Yule is the time of the Winter Solstice (the solstice begins when the sun enters Capricorn). Also known as Midwinter’s eve, it is a time of the longest night and shortest day. This day is known as a “Minor Sabbat”. It is a Cross Quarter day. This is the sabbat that the virgin Goddess gives birth to the Sun God. It is a celebration of the return of the Sun. A time when the Oak king (God of the waxing year, Divine Child or God of Light) vanquishes the Holly King (God of the waning year, Dark god). Thus the rebirth of the Light half of the year. Or to the ancient Celts, a time when the Robin (waxing time) slew the Wren (waning time).
This is a time of the Roman holiday “Saturnalia” (Saturn, God of sowing). Beginning on Dec. 17th and culminating with the festival of “Dies Natalis Sol Invictus” (the birthday of the unconquered Sun) on Dec 25th. Followers of this tradition, often gave presents to each other in keeping with the customs of this festival. This festive holiday is also known as “Brumalia” (Winter Solstice). This was the start of the Roman New Year.
To the Egyptians, this day marks the return of the Sun God “Ra”.
This is also the time for the Druids to celebrate “Alban Arthur” (The light of Arthur). It is thought that King Arthur was born on the Winter Solstice. This is a fire festival held on Dec. 21st.
In a attempt to eliminate this pagan sabbat, the christians decreed in the year 336 C.E. that this would be the birthday of Jesus. Though it was thought that he was born in the Springtime.
This is a time for the Yule log, a custom, some say, dates back to 5000 B.C.E. with the ancient Egyptians. They were known to burn logs during this time, to honor their Sun God “Horus”. It is also suggested that the custom of the yule log originated with the Norsemen, who burned huge logs in honor of “Odin” the Yule father. It was also burned in order to usher in good luck for the coming year. The unburned pieces of last years yule log was used to light the current years yule log. The yule log was often called a “Ceppo” in Europe. The yule log is frequently used for wishing upon.
This is the day for evergreens such as Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe. All of these representing Fertility and Everlasting Life.
The Mistletoe, also called “Allheal” or “Golden Bough”, so sacred to Druids and others, is banned from most christian churches, because of it’s pagan association. The mistletoe is hung over doorways as a symbol of goodwill and friendship. In the Nordic tales, it is said that the God “Balder” was slain by an arrow made of mistletoe, by the hand of Loki. Balder later came back to life.
Holly was hung in doorways and windows to ward off bad spirits. It is also hung to protect the home from ligtning strikes.
Lighting candles and setting yule/hearth fires, was done to enhance the Sun Gods power over the God of darkness.
In the Scandanavian countries, there is the yule goat or “Julbock. Who was originally in service as a carrier for the God, Thor. Later on he became a carrier for the scandanavian “yule elf”.
The Norse celebrate yule for twelve days. It is from the norse that the word “yule” is believed to have come from. Translated it means “wheel”. It is a time wnen the norse await the rebirth of “Freya”, the Sun Goddess. This is the start of the nordic New Year.
Evergreen trees were cut down and brought indoors to honor deity. They also represented the concept of eternal life. They were often decorated with anything from fruit to pieces of metal and at times 12 candles. All to enhance the honor given to the God. The rebirth of the Sun God means a return of longer days and shorter nights. Thus the planting season is at hand.
The wreath represents the “Wheel of the Year. ” It is believed to have been used for this concept, since circa 2000 B.C.E.
The custom of hanging the herb “Bay” , or lighting Bayberry candles was inspired by followers of the Roman God “Apollo”. This God’s role is to drive the chariot containing the Sun God on his voyage back to bring light to the earth. Bay is sacred to this God, thus the yule time custom.
This sabbat is a time for throwing off the past year and preparing for the coming year. It is a time to celebrate the renewal of life. I personally look at Yule as a time to start acting upon the faults brought forth from the past year in order to enhance my spiritual development. And we all have faults that need to be worked on. You should hear me when I’m driving behind someone doing 45 m.p.h in a 55 m.p.h zone. If my son is with me, he immediatley holds up three fingers to remind me of the ThreeFold law.
However you celebrate, have a merry and festive Yule. And may Her/His light shine on each and every one.