The Yule of Our Ancestors

The Yule of Our Ancestors

by Wlfgar Greggarson

The Yule tree is probably one of the most recognizable symbols of the Yule
season. For me, the tree always stood for the coming together of family. It has
been one thing that bound my family together, the center focus for the children
eagerly awaiting the present-opening ritual. For the adults, it was a
comfortable place to drink and catch up on old times. The Yule tree was a
much-needed place of peace for my large family. Now, as an adult with a little
more worldly knowledge, I have found a deeper understanding of the Yule tree’s
lore and purpose.

Customarily, the tree was a spruce or other evergreen, which symbolized the
survival of green life through the barren months of winter, the people’s hope
and nature’s promise that the earth would once again spring back to life. It
was a symbol that the cold touch from the god of death would wane with the
rebirth of the newly returned sun. Surely the goddess of life would and could
replenish all of the earth after Old Man Winter had his fun.

In various parts of Europe, fruit-bearing trees were an important feature
during the Yule season. In more natural times, the folk would gather at a large
apple tree on Twelfth Night to hang cider-soaked bread on its branches for the
good spirits and all the fey and thus renew and strengthen the fragile and
cherished relationship with the wee folk.

Yule has also been a time to begin certain harvest magick. In parts of Denmark,
the people would go out and shake the fruit trees, then hang a token of the
Yule season in their branches and pray for a good harvest in the summer. The
fruit tree is also a sign of the triumph of life through death, much as the
evergreen is a symbol of life’s continuance.

Possibly the origin of decorating the Yule tree lies with the people known as
the Lapplanders or, more correctly, the Sami. It is said the Sami would take
small portions of meals eaten on holy days, put them in pieces of birch bark,
then after making ships out of them, complete with sails, hang them on trees
behind their homes as offerings to the J”l (Yule) spirits.

At some point, it became unsafe to observe heathen Yule practices publicly; it
is probable that, at this point, the Yule tree was brought into the home. Pagan
Yule practices, symbolism and holy tokens became enmeshed and hidden within the
Christ birth mythology. Yule’s theme of honoring the sun, newly reborn, and the
triumph of light through darkness is quite an easy target for an opportunistic
religion.

There are many other Yule traditions, such as wreath making, cake baking, ale
brewing and so on. Another was wassailing, a kind of ritual toasting and
singing, which comes from the words Wes Hal, meaning to be whole. Wassail the
drink was usually a hot cider mixture drunk from a maple turned bowl.

The actual Yule feast is also a favorite of this hungry heathen. The Yule
season ended on Twelfth Night, which is now celebrated on December 31. In more
ancient times, Mothers Night was observed on December 25 and the festivities
continued until January 5. Mothers Night, the beginning of the Yule season
ritual observance, was practiced on different days at different places and
times and is now celebrated beginning at sunset on December 20. Mothers Night
activities included making wreaths woven with wishes for the coming year, a
rite to bless the family and exchanging gifts.

Wreath making can be a fun activity for a coven, kindred or family. Wreaths can
be made using a circular candle holder that holds four candles. Evergreen
branches, sprigs of holly and nuts are good items to offer as gifts to the Yule
spirits. Being that a gift calls for a gift, we can tie small pieces of red
ribbon onto the wreaths with our requests and wishes for the coming season, to
be answered by the Yule spirits.

The Yule log is probably one of the most important aspects of the Yule time
festivities. The log traditionally was kindled from the burnt remains of the
previous year’s Yule fire. The Yule log symbolizes the light returning to
conquer the darkness. Decoration for your log can be of various evergreens,
holly, mistletoe, nuts, fruit and so forth. There are many traditional ways to
collect your log; what I do, because it seems most practical, is save the
thickest part of my Yule tree when it comes time to throw it away. This I keep
through the year (making sure a well-intentioned friend doesn’t accidentally
throw it in the fireplace – no names mentioned), then I decorate it, put
offerings on it and send it to Valhalla.

The burning of the log can be a fun party for your group or family with a round
of toasting, boasting, bragging or promises for things to come in the next
year. In my opinion, this is best done drinking hot cider, because when mead or
ale is drunk, the toasting, boasting and bragging can get out of hand.

