A Must Read To The Children For Winter Solstice

BRAN THE BLESSED, A FAERY KING MYTH

The Yuletide season provides us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on the ancient Welsh myth of Bran the Blessed, a vivid and compassionate tale that embodies the Wiccan values of giving, light, and rebirth. Bran’s story is one of personal sacrifice, conciliation, and a king’s love for his people and land. If he does not meet his obligations to the Goddess, Earth Mother, and the land itself turns against him. Bran’s myth is about how to become a good king.

Bran’s sister, Branwen, is Goddess of the Land, and as such, she is Bran’s reason for being. As Faery King and Guardian of the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran is committed to his role as champion of Her cause. The Cauldron of Rebirth, originally from Ireland, has the power to bring dead warriors back to life and is a special symbol of the law and power of the land.

In the story, Branwen marries Matholwch, the King of Ireland, in order to form a bond between Britain and Ireland. Branwen’s brother however, is upset by the marriage and kills all of Matholwch’s horses. Bran replaces the horses, but Matholwch is not satisfied. In order to heal the breach, Bran must also give Matholwch the Cauldron of Rebirth. Despite so generous a gift, Matholwch is still not appeased. He mistreats Bran’s sister so badly, Bran must march into Ireland to save her. To prevent his arrival, Matholwch burns the bridge leading across the Shannon River. But Bran shapeshifts into a giant and acts as his own bridge, carrying his men on his enormous shoulders through the sea. Thus we find in Bran’s story the important line, which serves as a lesson to future leaders, “He who would be chief, let him make himself a bridge.”

Without the Cauldron of Rebirth, Bran’s forces are defeated and Bran is wounded. He orders his own beheading and while his men transport his head to be buried in the White Tower of London, Bran teaches everything he has learned from the Goddess’ Cauldron of Rebirth, passing on his wisdom to all future generations. This image of Bran’s head is one of many examples found in Celtic mythology and witchcraft of the skull as a symbol of power and wisdom. The skull is not something to be feared. Modern witches wear skull jewelry, symbolizing the house of the brain.

Yule is a good time of year to think about what we learn of Bran’s myth. This is a magickal moment of the ever-turning wheel: like Bran’s story, it is full of heart and passion, lightness and gravity, hope and realism. This is a time when we reflect on the unconquerable human spirit that the story of Branwen and Bran represents. (Laurie Cabot, Celebrate the Earth)

Cabot goes on to say she believes Yule, more than any other moment on the Wheel of the Year, is indicative of the unity of the Wiccan tradition. At Yule, we desire to cherish the best of all we have, and to seek out and acknowledge what is of great value in others.Yule is an awakening and a thankfulness for our knowledge of and our connection to the Wheel of the Year.

 

Earth Witchery

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YULE – FOR MEN

YULE – FOR MEN

The cauldron is placed by the south candle with an unlit candle in it. Wreath
the cauldron with Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe.

Stand before the altar with arms upraised, say:

“Queen of the Moon, Queen of the Sun
Queen of the Heavens, Queen of the Stars
Queen of the Waters, Queen of the Earth
Bring to us the child of promise!
It is the great Mother who gives birth to Him
It is the Lord of Life who is born again
Darkness and tears are set aside when the sun shall come up early!”

Take a candle from the altar and light the candle in the cauldron, say:

“Golden Sun of hill and mountain
Illumine the Land, illumine the World
Illumine the Seas, illumine the Rivers
Sorrows be laid, joy to the World!
Blessed be the great Goddess
Without beginning, without ending
Everlasting to eternity
Io Evo! He! Blessed Be!
Io Evo! He! Blessed Be!…”

Yule Lore

Yule Lore

Long, long ago when the earth was new
And mankind was younger yet.
There came a time of the dark and cold.
Let never a soul forget.

There came a time when the ice drew nigh,
And the sky with snow turned gray.
And the earth grew hard, and the trees were bare,
And the timber wolf howled in the brae.

