ABOUT Yule, Dec 21
For people of nearly any religious background, the winter solstice is a time to gather with loved ones. Pagans and Wiccans celebrate the solstice as the Yule season, which focuses on rebirth and renewal as the sun makes its way back to the earth. Focus on this time of new beginnings with your magical workings. This sabbat welcomes in the first light as it also honors the darkest point of the year, making it potent for manifestations birthed from gratitude and the willingness to transform. Welcome light and warmth into your home and embrace the fallow season of the earth.
In pre-Christian times, people would often celebrate this holiday by lighting candles and coming together as a community around fires to encourage the sun to come back out. Everyone would bring the food they’d been saving for the winter months to enjoy as a feast and communities would get together to sing and dance. Homes were also decorated with symbols of renewal (evergreen), hope (holly), fertility (mistletoe), and protection (yule logs). Many traditions we now see and use to celebrate Christmas.
Cave of creation
This is a time to go inward, a time to hibernate and rest. When you allow yourself to slow down, you reset your nervous system and allow the part of you that is creative to emerge. Use the Cave as a symbol for circle and create a cozy atmosphere with blankets, warm drinks, dim lights and candles, and visualizations.
What feels soothing and good to your soul? In the slowing down, you want to be mindful of taking care of yourself, nourishing and replenishing the body, mind and spirit. Incorporate acts of self-care into your circle like foot rubs, shoulder massages, and restful meditations.
The New Dawn
The first light starts to appear at this time of year. This is a time to surrender to the mystery and unknown, to let go of the cerebral part of the brain that needs to have it all figured out. Create circles where you don’t have to know anything.
This is the time of year when we gather as family and community. But many times, this brings up old triggers and wounds. Create a safe space for women to share their grievances and heal the family lineage so they can feel clear and centered during the family gatherings.
December and January are the perfect months to reflect on the year. What worked? What didn’t work? What were the most value lessons? Use circle as a time to share lessons and celebrations from the past year before setting intentions.
The veil is thin during this time of year, which means that we can connect easier with the spirit world. Use a veil to symbolize this in circle, to go into the dark and connect with spirit guides, intuition and the other side.
When we have slowed down, reflected on the past and connected with spirit, we can create inspiring visions of possibility for the future. Use vision boards, set intentions for the new year, and focus on what you desire.
Holiday Tree: Traditionally, witches bring a fallen tree into their home and decorate with food and charms for spirits without a home to enjoy.
Welcoming the First Light: Yule is the time when the first light of the sun arrives, marking the beginning of longer days and incoming warmth.
Triple Goddess: The Maiden, Mother, and Crone archetypal-trifecta are honored as we transcend dark and light polarities in the face of seasonal death and rebirth.
Snow Magick: The alchemy that takes place when water turns to snow is charged with the acceptance that what is fluid is also capable of strength and sturdiness. Spending time in the snow initiates the subtle feminine into her force and ability to shift when necessary.
Cleansing: At the darkest point of the year we are given the opportunity to release all which is not in alignment for our path ahead. Utilizing smoke medicine and burying or burning all which needs to be released is tradition.
Good Tidings: Donating, giving to others, and spending quality time are all highly aligned with this sabbat. It is a time to enjoy, relax, and retreat into love as the Earth takes time away from the active force of the Sun.
SYMBOLS AND TOOLS
In Celtic mythology, the alder tree was symbolic of a balance between female and male principles since it possesses both female and male catkins on the same branch. The alder is a member of the birch family generally found near streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.
In the countries around the world where pine trees grow, many legends, beliefs, and folklore surround this magnificent tree.” Aside from representing fertility, wisdom and longevity, the pine tree is a symbol of peace
The ancient Norse used the Yule log in their celebration of the return of the sun at winter solstice. “Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth
Evergreens were cut and brought indoors to symbolize life, rebirth and renewal. They were thought to have power over death because their green never faded, and they were used to defeat winter demons and hold back death and destruction. Because of their strength and tenacity, they were also believed to encourage the Sun’s return.
