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Yule, the Winter Solstice

Author: Gordon Ireland

Paula & Gordon Ireland Proprietors
Earth Spirit Emporium: Books & Stuff
"Where Olde Traditions meet the New Age"


ABOUT YULE |
RITUAL |
FOODS |
REFERENCES






ABOUT YULE



Yule, pronounced "you all", or jol is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day
and the longest night of the year. Yule, in Old Norse means, Wheel. As the
Wheel of the Year is significant in pagan culture, it is important to note
that Yule means wheel. Which, if having read the previous
article, Samhain, in the 99, October issue of The Seeker, it was noted that
Samhain, may not have been the Celtic New Year, but rather Yule. Yule,
starting with the birth of God, and a celebration of beginning of longer
days, makes sense as the beginning of the New Year.


Yule, of all the Sabbats, is the one that causes the most confusion among those who follow the pagan path. Specifically those who are new to the path
and are breaking away from their Christian faith and way of life. Yule, is,
has, and always will be a pagan holiday. With that said, I guess I need to
further elaborate. Yule has many pagan elements and more pagan history in its foundation and pagan rites than Christian ones. Yule has been celebrated since the beginning of time in the Northern Hemisphere. Many of the cultures located in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Yule, all with a common theme, the birth of a God. Most of these Gods are associated with the Sun or with death and
re-birth. Yule, like Christmas, celebrates the birth of God. Several
pagan Gods, have Yule as their birth date: Ra, Cronos, Lugh, Mirthra, and
Odin. This list is my no means complete, but does give you a general idea, that
more than one God has celebrated his birthday during Yule. However, the
Roman God Mirthra plays a most important role in the preservation of Yule,
and it's other name, Christmas.

Approximately in the year 312, Constantine, Emperor of Rome, declared Rome
Christian. This, however, was not done because Constantine was Christian, he
was not baptized until 337, it was more do to the fact that Rome was
declining, and Constantine saw in Christian religion what Rome lacked:
moral fortitude and the ability to self organize. To attempt to persuade
his fellow pagan Romans, he choose Mirthra's birthday (Yule) to be the same as
Jesus', and from there just let human nature take its course. It didn't
hurt that after many hard fought battles, of which he won, had all armor and
shields painted with Christian symbols, and that he told the populace that
the Christian God granted Rome these Victories. In Rome, whoever controlled
the Army controlled Rome.

This raises the question of confusion again. Did the Christians steal
Yule, or did they preserve it? It is important to understand that
while historical facts and data are important, they are not necessary to
enjoy the Sabbat. If one believes that Yule is a celebration of the coming
of light, warmth, and the birth of (insert god of your choice) that whether
we call it Christmas, Yule or the Winter Solstice is unimportant. Yule is
the one Sabbat that allows us to celebrate with other faiths without
compromising our own.

There are many pagan/pre-Christian customs that are still part of the
Christmas celebration. The giving of gifts was first founded in Rome to
celebrate Saturn's Festival. The use of jingle balls is an Old Norse
custom to drive away the evil spirits, in a time and place where night was
longer than day. Mistole is an old Celtic custom and is commonly part of
every household during Yule. The wreath, a complete circle representing
the Wheel of the year, is also still a custom.


This brings us to the Yule tree. The tree of choice is the Fir, Evergreen
or Pine. The reason these particular trees where probably use is because
they where the only trees considered to be still alive,
eternal. According to McCoy, these trees where sacred among the Druids, as
they were the trees that didn't die. The Druids would decorate the trees
with images that represented their wants and desires for the coming year.

It should be noted that while Yule is considered a primarily Christian
Holiday, it does not do anyone any good declaring its theft. Rather we
should be thankful that they have done such a great job of preserving it for
us, and relish the fact that you know, and understand, why they decorate the
tree, give gifts, and use bells. It might make Yule at the homestead easier
on those families of mixed religion philosophies. So when someone wishes
you a "Merry Christmas", don't tell them I am not a Christian but rather
say, "Merry Yule to you also", and know that Jesus wasn't a bad guy, but
rather in a very elite group of Gods, who all celebrate their Birthday on
Yule.


Ritual



A Yule ritual of course would involve a Yule log. As stated earlier,
Yule logs are best made of Pine, Fir or Evergreen. The custom of lighting a
Yule log is the classic representation of the birth of a God from the fire
of the Mother.

Tools Needed: Boline, Chalk, Myrrh oil,
Sea Salt,
Wine, One candle-green, and Wood matches.

First, one needs to say a prayer of thanks to the spirit of the tree
before cutting it down. (It is always best if you can cut down your own
tree if possible.) After you cut down the tree, cut approximately 1-2 feet
for the log. From the bottom, leave the rest intact to decorate.

Depending upon which ritual tools you have, you can either take a piece of
chalk, and draw the symbol of the sun on the log. Or take you Boline and
carve a representation of the sun.

Place the log in your fire place or burning pit. Open a circle around it,
calling the four corners:


South (fire) rub the oil onto the
carved sun figure, saying: "The Wheel has turned full circle, we call you
back to warm us."



West, (water) pour the wine on the log, saying: "You, who have
died, are now reborn."



North (earth) sprinkling salt over the log, saying: "Since time began we
celebrated the birth of God. The darkest of nights gives birth to the new
sun."



