THE YULE TREEThe Celtic Druids venerated evergreen trees as manifestations of deity and as symbols of the universe. To the Celts, these trees were sacred because they did not die from year to year like deciduous trees. Therefore they represented the eternal aspect of the Goddess who also never dies. Their greenery was symbolic of the hope for the sun’s return.
The Druids decorated the evergreen trees at Yule with all the images of the things they wished the waxing year to bring. Fruits for a successful harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth adorned the trees. These were forerunners to many of the images on today’s Christmas trees. Candles were the forerunners of today’s electric tree lights.
In Scandinavia, Yule trees were brought inside to provide a warm and festive place for tree elementals who inhabited the woodland. This was also a good way to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals. Some believed the Saxons were the first to place candles in the tree.
Gradually sacred tree imagery was absorbed and minimalized by the Christian church–but it was never able to destroy trees’ resonance within our collective unconscious completely. We realize when we plant a tree we are encouraging the Earth to breathe. And when we decorate our evergreen trees at Yule, we are making a symbol of our dream world with the objects we hang upon it. Perhaps a chain or garland, reflecting the linking of all together on Earth. Lights–for the light of human consciousness, animal figures who serve as our totems, fruits and colors that nourish and give beauty to our world, gold and silver for prosperity, treats and nuts that blend sweet and bitter–just as in real life. The trees we decorate now with symbols of our perfect worlds actually animate what we esteem and what we hope for in the coming year; as from this night, the light returns, reborn.
Decorating the Tree
It’s best to use a live tree, but if you can’t, you can perform an outdoor ritual thanking a tree, making sure to leave it a gift when you’re finished (either some herbs or food for the animals and birds). Start a seedling for a new tree to be planted at Beltane.
If apartment rules or other conditions prevent you from using a live tree indoors, be sure to bring live evergreen garlands or wreaths into the house as decorations.
* String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on the Yule tree or an outdoor tree for birds.
* Decorate pine cones with glue and glitter as symbols of the faeries and place them in the Yule tree.
* Glue the caps onto acorns and attach with a red string to hang on the Yule tree.
* Hang little bells on the Yule tree to call the spirits and faeries.
* Hang robin and wren ornaments on the tree. The robin is the animal equivalent of the Oak King, the wren of the Holly King. Each Yule and Midsummer they play out the same battle as the two kings.
* Hang 6-spoked snowflakes on the branches of the tree. The Witches Rune, or Hagalaz, has 6 spokes.
* Hang sun, moon, star, Holly King, faery, or fruit decorations.
* String electric lights on your tree to encourage the return of the Sun.
Consecrating the Tree
Consecrate the Yule tree by sprinkling it with salted water, passing the smoke of incense (bayberry, pine, spruce, pine, spice, cedar, or cinnamon)through the branches, and walking around the tree with a lighted candle saying:
By fire and water, air and earth, I consecrate this tree of rebirth.
Symbolizing: Continuity of Life, Protection, Prosperity
Types: Pine, Fir, Cedar, Juniper, other evergreens
Forms: boughs, wreaths, garlands, trees
Divinities: Green Goddesses & Gods; Hertha; Cybele, Attis, Dionysius (Pine); Woodland Spirits
Traditions: Roman, Celtic, Teutonic, Christian
Symbolizing: New Solar Year; Waxing Sun; Endurance, Strength, Triumph, Protection, Good Luck
Forms: Yule log, acorns, wood for sacred fires
Divinities: Oak King; Oak Spirit; Sky Gods including Thor, Jupiter, Zeus
Traditions: Teutonic, Celtic, Christian
SACRED TREES OF WINTER SOLSTICE from the Celtic Tree Calendar
Yew: Last Day of Solar Year; Death.
Silver Fir: Winter Solstice Day; Birth.
Birch: Month following Winter Solstice; Beginnings.
written by Selena Fox