First thoughts on Yule; Winter Solstice, the Return of the Sun

Diagram show the Sun in relation to the Earth at the Equinxos and Solstices.

Yule is a Fire Festival and a Lesser Sabbat which occur at the solstices and equinoxes (Greater Sabbats are connected with the agriculture, the earth, seasons and high energy)  Yule is celebrated during the Winter Solstice between 20th-23rd December in the northern hemisphere.  The Solstice is a still, pivotal point of the Sun; at Winter this means the shortest day and longest night. The Sun movies from Sagittarius (mutable fire) to Capricorn (cardinal earth).

The origins of the word Yule are thought to be from various origins; Old English geõla, Old Norse jõl, and Anglo-Saxon Iul meaning wheel (turning of the year) the latter two being used for the time of the Winter Solstice.  Another name isAlban Arthan meaning Light of Arthur/Bear.

People celebrating the return of the sun by the sea  at the winter solstice.

Ancient peoples who were hunters could not hunt at this time of the year, meat animals were scare, there was little sun light and the weather often prevented going outside at all.  Would there be enough food to last the winter and would this time ever end they wondered.  Then miraculously the sun began to return, slowly at first, but gave hope of the promise of the spring and summer to come.  They knew however bad the next few months were, life would continue.

Mid Winter Solstice Sunset at Stonehenge
Mid Winter Solstice Sunset at Stonehenge

Where is the still point in your life?  How will you celebrate the return of something in your life whether it is a person, a change, a plan, good health etc?  What supplies do you have to sustain you through the winter and where are they stored?  What darkness can you leave behind as you face the coming light? 

Second thoughts on Yule: the Gods and Goddesses

The earth Goddess and the new Sun God

Yule is the seed time of year, when the Goddess once more becomes the Great Mother, again giving birth to the Sun God, who died at the Harvest and journeyed to the Underworld to await his rebirth.  From the longest night comes the new spark of life and hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World. 

‘Hope grows with the days, so celebrate’.

The Oak King and the Holly King

Also, it marks the vanquishing of the Holly King, God of the winter/waning year, by the Oak King, God of the summer/waxing year.  Although some people see the Kings exchanging their rule at the Equinoxes (Ostara and Mabon). 

Father Christmas on his Sleigh with Gifts and pulled by his Reindeer.

Nowadays for some, Father Christmas has taken the place of the Holly King, his Sleigh the solar chariot, the eight Reindeer representing the eight Sabbats, their Horns represent the Horned God/Goddess, the North Pole symbolises the Land of Shadows and the dying solar year and the Gifts are to welcome the Oak King and as a parting gift from the Holly King.

As the dark days begin to recede, and the light begins to return, what are you creating now to release later in the year?  Are you a winter Holly King or an Oak Summer King?  What gifts can you offer to yourself, others, the environment, the world in general? 

Third thoughts on Yule: Things to Do

  • Bake a Yule Log Cake
  • Be generous, give to Charity
  • Bring in a Yule Log and Decorate it
  • Burn a Solstice Candle, for the returning sun God and the Light
  • Burn a Yule Log
  • Burn ash wood for Prosperity
  • Celebrate and have Fun!
  • Decorate your home with Evergreens and Mistletoe
  • Decorate/tend Houseplants
  • Exchange Gifts
  • Feed the Birds (particularly with sunflowers)
  • Go Wassailing (wish health to) to Apple Trees (for a bountiful crop next year)
  • Make a Wreath using natures seasonal products
  • Make an Orange pomander using Cloves
  • Make Resolutions
  • Place Lights and Candles around your home
  • Ring the Bell to greet the Solstice Morn
  • Sing
  • Star gaze at Ursa Major (the Great Bear)
  • Strengthening Family/Friend Bonds

You might like to use Yule to do any of these to improve your life:

  • Focus on Child Within
  • Meditate on a lit candle for strength and guidance to overcome the unwanted and bring in the wanted
  • Think and act on Forgiveness
  • Give Gifts
  • Let Go of anything unhelpful or unwanted
  • Let in Hope (Light Out of Darkness)
  • Feel at Peace and offer Peace to those around you and the environment
  • The Rebirth of something you have lost or forgotten e.g. relationship, hobby, financial independence, confidence
  • Take time to Reflect on the past, to inform you for the future
  • Renew old friendships, pastimes etc.
  • Sacrifice something to make space for something new and beneficial
  • Spend some time in Silence
  • Provide Support or Provision for someone or some cause

You might like to add these, or their representations to your seasonal sacred space:

  • Animals: Bear, Boar, Reindeer, Squirrel
  • Birds: Eagle, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Owl, Robin, Snow Goose, Wren
  • Colours: Gold, Green, Red, Silver, White
  • Drink: Hibiscus/Ginger Tea, Eggnog, Mulled Wine, Wassail (ale, honey and spices or mulled apple cider)
  • Food: Apple, Fruitcake, Nuts, Orange, Pear, Roast Turkey
  • Gemstones: Bloodstone, Citrine, Clear Quartz, Diamond, Garnet, Jet, Moldavite, Ruby, Serpentine, Snow Quartz, Quartzite
  • Goddesses: Crone, Eve, Fortuna, Frau Holle, Frigga, Gaia, Great Mother, Holda, Isis, Maat, Mother Earth, Skaldi, Snow Queen, Spider Woman
  • Gods: as Greenman [Cernunnos, Gwyn ap Nudd, Herne, Holly King, Woden]; Sun Gods [Attis, Lugh, Mabon, Mithras, Ra, Sun Child, Sol Invictus]; associated with a cycle of birth, death and resurrection Balder, Janos, Jesus
  • Herbs: Bay, Bayberry, Blessed Thistle, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Clove, Moss, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Valerian, Yarrow
  • Incense/Oils: Bayberry, Cedar, Cinnamon, Clove, Frankincense, Ginger, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Pine, Rosemary, Spruce, Wintergreen
  • Mythical beings: Phoenix, Trolls, Yule Cat, Yule Goat, Yule Elf
  • Time of Day: Dawn/Midnight
  • Symbols/Decorations: Bells, Candles, Evergreens, Holly, Lights, Mistletoe, Poinsettia, Gifts, Yule Log, Yule Tree, Spinning Wheel, Wreaths
  • Trees: Apple, Birch, Cedar, Elder, Evergreens, Fir, Holly, Ivy, Juniper, Mistletoe, Oak, Pine, Pinecones (Evergreens retain sunlight and stay green all year, reminding that life is forever present and renewable, even if unseen; a symbol of hope), Scots Pine, Yew
  • Wheel of Year: death of the Holly King (winter); reign of the Oak King (summer), rebirth of the Sun God; night of greatest lunar imbalance; shortest day of year
  • Metals: Gold, Silver
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