Huddled and cold the tribesmen sat
Round fires of peat and of moss. And dreamed of the warm time, dreamed of the Lord,
And mourned for the Lady’s loss.

For with the harvest had come the Lord
And laid his body down,
To pay with his life for the earth’s repast,
To yield to the Holly his crown.

As the deer and the boar bow down to the bow,
And the stag consents to the kill,
So the Lord came down to the altar knife
Earth’s riches his people to fill.

Then came the Lady across the moor
And down from the lonely hill.
Saying, “What have you done with my wondrous Lord,
And why did you have to kill?”

Then in anger she turned from the children of men
And in anger she went away.
And she wrapped her cloak around her head
And she wrapped the sky with gray.

Cold grew the world with the Lady’s grief
And her cold tears fell as the snow.
And the rivers and lakes were frozen still
And the fires of peat burned low.

“Oh, what have we done,” the people cried,
“To have slain our own dear Lord!
And how will we live, and how will we fare
Without the Lady’s regard.”

The world grew colder each passing day
And the sun fell down from the sky.
And darkness eternal lay over the earth
And the people began to die.

They gathered together there on the plain,
Every woman and man and child,
And prayed to the Lady then to relent
And prayed for the land to heal.

But nothing came to answer their cries,
But dire wolf, lion, and bear.
And the people cried out with a terrible shout
But the Lady refused to hear.

Then from among them a man stood forth,
A harper of no little fame,
And he said, “I shall go to the Summer Land’s shores
And I’ll bring the Lord back again.”

“And how will you do this thing you will do,
And how will you bring it about?”
“I will play on my harp, ’til the gates open wide
And the Lord Death shall let us out.”

“Old fool, old fool”, the wise ones cried,
“Oh never this thing shall be.
For no one goes to the Summer Land’s shores,
And returns to the land of the free.”

“But I shall go”, the old man said,
“And these things I claim shall be.
Or else the world in the dark will die,
And the people no longer be.”

Then he took his harp and he took his staff,
And he bent his head to the west.
And he walked and he ran for six days and three,
And never he stopped to rest.

He ran till he came to the frozen shore
of the mighty western sea.
And the frozen tears coursed down his cheeks
For never a boat had he.

Then the man cried out in a terrible shout,
“Aquila, Lord of the Air,
Hear my plea and answer me
And bear me over there.”

Out of the skies on wings of fire
Came Aquila, the Lord of the Air,
“Saying who shall call on Aquila’s name,
And bid me to carry them there”.

“I”, said the old man, “I called thy name,
For my people the need is great.
And I must hie to the Summer Land’s shores
If I would avert their fate.”

Then Aquila came down to the shores of the sea,
And he came to the old mans hand.
And he said, “I shall bear thee in honor and pride
To the shores of the Summer Land.”

Then off they flew in the night dark sky
Neath a cavern of stars and air.
And at last they came to the Summer Land’s shores
And Aquila alighted there.

“My thanks for your aid”, the old man cried,
“Now fly and avert your fate.”
But proud Aquila dipped down his head
And said, it for him was too late.

For from the Summer Land none return,
Until it is time to be born.
And now in the dark of the Lady’s regard,
There will be no glorious morn.

“Then come,” said the harper, “Come with me!
And we’ll seek for the Lord of the Wild.”
And he struck his harp and he raised his voice,
And the shades of the dead they smiled.

They searched and they searched the Summer Land,
And the harp made a wondrous sound,
Til they came to a grove of oak, ash and thorn
And a mighty stag they found.

“Whence came you then”, cried the mighty stag,
“And why have you called to me.
For I was the Lord of the Greenwood once.
And now you’ve awakened me.”

Then the harper knelt, and he bowed his head,
And he cried, “Oh Lord, return.
For thy people die without thy aid
And the fires refuse to burn.”

“Thy Lady mourns and her frozen tears,
Have turned the world to ice.
We accepted gladly your wondrous gifts,
With no thought to the sacrifice.”

