Yule celebration, and other traditions
In modern paganism many folk traditions from northern and western Europe share similar ways to celebrate Yule like decorating trees and homes with boughs of holly, kissing under the mistletoe, and burning the Yule Log. Like many other old pagan festivities, Yule underwent a reformulation through the Christian church, originally it was commonly called Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time” or “Yule season”) and it was a festival historically observed by Germanic people.
Nowadays witches and neopagans celebrate the Sabbat of Yule at the Winter Solstice when the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Typically, this occurs around December 20-23 in the northern hemisphere and is the longest night of the year. Capricorn is the cardinal sign, meaning it begins the season of Winter, it also begins the light half of the wheel of the year, because the days will lengthen, and the sun will rise just a little bit higher in the sky every day until its peak at the summer solstice.
For such celebrations not only the astronomic situation is important. Also, the various elements included in the celebration ritual play an important part. Oils, herbs, foods, woods, stones, colors, candles, animals, etc. are chosen carefully basing on their individual properties and their potential in relation to each other. Pagans and witches call them “correspondences” and use them to boost a celebration, ritual or prayer always with a very specific objective or topic in mind.
Of course, each of us has his own ritualized way of doing particular things but it is usually not that conscious. Below you will find a couple of ideas for your Yule celebration and some hints about Yule correspondences.
On this longest night of the year, we gather friends and family around the hearth fires, to jingle bells, feast, toast the wassail, and regale each other in song and story until the wee morning hours. Yule is the celebration of hope, returning light and life. Darkness and light, death and life, black and white, is the essence of Yule. The solstice is the moment in which the two opposite poles meet. During the Summer Solstice the light overcomes the darkness while at the Winter Solstice, the light gives place to the darkness and the cold. As they both exist within each other and they could not survive otherwise, we accept them as the quintessence of life´s cycle.
In Old England, The Twelfth Night marked the end of the winter festival that started on Samhain. In the middle ages, the Twelfth Night began on the eve of December 25th moving forward 12 days to January 6th, hence the name the twelve days of Christmas. During this time you can also improve the atmosphere with herbal blends that include woods and berries like Pine, Cedar, Mistletoe, Oak, Sandalwood, Chamomile, Orange, Clove, Allspice, Juniper Berries and fresh Cinnamon Sticks. You can for instance use this kind of mix to empower your Yule bonfire, by simply throwing them in the fire!You can also use as a Yule potpourri and place in a bowl upon your fireplace or favourite spot in the home as an offering or to simply add a different and natural energy to your space. You can burn your herbs also with a charcoal disk. When we prepare our parties at the Duncker Club we also pay attention to such details. We do not always have time to create our own herbal blends, although we try, and sometimes we buy them. However, once you know the correct ingredients, you just have to find the right shop.
“Love and joy come to you,
and to you your wassail too;
and God bless you and send you
a happy New Year.”
There are few ancient folk traditions that, of course, include drinking and eating. Like the medieval Christmas tradition of the Wassail toast. The word ‘wassail’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘waes hael’, which means ‘good health’ as the toast also is meant to be wishing well to beloved ones. This drink was made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar and sometimes other things lying around in the kitchen. It was a “peasant drink” and it was often offered to farmers or peasant´s bands staggering in the house of rich families and singing Christmas carols. Wassailing was traditionally done on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night and it was supposed to bring good luck in the time following Yule.
The idea of “Wassailing” comes partly from an old legend, which says that a beautiful Saxon maiden named Rowena presented Prince Vortigen with a bowl of wine while toasting him with the words ‘waes hael’. From there the Wassailing evolved into a real ceremony where the bowl was carried into a room with great fanfare, and the guests would sing a good luck carol before pouring the drink.
Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts, ginger, allspice, or fruits like orange, pomegranate, persimmon, etc. that are common for this time of the year are associated to solar and fire energies. Drinks such as the Wassail become solar potions that actually do make you feel warm and cozy, this way helping you tuning with returning warmth of the sun.
Wassail magic punch recipe:
warm up together:
1 tablespoon dried All-spice berries
1 apple´s pulp roasted
2 apples previously boiled
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small orange, sliced into 4-5 rings
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 anise dried
2 quarts sweet apple cider
2 cups brandy, or spiced rum (I prefer Captain Morgans.)
you can also add 2 cups orange juice
(the original recipe included eggs and curdled cream)
Recipies might vary but online you will find many good ones.
During the Yule time, we should take the opportunity to use the situation of growing light for all our projects but we also can think of lightening a situation in relation to our role in the collectivity we live in. How can we bring light, growth, and purpouse to the world around us? Are we moving toward growth and evolution or are we static, lingering in our comfort zones?
Change happens when we leave our safe place and step into new enviroments. Are we helping to improve our society? If not, which form could our efforts take?
We can spend our Yule/winter solstice time thinking about the good that we have done and how to even improve our actions in the future, also by opening our minds to our social and natural environment in the attempt to honor ourselves, others, nature, animals.
Spice up your Yule by using correspondences:
Crystals and Stones
Bloodstone, Ruby, Diamond, Emerald, Tiger’s Eye, Garnet
Stag, Wren, Robin, Reindeer, Goat, White Buffalo, Phoenix, Wolf, Hawk, Squirrels
Red, Green, White, Gold, Silver, Yellow, Orange, Blue
Rosemary, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Bayberry, Saffron, Cinnamon, Ginger, Wintergreen, Cedar, Pine, Frankincense
Bayberry, Blessed Thistle, Oak, Mistletoe, Evergreen, Holly, Laurel, Sage, Pine, Yellow Cedar, Ash, Chamomile, Hazel, Juniper, Sandalwood, Frankincense
Yule Log, Wreath, 8-Spoked Wheels, Bells, Candy Canes, Carols, Candles, Chimney, Elves, Gingerbread, Lights, North Pole, Sleigh, Snowflakes, Stockings, Tinsel, Mistletoe, Reindeer, Santa Claus, Sun, Wassail
Cookies, Cider Cakes, Mulled Cider, Fruits, Nuts, Pork Dishes, Turkey, Eggnog, Ginger, Wassail
Red and Green Candles and Altar Cloths, Holly, Mistletoe, Pine Cones, White Tea Lights, Rings of Candles, Evergreen Boughs, Bowls of Shaved Ice or Snow from Outside
Symbolism of Yule
Rebirth of the Sun and Return of the Light, Hope, Peace, Introspection, Planning, The Longest Night of the Year
Spell and Ritual Themes
Peace, Hope, Harmony, Love, Increased Happiness, Prosperity, Renewal, New Beginnings, Fresh Starts
Goddesses: Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaia, Diana
Gods: Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon