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Celebrating Yule with Tradition & Ritual

December 2, 2022

Hands of Change will be celebrating Yule with a full moon Yule ritual and feast in honor of Lugh and Arianrhod on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 at 7 p.m. in Old Bridge, NJ.

Yule, or Winter Solstice, marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. Pagan cultures across the world celebrated this fire festival with myth and magic. Learn about ancient traditions that are still kept today, as well as some that have been lost over time. Find out what significance our ancestors gave to the Yule log, decorating trees, and exchanging gifts. A Yule ritual will directly follow the class.

Yule/Winter Solstice is celebrated around December 20-23. Yule is the first of eight solar holidays, called the Wheel of the Year, celebrated by our ancestors. The origin of the word “Yule” is Norse and means “wheel” or “turning time.” It was first celebrated 12,000 years ago.

In the Wiccan faith, it is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the Divine Child Sun, who brings hope and promise of the summer to come. It’s the shortest day and longest night of the year. The sun god Mithras, who appears in Greek, Roman, Persian, and Egyptian mythology, was born in a barn to a virgin mother, was the Sun personified, was the child of the God of all Gods, and his followers pray for his return which will herald new life and life eternal for humankind.

Christians adopted this solar holiday as the birth time for Christ though the actual time of his birth is unknown, though it was originally celebrated in August. You can see how the story of Christ reflects both the Wiccan and Mithras myths. Christians often adopted pagan customs and holidays when trying to convert them. It was easier for pagans to accept Christianity if they didn’t have to give up their own traditions and celebrations. Also, if pagan holidays became Christianized, pagans would have to be in church on their holy days rather than frolicking in the woods and fields. On the Roman or Julian calendar, winter solstice fell on December 25.

In Ireland, people leave lights burning all through the house to honor the Virgin Goddess who gives birth to the God. The word “virgin” at one time meant a woman who was a complete entity unto herself. Roman priestesses, called Vestal Virgins, didn’t take husbands but could take lovers and were not bound by secular law. When you pass houses here in New Jersey, where every window is lit by a candle, this is the custom that is being followed.

On the Gregorian calendar, we are about to enter a new year (the Wiccan New Year is at Halloween). One of the predominant figures at the new year is Father Time. The Roman festival of Saturnalia took place around now and was dedicated to the Lord of Time, Saturn. It was a time of role reversal. Slaves were served a meal by their master. Romans bathed with gold coins to absorb their energies so they might be more prosperous during the coming year (similar to the Jewish custom of giving gold coins as gifts at Chanukah/the Festival of Lights).

Do you all know the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? The Norse celebrated a 12-night-long festival at this time. The first night is called Mother Night. Norse pagans sit up until dawn and await the rising and rebirth of their sun goddess Freya. They used bells to herald the rising of the sun after the longest night of the year. For the Norse, it is a night when the veil between the world grows thin. The Norse Goddess Holde, guardian of the spirit world, opens her doors at Yule to all sincere seekers.

Egyptians celebrate the rebirth of their sun god, Ra, and commemorate the creation of the universe. Rain on solstice eve was a special blessing from Ra, whose tears could quench the parched desert. Yule marked the time of the beginning of Egypt’s short rainy season. Perhaps this is the origin of our prayers for snow on Christmas eve.

In Sweden young women wear wreaths lighted by candles on their heads. Native Americans of the Southwest celebrate “Soyalanwul,” which means to bring new life to the world. Their ritual aided the sun’s birth with a birthing ritual consisting of having one person, masked as the Sun God, crawl through the legs of the tribe’s women.

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