The stag he wept for his people’s woe,
And he bent his lordly head.
Ah, glad would I be to go with you hence,
But this is the land of the dead.

And none can leave here until the time,
When death shall let them go.
And I must stay til the stars shall say
That it is time to go.

Then the harper sang and he played his harp,
With ever a song so sweet.
That even the Lord of Death came round
And sat at the Harper’s feet.

And when he’d done, Death came to him,
“Saying ask of me any boon,
For thou hast brought me joy and peace
In my lands of endless noon.”

Then up spoke the Harper, “Lord grant me one gift
And set the Forest Lord free.
Lest all people shall perish beneath the snow,
This shall I ask of thee.”

Then Death bowed his head, and he said “He may go,
Though it is not time yet to be.
Yet I have promised for thy harp’s sake
And therefore, so mote it be.”

Death then turned to the mighty stag
And he raised his withered hand.
Saying, “Thou art free for the Harper’s sake,
Depart from the Summer Land.”

Then in the place of the wild beast lay
A tiny newborn child.
And the Harper and eagle in homage knelt,
And the little baby smiled.

The Harper lifted him up in his arms,
And strode to Aquila’s side.
And he said, “I beg you, one last time,
For the Lord’s sake let us ride.”

Then Aquila rose from the Summer Land
With Harper and child on his back.
And he turned his head to the eastern lands
And he sailed into infinite black.

Nine days and nine, Aquila flew
Til he came to the cold, dark plain.
And there he carried the man and child
That the sun might come again.

Then down from the darkness they came with the wind
And among the people they stood.
And the people came forth to see this child
As the Harper had said they would.

Then the people called out the Lady’s name,
And the newborn baby cried.
And the Lady looked down on the gathered throng
And she saw the child and sighed.

“Ah”, said the Lady, “Here is my Lord
Surely come back to me.
And where are the brave ones who challenged Death
That this wondrous thing might be?”

Then forth came Aquila and Harper both
And stood at the Lady’s feet.
“Thou art the bravest and staunchest of friends
That ever I chanced to meet.”

“For thou hast challenged the gates of Death
With never a thought of reward.
And thou hast won thy peoples life
For saving my own sweet Lord.”

“For thou, Aquila, a king shall be
And I give thee a crown of light.”
Then she stretched forth her hand upon his head
And turned his feathers white.

“And thou, dear Harper, shall be my own
And sit here at my feet.
And a nightingale sang where the old man stood,
With ever a song so sweet.”

Then spake the Lady, to those who heard,
“By Fire and Fir and Yew;
I vow on my honor that never again,
Will the light depart from you.”

“For though the night grows long and dark,
And the sun be hid from view,
Yet the Lord will come with mid-winter’s day
And the light bring back to you.”

Then she bade them build on the frozen plain
A mighty and magical ring
Of standing stone and sturdy oak
And she bade the people sing.

And she said, “By this mark you shall be sure
That to my promise I hold,
For when the sun on this stone shall sit
Then you’ll know an end of the cold.”

“Down and down the dark shall come,
but on that special day,
The sun shall climb once more in the sky.
And the heavens be blue not gray.”

Then the people knelt and bowed their heads,
And when they looked again,
The Lady was gone, and the Harper too,
Gone from the world of men.

And in the place where the Lady stood,
The rose of winter grew.
And overhead where the sun shown bright,
A mighty eagle flew.

And thus my children, thus is the tale
Of how the world turned cold.
And how the summer was carried back
By the Harper and Eagle bold.

Copyright © Lark 1992

The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

The Holly King Presents Christmas’s Pagan Origins

Early Solstice Celebration

The original reason for the season is the Winter Solstice. Solstice is a word from the Latin that meaning “stands still”. For six days at this time, the sun appears to stand still on the horizon. This was a time of uncertainty and mystery as people wondered if indeed the sun would return. When it did year and year again, festivals grew up in just about every place and culture. Even today in our modern indoor society the Solstice continues to be a time of celebration across the world. The theme of light emerging from darkness is universal at this time of year.