East (air) taking the wood match, light the fire, saying: "I light this fire in honor of all. Thank you God for the light you will bring us. Thank
you mother for the warmth of you son. Live within us."



"So mote it be!"


Close circle. This ceremony can be conducted using candles, either by
themselves of by placing the candles on top of the Yule log. Though the
latter can be a fire hazard and the usual precautions should be taken.


FOODS



EASY YULE LOG




1 Package commercial cake mix, preferably chocolate


2 cans (24 oz.) pre-made frosting in a dark brown color


Several tubes of cake decoration frosting in green, red and white


Several toothpicks


Preheat over to 300 F. Grease and line a jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Mix the cake according to package instructions and pour a thin layer-no more than 1/4 inch thick-into the prepared jelly roll pan. Bake the cake until just underdone. If you can't tell by looking then use the knife test. When the knife emerges not quite clean from the center or the cake, and when a light touch does not bounce back easily, it need to come out. Check the cake a 7 minutes and then every 2 minutes after that. Do NOT over-bake or the dough will be dry and hard to work with. Remove the cake from the over and let it cool slightly. The remove the cake from the pan by lifting out the wax paper. With the dark frosting, coat the top of the cake with toothpicks and let it cook for about 5 more minutes. Cool the cake for 30 minutes, and then frost it with the dark brown icing. Next, take the tubes of colored cake decorating frosting and make holly and mistletoe over the top. You can also use artificial greenery until it is time to eat the cake.

To finish, take a toothpick and etch lines into the frosting to resemble tree back. (McCoy, page 70)






SPICED FRUIT NOG


12 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 cups apricot nectar

2 cups half-and half

1 (12-ounce) can evaporate

2 teaspoon rum flavoring

Grated orange rind (optional)



Combine egg yolks, sugar, and spices in top of a double broiler. Place
over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until
mixture reaches 165. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Combine yolk mixture, egg whites, apricot nectar, half-and half, evaporated
mile, and rum flavoring: beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until
well blended. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Pour chilled
not into serving cups and sprinkle with orange rind, if desired. Yield: 2
quarts





LEG OF LAMB



1 Leg of Lamb

Salt, pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2-3 tablespoons flour



Put the leg of lamb on a grid in a roasting pan and pour (2 pints) of water
into the pan. You can also put the Leg of Lamb in a roasting bag without a
liquid. Place into oven. Heat over to 150-175 de. C (280-325 de. F) And
roast for one hour for each kilo (2 lb.) of weight. Baste occasionally with
the stock from the roasting pan. For the last half-hour of cooking switch
on the grill, (US broiler) and grill the Leg of Lamb on both sides. If you
use a roasting bag, remove it from the bag for the last half-hour and grill
in the same way.

Strain the stock into a casserole and skim off the fat. Thicken the sauce
with flour, or your favorite thickening, season and color with gravy
browning. Add the cream and remove from the heat. Serve with your choice
of vegetables and caramel potatoes.


WORK CITED




Bord, Janet & Colin, Earth Rites, Fertility Practices in Pre-Industrial
Britain, Granada, London, 1982.



Buckland, Raymond, Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Llewellyn
Publications, St. Paul, MN 1997


Carr-Gomm, Philip The Elements of the Druid Tradition Element Books,
Rockport, MA 1998


Cunningham, Scott, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Llewellyn
Publications, St. Paul, MN 1998


Danaher, Kevin, The Year in Ireland, The Mercier Press, Cork, 1972.


Henes, Donna, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles &
Celebrations, A Pedigree Book. NY, NY 1996


Hole, Christina, Witchcraft in England, Rowman & Littlefield, Totowa NJ,
1977.


Holleston, T.W., Celtic Mythology: History, Legends and Deities, NewCastle
Publishing, Van Nuys, CA 1997


MacCana, Proinsias, Celtic Mythology, The Hamlyn Publishing Group, Ltd.,
London, 1970.


MacCulloch, J.A. Religion of the Ancient Celts, Folcroft Library Editions,
London, 1977.


Matthews, John, The Druid Source Book: Complied and Edited by John Matthews,
A Blanford Book, London, England, 1997


Matthews, John and Caitlin Matthews, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom,
Element Books Rockport, MA 1994


McCoy, Edain, The Sabbats: A New Approach to living the Old Ways, Llewellyn
Publications, St. Paul, MN 1998


Nichols, Ross, The Book of Druidry, Harper-Collins, London, England 1992
Powell, T.G.E. The Celts, Thames & Hudson, New York, 1980.


Ravenwolf, Silver, To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft,
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN 1997


Sharkey, John, Celtic Mysteries, the Ancient Religion, Thames & Hudson, New
York, 1979.


Squire, Charles, Celtic Myth, Legend, Poetry, and Romance, Newcastle
Publishing Co., Van Nuys, CA, 1975.


Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient religion of the Great
Goddess, Harper Collins Publishers, SanFrancisco, CA 1989


Stewart, R.J. Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends, Blanford Books, London, England,
1997


Williamson, John, The Oak King, The Holly King, and the Unicorn, Harper &
Row, New York, 1986.


Wood-Martin, W.G., Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, Kennikat Press,
Port Washington, NY, 1902.

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