Yule (pronounced EWE-elle)/ Winter Solstice Lore-December 20-23 Firstly, Yule, or the Winter Solstice, occurs when the Sun enters the sign Capricorn, and is at 0 ° Capricorn. Thus, Yule is a "minor" Sabbat because it is at zero degrees, the beginning of the energy. This is the longest night of the year, at the darkest time of the year. In ancient times, it was believed that the Father Sun needed our help to return, so the people would light bonfires both to strengthen the Sun through sympathetic magic and also to show the Father Sun the way back to the Mother Earth. Lighted candles in windows and lights on houses and trees (Christmas tree lights) are the leftover symbols of these bonfires, and are meant to symbolize and aid the return of the Father Sun. This was also a season of the year when the herds were culled, as there was only enough food to feed the strong and young who would be needed to breed in the spring. Weak cattle who may not survive the winter anyway were sacrificed, or just slaughtered, and used for feasting, or salted and saved. They were also traded, along with many other items, for this time of year, many people had time on their hands. The hunting was harder now because of the weather, and there was no agricultural concerns going on in the northern areas, so people had time to create and make things. The main focus of most Yuletide celebrations is the rebirth of the Father Sun, as this is when the Mother Earth gives birth to the baby Father Sun. In addition to the theme of birth, we also have the theme of death, symbolized by the Yule log. Known as Winter Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Father Sun, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds. The garland represents the circle of life, the never-ending cycles of the Mother Earth, and also the Tortoise, which is a sacred animal to the Mother Earth. The lights, as discussed above, add energy to the Sun, and are an encouragement for the Father Suns return. Glass balls were to reflect evil, thereby protecting against the "evil eye", and also to reflect the lights on the tree (originally candles on the tree) and increase the effectiveness of their light. Candy canes are a reminder of the renewal of all life as they are symbolic of the maypole, with their red and white colors, which stand for the blood and the milk of the Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon, the ancient waters of life. Ti1nsel and icicles are fertility magic also, representing the rains which will come to fertilize the earth in the spring. Bells were used to purify the air, and to summon the friendly spirits for protection. The star at the top of the tree is our own pentagram, representing the four elements of air, earth, fire and water, overseen by Spirit. Holly and Ivy were seen as the male and female principles (respectively) and were believed to bring good luck and fertility to men and women. Holly, berries, pine cones, and acorns were all used to signify the God aspect at this season, while the wreath symbolized the Mothers Earths aspect. As a complete circle, the wreath symbolized the circle of life, the wheel of the year, and the sacred cycles of Grandmother Moon, and was usually decorated with the holly, berries, ribbons, etc. of the Father Sun, and so combined both aspects in one decoration. Of course, mistletoe has come down as the plant most associated with the Yule season. Being a parasite, it only grows high in trees, where the seeds land after being borne on the wind. The Druids therefore believed the plant was put there by the Gods, probably by lightning bolt, or put there by the Sun. It was believed to have miraculous healing powers, be very strong good luck, and have many other magical and mystical attributes, and thus was referred to as "the Golden Bough". In Scandanavian countries, enemies would often be reconciled underneath boughs containing mistletoe, and any contract thus made could never be broken. Thus comes our custom of kissing beneath the mistletoe. There are many other customs from many cultures, as was mentioned earlier, and these are but a few. The Yuletide season was celebrated in almost every known civilization, and many traditions have survived in altered forms from many different cultures. Researching these customs is both informative and fascinating, and will enrich your knowledge and understanding of both your own Pagan roots, as well as the roots of other religions. Symbolism of Yule: Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future. Symbols: Yule Tree, Yule Log, Light Herbs: Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense, holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar. Foods: Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, Yule Cake, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, mulled wine, spiced cider. Incense: Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon. Yule Incense Recipe 2 Parts Frankincense 2 Parts Pine needles or resin 1 Part Cedar 1 Part Juniper Berries Grind the Pine needles, dried juniper berries and Cedar together with a pestle (in a mortar), add frankincense and mix well before burning on charcoal in a fireproof container. Colors: Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange. Activities: Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honoring Kriss Kringle - the Germanic Pagan God of Yule Spell workings: Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness, Introspect, Planning for the Future. Deities: At Yule a time when the weather is at it's coldest and the Father Suns is reborn of the Mother Earth, and the Father Sun's birth is symbolized by the return of the Sun, as from this day forth the Sun's power is no longer in decline. Symbolically the Father Sun grows along with the Sun, growing as the Sun gains in power, staying above the horizon longer and warming the planet more each day. Mother Earth goes into a deep sleep. Yule is a time of celebration, when we begin to see an end to Winter and it's hardships, and can now look forward to the soon to come Spring and the return of life! The Yule Tree Therefore they represented the eternal aspect of the Goddess who also never dies. Their greenery was symbolic of the hope for the sun's return. Decorated the evergreen trees at Yule with all the images of the things they wished the waxing year to bring. Fruits for a successful harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth adorned the trees. Candles were the forerunners of today's electric tree lights. Yule trees were brought inside to provide a warm and festive place for tree elementals who inhabited the woodland. This was also a good way to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals. Some believed the Saxons were the first to place candles in the tree. We realize when we plant a tree we are encouraging the Earth to breathe. And when we decorate our evergreen trees at Yule, we are making a symbol of our dream world with the objects we hang upon it. Perhaps a chain or garland, reflecting the linking of all together on Earth. Lights--for the light of human consciousness, animal figures who serve as our totems, fruits and colors that nourish and give beauty to our world, gold and silver for prosperity, treats and nuts that blend sweet and bitter--just as in real life. The trees we decorate now with symbols of our perfect worlds actually animate what we esteem and what we hope for in the coming year; as from this night, the light returns, reborn. Decorating the Yule Tree It's best to use a live tree, but if you can't, you can perform an outdoor ritual thanking a tree, making sure to leave it a gift when you're finished (either some herbs or food for the animals and birds). Start a seedling for a new tree to be planted at Beltane. If apartment rules or other conditions prevent you from using a live tree indoors, be sure to bring live evergreen garlands or wreaths into the house as decorations. * String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on the Yule tree or an outdoor tree for birds. * Decorate pine cones with glue and glitter as symbols of the faeries and place them in the Yule tree. * Glue the caps onto acorns and attach with a red string to hang on the Yule tree. · Hang little bells on the Yule tree to call the spirits and faeries. · Hang robin and wren ornaments on the tree. * Hang 6-spoked snowflakes on the branches of the tree. The Witches Rune, or Hagalaz, has 6 spokes. * Hang sun, moon, star, animal totems, faery, or fruit decorations. * String electric lights on your tree to encourage the return of the Father Sun. Consecrating the Tree Consecrate the Yule tree by sprinkling it with salted water, passing the smoke of incense bayberry, pine, spruce, pine, spice, cedar, or cinnamon) through the branches, and walking around the tree with a lighted candle saying: By fire and water, air and earth, I consecrate this tree of rebirth. Our celebrations may peak a few days before the 25th, we nonetheless follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a 'Nativity set', though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Earth, Creator and the Baby Father Sun. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday,of course.