In primitive societies the priests and shamans were most certainly the astronomers. Knowledge of the mathematical calculations needed to calculate the time of the Solstices would be seen as high magic in these cultures. From New Grange in Ireland to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, to the great solar temples of Egypt, peoples developed elaborate sacred sites to track the movement of the Sun across the sky and to note the times of the Solstices. Stonehenge is the most famous of the solar calculators and its construction is one of the great unsolved mysteries.

The celebration of Horus or Ra the Sun in ancient Egypt involved decorating with greenery especially palm branches with twelve fronds and directly linked the Sun God to the natural rhythms of the Sun in the sky.

The Solstice time in Babylon was Zagmuk. The Babylonians incorporated their Sun god Marduk who defeated the Monsters of Chaos during this dark and shadowy time. This holiday introduced the idea of the struggle between good and bad; continued today in the magical persona of a Santa Claus who uses the granting of presents or coal and switches to judge children.

The festival of Sacaea continued this theme. The Persians and later the Greeks celebrated the reversal of order that was stirred up by Kallikantzaroi, mischievous imps who roamed about during the twelve days of Sacaea. These imps had a darker side than the elves Santa associates with today.

In Rome the major festival for this time of year was Saturnalia, the birthday of the Roman God Saturn. This festival was celebrated from December 17-24. This holiday included pig sacrifice and gift exchange and was followed by the Kalends an early January celebration of the New Year where houses were decorated with greenery and lights. Both of which are usually still up on New Year’s Day in modern America.

The Norse, largely independently arrived at a similar holiday that bears the closest resemblance to the modern celebrations and unlike the Celts and many others, made this a major holiday. We can thank them for the word Yule that still is used interchangeably with Christmas by many contemporary persons. We can also thank them for the traditions of caroling, the Yule log and the first custom of bringing an entire evergreen into the house. It is fitting that this would be a major holiday for those who lived so far north that the winter nights literally swallowed the days in the time directly before Solstice.

Modern Solstice Celebrations

Christmas: The earliest record of a Christmas celebration was in Rome in 336 CE. Pope Liberus in 354 CE placed the holiday on December 25. The Armenian Church still celebrates on Jan 6. The holiday remains an almost universal celebration around the World. Many people participant in the cultural elements of Christmas to a much greater extent than the religious. Unfortunately Christmas has come to represent consumerism in our society with many stores and businesses dependent on large sales this time of year. Many Christians are trying to reestablish the religious aspects of the season by moving away from large scale elaborate gifting and returning to homemade and personal services gifting. Many see this as an environmental imperative as well as a religious one. There is also a movement towards joint celebrations with many other spiritual seasonal celebrations to allow us all to experience the diversity of spiritual experience as well as the Christian teachings of peace and good will towards all.

But even as Christmas seems to be everywhere it is important to remember that other solar festivals remain and new ones have been established.

Pagan Yule: The word Yule is from the Scandinavian word Jul meaning ‘wheel’. Many pagans honor the turning wheel at this time. Many Wiccans honor the theme from the Celts: they see Yule as the time of battle between the aging Holly King and the young Oak King. Others may use the Greek myth of Persephone and the Underworld to enact the theme of dark giving way to light. Still others see the waning God passing to the waxing Goddess.

For many Wiccans Yule is a lesser Sabot: with Beltane and Samhain being more significant. Common celebrations involve all night bon fires, Yule log rituals, and rituals celebrating the return of the light with large numbers of candles. Drumming, chanting and ecstatic dancing are often a part of these rituals as they tend to be in all Wiccan and Neo-Pagan rituals. Many Norse Pagans or the other hand see Yule as the major festival, a time for swearing oaths, toasting and boasting.

