Today Yule is used to a lesser extent in the English-speaking world as a primary synonym for Christmas. Present-day Christmas customs and also practices such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others come from pagan Yule. Today the event is commemorated in Heathenry as well as a few other types of Modern Paganism.
The Pagan holiday known as Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21 when the planet’s axis turns away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere.
Many cultures all over the world have winter events that are, in reality, parties of light. Along with Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and so on. As a festival of the Sunlight, one of the most vital parts of any Yule event is light with candles and bonfires.
In the Northern hemisphere, the wintertime solstice has been commemorated for centuries. The Norse peoples that called it Jul saw it as a time for much feasting and merriment. Icelandic legends consider it a time of sacrifice. Other, traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing have Norse origins.
In the British Isles, the Celts also celebrated midwinter. Although little is understood today about the specifics of what they did, many customs continue. According to the writings of Pliny the Senior, this is the time of year in which Druid clergymen sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe for their yearly celebration
Winter festivals were also typical in Greece and Rome, along with the British Isles. When a new religious movement called Christianity turned up, the new pecking order had problem transforming the Pagans, who didn’t want to give up their holidays. Many Christian traditions were built on old Pagan rituals and worship, causing many Pagan symbols to be integrated right into the meaning of Christianity. Within a couple of centuries, the Christians had every person venerating a new holiday celebrated on December 25th.
In some traditions of Wicca as well as Paganism, the Yule event begins with a Celtic legend where the Oak King and the Holly King go to battle. The Oak King, (the light of the new year), fights each year to take over the Holly King, (the symbol of darkness.) Re-enactment of the battle is performed in some Wiccan rituals.
So, this year will you agree to battle the old Holly King? What elements of light do you plan to shine on your life and goals? After all, it is a time of celebration and renewal. As the sun comes around again, it is the perfect season to welcome new beginnings, new attitudes, and embrace loving energies that will help you build a brighter future.
As the days get darker and the nights get longer, it’s nice to curl up inside, where its warm, with a nice cup of tea and a good book. For even more reading about Yule, check out this article dedicated to the holiday.
May your light overcome all your darkness. Happy Yule!