Division: Minor Sabbat
Other Names: Winter Solstice, Midwinter, Sun Return, Alban Arthan, Pagan New Year, Saturnalia, Finn’s Day, Yuletide, Festival of Sol, Great Day of the Cauldron, Festival of Growth.
Southern Hemisphere Date: June 20-23
Northern Hemisphere Date: December 21
Associated Holiday: Christmas
Associated Deities: Mother Berta, Father Winter, Santa Clause, Kriss Kringle, St Nick, Kings of Holly and Oak, Aphrodite, Fortuna, Gaia, Hel, Holle, Ishtar, Isis, Apollo, Attis, Balder, Dionysus, the Green Man, Lugh, Odin, Ra
Associated Herbs: Chamomile, rosemary, ginger, sage and cinnamon
Associated Stones: Bloodstones, Garnets, Quartz crystal, blue sunstone, emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamonds
Symbols of Yule: Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, Christmas cactus.
Foods of Yule: Biscuits, Caraway cakes ,roasted apples, fruits, nutmeg, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, or lamb’s wool.
Drinks of Yule: Eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb’s wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).
Incense of Yule: Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.
Ritual Oils: Rosemary, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Saffron, Cedar/Pine, Wintergreen, Ginger
Colors of Yule: Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.
Taboos: Extinguishing Fire, Travelling
Plants: Holly, Mistletoe, Evergreens, Poinsettia, Bougainvillaea, Tropical Flowers, Bay, Pine, Ginger, Valerian, Myyrh.
Activities: Decorating the Yule tree, Gift giving, storytelling
Animals: Stag, Squirrels, Wren/Robin, Bear, Boar, Squirrel, Sow, Tiger, Bear,
Mythical Creatures: Phoenix, Troll, Mermecolion
Celebration of: The Goddess giving birth to the God.
Yule is one of the Lesser Sabbats, it marks the Winter Solstice and is the time of the year when the God is reborn of the virgin goddess. The God is represented by the Sun which returns after the darkest night of the year, to again bring warmth and fertility to the land.
During Yule the daylight hours are the shortest in the year, and the nights are the longest. The Moon after Yule is said to be the most powerful of the whole year. Divine babies were born on this day – famously baby Jesus, Mithra, Oedipus, Hercules, Dionysus and many other holy beings.
The origins of Yule date back to the Egyptians, they held the festival to celebrate the rebirth of Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, Horus took the form of the Sun. Because greenery was seen as magical growth, and they wanted the Sun to stay longer, everything in sight was decorated in all the greenery. Others followed, and when the Romans came along they named their festival Saturnalia, they brought in things such as candles, singing, lavish feasts and extravagant gift giving. As this spread through Europe it became Yule.
Many things that Christians use to celebrate Christmas have Pagan origins, such as the Christmas tree. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung on the tree so you could tell when a spirit was present. The five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed at the top of the tree. The colours of the season, red and green, are also of Pagan origin, as is the custom of exchanging gifts. The Druids honored trees and collected and hung mistletoe. Group singing (caroling) was also a way of guiding the spirits towards the warmth of the homes. Yule is always considered a celebration of peace, love, spirituality and positive energy.
The origin of the word Yule, has several suggested origins from the Old English word, geõla, the Old Norse word jõl, a pagan festival celebrated at the winter solstice, or the Anglo-Saxon word for the festival of the Winter Solstice, ‘Iul’ meaning ‘wheel’.
* Decorate a Christmas or Yule tree.
* Exchange gifts with family and friends
* Decorate with the colors Red, gold and green in honour of the God
* Add mistletoe, this is both protective and representative of fertility
* Sing carols
* Donate food and clothing to others.
* Private Meditation
* Light Candles
* Drink cider
* Ring bells to greet the Solstice Morning
* String popcorn and hang them on an outdoor tree for the birds.
* Hang little bells on the Yule Tree to call the spirits and fairies.
* For prosperity, burn ash wood.
* Make and burn a Yule Log.
* Bake a Yule Log Cake.
The Winter Solstice is a magical season . . . one that marks the journey from this year to the next, journeys of the spirit from one world to the next, and the magic of birth, death, and rebirth. The longest night of the year (December 21 in the Northern hemisphere), is reborn as the start of the solar year and accompanied by festivals of light to mark the rebirth of the Sun. In ancient Europe, this night of darkness grew from the myths of the Norse goddess Frigga who sat at her spinning wheel weaving the fates, and the celebration was called Yule, from the Norse word Jul, meaning wheel. The Christmas wreath, a symbol adapted from Frigga’s “Wheel of Fate”, reminds us of the cycle of the seasons and the continuity of life.
That the timing of the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ occurs in the Yule season is no coincidence. Christmas was once a movable feast, celebrated many different times during the year. The decision to establish December 25 as the “official” date of Christ’s birth was made by Pope Julius I in the fourth century AD, hoping to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one, since this date coincided with the pagan celebrations of Winter Solstice with the Return of the Sun Gods occurring throughout the world.
Numerous Christmas traditions derive from the earlier pagan celebrations. Yule, celebrating the birth or rebirth of a god of light, made use of fire, both in candles and the burning of a Yule log.
The Christmas tree has its origins in the practice of bringing a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when an appreciative spirit was present. Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree.
In Northern Europe, the year’s longest night is called “Mother Night” for it was in darkness the goddess Frigga labored to bring the Light to birth once more. The Young Sun, Baldur, who controlled the sun and rain and brings fruitfulness to the fields, was born. Frigga’s blessing is invoked for all birthing women, and a white candle that last burned on the solstice is a charm to provide a safe delivery.
The mistletoe’s association with the holidays come from the myths of the goddess Frigga. The plant’s white berries were formed from Frigga’s tears of mourning when her beloved son Baldur was killed by a dart made from mistletoe.
Some versions of the story of Baldur’s death end happily. Baldur is restored to life, and the goddess is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the baleful plant, making it a symbol of peace and love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it.
Read more about the goddess Frigga and other legends about mistletoe.
Throughout the world gods and goddesses of light were being born during the Winter Solstice. The Egyptian goddess Isis delivered Horus whose symbol was the winged Sun. Mithras, the Unconquered Sun of Persia, was born during the solstice, as was Amaterasu, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun. Rhea gave birth to Saturn (son of the Father of Time), Heraconceives Hephaestus, and Quetzalcoatl and Lucina (“Little Light”) also celebrate birthdays at this time. Lucia, saint or Goddess of Light, is honored from Italy to Sweden, crowned with candles to carry us through the darkness. The birth of Sarasvati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and the Queen of Heaven, is also celebrated during Yule-tide.
The Solstice is also a time of plenty. The Hopi Kachinas return to the Earth during the solstice, and the Deer Mothers dance for the fertility of the earth. The hearth fires of Hestia(known as the Roman goddess Vesta) are quenched and then rekindled. The “first fruits” festival, Kwanzaa, is held to honor the seven major deities of Yoruba.
And Winter Solstice is a time for visions. Rhiannon, a Welsh incarnation of Epona, the Celtic Mare Goddess, rides through the dreams of her people by night, transporting them to the place between the worlds where they can create their own visions, giving them a gift of what they need most, helping them to make real their dreams. In Scotland, the last night of the year is Wish Night, a holiday when wishes made for the coming year are at their most powerful.