Solstice/ Midwinter Night: Celebrated by many neo-Pagans, New Agers, and even by some atheists we see new traditions are arising out of the old. They may borrow liberally from many older traditions and add to them with new traditions. It may be elaborate ritual or a simple bonfire to celebrate the returning sun. It may have religious or spiritual connotations or it may just be a cultural celebration. People are finding old and new ways to celebrate with friends and family.

Hanukkah (Chanukah) : This eight day festival of lights celebrates a victory by a small Jewish army, led by Judah Maccabee over the Assyrian Greeks in the second century BC. After regaining their right to worship in the temple they had only enough sacred oil to last a short time. Myth has it that the oil miraculously burned for eight days straight. The festival is celebrated by lighting the menorah candles each night until all are lit. Gifts are exchanged and seasonal food shared. Gelt, which is chocolate or real money, is often given. A dreidel or four-sided top is also a popular gift and game to be played. Latkes or potato pancakes are often served.

Kwanzaa. This modern holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an American academic to celebrate the African roots of Afro-Americans. The word is from Swahili and translated to ‘first fruits’. Seven candles, one black and three each of red and green are lit each night for the seven principles of Kwanzaa. These principles are Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith. Other symbols are the colors of red (struggle) black (unity) and green (future) from flag created by Marcus Garvey at the beginning of the century, the unity cup, the candleholder for the candles, which is called the Kinara

Common Elements of Solstice Celebrations

Child of Wonder, Child of Light

A great many of the winter solstice festivals celebrate the birth of a wonder child. The child, especially a magical child represents hope and rebirth embodied.

The child is almost always a male and is often the result of a non-ordinary birth. The divine feminine is usually embodied in the birth and the Madonna/goddess image of fertility is often a part of the symbology.

Osiris, the Egyptian Sun god underwent death, dismemberment and resurrection yearly with the travels of the Sun and the rise and fall of the Nile River and thus the fertility of the area. In his guise as Horus he was the sun as well as the son. Pictured sitting on the lap of his mother Isis, his portrait is very reminiscent of the Christian Madonna with child images and is one of the earliest children of promise.

In ancient Greek myth the son god Attis was born in a cave around the time of Solstice and was the son of the Goddess Cybel or Isis. Attis grew to full strength with the sun and was yearly cut down to be reborn.

While Saturn was the sun god for whom Saturnalia, the great Roman solar festival was celebrated for, another god Mithras who was worshiped well (6th Century BC) before but then contemporarily (second century BC to fifth century CE) with Jesus. Mithras was also born in a cave of a virgin and later went through death and resurrection. Because Mithras was worshiped by Emperor Constantine before his conversation to Christianity he may be a more direct influence on the Christian story as well as the date since Mithras’ birthday was celebrated on December 25.

Even in North American among the Huron along the northern shore of Lake Ontario, a child of wonder named Deganawidah was born of a virgin. This child was sent by the Great Spirit as a messenger to bring peace to humankind. He traveled among the tribes and is credited with founding the Iroquois Confederacy. It is believed that he too will return to Earth at the time of greatest need. This is a clear parallel to the return of King Arthur and the Second Coming of Chris and would indicate that the story is an archetypal myth shared by humans all around the world.

Santa and other Father Winters

Is Santa a Shamanic concept? Many pictures of northern Shaman are very similar to woodland Santas — both ancient and modern. He appears in long fur robes, often with Bells and is often an older man. The Shaman works both in the spiritual realm and in the material sphere. The Shaman climbed the world tree to bring back gifts of spiritual knowledge as well as calling the herds to supply food and materials for the material lives of his people. Often he went up the smoke hole, the early chimney at night probably in trance, possibly with the herd of reindeer that supported his clan.

Like the Shaman, Santa embodies magic and mystery, the spirit of nature as well as universal human values of caring and generosity. The word Shaman is a Siberian word and this is the land of the reindeer. In his Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell describes a legendary Shaman who received his enlightenment in the nest of a winged reindeer in a tree, which was thought to reach the heavens.