Appropriate items to hang on our trees include cookies in the shape of horses,
swine, birds, cats and trees. Apples if available, most varieties of nuts,
strings of cranberries and popcorn are also nice. I like to use my scroll saw
to cut wood into shapes such as horses, swine or other holy tokens such as
pentagrams, labrys, Thor’s hammers, sun wheels and, one of my favorites, the
Valknut, which is three interlocking triangles, a symbol sacred to Odin.

Other Yule season facts are out there, not far out of reach. We can research
and find these things and revive the practices that touch our heathen hearts.
It is our right and responsibility to revive this old lore and educate others
of the many pagan origins of this very heathen time. I hope this small article
will stir your interest in our pagan heritage.

Wassail!

WEDDING/HANDFASTING CEREMONY

WEDDING/HANDFASTING CEREMONY

The following wedding ceremony was written to provide for Pagans who must of
necessity be wed in the presence of the uninitiated who are not pagan and are
perhaps unaware that the bride and groom are pagan. Replace the words Bride and
Groom below with the names of the happy couple. This ceremony was used by both
my wife and  myself and by my sister and her husband.  They modified the text
at the point below where it says “loving each other  wholly and completely” to
add the phrase “forsaking all others” as  they are into monogamy.  Either
version works beautifully, I recommend the participants rewrite where necessary
to form a legal contract that they can and will keep. It is easy to avoid being
an oathbreaker if you only swear to that that you will keep and avoid swearing
to something just because the other party wants it or because it might be
“expected” by the family. Notice: parts of  this ritual were cribbed from the
writings of others. I apologize in advance  for failure to reference sources but
after the fifteenth rewrite we had forgotten where we got the text and what was
and what was not original to us.  I doubt if there are quotes from other sources
longer than paragraph length and thus should not be a copyright problem.  If you
see something that is yours, please send me mail and I will reference you in the
future. Our thanks to those who paved the way. –Ryan Hunter]

[PRIEST] We have come together here in celebration of the joining together of
____bride______ and ____groom______.  There are  many things to say about
marriage. Much wisdom  concerning the joining together of  two souls, has come
our way through all paths of belief, and from many cultures. With each union,
more knowledge is gained and more wisdom gathered. Though we are unable to give
all this knowledge to these two, who stand before us, we can hope to leave with
them the knowledge of love and its strengths and the anticipation of the wisdom
that comes with time.  The law of  life is love unto all beings. Without love,
life is nothing, without love, death has no redemption. Love is anterior to
Life, posterior  to  Death, initial of Creation and the exponent of  Earth. If
we learn no more in life, let it be this.

Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after considerable thought and
reflection.  As with any aspect of life, it has its cycles, its ups and its
downs, its trials and its triumphs.  With full understanding of this,  Groom and
Bride have come here today to be joined as one in marriage.

Others would ask,  at this time, who gives the bride in marriage, but,  as a
woman is not property to be bought and sold, given and taken,  I ask simply if
she comes of her own will and if she  has her family’s blessing.

Bride, is it true that you come of your own free will and accord?

[BRIDE] Yes, it is true.

[PRIEST] With whom do you come and whose blessings accompany you.

[FATHER] She comes with me, her father, and is accompanied by all of her
family’s blessings.

[PRIEST] Please join hands with your betrothed and listen to that which I am
about to say.

Above you are the stars,  below you are the stones,  as time doth pass,
remember…

Like a stone should your love be firm like a star should your love be
constant. Let the powers of the mind and of the intellect guide you in your
marriage,  let the strength of your wills  bind you  together,  let the power of
love and desire make you happy, and the strength of your dedication make you
inseparable.  Be close, but not too close. Possess one another, yet be
understanding.   Have patience with one another, for storms will come, but they
will pass quickly.

Be free in giving affection and warmth.  Have no fear and let not the ways of
the unenlightened give you unease,  for God is  with you always.

Groom, I have not the right to bind thee to Bride, only you have this right.
If it be your wish, say so at this time and place your ring in her hand.

[GROOM] It is my wish.

[PRIEST]  Bride, if it be your wish for Groom to be bound to you, place the
ring on his finger.  (places ring on Groom’s left ring finger)

Bride  I  have not the right to bind thee to Groom only you  have this right.
If it be your wish,  say so at this time  and place your ring in his hand.

[BRIDE] It is my wish.

