December 21st is a very special day. It is the time when Yule begins, the time of the winter solstice. The very day when the sun begins it’s journey bringing it’s warm, nurturing light back to the Northern Hemisphere. Yule is a spiritual festival in Paganism. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names (Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.
Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving. However not all modern pagans celebrate the holiday quite the same way. Some choose to ritualize the holiday as close to their interpretation of pre-Christian, Germanic tradition while others (myself included) choose more eclectic practices that blend various traditions from the many Neopagan and Traditional Heathen practices. Dec. 21st is the solstice which begins the 12 day celebration of Yule. In the Heathen tradition of Urglaawe Yuletide begins at sundown on 20 December and ends at sundown on 1 January. In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. The method of gathering for this sabbat varies by practitioner. Some have private ceremonies at home, while others do so with their covens.
December 21st is also the day of the pagan festival to Angerona, Diva Angeronia known as Divalia. Angerona was said to be a protecting goddess of Rome, and kept secret the true name of the great city so that it should not be known to her enemies. Angerona is often depicted with a finger against her lips, or even with her mouth bound closed, leading her to be known as a goddess of secrets and silence in general. Angerona is the Goddess of the new year and returning sun, of silence and secrets. She would also relieve men of pain and suffering, including an oddly specific tale where she relieves angina.
On the day of this festival the pontifices performed sacrifices in the temple of Voluptia, or the goddess of joy and pleasure, who, some say, was the same with Angerona, and supposed to drive away all the sorrow and chagrin of life. She is considered to be the goddess of the winter solstice, who helps the sun get through this dark, difficult period. In this interpretation Her silence indicates concentration or meditation, and Her inner voice that conjures a powerful spell to help the sun regain its strength. She was represented holding Her finger to Her bound mouth in a gesture (apparently) requesting quiet. Some ancients believed that She was thus a Goddess of Silence, or that She represented the secret magical name of Rome which was not to be spoken aloud. Or that She was the Goddess of fear and anguish, and could prevent or drive away these feelings.