There were also Goddesses who rode sleighs and delivered gifts. The Norse goddess Freya rode a chariot pulled by stags.

The life and legends of the Christian St. Nickolas continues the magic of the Shaman. As a young man St. Nickolas traveled to the holy land and on his way back was blown around in a storm and ended upon the coast of Lyca near Myra. He went to pray at the nearest church where the bishop was retiring. One member of the convocation (committee) to choose a new Bishop had had a vision that the new Bishop would be coming to the church and his name would be Nickolas. Arriving as he did the boy was made Bishop of Myra. After serving a prison term under the Romans, young St. Nickolas participated in the decision of Pope Liberus to make Dec 25 the official date of the birth of Christ and the celebration of Christmas. He was a generous man who gave much to the poor of Myca through out the year but especially around Christmas. He was also a Christian Shaman whose miracles that lead to his sainthood was bring back to life and form three boys who had been chopped up and boiled in a pot for stealing.

Modern Santas: Our modern image of Santa in a red suit can be traced to Thomas Nast, an amazing commercial artist of the 19th century. He developed Santa for President Lincoln as well as the Donkey and Elephant of the Democrats and Republicans. His illustration was used in New Yorker publication of Clement Moore’s famous poem, T’was the Night Before Christmas.

Coca Cola: Haddon Sunblom popularized most common image of the modern global culture in 1931.

Contemporary Santas: Even today the image of Santa grows and expands to fill hopes and dreams of all children. Modern Santas of all races and nationalities join woodland and other artist Santas to adorn homes and businesses. Woodland Santas stand on store shelves beside Santas who play golf, surf, and just about any activity you can imagine. Some even have electronic movement and sound.

Evergreens: The obvious symbol of eternal life, green when all else is barren and brown. Evergreens were probably held sacred very early in human prehistory. Again the palm fronds in Egypt and the greening during the Kalends are recorded examples.

The Christmas tree: In the sixth century it is said that the Christian St. Boniface cut down a sacred oak to spite local druids. As the tree fell, it crushed everything in its path except one cedar. He declared it a miracle and that the tree belonged to the Christ child. This is often cited as an example of cultural assimilation of Pagan religious symbology for political purposes.

Hanging of the greens: Decorating with evergreens was first noted in Egypt. It was also popular during the roman Saturnalia and Kalends. The Norse also brought in evergreens for decoration during the long snowy winters. Where Christmas is celebrated, the evergreens are often used to mark the start of the season, which is longer than any of the preceding cultures, now beginning shortly after Halloween and withering out sometime in middle January, marked mainly by clearance sales.

Holly: A symbol from the Celts, the male symbol of rebirth is again an evergreen, this time with red berries. A plant of protection, holly is the symbol of the god of the dark year.

Mistletoe: Mistletoe may have first been used in the Greek winter ceremonies. The Norse legend said it was blessed with luck and fertility by the goddess Frigga after Balder, her son, was shot by Loki, the dark and mischievous imp god, with an arrow of mistletoe. Her tears restored him to life and fell also on the mistletoe giving it magical properties. Mistletoe was also sacred to the Druids. As it dried, it became the golden bough, symbolic of both sun and moon, of the male and female mysteries.

Winged Goddesses, Angels and Elves: These range from representations of the Goddess Iris to the Catholic Holy Spirits. From the many spirits of the holy host to Santa’s magical elves these winged fairies bring another element of the mischievous imps to our Solstice season.

Madonna: The female remains firmly in the season, firmly eternal throughout the turning of the wheel, the force of nature herself. Her consort, son, partner going through continual birth and rebirth is the wonder child.

Yule log: This harks back to the importance of fire during the darkness of winter. A whole tree was burned during the Greek festival of Sacaea to scar away the Kallikantzuroi (mischievous imps) . The familiar Yule log was a Norse tradition adopted by the Christians. In early America there was a custom “freedom of the Yule, ” a week off for slaves and savants while the Yule log burned. “Firewood as wet as a Yule log” was a saying that this custom generated.

