Yule is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. It is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later undergoing Christianized reformulation resulting in, the now better known, Christmastide. 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. There are literally dozens of ways you can enjoy the season.
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, the sun's "rebirth" was celebrated with much joy. On this night, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days would become longer.
The traditions that I have grown accustomed to incorporating into to the holiday season, many were already apart of my Christmas tradition from childhood, decorating my home with evergreens-holly-mistleto-trees-lights. These are all apart of the Yule tradition as well as modern Christmas traditions. I have since added, as an adult, the bonfire (Yule log burning) which protects against the powers of evil in whatever shape or form they stalked the land, and symbolizes the light returning to conquer the darkness. I also decorate my altar in honor of Yule. You can also make a symbolic Yule log for decoration.
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. The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival, 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. Oak is also great for making a Yule log-and has special significance to pagan beliefs.
Here are some great links that have helped me explore and express my own Yule practices as a solitary pagan.
- Setting Up the Yule Altar
- Prayers for Yule
- Welcome Back the Sun for Yule
- Goddess Rite for Solitaries
- Goddess Rite for Groups
- Hold a Yule Log Ceremony
- Yule Cleansing Ritual
- Holiday Tree Blessing Ceremony
- Elemental Blessings of Donations Ritual
Deities of Yule: 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.
Full List Of 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.
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.