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The Winter Solstice
December 21

Yule, is a time of mixed emotions for pagans. The widely celebrated Christmas holiday is not a part of our traditions. But we are well aware of the fact that the Christmas holiday takes its form and meaning from our ancient pagan practices. Virgin births, festive lights, decorated trees,wreaths and bells, fires, and feasting are all at the heart of the pagan Yule observance.


As the Wheel of The Year turns round to Yule, the God(who died at Samhain) is reborn of the Virgin Goddess. The God is represented by the Sun which returns after this darkest night of the year to bring warmth and fertility to the land. The sun begins to wax anew and the days grow steadily longer. The decorating of houses and trees with lights at Christmas is a modern version of the pagan custom of lighting candles and fires,as acts of magick to lure back the waning Sun, and to honor the Virgin Goddess who gives him birth.



Winter was, for early peoples, a time of death and stagnation. Mother Earth was barren, food was scarce. The Sun came to fertilize the Mother Earth and made her fruitful and full of life once again. Because this observance and its meaning were so important to the people, the early Church was forced to move its Christmas celebration from August to December in order for it to be accepted. From there, Christmas was born, at a time when we celebrate another God born of a virgin mother.

WREATHS
The Wheel of The Year is often symbolized by the wreath. Its circle has no beginning and no end, just as the Wheel of The Year-its time coming back to its point of origin again and again without end. The use of this decoration at this time of year is a direct result of the pagan practice of making wreaths out of natural materials to decorate homes and altars for Yule.

Because the symbolism of the wheel was so important to Yule,it became a day sacred to Goddesses of the spinning wheel, the spinning wheel being a metaphor for the great Wheel of The Year. The idea of spinning to create things, has become a part of modern paganism in the form of casting spells. When we make magick, we often say we are spinning a spell, or spinning a charm.


You can make your own unique Yule wreath out of wire, pine cones and artificial fruit. Pine cones are representative of male fertility. Most fruits, especially apples, are symbols of the Goddess. Creating a wreath out of both makes a symbol of the union of Deity on the Wheel of The Year.

Gather or buy as many unbroken pine cones as you need,depending on how big a wreath you want to make. Purchase a sturdy wire wreath frame, some florist's wire, and artificial fruit. Velvet ribbons or bows are a nice touch too. Attach the pine cones to the frame with the wire, varnish them, and add the fruit once it has dried.



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YULE TRADITIONS
For pagans, the Christian usurping of Yule has one great advantage. It preserved many of the ancient Yule customs that might have been lost.
Gift Giving
It was the Roman pagans who gave us the tradition of exchanging gifts. Their Yule celebration was known as Saturnalia, in honor of the God Saturn. It was also a New Year's festival where gifts were given in honor of loved ones who had died in the previous year. The tradition was carried throughout Europe by early Roman explorers.
Bells
The Norse used bells to welcome the dawn after the darkest night of the year. They also used bell ritually to frighten away the powers of darkness that reach their peak at Yule.
Decorating With Bay
Bay was sacred to the Roman God, Apollo, and since it was he who drove the chariot in which the sun rode, it was necessary to honor him so that he would bring the sun back to the Earth. This custom of hanging bay was adopted by the Celts to bring the blessings of strength and health in the new year. Bayberry scented candles are still popular today.
Yule Trees
The Celts drew their Yule customs from both the Norse and the Druids. The evergreen tree was seen by the Druids as a manifestation of deity and a symbol of the universe. The Celts considered the evergreen sacred because it did not die from year to year, and therefore represented the Goddess who also never dies.
Celtic Druids decorated evergreen trees with images of the things they wished the waxing year to hold for them. They adorned their trees with fruits for a good harvest, love charms, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth, as well as candles(the forerunners of today's electric lights).
Mistletoe, Holly, and Pine
height="50" width="50"> Holly,pine, and mistletoe are all plants sacred to the various deities of the Yule Season. Mistletoe was originally used as a part of the handfasting ritual. Because of mistletoe's significance all legal matters were sealed under it, and so, when a couple kissed under it, they were announcing their intention to marry. They would kiss beneath it again to seal their vows.
The Yule Log
Balefires(bonfires) were not a part of the Yule traditions, mostly because it was just too cold to hold Midwinter rites outside. Thus the tradition of the Yule Log came about. The log, a phallic symbol, was usually cut from the God- related Oak.

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Feasting, and The Foods Of Yule

Foods were of central importance at this holiday. Yule was the start of a lengthy cold period when food would become scarce. The Celts would normally fast for a day before the feast of Yule began.
Holiday Cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients and the oil together. Beat the remaining ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add to the dry mixture and stir together. Let the mixture chill overnight in the refrigerator. Divide into 4 sections. Roll out each section on a generously floured surface, until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 min until light golden color.


Gingerbread Cookies

Ginger was an herb sacred to both Apollo and Sol, Sun Gods from Greco-Roman paganism.

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients except the flour. Add the flour slowly, mixing well each time. The dough should be slightly stiff. If the mixture seems too dry, add a teaspoon or two of water. If too wet, add more flour. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 an inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out the gingerbread man. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for approx 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wax paper to cool. Use colored frosting from a pastry tube to decorate your cookies.



    SUGGESTED RITUALS FOR YULE

    Celtic Threefold Blessing
    On your altar you will need a chalice, or some sort of receptacle to hold water. Cleanse your area and call your circle as usual. Evoke the Triple Goddess of your choice. She will need to be present to bless you. (note:evocation is the process of calling into your presence another being)Select a tool which to you symbolizes the ability to direct power,a wand, an athame, pentacle, etc. Stand facing the direction you feel is the home of the deities. Hold your tool in your power hand (the hand you write with). Spread your arms and legs out, in a position resembling a pentagram. Invite or request, never demand, your chosen deity's presence. Repeat a phrase such as "(DEITY), I ask that you please come to me here and now in this sacred space. I ask that you join with me in this Threefold Blessing." Raise your tool high above your head, then bring it down in an arc in front of you, touch it to the ground, and tap it 3 times on the ground, repeating the deity's name. Welcome Her, thank Her for coming.
    Now you are ready to perform the Blessing. Take your right hand, dip your fingers in the water. Place your wet fingers on your feet and say:
    In the name of the Maiden, bless my feet that they might always walk along the straight and blessed path. Blessed be

    Place some water on your womb or genital area and say:
    In the name of the Mother of us all, bless my womb(or loins), my creative center, that I might be fertile and fruitful in all my endeavors. Blessed Be.

    Place some water on your forehead and say:
    In the name of the Crone, bless my head that it might always seek knowledge and truth so that I might grow in wisdom. Blessed Be.


    You can then perform any other rituals you deem appropriate, or simply sit and meditate before closing your circle.

    When Yule comes round, you should feel free to have a lighted tree in your home, hang a wreath on your door, ring the bells, and give gifts in memory of loved ones, and sing to welcome back the God. This is a joyous Sabbat which marks the return of the Sun God both to the Goddess and to his people.


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