These are many of the ancient legends of the Solstice, which have been important in the development of our modern holiday celebration. As modern spiritual seekers we are borrowing from and saving the old ways while we create new ways. We take what is significant to us and add to it, creating personal, family and community traditions. There are kids, stories, and magick as the Sun and Son once again returns!

Easy Yule Log Cake

Easy Yule Log Cake

(from _Sabbats_ by Edain McCoy)

1 package commercial cake mix, preferably chocolate
2 cans (24 oz.) pre-made frosting in a dark brown color
Several tubes of cake decoration frosting in green, white, and red
Several toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a jelly roll pan with waxed paper. Mix the cake according to package instructions and pour a thin layer — no more than 1/4-inch thick — into the prepared jelly roll pan. Bake the cake until just underdone. If you can’t tell by looking, then use the knife test. When the knife emerges not quite clean from the center of the cake, and when a light touch does not bounce back easily, it needs to come out. Check the cake at 7 minutes, and then every 2 minutes past that. DO NOT overbake or the cake will be hard to work with. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool slightly. Remove the cake from the pan by lifting out the wax paper. With the dark frosting, coat the top of the cake. Carefully lift one end of the cake and begin rolling it up as if you were rolling up a map. When you are done, anchor the cake with toothpicks and let it cook 5 more minutes. Let it cool for 30 minutes, then frost it with the dark brown icing. Next take the tubes of icing and make holly and mistletoe on the top. To finish, use toothpicks to etch lines in the log. You can decorate with artificial greenery until time to eat.

BAKE A YULE LOG CAKE

BAKE A YULE LOG CAKE

CAKE

1 cup cake flour
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbl cocoa
1/3 cup boiling water
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup buttermilk

CREAM FILLING

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

GLAZE

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup whipping cream
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

For cake, combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine cocoa, water, and vanilla, whisking until smooth. In a large bowl, cream butter and shortening. Gradually beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

Beginning with the butter and egg mixture, alternately beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Beat in cocoa mixture until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat the remaining 2 Tbl. sugar until mixture is stiff. Fold 1/4 of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Carefully fold in the remaining egg white mixture. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 15X10X1 inch foil-lined jelly roll pan. Smooth top with a spatula. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the cake is slightly puffed and just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cake will be underdone. Place on wire rack to cool.

For filling, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Using a knife, loosen the cake from the edges of the pan. Place a second jelly roll pan on top of the first pan and invert cake on to top of the second pan. Peel off foil. Invert cake again so it is right side up. Spread the cream filling over the cake, leaving a one-inch border around the edges of the cake. Beginning with one long edge, roll up the cake. Wrap the cake tightly with aluminum foil and freeze overnight.

For glaze, melt chocolate chips in the top of a double broiler over warm water. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Beat in butter and cream. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature until slightly thickened. Remove cake from freezer and unwrap. Place cake, seam side down, on a wire rack placed over wax paper. Pour the glaze over the cake — spread evenly over tops and sides. Transfer to serving platter. Use a fork to make the “bark.” Refrigerate until served. Prior to serving, sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top to simulate snow and top with a sprig of holly.

MAKE A YULE LOG

MAKE A YULE LOG

To make a Yule Log, simply choose a dried piece of oak and decorate with burnable ribbons, evergreens, holly, and mistletoe. To make a Yule Log with candles (suitable for indoor observances when a fireplace is not available), you will need a round log at least thirteen inches long and five inches thick. Flatten the bottom of the log with a saw (preferably a power saw) by trimming off an inch or two so the log will sit without wobbling. Next determine where the three candle holes should be drilled along the top of the log. They should be evenly spaced. The size of the holes will be determined by the size candles you are using. Drill the holes 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch to accommodate the candles.

