High Day Recap – Yule

22 12 2013

I did my ritual at 5pm on the day of Yule because I wanted to time it to coincide with the actual moment of the Solstice. I stumbled a bit at the beginning….I think it was because I was nervous at the fact that my partner was there (though not taking part) so I was self conscious doing it alone but “in public.” As usual, I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format with some editing of my own. I am trying out switching my hearth culture from Celtic to Norse so I decided to honour Sunna as its the time of the sun’s rebirth, and Odin, the leader of the Wild Hunt as my deities of the occasion. I also changed gatekeepers to Heimdall. The offerings I used were oil for the shining ones, fire and each patron, seeds for the nature spirits, home made cider for the ancestors, silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, oats for the earth mother, an apple for Heimdall as gatekeeper and bread as a final offering. As part of the final affirmation, I lit yule candle to honour the Sun. I didn’t feel anything special happen but I do seem to feel more contented/ fulfilled/ at peace afterwards so I think a switch of Pantheon is the right way forward.

I used the Ogham set for the Omen and asked the Kindred “Grant me true seeing this season that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I pulled three Ogham – Saill/ Willow – Intuition, Nion/ Ash – Wisdom and Ur/ Heather – Dreams or Feelings. I am interpreting this as a positive omen and that the Kindreds are offering me blessings in these areas or saying I need to pay attention to inside feelings/ intuition and dreams to gain wisdom?

The rest of my celebrations included a party with friends, some porridge left out for the house wight and eating a Yule feast.

Yule Plans

17 12 2013

Here’s some plans for how I intend to celebrate Yule this year over the 12 day period, including special meal plans. It is inspired by Norse Paganism…

Day 1) 20th – Party & Mother’s Night – offering to the Disir, House Wights & Frigga. Light first Yule candle. Porridge out for House Wight.

Party Food & Mince Pies.

Day 2) 21st – Wild Hunt & Yule – offering to Sunna & Odin. Full ADF Rite at 5pm. Light Yule candle.

Yule Feast. Christmas Pudding.

Day 3) 22nd – offering to Freya & Sea Gods – Aegir, Ran, 9 Sisters, Njord. Meditate on fertility & write essay. Light Yule candle.

Pumpkin, Carrot & Orange Soup.

Day 4) 23rd – offering to Community. Meditate on hospitality & write essay. Light Yule candle.

Sausage, Bean & Cider Casserole & Mashed Sweet Potato.

Day 5) 24th – offering to Eir & Healing. Meditate on moderation & write essay. Light Yule candle.

Lentil, Beetroot & Carrot Soup. Rice Pudding.

Day 6) 25th – offering to Thor. Meditate on courage & write essay. Christmas Celebrations. Light Yule candle.

Christmas Feast.

Day 7) 26th – offering to Skadi & Ullr. Meditate on Integrity & write essay. Light Yule candle.

Vegan Hunters Sausage Stew.

Day 8) 27th – offering to Ancestors. Meditate on Piety & update essay. Light Yule candle.

Mashed Apples & Potatoes (Himmel & Erde) with Vegan Sausages.

Day 9) 28th – offering to Nature Spirits – Land Wights, Dwarves & Alfar. Meditate on wisdom & update essay. Light Yule candle.

Potato & Leek Soup.

Day 10) 29th – offering to Earth Mother. Meditate on perseverance & write essay. Light Yule candle.

Curried Sweet Potato, Lentil, Parsnip & Apple Soup.

Day 11) 30th – offering to Nornir. Meditate on vision & write essay. Christmas Celebrations. Light Yule candle.

2nd Christmas Feast.

Day 12) 31st – Oath night, offering to Frey for prosperity in coming year. New Years Eve celebrations. Light final Yule candle.

Vegan Cottage Pie.

Sixth High Holy Day Explanation – Yule

16 12 2013

Also known as Midwinter or the Winter Solstice, Yule has its roots in many cultures, including Roman Saturnalia, Christian Christmas and most importantly Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon Yule. It is the longest night and the day when the Sun is “reborn.” Since the summer, the days have been getting shorter and colder, but after Yule they begin to lengthen again as we approach spring. It is a time of light and hope in the depths of cold winter.

The first mention of a midwinter celebration is in the writings of a 4th century Christian who said that at this time pagans celebrated the birthday of the sun by kindling lights, giving presents, feasting and the closure of schools and shops. However this festival of Saturnalia only began in 274ad. By the 8th century there were 12 days of celebration at Christmas. There is little evidence of celebration in Ireland before the 12th century. However, Bede, writing in 730ad said that most important festival of the Anglo Saxons in England had been “Modranicht” or “Mothers Night” on 24th December. This was the night which opened the new year and “they kept watch during it with religious rites.” The word Yule came through Danish rule over England, however there is no mention of it in early Scandinavian literature. However, Snorri Sturluson says that there was a three day celebration at this time, including a sacrifice for a good crop. Historian Ronald Hutton says “the consensus between Bede and Snorri, that the winter solstice was a major feast of the ancient Scandinavian and Norse people’s, and opened their year, is still an impressive one.” There are many records from the 4th to 11th centuries of church leaders denouncing revelries, sorcery, divination, dressing in animal skins and feasting to excess at this time of the year. Across European society, it seems to have been a time for role reversal and the relaxation of norms. Hutton says that Welsh literature also shows good evidence for a midwinter “new year’s feast.” He further states that “it was the general custom in pagan Europe to decorate spaces with greenery and flowers at festivals, attested wherever records have survived.” These were often evergreens such as holly and ivy. Despite this, many of the traditional festivities we associate with Christmas now e.g. stockings, christmas cards, paper decorations and crackers either were invented in the 19th century or came over from Germany at that time. Other traditional Christmas festivities such as the Christmas Tree (in the Rhineland), Yule Log and Wassailing the orchards can be traced back to Tudor times but no further.

Norse reconstructionists celebrate Mothers Night (Modrinacht) as a time to honour the goddesses and ancestors. Twelve days of feasting follow with the burning of a yule log, meditating on the nine virtues, lighting candles, doing divinations and taking oaths on New Years Eve. Yule signified the height of the Wild Hunt, when a ghostly procession led by the god Odin marched across the night sky. In southwest England where I am from, this myth has evolved into a belief that it is hell hounds (known as Yeth or Wisht hounds) chasing sinners or the unbaptised. Similarly, myths surrounding Odin and Thor may have contributed to our modern Santa Claus. Yule is a time for honouring many of the Norse gods – Odin who leads the wild hunt, Thor for stopping the ice giants, Frey for prosperity, Sunna and Baldur for the Suns rebirth and the winter deities Ullr and Skadhi.

Modern Neopagans like Wiccans celebrate this day with the myth of the mother goddess who gives birth to the sun god, while Druids tell of a battle between the Oak King and the Holly King, in which the Oak King overcomes the Holly King on this day and rules until Midsummer.

It is traditional to celebrate Yule with gift giving, spending time with loved ones, decorating with evergreens, having a yule tree, drinking and feasting. Wassailing is another tradition and in medieval times, villagers in southwest England would go to orchards and wassail the apple trees to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the Autumn. This year I intend to light a candle on each of the twelve nights, honour a norse deity and do a divination for each month of the coming year. I will also have a big feast, celebrate with friends, decorate the house, do an ADF ritual and go for a walk in nature to greet the sunrise in the Solstice morning.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Cunnigham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Minnestota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.