Very few days of the Great Pagan Wheel are quite so indelibly marked into the conscious of all of us than that of the Winter Solstice, or Yule.
At this point in the year the days are at their shortest and the nigh-time seems, in the Northern aHemisphere at least, to last an interminable length of time.
This is, nevertheless, still an important point in the magickal year for it offers us all the opportunity to pause at etc solstice, to reflect upon the passing year and to contemplate on the practical requirements for the coming season.
The Winter Solstice
The term solstice, according to Pesznecker, means “sun stands still” – which, of course, is what it appears to do as it travels through the heavens.
According to Susan Pesznecker, author of ‘Yule: Rituals, Recipes and Lore for the Winter Solstice’ this time of the year was always associated with hibernation – a time when the metabolism slows and we tend to become naturally drowsy and withdrawn.
In most traditions the Winter Solstice has been closely connected with dark, female deities. These include both Greek and Roman as well as Celtic.
In ‘Yule’ the author begins by exploring the ancient root meanings to the words yule, yuletime, solstice and reveals how a myriad of meanings reveal several ancient cultural heritages.
In looking back to the ancient ceremonial practices held at this time of the year Pesznecker explains how there has often been a tradition of goodwill and of gift-giving at Midwinter.
Another old tradition centres on the belief that the installing of the Yule Log, usually taken from a local oak tree, would bring luck and insight to the inhabitants of the home.
Today most of these Winter Solstice traditions are kept alive by various Pagan groups all over the world. Depending upon local customs, celebrations can include decorating the home with greenery, dressing in animal skins or masks as well as communal social events – many featuring sword dancing as often performed by Mummers and Morris Men.
Yule also features the practice of magick with a number of traditions utlizing the energies of this time of the year for healing, cleansing and blessing.
Given the additional amount of time available to us at this point in the year Yule also offers us an opportunity for performing home crafts. ‘Yule’ includes a number of tips for making such seasonal objects as magickal bags, dream pillows and poppets for protection of the home and those who enter it.
Spells included in the book offer the chance to use talismans with the Yuke Log, the ability to generate snow falls, astral protection during the long winter nights, protection whilst journeying as well as blessings for mothers who tend to be the busiest at this time of the year in preparing for celebrations.
The dark of winter us also a food time if the tear for practising any form of divination. In her book the author includes a powerful Midwinter Solstice Tarot Spread along with advice on studying such auguries as omens as well as other wintertime, folklore based techniques.
Recipes and Crafts
Winter Solstice is a great time for preparing food as part of the joyful feasting that takes place so Yule contains several recipes for both appetizing food and drink using traditional ingredients and spices.
Some of these mixtures, such as bath salts can also be turned into gifts for friends.
A Magickal Time of the Year
For practising Wiccans and Pagans – or anyone who is keen to get more heavily involved with the magickal energies and tides at this point in the Great Year, the author devotes a large section of her book to such practices as prayers and invocations, meditations and rituals involving both groups of people – for example, around a Yuletide hearth, as well as advice for solitary practitioners.
To complete this journey through Yule the book closes with a set of seasonal correspondences for the reader to draw inspiration from in designing their own celebrations.
Happy Yule Eveyone!
Yule is a celebration that has become deeply absorbed into the glitz and over-indulgence of our modern Christmas festivities.
Nevertheless its core principles and traditions remain as popular today as they were in the past – thanks mainly to writers such as Susan Pesznecker who through their enthusiasm and creative imagination keeps it alive.
’Yule’ is a great book for those who want to understand, enjoy and derive the greatest spiritual opportunity from engaging with this important time of the tear.
The history of this festival that she presents is particularly fascinating and the author really demonstrates the degree to which Yule celebration was seeded unto the racial unconscious over several thousands of years and yet still remains authentic and resonant with its roots even today.
’Yule’ is yet another great addition to Llewellyns Sabbats series of books all of which, along with this one, I can heartily recommend.
Yule is a joyous recognition of a dark, but important time in the magickal year – one where we truly reevaluate the meaning to our ancient spiritual and magickal heritage.