We have arrived at the winter solstice, the moment when the most northern point of the earth is tilted furthest away from the sun. This results in the fewest hours of light and the most hours of darkness.
The word solstice itself means ‘still sun’ or standing still sun’, depending on your definition preference. The sun will ‘appear’ to stand still at this point for 3 days after which it will begin to move again and the hours of light will begin to grow.
With the end of the longest night, the dark is defeated with the Return of the Sun, the return of light, hope and promise. The Goddess gives birth to the Sun/Sun God. The Sun begins to wax and the days grow longer. All that is hidden will begin to emerge.
The Holly King rules over the dark part of the year from Midsummer to Yule, he is God of the Waning Year. At Yule, The Holly King surrenders his life to the young light Oak King, God of the Waxing Year and his twin, who rules over the light part of the year from Yule to Midsummer. Both rule for half of the year, both fight for the favour and love of the Goddess and both surrender their life force for the well-being of the land. In truth, they are one.
Yule - Winter Solstice traditions are many, Winter solstice celebrations are a sacred time in nature, focussing on the return of the sun, rebirth and excitement for the coming year. Our ancestors celebrated Yule by dancing around large bonfires, using evergreen plants to decorate their homes, or sharing food in a feast. This originally pagan holiday has provided yule traditions that remain universally prominent in the modern day shared not only with Christianity but with many pre-Christian Pagan traditions and indeed more recent ones. It is difficult sometimes to identify their sources, but they are all very familiar even if we don't recognise the symbology behind them.
Evergreens represent everlasting life and were traditionally hung around doorways and windows. Each has a symbolism of its own.
Mistletoe is greatly revered by the Druids, this is the healer and protector. It is carefully cut to ensure it never touches the earth. Its magical properties are believed to be connected to the fact that it lives between the worlds, between sky/heaven and earth. The white berries of mistletoe represent the fertile white semen of the life-giving male. Which is where kissing under the mistletoe comes from!
Holly another evergreen of protection, Holly’s spiky bristles are believed to repel unwanted spirits. Newborn babies used to be sprinkled with 'holly water', water in which holly had been soaked, especially potent if left under a full moon overnight. Holly is sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld goddess, and symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill, and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the re-birth of the Sun/Son.
Evergreen Ivy is a symbol of immortality and resurrection, growing in a spiral reminding us of reincarnation and rebirth. Sacred to Osiris, where His death and resurrection are a central theme in Egyptian religion. Sacred also to Dionysus, god of vegetation, blossoming and the Return of Spring.
The poisonous Yew is a Tree of regeneration and rebirth like no other - it sends up new trees from its roots and grows to a very great age. It is deeply connected with the spirit realms and the ancestors. Often used as the central 'world tree' in ritual spaces and was often planted in graveyards.
The wonderful pine tree and its branches bring healing and joy to the home, and the burning of the pine purifies the home.
In Celtic tradition, Yule log burning originally used a felled oak tree, the tree was brought into the home and placed trunk first into the fire, it was believed the longer the fire burned, the faster the sun would return. A piece of charred wood was often saved to light the festive fire the following year.
The Yule log is now significantly smaller, consisting of a dried-out log, branches, berries and candles. The candle colour can be chosen to correspond with wishes for the following year, for example, red represents courage and health.
Burn a Yule log with friends, light a candle and use it to manifest or reflect on the year ahead.
Every witch needs a seasonal altar! As many people celebrate Christmas it should be easy to gather seasonal plants and decorations from most shops. Foraging is also a fantastic option to gather supplies personal to you.
Candles are important, as yule marks the longest night of the year and candles bring light to the darkness. Options include red and green to encourage joy, success, prosperity and abundance, or gold to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. Crystals associated with yule include Ruby, Citrine, Bloodstone and Obsidian, Scent options could include pine, myrrh, cinnamon, and clove.
Making a pomander orange is another fun activity that can be used to decorate an altar. Pierce an orange with whole cloves for protection against illness.
Wishing you all a very Blessed & Magical Yule.
May the joy of the Goddess be ever in our hearts.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.