Today is Yule. It is celebrated on the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. After this night, the nights will start to get shorter and the days will get longer. It is the rebirth of the Sun.
Ancient people were hunters and farmers and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this, many ancient people had a great reverence for, and worshiped the Sun. The Norsemen saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for the wheel, houl or jol, that the word Yule is thought to have come.
Every 6 months there is a Solstice. On the Summer Solstice the longest day of the year and shortest night, the Waning Sun takes control of the skies and the days get shorter and nights get longer, the cold starts to set in and vegetation on the earth begins to die. On the Winter Solstice the Waxing Sun takes over and the nights start to get shorter and the days longer, it is a sign that Spring is only a few months away, where life will begin anew and the earth will start to blossom and bloom.
On Yule we celebrate the return of the Waxing Sun. In Wicca it is birth of the Sun God who has many names: Cernunnos, The Oak King, Apollo, Sol, Freyr, Horus, Mithras, The Horned God, The Green Man, Lord Of Light, and more. The Goddess gives birth to him on this night, she sacrifices herself to give life to the Lord Of Light to ensure the earth’s survival.
In ancient tradition, Yule was celebrated with a large fire where the townsfolk and villagers would dedicate it to the Sun God. They would fill their homes with evergreens and an evergreen tree to show that even though the land is barren and dead, life is still flourishing. They would decorate the tree and their home with shiny objects to encourage The Sun God to shine.
We use Holly and Mistletoe on Yule as symbols of the fertility of the God and Goddess as they grow in the Winter. The red berries of the Holly represent the blood of the Goddess and the white berries of Mistletoe represent the semen of the God to ensure a healthy Spring and harvest to come.
Fill your Yule altar with fruit, nuts, and seasonal winter fare such as fallen leaves, fallen tree branches, acorns, evergreens, and anything bright and shining. Light yellow, green, red, white, or orange candles to ensure a good year and honor the season. Make an offering of wine, grapes, juniper berries, apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, or cloves to the Gods to honor them and wish for a happy new year.
The Winter Solstice has been celebrated by many ancient cultures, one of the most famous being Saturnalia.The ancient Romans held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th-23rd of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants, the servants were given lavish gifts and their masters made them a big feast. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions, and giving presents. A Saturnalia Tree would be the center piece of every home.
Yule is a celebration of light and of the Sun and its life-giving properties upon the earth. It is a time to rejoice and be thankful for all we have and to gather strength for the new year. It is a time to contemplate on the year that has gone and look to the future.
The Winter Solstice falls on the longest night of the year (this can fall anywhere between the 20th-23rd of December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.
It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits, and bring luck for the coming year. To make a Yule log, cut a log into 12 pieces and burn a piece every day for 12 days, with each piece burned make a wish for the coming new year.
Today we welcome back the Lord of Light. Blessed Yule to all.
Full Written Credit: Mystical Tymes
Edited by Lisa Marino
Photo Credit: Various