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Yule traditions in Wicca and Paganism

Updated on December 20, 2013

books by my favourite Wiccan writer - Kate West

How to make a chocolate Yule log

Yule or the midwinter solstice aka Christmas

What is Yule and how can you honour this festival?

As the days shorten and the nights lengthen we who practice the craft like those of our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Christian holiday of Christmas prepare for the approach the midwinter solstice of Yule. On Yule, usually celebrated on the 21st of December, the days are at their shortest and the nights are at their longest. Because the cycle of the Earth around the Sun isn't exactly the same length as our calendar year, sometimes the dates can fall on the 20th or the 22nd of December. However, as our pagan ancestors didn't really have calendars and clocks, we can be more or less loose with the exact time of the solstice and generally celebrate on the 21st. If you are the type that wants something more exact, do refer to an astrological almanac.

Christmas is, indeed, an adaptation of the pagan holiday, for the founding Church Fathers found it difficult to stamp out long-help pagan beliefs. They instead appropriated the holidays along with their customs and gave it a new twist. This is the origin of Christmas. Now, however, Wiccans are once more able to come out of the broom closet as it were and celebrate Yule more openly, without having to cover it up as a celebration of Christ and his birth.

The Sabbat of Yule is the festival that celebrates the rebirth of the Sun. Having been in decline since the Summer Solstice on June 21st, the Sun now begins to increase in power again. Slowly the days will once more begin to length and banish the night's long grip on the earth. This reminds us all that life will begin again, that everything is cyclical.

Witches will often bring evergreen decorations into their home. This will remind them of the return of the growing season. This is the origin of the Christmas trees and decorations. Holly with berries is a favourite for d├ęcor, the red symbolising the resting Mother and the life that is slowly returning to the land, while the dark green of the Holly symbolises the Holly King, who rules until this time. Mistletoe is another plant used in decoration with strong Pagan symbols. The plant is seen as magical because it is said to grow beneath the earth and the sky and is not rooted in the ground.

Many people go out to watch the Sun rise on the winter solstice. This is to welcome the Sun King. It is the easier solstice to honour in this way since sunrise is generally not that early in the morning and lasts a nice long time. If you can't go outside, stand by a window facing the direction of the Sunrise. Call upon the Goddess and the God to be with you. As the Sun rises, give thanks for the return of the light and warmth. If you are outside, once you have thanked the Goddess and the God, you could make a wish and dedicate it to the returning Sun. Ask it to empower you so that you can achieve what you have asked for. If you can, look for a stone or a twig, something that catches your attention that you can keep with you as a symbol of the promise you have decided to make.

Just as Yule marks the death of the Holly King, it also marks the birth of the Oak King, also known as the Lord of Summer. Robert Graves suggests in his book The White Goddess that two mythical figures, known as the Holly King and the Oak King, represent the two haves of the year. They perpetually strive for superiority with the Holly King being victorious over the Oak King at midwinter and the Oak King winning in midsummer. Graves similarly identifies many other paired hero-figures including the robin and the wren, Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr, Gwyn and Gwythr, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, Gawain and the Green Knight and even Jesus and John the Baptist. These pairs were seen as the dual aspects of the male Earth deity, one strong in summer and the other strong in winter. Similarly, the Holly King and the Oak King can be seen as personifications of Light and Darkness. This must not be confused with concepts of good and evil, for both Light and Dark are needed for the growth of crops.

Moreover, the Wild Hunt with began on Samhain or Halloween is now at its height. Legend says that anyone unwary enough to be caught out at midnight on the Winter Solstice will be swept up by the Hunter and carried away. Not for the faint hearted.

To mark this holiday many witches prepare a Yule Log. The traditional Yule Log is not the chocolate covered Swiss roll but a real log. Onto this log, candles are placed to represent each member of the family or your coven. If you are doing this, please be careful and make sure that your Log will not roll. If you, like me live in the city, then a symbolic gesture of having a chocolate Yule log on which you place birthday candles might be a good alternative. The candles symbolise the return of the days with increasing light. They are a wish for the coming season. Of course, traditionally the Yule Log would then be kept and be burned on the following year. But because so few of us live in environments that allow for open fires, the chocolate Yule Log seems the most practical. After the candles are lit and the wishes made, the Log can be cut and eaten.

Place a robin in your Yuletide decorations. The Robin is one of the many birds with very strong Pagan connotations.

Light a Yule candle. This should preferably be gold or a golden orange in colour. Prepare it by dedicating it to the rising Sun and the days of increasing light. This can be done by stroking the candle from the centre to the end while visualising the Sun. Ideally, the candle should be lit before Sunrise on the first day of increasing light and then be allowed to burn out. However, practically, you should never leave a lit candle unattended, so you can light the candle for a few minutes and then put it out. Do not blow out the candle but use a candle snuff for this purpose. Relight the candle every day after the Solstice, remembering why we celebrate this festival until it is gone.

If you've found some of these pointers interesting, you can do some more reading on solar deities to make your Yule celebration even more meaningful. Mithras, Dionysus and Adnois might make interesting reading. You could also have a look at the first part of the film Zeitgeist. It is available to view free.



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    • Total-Holistic profile image

      Fabian Burnett 4 years ago from Switzerland

      Very informative !

    • Magic Vicki profile image

      Magic Vicki 4 years ago

      Hi Home Witch,

      I tried to email you but cannot as the captcha code is missing from the email form

      I loved reading your article on Yule traditions in Wicca and Paganism on your blog at https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Yule-trad...

      I publish a magazine called “Discover Magick” exclusively on the Apple Newsstand and I think the readers of the magazine would love to read this article too. The magazine can be seen here:

      https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/discover-magick/id...

      I was wondering if I could reprint that article in the magazine. If you would like me to promote something for you, maybe a book or a specific web page you want me to point people to I would be more than happy to do it. Because it is an interactive magazine, once people have read the article they can be directed straight to a web page of your choice.

      I hope to hear back from you soon

      Kind Regards,

      Vicki Mitchell

    • Cresentmoon2007 profile image

      Cresentmoon2007 6 years ago from Caledonia, MI

      This is a great hub, especially with yule coming up. Thank you for posting this, though it is an older hub it will always be of use.

    • profile image

      Wanda 6 years ago

      What a lovely article. I will indeed be sharing this with my friends!

    • home witch profile image
      Author

      home witch 7 years ago from Manchester

      MaryD, You're welcome. I hope you have a wonderful Yule season.

    • MaryD profile image

      MaryD 7 years ago

      Very informative thanks for sharing!Bright Blessings to you this holiday season!

    • home witch profile image
      Author

      home witch 7 years ago from Manchester

      You're very welcome. I am so glad to have been able to give you some tips and suggestions. I hope you have a wonderful Yule filled with lots of health, wealth and prosperity, but most importantly love so that life may be complete.

    • 4elements profile image

      4elements 7 years ago

      I really enjoyed your hub. It had a lot of great information and ideas in it. Thanks for writing it! peace,love, and light

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