Related Deities: Mother Berta, Father Winter, Santa Claus, Kriss Kringle, St. Nick, the Kings of Holly and Oak
Related Herbs: Chamomile, rosemary, ginger, sage, cinnamon
Related Stones: Quartz crystal, blue sunstone, emerald, ruby, sapphire
A solar festival, Yule falls on the first day of winter – the day that the Sun is reborn to warm the Earth again.' And even though some of the traditions are a lot like the Christian Christmas, its origins are much more ancient. In fact, the ancient Egyptians started this festival over four thousand years ago with a twelve-day party to celebrate the rebirth of Horus – the son of Isis and Osiris – whose Earthly guise took the form of the Sun. Because they saw greenery as a magical growth tool – and they wanted the Sun to grow and stay in the sky longer – they used it to decorate everything in sight. Soon, the Egyptians prospered and news of their Sun-welcoming festival spread through Mesopotamia.
That being the case, it wasn’t long before other countries followed suit. Incorporating occasional gifts, the Babylonians began to worship the newborn Sun with a celebration called Zagmuk. The Persians and Greeks started their own solar celebrations, too – both were called Sacaea, But in wasn’t until the ancient Romans got in on the act that things really started popping. They named their festival Saturnalia, and included candles, singing, gourmet feasting, and lavish gift giving. And with that, Winter Solstice celebrations spread throughout Europe and the Yule festival, as we know it today, was born.
Yule comes from the Scandinavian word Jul, meaning wheel. And though there are many solar themes associated with this festival, the most common in our celebration is the battle between the aging Holly King, who represents the darkness of the old year, and the young Oak King, who symbolizes the light of the new year. Sometimes the battle is reenacted during ritual. In this case, the old king is symbolically slain, and the Oak King takes his place on the throne to rule. More often than not, though, the tale is simply told during the lighting of the Yule log. And with its lighting, we encourage the Sun’s easy birth, welcome it back to the Earth, and ask it to cast its warming, healing rays upon us once more.
Yule Circle Notes
Use a white altar cloth, and decorate with evergreens, poinsettias, and rosemary, holly, mistletoe, and ivy, Use red, white, and green candles to symbolize the bloodshed of birth, the innocence of new life, and the growth process, respectively. Burn Yule Incense (a mixture of chamomile, ginger, pine, and sage). Mark the Circle perimeter with evergreen boughs, and use tiny, living, decorated trees at the Quarters. (Decorations should relate to the appropriate Element.)
Cast the Circle using the athame. Release it using the wand.
Yule Celebration ideas
• Start your celebration well before dawn, so you can be a part of the Sun’s birthing process. Kick off the ritual with an apple juice toast to the Holly King, saying something like:
Winter day of longest night
Step aside now for the light
Thank you for the things you’ve brought
That only darkness could have wrought
Then name all the gifts of darkness you can think of – regeneration, peace, dreams, organization, quietude, and so on – before drinking the juice.
To ensure good luck and prosperity in the coming year, anoint a bayberry candle with vegetable oil and roll it in dried chamomile. Light the candle and allow it to burn down completely.
Make a Yule log from a piece of oak and decorate it with evergreens. Light it, saying something like:
Old King, we thank You for all You’ve done
For lessons learned, and victories won
We must, however, bid You adieu
For Your reign is finished – ’tis over and through
Come forth, Young King of newest light
Be born with ease; grow strong and bright
Gain strength and stature in the sky
Shed Your warmth on us now from on high
Be sure to save an unburned piece to start next year’s log. Save some of the ashes, too. They make terrific boosters for every type of magic.
End the ritual with an orange juice toast to the Sun, saying something like:
0 Newborn Sun of love and light
Rise quickly now, rise high and bright
Gain power in the sky above
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