[PRIEST] Groom,  if it be your wish for Bride to be bound to you, place   the
ring on her finger.(places ring on   Bride’s   left ring finger)

(to Groom) Repeat after me:

I,   (grooms full name),   in the name of the spirit of God that resides within
us all,  by the life that courses within my blood and  the love that resides
within my heart,   take thee  (bride’s full  name) to my hand, my heart, and my
spirit, to be my chosen  one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess
thee,  and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in
the purity of my love for thee.   I promise to love thee wholly and completely
without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life
and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again.  I shall not seek to
change thee in any way.   I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy
ways as I respect myself.

(to Bride)
I  (bride’s full name), in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us
all, by the life that courses within my blood, and the love that resides within
my heart,  take  thee, (Groom’s full name) to my hand, my heart, and my spirit
to be my chosen one.   To desire and be desired by  thee, to possess thee, and
be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity
of my love for thee.  I promise to love thee wholly and completely without
restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and
beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again.  I shall not seek to
change thee in any way.   I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy
ways as I respect myself.

[PRIEST]
(hands  chalice to the groom,  saying:) May you drink  your  fill from the cup
of love.

(Groom  holds  chalice to bride while she sips then  bride  takes chalice and
holds it to groom while he sips.  The chalice is then handed  back to the Priest
who sets it on the  table.   Next  the Priest  takes the plate of bread,  giving
it to the groom.   Same
procedure  repeated  with bread, groom feeding bride  and  bride feeding groom.)

By the power vested in me by God and the State of  ________,  I now pronounce
you husband and wife.  May your love so endure that its flame remains a guiding
light unto you.

Meet Your Spirit Guides

Meet Your Spirit Guides

Before retiring, or going to bed, spend a few minutes in bed relaxing. Just
focus on being relaxed. Be relaxed…
While relaxed, imagine a Veil in front of your eyes. A curtain, or a wall.
Imagine the Veil, or the wall, as being void, black. Accept the Veil, or the
wall. Do not be threatened by the Veil, because you are relaxed, and because
you know the Veil is an illusion, and serves purpose. You are still relaxed.
Then, you visualize the Veil (or wall) slowly lifting. You see the Veil lifting,
and you see stars, you see lights. You know you can see things you haven’t seen
before. You are still relaxed. When you are ready, you ask for Spirit to join
you. You ask Spirit to touch you, and to embrace you, because you are ready to
embrace Spirit. You know that Spirit is Divine Love, you know you are safe, you
know you are loved. You know you are ready to meet Spirit. Hold your hands out.
Let your fingertips feel the touch of Spirit. Know that when you are ready, you
can ask Spirit to embrace your arms; ask for Spirit to give you a huge hug. You
will feel it. Accept the love that is given to you, and know that you have
earned it, that the love is yours. You may feel many things. Electricity, and an
urge to cry, is what I felt, and great joy. There are many methods regarding
meeting your spirit guides. I met my guides in delayed stages. I had two human
guides and three critter guides. This is not “common” but is also not unheard-
of. What is common is for people to have two human guides. For those who study
critter-paths, I believe that they also have two human guides, but that they are
working more consciously with critter-wisdom, and therefore it is likely that
they have “critter-medicine”, and may actually have critter guides, as I do.
Names? Gender? These are generally the first two issues we would like to
distinguish within our guides. What I would recommend, as a matter of deduction,
is that you ask your inner voice, if your entity is Male or Female. You WILL
receive a definite impression. Lesson number one – learn to trust yourself. (I
like to ask the gender question first, as it’s an easy one-two, this or that
approach, and helps to distinguish our own emotional responses.) When it comes
to names, let your mind be open to receive impressions. When I first met Elmo,
my bear, I had a hard time believing that was his name, because I am a “serious”
person, I associated “Elmo” as being playful, and therefore antithetical to what
I thought his name should be. (Yet, I’ve learned a lot from Elmo, including “not
being so uptight” I also learned more about not judging a person – or entity –
by their name.) When I first met Garulf, as a spirit, I thought he had a
fascinating name. Weird name, dynamic personality. This was the label I hanged
on him. How was I to know Garulf was a fairly common, respectable name several
hundreds of years ago, in Denmark? How was I to know Garulf was actually a Soul
name, befitting him perfectly as a spirit, and as a person? So, in other words,
whatever name you get in meditation, or whatever, really is their name?
Sometimes, the names of your spirits will help you bust up your own
preconceptions of what names mean – or what roles people should play in your
lives. What it all really comes down to is trusting your impressions. If you can
do that (we salute you!), but more, you are already on a healthy journey of
rediscovery. Your spirits will help you find the way.