The log with candles may be painted or sprayed with varnish or shellac to keep it from drying out. When the varnish is dry, insert candles and decorate it with holly, evergreens, and mistletoe. Candles may be green, red, and silver or white to represent the Oak King, the Holly King, and the Goddess; or white, red, and black to represent the Triple Goddess.

Yule Log Magick

Yule Log Magick

The yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun.

An oak log, plus a fireplace or bonfire area is needed for this form of celebration. The oak log should be very dry so that it will blaze well. On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log. Burn the log to release it’s power. It can be decorated with burnable red ribbons of natural fiber and dried holly leaves. In the fireplace or bonfire area, dried kindling should be set to facilitate the burning of the log.The Yule log can be made of any wood (Oak is traditional). Each releases its own kind of magick.

Ash –brings protection, prosperity, and health

Aspen– invokes understanding of the grand design

Birch– signifies new beginnings

Holly– inspires visions and reveals past lives

Oak– brings healing, strength, and wisdom

Pine– signifies prosperity and growth

Willow– invokes the Goddess to achieve desires

The burning of the Yule Log can easily become a family tradition. Begin by having parent(s) or some other family member describe the tradition of the Yule Log. The tale of the Oak King and Holly King from Celtic mythology can be shared as a story, or can be summarized with a statement that the Oak represents the waxing solar year, Winter Solstice to Summer Solstice, and the Holly represents the waning solar year, Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice.

Lights are extinguished as much as possible. The family is quiet together in the darkness. Family members quietly contemplate the change in the solar year. Each in her/his own way contemplates the past calendar year, the challenges as well as the good times.

Then the Yule Log fire is lit. As it begins to burn, each family member throws in one or more dried holly sprigs and says farewell to the old calendar year. Farewells can take the form of thanksgiving and appreciation and/or a banishment of old habits or personal pains.

Once the Yule Log itself starts blazing, then the facilitator invites family members to contemplate the year ahead and the power of possibilities. Each member then throws in an oak twig or acorn into the fire to represent the year ahead, and calls out a resolution and/or a hope.

Families using a Yule Log with candles each family member can write a bad habit and/or a wish for the upcoming year on a slip of paper and burn it in the candle flame.

When this process is done, the family sings a song together. The traditional carol, “Deck the Halls,” is good because it mentions the Solstice, the change in the solar year, and the Yule Log.

Let the Yule Log burn down to a few chunks of charred wood and ashes (or candles burn down). Following an ancient tradition, save remnants of the fire and use them to start the Yule Log fire the following year.

THE YULE LOG

THE YULE LOG

The Yule Log, an ancient symbol of the season, came to us from the Celts. The log, a phallic symbol, is usually cut from an Oak tree, symbolic of the god. The entire log was decorated with holly, mistletoe, and evergreens to represent the intertwining of the god and goddess who are reunited on this Sabbat. The log was burned in the hearth or fireplace. Modern pagans also have the option of using pieces of oak small enough to be burned in the cauldron.

In modern times, another tradition has emerged since not everyone has fireplaces. Three holes are bored in the top of the log for three candles, representing the goddess in her three aspects — maiden, mother, and crone. Normally these candles are white, red, and black in honor of this triple aspect. This log may be reused year after year, with the candles changed each year.

An ancient rhyme of unknown origin reflects the importance of the Yule Log on this Sabbat:

May the log burn,
May the wheel turn,
May evil spurn,
May the Sun return.

The ashes of the yule log or spent wax from candles are tied up in a cloth for the entire year as a charm for protection, fertility, strength, and health.

Hot Spiced Wassail

Hot Spiced Wassail

(Non-Alcoholic Version)

4  Cups Cranberry Juice

6  Cinnamon Sticks

5  Cups Apple Cider

1  Orange, studded with whole Cloves

1  Cup water

1  Apple, cored and sliced

½  Cup Brown Sugar

Mix juice, cider, and water in large saucepan or crock pot. Add cinnamon sticks, clove studded orange, and apple slices. Simmer mixture for 4 hours. Serve hot. Makes 12 servings.