Grab Bag for the Holiday Season Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

Grab Bag for the Holiday Season

Or, Survival Tips for the Homeward Bound

by Erika Ginnis

 

I thought that for this article I would  touch on a couple of ideas and techniques that I have found useful during  the holiday season. This is the time of  year when the light seems like a  memory (even as it begins to change  and return), and the dark is ever around  us. It is a powerful time for inner  searching and deep magick. It is a time  of cycles both within us and outside  of us. In some ways, this is the time of  year when it seems like everyone, pagan or not, is bound up in the cyclic  sweep of the turning of the year and  the seasons.

Whatever your own personal opinions about the many traditions that  are celebrated during this time of year  (I personally love the holidays regardless of the name they go by — but  then again I have also been told I am  rather strange!) it is hard to dismiss  all that it brings up in us. All our childhood experiences good or bad are  there with us. All the hopes and  dreams, realized or not, come crowding back on us at this time of year. We  get together with family members  (many of which have little understanding of our particular spirituality), and  sometimes it seems like we become  someone we once were, or never were  but thought we were supposed to be.  It can also be that we love the festivities at this time of year, but those  around us are glum and depressed.  Perhaps we ourselves like this dark  time of inner reflection and long for  its quiet wisdom, but are annoyed by  all the revelers around us and feel the  need to go hibernate under a rock till  spring.

Anything sound familiar yet? Well,  you are not alone. I have personally  found that this period of time right  around Yule to be a great opportunity  for growth and change. The way I look  at it, “If my stuff is going to be up and  strewn all around me anyway, I might  as well take this opportunity to work  on some of it!”

One of the things that I become  increasingly aware of in relation to all  of this, is something that I call a “growth  period.” To define this very simply: “A  growth period is the time it takes the  body to adjust and process the  changes that we make as spirit.” The  holiday season is a time ripe for periods of accelerated growth. We are  confronted with our pasts, with family  issues, with the cyclic and therefore  mortal aspects of ourselves. Adding  this to the fact that it is already a time  of darkness and cold (at least in this  part of the world) can inspire some  pretty intense stuff.

Have you ever taken a class in  some kind of personal development  or spiritual work, and felt like you were  riding an amazing high, only to find  yourself a week or two later getting  sick, or wanting to hide from the world?  This is an example of a growth period. First of all, you make some kind  of change or work on something as  spirit. This happens very quickly, since  spirit isn’t bound by time and space.  Great, no problem, you can make all  these changes and wheeeee! Right?  Well, only partially; you are spirit, you  can change in an instant; however, you  have a body, and that body has to  operate in time and space. So what  happens is that your body needs to  integrate what you have changed. It  needs time to process the new energy.

While you are in this process, it  can feel a little odd. I think of it sometimes like a plant getting a new leaf.  When the leaf is just beginning to unfold, it is a lighter green and is a lot  more tender, more easily bruised. It  hasn’t developed the more waxy finish that the other leaves have.

This is analogous to how we can  feel when we are in a state of flux.  Over time, the leaf grows out and unfolds and becomes just like the others, and the plant is that much larger.  It is the process by which growth occurs. We are not so very different from  the plants. We don’t normally sprout  leaves, but our changes are just as  real and every bit as observable if you  know how to look.

Growth periods can be experienced in a number of ways. You may  want to sleep much more than usual  or not need as much sleep as you are  used to. You may want to have a lot  of sex or want to go out dancing a lot,  or maybe want to hibernate at home  all of a sudden. Maybe you want to  eat a lot of chocolate, or you may  catch a cold, or just feel generally unsettled. It may also be that you feel  better than you ever have and you feel  like the whole world is opening up to  you. These are all growth periods. A  growth period does not have to be  uncomfortable! It is simply the time it  takes the body to process the  changes that you make as spirit.

What is important, especially when  it feels more challenging, is to remember “This is a normal, natural and necessary part of learning and growing.”  Many of us like to try and skip this  part, or try and ignore it. We may feel  more fragile at this time and want to  protect ourselves by denying our  changes. Unfortunately, one of the  things that denial can do is to prolong  the process. If you acknowledge your  growth period, you can then begin to  communicate with your body about  what’s happening and what your body  needs. This will make it all go more  smoothly.

Sometimes all it takes is that conscious recognition that you are indeed  in a growth period. It can make it all  make more sense. Another thing to  remember is that  growth periods are  cyclic…. they have a  beginning, a middle  and an end! They  don’t go on forever; you  will adjust to the changes,  and you will have grown. A  former teacher of mine  used to use the adage: “When  you are up to your ass in alligators,  it’s hard to remember that you set out  to drain the swamp!”

As long as you are in a body, you  will have growth periods; it’s part of  the package. If you are into growing  spiritually, well, guess what, you will go  out of your way to have growth periods! I find that meditation really helps  to keep everything flowing. It may be  that the time that you want to meditate the least is when you need it the  most.

