Yule is one of the four fire festivals found on the wheel of the year. Each of the fire festivals fall on either a solstice or an equinox. Falling on winter solstice the longest night of the year we celebrate Yule the returning of light. The celebration of Yule starts the night before and up to thirteen days. It has been noted historically the celebrations would last as long as the fire and mead.
Many stories have been passed down from various cultures on just how the light is returned to the sky. Most of these tales involve women birthing the sun. One gives credit to a shape shifting white deer that disappears into a cave to birth the sun.
Celtic legend it is the crone Callieach who strike the earth with her staff and turns the world white. She then dies off in spring giving way to Brigid the maiden. This is also associate. With the ever popular triple moon representing mother maiden crone. This dark season is the dying off of the land, the rest, time for reflection and connecting with wisdom of the crone. Most popular in Wiccan circles is the story of the Oak and Holly kings. They battle twice a year fir rule of the land at each solstice. The popular images of each king often called the greenman,.. oak king,.. or the Holly king who shares jolly similarities with the modern Santa.
This time was celebrated equally across cultures as well. Norse pagans are to credit for the Yule log and bringing in of the evergreen. The evergreens were a sign of longevity used to purify, banish evil and bless the year to come. The evergreen branches were sometimes decorated to please the woodland spirits who were thought to live in them. The “Christmas Tree“ as we know today did not start untill 1840s and was made popular by Queen Elizabeth. This was also a part of reformation and converting pagans. The celebration of the birth of the Sun was changed to celebrate the birth of the Son. The Yule log was also decorated and inscribed with sigils for luck and protection. A piece from the log would be saved each year to start the fire the next. Wreaths of evergreen, the circle representing the cycle of life and wheel of the year also likely ore date our modern Christmas. Cider or Wassail was made using is on spices of the season many corresponding with the sun and element of fire: Cinnamon for protection, also associated with Mars, prosperity, luck and love.
Clove, Star Anise and Nutmeg to attract wealth and health all also being ruled by the expansive Jupiter. Anise is also useful for Third eye and can be used as a divination tool. Rosemary and peppermint for cleansing, protection and clarity.
The word Wassail means to wish one well, and was originally a well wishing of apple trees and a time to give blessings and offerings to the orchards.
In the list above there is several activities to incorporate in your celebration of the season. One we did this year was Witches balls. These will be filled with various protective herbs listed above, a bay leaf with the word or trait we call in to our life abd then sealed with black wax for protection. Greeting the rising sun is a beautiful way to show gratitude for it’s life giving power. Also welcoming light through making candies or setting up a spiral walk are options to add in your traditions.
Food is always welcome in this house so Sun Bread will be making an appearance again and again here. There is a great children’s book from which this idea was born. While not deep in tradition, it’s lots of fun and at the heart of it all anything that brings joy, that lights you up can be done during these dark days to celebrate. Would love you know what traditions you carry forward each year or new ones your have found along the way.