Holly, which represents the masculine element, was often used to decorate doors, windows and fireplaces. Because of its prickliness it was thought to capture or ward off evil spirits before they could enter a home and cause harm. The holly leaves, symbolic of the Holly King, represent hope, while the red berries represent potency.
Mistletoe, which represents the female element, also holds much importance as it was used by Druid priests in special ceremonies during the Winter Solstice. They believed that its green leaves represented the fertility of the Mother Goddess, and its white berries, the seed of the Forest God or Oak King. Druids would harvest the mistletoe from sacred oak trees with golden scythes and maidens would gather underneath the trees to catch the falling branches, preventing them from falling to the ground; for if this happened, it was believed that all sacred energy in the plant would pour back into the earth. The branches and sprigs were then divided and distributed to be hung over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. Mistletoe was also worn as an amulet for fertility, or hung above the headboard.
The Yule Tree was also another important symbol in pagan tradition. Originally, it represented the Tree of Life or the World Tree among early pagans. In ancient times it was decorated with gifts people wanted to receive from the gods. It was adorned with natural ornaments such as pinecones, berries and other fruit, as well as symbols sacred to the gods and goddess. In some holiday traditions, garlands of popcorn and berries were strung around the tree so that visiting birds could feed off the tree as well.
Candles were another way to have an eternal flame within the home. They symbolized the light and warmth of the sun and were used to chase away evils and lure back the returning sun/son.
Wreaths were also traditional in ancient times for they symbolized the wheel of the year and the completion of another cycle. They were made of evergreens and adorned with cones and berries and hung as decoration throughout the home. They were also given as gifts to symbolize the infinity of goodwill, friendship and joyfulness.
Bells were often rung during the Winter Solstice to drive away demons that surfaced during the dark time of the year. They were rung in the morning as everyone began to wake to chase away the dark days and herald in the warmer, brighter days following the solstice.
Elves first became associated with Yule because the ancients knew that the Spirits that created the Sun inhabited the land of Elves. By including elves in the Yule celebrations, the ancients believed they were assuring the elves assistance in the coercion of the Sun to return.
Gingerbread was considered to be a specialty bread during this time since ginger had not been available until the Crusaders brought it back in the 11th century. There were strict laws regarding specialty breads in that time, so gingerbread was only allowed to be produced during the holidays and thus, it became associated with winter and Yule.
Wassail derives from the Old English words waes hael, which means “be well”, “be hale” or “good health”. It is a strong drink, usually a mixture of ale, honey and spices or mulled apple cider. When pagans went into the forest to fell the great oak for the Yule log, they would anoint the tree with wassail and bedeck them with wassail-soaked cakes, thus the ritual of wassailing was born. At home, the wassail would be poured into a large bowl during feast time and the host, when greeting his or her guests, would lift a drink and wish them “waes hael”, to which they would reply “drinc hael”, which meant “drink and be well”.
Carolling was also a popular Yule tradition when young children honoured the Winter Solstice with song. They would go through the villages, singing door to door. The villagers, in return, would reward them with tokens and sweets and small gifts which symbolized the food and prosperity given by the Mother Goddess to all her Earthly children.
Nature Symbols of Yule: Holly, Oak, Mistletoe, Ivy, Evergreens, Laurel, Bayberry, Blessed Thistle, Frankincense, Pine, Sage, Yellow Cedar.
Food and Drink of Yule: Yule Log Cake, Gingerbread, Fruits, Berries, Nuts, Pork dishes, Turkey, Eggnog, Ginger Tea, Spiced Cider, Wassail
Colours of Yule: Red, Green, White, Silver, Gold
Red represents the waning Holly King. Green represents the waxing Oak King. White represents the purity and hope of new Light. Silver represents the Moon. Gold represents the Sun/Son.
Stones of Yule: Rubies, Bloodstones, Garnets, Emeralds, Diamonds
~ Originally written by Daniela Masaro. Updated/edited by Jacob Lopez Dec, 2020
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