So this brings me back to this particular season. This would be a fabulous time to commit to meditating  daily. This is one of the times of the  year when we all are aware of the cyclic nature of our lives. It is coming up  on the New Year, we are running headlong into our childhood memories, we  are seeing people we might not have  seen since last year. We become very  aware of our own changes or lack  thereof, and it can be pretty intense.  It will very likely put us into a growth  period.

One of the techniques that I suggest people use for getting a handle  on where they are, in their growth, is  as follows: Find a quiet place where  you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes. (Sure, you say, with all my relatives in my house, how will this happen? If all else fails, go into the bathroom, lock the door and say you’re  taking a bath.) Take a few minutes to  ground and center.

Let yourself become aware of what  your current growth period is; let the  information flow to you from your stillness. Ask yourself the question: “What  are the spiritual changes I have recently made, and how am I responding to them?” Let the answers flow.  Maybe you have been feeling odd and  unsettled and not wanted to look at  it, so have been on the run as much  as possible to avoid it all. Take this  opportunity to stop running and simply look at what’s happening and why,  and give yourself permission to not  take it all so seriously. Laugh a little at  the huge growth period you are in (if  this is the case) and realize that it will  pass and you will have grown. Even if  the issue that you are working on is  serious, treating it with just a little  amusement can help the energy move  and change more easily.

The next exercise can give you  more insight into what you are working on and can also be a wonderful  way to get in touch with your own  changes.

Take two sheets of paper and a  pen. On the first sheet, start the heading of a letter that  says “Dear  Spirit…”  and at the  end of the  sheet of  paper write  “… love, Body.”  Next, take  the other  sheet of  paper and at the top write “Dear  Body….” and at the end of the paper  write “…love, Spirit.”

If you haven’t already guessed,  you are going to write two letters. Let  your mind relax and let your body have  a voice; let it talk to you and let you  know what’s up, what it feels, what it  needs. Write it down in the first letter.  This is your body communicating to  you, the spiritual being. Don’t judge  what you write, just write. It may say  things like, “Dear Spirit, you haven’t  been paying any attention to me, I need  more exercise, I need more sleep,  please buy me some flowers.” Or perhaps, “I am trying as best as I can, but  I don’t know what we are doing or  where we are going, so I am afraid;  please let me know what’s going on.”  Or even, “I am starting to get a cold,  please  drink a lot  of water so  I won’t be  sick for the  holidays.”

Whatever the  communication, it is  a valuable  tool for staying in touch with the wisdom of the body and for knowing how  your body actually feels in this sometimes hectic season. Now realize you  don’t have to do everything the body  asks for. It may say, “I want to go escape to Hawaii until February,” but  what you as Spirit may decide to do is  go spend 10 minutes tanning and take  a walk in a conservatory of tropical  plants. What you may find is that the  very act of being listened to is enough  to totally change how your body feels.

Next up is the second letter. This  is a letter from you as Spirit to your  body. Take a minute and breathe and  relax. Get in touch with yourself and  you own inner voice. I highly recommend meditating as part of writing  both these letters if it is at all possible. This is the letter that begins  “Dear Body….” You may be surprised  at what you write. Let go of your expectations as you write and let it flow.  It may sound like, “Dear Body, I love  you, but I am not always good at communicating, but I am working on changing that. I want to work on prosperity  for the holidays, and so I have stimulated all the memories from our childhood so I can put them to rest. Sorry  I didn’t mention this to you before I  started….” Or, “I am really proud of  the way you didn’t get enough sleep  for a few days so that I could create  that wonderful holiday dinner. I am  going to make sure there is time now  to relax and enjoy the next week.”

It may also sound totally different than these examples, which is the  point. It is your own voice as spirit  communicating into this physical reality to your body so that you can begin  to work in harmony with each other. It  is all part of the same thing, but it has  different aspects and different voices,  which are each valid and valuable. I  often say that one of our most important relationships, one that colors all  our others, is the one we have as spirit  with our body. If we can begin to harmonize that one, the others are much  more likely to be successful.

Hopefully now that you have some  tools to use during this time of change  and renewal, you can let yourself enjoy what comes to you and be able to  learn from it. If nothing else, you can  know  what  is going on  when  you want nothing  better than  to  stay in  bed and eat chocolate until Spring  Equinox. It is just a growth period! Next  week, most likely, you’ll be planning  what new plants you want to add to  your garden when it thaws out, or beginning that new class you wanted to  take.

I will end with another saying I  heard a lot when I was a student. “Running your energy will get you into a  growth period, and running your energy will get you out!” Meditate, meditate, meditate, and I’ll see you next  year.

Blessed be.

Review of Grounding and Centering

Close your eyes, and turn within.

