“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.
Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them.”

~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull ~

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Winter Solstice & Yule

I have to admit I'm feeling somewhat discombobulated this holiday season. It is the first for me as a Wiccan and although I embrace all that being Wiccan entails, those old belief systems are there in the back of my mind. I expect that as I go through the month and enjoy all that it has to offer in the way of the Winter Solstice and Yule celebrations, that feeling will go away and I'll be left to revel in the mysteries.

My Yule Altar

Brian and I are going to the Winter Solstice/Yule celebration on December 21st at Circle Sanctuary. Although I practice as a Solitary, it will be nice to celebrate the Sabbat with others who share in my beliefs.

As the Wheel of the Year turns and the days get shorter, the skies become gray and it seems as though the sun is dying, it's in this time of darkness we pause at the Winter Solstice to celebrate something wonderful. On Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place . . . and then an amazing, wonderful, and miraculous thing happens - the light begins to return!

In celebration of the Sun's return, the most important part of any Yule festivity is light which could include candles, a fire in the hearth or even a bonfire. It is customary to burn a Yule log to honour the Lord Cernunnos or the Horned God. Because each type of wood is associated with various magickal and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.

This year we'll be making our Yule log out of pine. Here's how to make a basic Yule log . . .

You'll need:
A log about 14"–18” long; pinecones; dried berries (such as cranberries); cuttings of mistletoe, holly, ivy and pine needles; feathers and cinnamon sticks; some festive ribbon (use paper or cloth ribbon, not synthetic or wire-lined types) or rafia; fruits and nuts; and a hot glue gun.

A picture from the internet - I'll replace it once my own Yule log is made. Isn't this one pretty?

Most of these items can be gathered outside or found easily enough at craft stores or the supermarket. Just keep in mind you'll be burning the log on your Yule fire so you'll want to use as close to nature as you can. And remember, only pick up items found on the ground, rather than taking cuttings from live plants.

Begin by wrapping the log loosely with the ribbon or rafia. Leave enough space that you can insert your branches, cuttings and feathers under the ribbon or rafia. In our house, I'll be placing nine feathers on our Yule log – one for each member of the family (yes, I include the birds and dogs in that count). Once you’ve gotten your branches and cuttings in place, begin gluing on the pinecones, nuts, cinnamon sticks and berries. If you're adding fruit (such as apples) try piercing them first with a floral stick and then 'sticking' them in. Add as much or as little as you like.

Once you’ve decorated your Yule log, use it as a centerpiece for your holiday table. A Yule log looks lovely on a table surrounded by candles and holiday greenery. You could also use your Yule log as our ancestors did and burn it in your hearth or in a bonfire outside if you're lucky enough to have a space available for that purpose. Before burning your log, write down a wish on a piece of paper and insert it into the ribbon or rafia. It's your wish for the upcoming year and should be kept to yourself in hope that it comes true. While watching the Yule log burn, share in a cup of hot cocoa, discuss how thankful you are for the good things that have come your way this year and how you hope for abundance, good health, and happiness in the next.

In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the Oak King and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule.

In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.

Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways - the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.

Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.

The Yule season is full of magic, much of it focusing on rebirth and renewal, as the sun makes its way back to the earth. Focus on this time of new beginnings with your magical workings!

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The Blue Faerie said...

Wow! I just came across your site through one of my followers & I'm stunned. Your Yule altar is beautiful! And very helpful, too. This is the second year I'll be celebrating Yule with my husband & I've been looking for some traditions to start (making the move between xmas and Yule) :).

And it's good to see another Wisconsinite Wiccan out here! I thought about going to the CS Yule celebration the 18th, but my 3 year old niece is having her Christmas pageant. I can't pass up the chance to see toddlers acting out the birth of Christ. :P I'll be interested to hear how the celebration goes!

The Blue Faerie said...

...Dum de dum dum dum! Whacking myself in the head for seeing the link to my page and realizing I had found your site through, um, you. Your icon & site photos are different so I got con-fu-sed. :P

Plumrose Lane said...

This was wonderful Teresa, I love how much information you shared as I didn't know at least half of it, LOL! I love the Yule log idea and I think we'll be making one of those this year in... definitely pine. ;D

I understand your latent feelings, they creep in for me as well ~ I suppose it just shows how very well we were brainwashed by society, but I will forever feel you're on the right course, the one your heart guides you on.

Redbeet Mama said...

I am thrilled to have stumbled onto your beautiful blog. I am in love!

Namaste, Nicole

Anonymous said...

Beautiful altar!! Just lovely....

Bright Blessings,

Barbara Graver said...

What a lovely blog!