How true :), darn those thieving Christians, is nothing sacred?
'Twas that night before Yule, when all 'cross the heath,
Not a being was stirring; Pagan, Faerie, nor Beast,
Wassail was left out and the altar adorned,
To rejoice that the Sun King would soon be reborn.
The children lay sleeping by the warmth of the hearth,
Their dreams filled with visions of beloved Mother Earth,
M’lady and I beneath blankets piled deep, had just settled
down to our Solstice sleep.
Then a noise in the night that would leave us no peace,
Awakened us both to the honking of geese.
Eager to see such a boisterous flock,
When we raced to the window, our mouths dropped in shock!
On the West Wind flew a gaggle of geese, white and gray,
With Frau Holda behind them in Her gift-laiden dray.
The figure on Her broomstick to the North sky made it clear,
La Befana was approaching to bestow Yuletide cheer.
From the South came a comet more bright than the Moon,
And we knew Lucia would be with us soon.
As these Spirits sailed Earthward o’er hilltops and trees,
Frau Holda serenaded Her feathery steeds:
"Fly Isolde! Fly Tristan! Fly Odin and Freya! Fly Morgaine!
Fly Merlin! Fly Uranus and Gaea!
May the God and Goddess inside you soar,
From the clouds in the heavens to your cottage door.”
As soft and silent as snowflakes they fell;
Their arrival announced by a faint chiming bell.
They landed like angels, their bodies aglow,
Their feet left no marks in the new fallen snow,
Before we could ponder what next lay in store,
There came a slow creeking from our threshold door.
We crept from our bedroom and were spellbound to see…
There in our parlor stood the Yule Trinity!
Lucia the Maiden, with Her head wreathed in flame,
Shown with the radiance for which she She was named,
The Lightbringers eyes held the joy of a child,
And she spoke with a voice that was gentle, yet wild:
"May the warmth of this household ne’er fade away."
Then she lit our Yule log which still burns to this day.
Frau Holda in Her down cloak stood regal and tall,
The Matron of Solstice, the Mother of all,
Under Her gaze we felt safe and secure.
Her voice was commanding, yet almost demure:
"May the love in this family enrich young and old."
And from the folds of Her cloak showered coins of pure gold,
LaBefana wore a kerchief on Her silvery hair;
The veil of the Crone who has secrets to share,
In Her eyes gleamed a wisdom only gained by spent youth.
Her voice was whisper, but Her words rung the truth:
"May health, glad tidings, and peace fill these rooms."
And she banished misfortune with a sweep of Her broom,
They then left a gift by each sleeping childs head,
Took a drink of our wassail, and away they all sped.
While we watched them fly off through the night sky we laughed,
At the wonderous magick we had found in the Craft.
As they departed, the Spirits decreed…
“Merry Yule To You All, And May All Blessed Be!”
- Unknown (unfortunately)
Before we start here is a bit of history:
From Medieval times the term Wassail referred to a hot spiced wine for drinking healths on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and Twelfth Night celebrations. It was said to have originated with the fifth-century legend of the beautiful Saxon Rowena, who toasted the health of the Brythonic King Vortigern with the words Wæs-hael(your health!). Mead was also used (and may generally have been a more common base for Wassail than the far more expensive wine). Wassail was always served from a special bowl called the Loving Cup by early monks. It was fashioned from sturdy materials, most commonly wood and more rarely pewter. The special wooden bowl, sometimes rimmed with metal and dressed with festive ribbons, was not only the serving bowl but also the drinking bowl, as it was passed from hand to hand and drunk from directly.
- 3l ale (India pale ale is good but porter also works well)
- 12 small apples (crab apples for the traditional recipe, but lady apples also work)
- 3 tbsp honey
- ¼ tsp freshly-ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp powdered cinnamon
- 2 tsp freshly-grated ginger
Bake the apples in a hot oven until they begin to split. Divide your ale between two pots. Place about ¾ in one pot and heat this gently until warm. Place the remainder in a second pot (which must be able to hold all the liquid), add the apples, honey and spices to this and bring to the boil. Now pour the warmed ale into this and turn off the heat. Keep pouring the heated ale between the two pots until a large amount of froth has accumulated on the top (this is the Lamb’s Wool). Pour into a heated bowl and gather your guests around to drink.
Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider.
Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun, the boughs were symbolic of immortality, the wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly, mistletoe, and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes. It was to extend invitation to Nature Sprites to come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to pay visit to the residents.
The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder’s land, or given as a gift… it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze be a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.
A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine, and flatten one side so it sets upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green, and white (season), green, gold, and black (the Sun God), or white, red, and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds, cloves, and dust with flour.
Deities of Yule are all Newborn Gods, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, and Triple Goddesses. The best known would be the Dagda, and Brighid, the daughter of the Dagda. Brighid taught the smiths the arts of fire tending and the secrets of metal work. Brighid’s flame, like the flame of the new light, pierces the darkness of the spirit and mind, while the Dagda’s cauldron assures that Nature will always provide for all the children.
Symbolism of Yule:
Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.
Symbols of Yule:
Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, christmas cactus.
Herbs of Yule:
Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.
Foods of Yule:
Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).
Incense of Yule:
Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.
Colors of Yule:
Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.
Stones of Yule:
Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds.
Activities of Yule:
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
Spellworkings of Yule:
Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.
Deities of Yule:
Goddesses-Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.