods may be used to produce different effects:
Aspen: invokes understanding of the grand design
Birch: signifies new beginnings
Holly: inspires visions and reveals past lives
Oak: brings healing, strength, and wisdom, symbol of the Oak king, the New year
Pine: signifies prosperity and growth
Willow: invokes the Goddess to achieve desires
Decorate your log with the any of the following items:
bright green needles of fir represents the birth of the new year
dark green needles of yew represent death of the waning year
vines of ivy or birch branches represent the Goddess
sprigs of holly with red berries represent the Holly king of the dying year
As you light the Yule log chant the following:
As the yule log is kindled
so is the new year begun
as it has been down through the ages
an unending cycle of birth, death, and rebirth
every ending is a new beginning
May the Yule log burn
May all good enter here
May there be wheat for bread
and vats full of wine
(or may we never hunger may we never thirst)
When the log has almost completely burned, collect a small piece of the Yule log (dip in a bucket of water to ensure it is completely out) wrap carefully and keep somewhere in the home for safety and protection.
collect some of the cold ashes and store in a glass bottle. The ash can be used for spells of protection and amulets. The remainder of the Yule ash can be scattered over fields or gardens to ensure fertility in the spring.
Pauline Campanelli; Wheel of the Year
Lila is an initiate in The Sacred Three Goddess school. She lives on a mountain in beautiful British Columbia with her husband, four cats, two ferrets and other varied critters of nature. She spends her time communing with the Faerie folk and long walks by the river.
Yule Log Magick
The yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun.
An oak log, plus a fireplace or bonfire area is needed for this form of celebration. The oak log should be very dry so that it will blaze well. On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log. Burn the log to release it’s power. It can be decorated with burnable red ribbons of natural fiber and dried holly leaves. In the fireplace or bonfire area, dried kindling should be set to facilitate the burning of the log.The Yule log can be made of any wood (Oak is traditional). Each releases its own kind of magick.
Ash –brings protection, prosperity, and health
Aspen– invokes understanding of the grand design
Birch– signifies new beginnings
Holly– inspires visions and reveals past lives
Oak– brings healing, strength, and wisdom
Pine– signifies prosperity and growth
Willow– invokes the Goddess to achieve desires
The burning of the Yule Log can easily become a family tradition. Begin by having parent(s) or some other family member describe the tradition of the Yule Log. The tale of the Oak King and Holly King from Celtic mythology can be shared as a story, or can be summarized with a statement that the Oak represents the waxing solar year, Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice, and the Holly represents the waning solar year, Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice.
Lights are extinguished as much as possible. The family is quiet together in the darkness. Family members quietly contemplate the change in the solar year. Each in her/his own way contemplates the past calendar year, the challenges as well as the good times.
Then the Yule Log fire is lit. As it begins to burn, each family member throws in one or more dried holly sprigs and says farewell to the old calendar year. Farewells can take the form of thanksgiving and appreciation and/or a banishment of old habits or personal pains.
Once the Yule Log itself starts blazing, then the facilitator invites family members to contemplate the year ahead and the power of possibilities. Each member then throws in an oak twig or acorn into the fire to represent the year ahead, and calls out a resolution and/or a hope.
Families using a Yule Log with candles each family member can write a bad habit and/or a wish for the upcoming year on a slip of paper and burn it in the candle flame.
When this process is done, the family sings a song together. The traditional carol, “Deck the Halls,” is good because it mentions the Solstice, the change in the solar year, and the Yule Log.
Let the Yule Log burn down to a few chunks of charred wood and ashes (or candles burn down). Following an ancient tradition, save remnants of the fire and use them to start the Yule Log fire the following year.
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.
By Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Published on ThoughtCo.com
Herbal Charm for Yuletide
Try this simple Yuletide charm as you hang up and arrange your Yuletide greenery in your abode this year. Deck your halls and mantles as you like, then as you finish, repeat this charm with intention. This charm incorporates the four featured Yuletide plants of this chapter: pine, holly, ivy, and mistletoe.
When a Witch decks the halls with boughs of holly
Expect that the Yuletide feast will be jolly.
Green ivy for good luck and fertility
Add pine boughs and branches for prosperity.
The Druid’s golden bough we called mistletoe
Encourages kisses and make cheeks to glow.
Now add a touch of magick and a pinch of glee
Welcome renewal in Yuletide’s season of peace.
Close up the charm with these lines:
By the bright magick of a midwinter sun
As I will, so mote it be, and let it harm none.
Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch
A Celtic Prayer for Yule
The Celtic people knew the importance of the solstice. Although the Yule season marks the middle of winter, colder times were still to come. It was important to put aside staple foods for the coming months, because it would be many months before anything fresh grew again. Consider, as you think on this devotional, what your family has put aside — both material goods and things on the spiritual plane.
Keep in mind that this is not an ancient Celtic prayer, but a modern one inspired by Celtic myth and folklore.
The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.
By Patti Wigington
Article published on & owned by ThoughtCo.com
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