Take three nice, deep breaths,  breathe down into your belly and  soften it  as you  breathe.  Notice  how you  feel, how  your body  feels.

Be  aware of  your first  chakra. This is simply an energy center (vortex) that is located in the general area near the base of the spine.  For women, the center (vortex) that is  located in the general area near the  base of the spine. For women the center is usually near the area between  the ovaries (note: the chakra positioning doesn’t change if you have had to  have your ovaries removed for any reason). For men the location is slightly  lower in the body because the chakra  placement is associated with the testicles.

Be aware of this area, and allow a  cord of energy to flow downward  from your body…

through the chair you are sitting  in…

through the floor and  down through  the building you  are in…

through the  foundation and  into the deep  earth beneath.

Allow your grounding to flow down  into the earth past all the rocks and  layers of the planet, past the water,  deep into the earth into the heart of  the Mother. Until it reaches the center  of the earth.

Allow your grounding cord to connect securely into the center of  the planet.

Be aware of your grounding  cord being securely connected  also to your first chakra. Allow this  connection, breathe and release energy and tension down your grounding.

Now that you are grounded you  can take the next step and center yourself. Take a nice deep breath and bring  your awareness into the center of your  head. That safe neutral place behind  your eyes and back a bit.

Notice how you body responds. It  might have a reaction to you being centered. Let that reaction simply be, notice it. If you experience any discomfort, release it down your grounding.

Be aware of what the center of  your head is like right now. Is it light?  Is it dark? Is it crowded, or empty?  Cold or warm, big or small? Are you  aware of sensations, sounds, images,  scents? Relax and breathe yourself  into the center of your head. Get comfortable and begin to own this safe  neutral place.

Continue to use your grounding to  release energy from this space so that  you can make more room for you to  focus there in the present moment.

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!

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.

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 6)

About.com
Day 6: A Sunset Prayer for Yule                              
Patti Wigington
FromPatti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca                                                                           
As the sun descends into the horizon on the longest night of the year, take a moment to ponder what you will see when you wake the next day.
 

A Sunset Prayer for Yule                            

Set aside some time to meditate upon the meaning of this time of year, and what it signifies for you and your life.


The longest night has come once more,

the sun has set, and darkness fallen.

The trees are bare, the earth asleep,

and the skies are cold and black.

Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,

embracing the darkness that enfolds us.

We welcome the night and all that it holds,

as the light of the stars shines down.          

                   

 

Additional Reading                            

Make those long winter nights a little more refreshing with some freshly blended incense. Put together a batch of Winter Nights Yule Incense, and burn it during rituals, or just to make your home smell comforting in the cold of winter.
Tomorrow: A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 7)

About.com
Day 7: A Nordic Yule Blessing                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca     
                                                                       
The Norsemen of old had a custom that if two people who were enemies met under a bough of mistletoe, they must lay down their arms. This time of year, set aside old conflicts. Take a moment to meditate upon the relationships you have, and try to find ways to get along with people who normally antagonize and anger you.
 

A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

Yule is a time to set aside animosity between yourself and people who would normally antagonize you. Set aside your differences, and think about finding peace in the spirit of the season.


Beneath the tree of light and life,

a blessing at this season of Jul!

To all that sit at my hearth,

today we are brothers,

we are family,

and I drink to your health!

Today is a day to offer hospitality

to all that cross my threshold

in the name of the season.

Additional Reading                            

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the holiday season becomes a time of conflict with their non-Pagan family. They may not understand what it is you celebrate, or there may be old wounds that surface each year when family gets together that have nothing to do with your beliefs. Regardless, read on for tips on how to Survive the Holidays With Your NonPagan Family.

Tomorrow: Snow Prayer                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 8)

About.com

 

Day 8: Snow Prayer for Yule                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca                                                                           
There’s a lot to be said for the beauty of snow. Welcome the white stuff with a prayer reminding us of why we love it.
 

Snow Prayer                            

Depending on where you live, you may be seeing snowfall long before Yule arrives. Take a moment to appreciate its beauty, both as it falls and once it covers the ground.


From the reaches of the north,

a place of cold blue beauty,

comes to us the first winter storm.

Wind whipping, flakes flying,

the snow has fallen upon the earth,

keeping us close, keeping us together,

wrapped up as everything sleeps

beneath a blanket of white.

Additional Reading                            

You may at some point in the Yule season find yourself stuck inside — after all, if too much of the white stuff comes down, it’s hard to get anywhere! Stock up on reading material, and turn being snowbound into a family treat with Ten Great Books for Yule.
Tomorrow: A Prayer to the Old Gods                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

The Gems of Yule, Jet

Jet

Jet is the stone of self-control. Wear jet to regain control over your life, thoughts, and feelings. This is good for women who are experiencing monthly hormone changes and mood swings. This stone will also help with negative feelings such as anger or depression.

 

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