Bears

Although bears are thought to be ferocious carnivores, they are actually quite playful and eat less meat than some smaller animals — supplementing their diets with plants and fruit. Bears are astonishingly swift for their size, running 35-40 mph in short distances.

The most common bear is the black bear. This name can be misleading since some black bears are various shades of brown. The Grizzly is most famous for its ferocious strength but is not aggressive by nature. The largest bear is the Alaskan Brown

Bear who is a relatively solitary animal. The “cute” Polar Bear is the most aggressive of all bears — the best hunter and the most dangerous.

Bear teaches us to respect our natural hibernation cycles. Just as Bear rests during winter and reawakens during spring, we need spaces of rest and rejuvenation. Bear calls us to awaken the potential within ourselves and the power of our unconscious mind. Bear reminds us there is a time for playfulness and a time to be assertive.

Meet Your Spirit Guides

Meet Your Spirit Guides

Before retiring, or going to bed, spend a few minutes in bed relaxing. Just
focus on being relaxed. Be relaxed…
While relaxed, imagine a Veil in front of your eyes. A curtain, or a wall.
Imagine the Veil, or the wall, as being void, black. Accept the Veil, or the
wall. Do not be threatened by the Veil, because you are relaxed, and because
you know the Veil is an illusion, and serves purpose. You are still relaxed.
Then, you visualize the Veil (or wall) slowly lifting. You see the Veil lifting,
and you see stars, you see lights. You know you can see things you haven’t seen
before. You are still relaxed. When you are ready, you ask for Spirit to join
you. You ask Spirit to touch you, and to embrace you, because you are ready to
embrace Spirit. You know that Spirit is Divine Love, you know you are safe, you
know you are loved. You know you are ready to meet Spirit. Hold your hands out.
Let your fingertips feel the touch of Spirit. Know that when you are ready, you
can ask Spirit to embrace your arms; ask for Spirit to give you a huge hug. You
will feel it. Accept the love that is given to you, and know that you have
earned it, that the love is yours. You may feel many things. Electricity, and an
urge to cry, is what I felt, and great joy. There are many methods regarding
meeting your spirit guides. I met my guides in delayed stages. I had two human
guides and three critter guides. This is not “common” but is also not unheard-
of. What is common is for people to have two human guides. For those who study
critter-paths, I believe that they also have two human guides, but that they are
working more consciously with critter-wisdom, and therefore it is likely that
they have “critter-medicine”, and may actually have critter guides, as I do.
Names? Gender? These are generally the first two issues we would like to
distinguish within our guides. What I would recommend, as a matter of deduction,
is that you ask your inner voice, if your entity is Male or Female. You WILL
receive a definite impression. Lesson number one – learn to trust yourself. (I
like to ask the gender question first, as it’s an easy one-two, this or that
approach, and helps to distinguish our own emotional responses.) When it comes
to names, let your mind be open to receive impressions. When I first met Elmo,
my bear, I had a hard time believing that was his name, because I am a “serious”
person, I associated “Elmo” as being playful, and therefore antithetical to what
I thought his name should be. (Yet, I’ve learned a lot from Elmo, including “not
being so uptight” I also learned more about not judging a person – or entity –
by their name.) When I first met Garulf, as a spirit, I thought he had a
fascinating name. Weird name, dynamic personality. This was the label I hanged
on him. How was I to know Garulf was a fairly common, respectable name several
hundreds of years ago, in Denmark? How was I to know Garulf was actually a Soul
name, befitting him perfectly as a spirit, and as a person? So, in other words,
whatever name you get in meditation, or whatever, really is their name?
Sometimes, the names of your spirits will help you bust up your own
preconceptions of what names mean – or what roles people should play in your
lives. What it all really comes down to is trusting your impressions. If you can
do that (we salute you!), but more, you are already on a healthy journey of
rediscovery. Your spirits will help you find the way.