“What does the Winter Solstice have to do with spirituality?” my friend, Andrew, asked.
“In ancient times, people saw the Winter Solstice as the longest night of the year, and they were deeply concerned because the Sun-God disappeared at that time. Think of how this contrasts with Yule. In fact, after the longest night, we celebrate the rebirth of the God—something that restores our hope,” I replied.
Here are three insights:
Realize that the God is reborn and will grow strong
The idea of the rebirth of the God ties to the original, ancient impression that the God and the Sun were one. As the Sun is “stronger” during the Spring, the impression is that the God is growing and increasing in power.
When I think of this pattern, I realize that we, witches, experience times of rebirth, too. It would help to support our rebirth-times. You can do a ritual. For example, you can include this chant with a ritual bath to cleanse yourself of the negative energy of the past year.
God, I celebrate Your rebirth Your support guides my rebirth. At this time for my renewal My heart will shine like a jewel. With hope, I take action My soul fills with Inspiration. So Mote It Be.
Embrace Yule as a time of celebration
Witches refer to the God who has come back from death. This is a time of celebration. The God has returned from the Underworld. Now the Earth will grow green again. Our spirits are renewed because Spring is on the way.
You have an opportunity for renewed hope and inner peace when you embrace the seasons
Yule is about new beginnings. It reminds us that in the middle of the cold winter, we’re on a path of renewal and hope. Years ago, I was stuck in a hospital for a month. My spleen was destroying my platelets. I could bleed out at any time. Doctors attempted to heal me with medications.
That did not work.
Only after surgery that removed my spleen did I receive the glimmer that my life would continue. I’ve thought of that moment when I was in the recovery room as a moment of Yule. My glimmer of hope rose in the middle of a “winter season.”
We all go through winter seasons in our lives.
I’m hoping that you’re feeling that glimmer of hope this Yule time.
“How do you feel about how the Western world has taken over Yule?” my friend, Susan, asked.
Sometimes, it does bother me to see that other people have taken over the Pagan traditions of the Yule Tree, Yule Log and more.
Then, I think about how we, Wiccans, can claim the Yule Season for our own hearts.
What Wiccans Emphasize About Yule
Let’s look at the Yule Tree. Evergreens were seen as proof of everlasting life. Our ancestors saw that evergreen trees were the one source of life that continued to live and stay green throughout the year. Even in the deepest winter. They didn’t die with the rest of the plants during the cold months. They were special.
Our ancestors celebrated this. They and we, modern Pagans, consider the Yule Tree as sacred.
This is why our ancestors brought evergreens into their homes and decorated them with small gifts to the God and Goddess. Candles were placed on the bows of the trees (I do not recommend this due to the fire hazard). This is where Yule trees come from, and yes – Christians have adopted the Yule Tree as their “Christmas tree.”
Still, we, Wiccans, can say to ourselves “Our Yule Tree!”
Wiccans Can Support Their Own Spirits Amid the Gift-giving Rush
Have you ever found yourself fretting about getting the “right” gifts for a bunch of people at this time of year? Many Wiccans feel the crush of not having the funds for much gift-giving.
For Pagans, exchanging gifts, at this time, is really about celebration. How?
Think about it. Why do you give gifts in the first place?
The first gifts were exchanged by our ancestors as a means of expressing joy for the Sun God’s return.
Small gifts were hung on the branches of the Yule tree for the God and Goddess. Now, we give gifts between ourselves, too.
You can think “small and meaningful.” Even giving a printed out photo, placed in a frame (from a “dollar store”) can be a good gift.
Wiccans Meet with Family and Focus on One’s Chosen Family
An old comment is: “If you think you’re enlightened, just attend a family reunion!”
Do you ever dread going to family reunions?
For Pagans, family reunions can be an extra burden. Many of us, for good reasons, must keep our Pagan path as our own secret.
Many of us fear being outed as a witch/Pagan. We hide our pentacle necklaces and other jewelry to conceal our true selves.
So, what is the solution?
Devote Time with Your Chosen Family
In a few days, I’ll be attending a Yule party with my coven. What a relief! Being with likeminded people can really help with the loneliness/alienation/fear that comes with being around non-pagans. Especially this time of year!
Finding a place where you can share common ground with support can be a life saver. Really!
A significant number of people commit suicide at this time of year.
Instead, having a safe and loving place to share with others of like-mind can stop the loneliness/alienation/fear for a Pagan at this time.
In summary, Yule has always been our time. Smile to yourself and own it.
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“I hear you,” I replied. “Something in particular?”
“We’re squeezed from all sides. All the Christmas music, the shopping, the happy couples, the family time. Hey, it was Yule!—before the Christians hijacked our season,” Matilda continued.
Ever feel, as a pagan, that you’re on a small island in the middle of “Christmas-focused people”?
The holidays often create depression and anxiety in Pagans. Seeing all the decorations and good cheer may be nice. Still, we Pagans know that one of our sacred Sabbats was perverted into a consumer holiday.
One holiday season, I was sitting in a knitting group at a yarn shop, when an older woman exclaimed, “What’s all this ‘happy holidays’ crap? It’s Christmas, damn it! It’s always going to be Christmas.”
I felt my hackles rise because I knew full well that in the group were a Jew, me and an Asian with parents from China. Through our diversity, we were already demonstrating that “happy holidays” was a respectful greeting at this time of year.
Why? Because in the USA, we have people of various cultures and traditions.
Long time readers of this blog know that I deal with depression symptoms. It’s true that outside things like all of this tinsel and tyranny of some people pushing their religion on others can exacerbate my depression symptoms.
Getting Past Feeling Depressed
I have learned to focus on the beauty around me and what it means to me. By this I mean, I focus on this present moment. If I see a Yule tree and I enjoy its beauty, then my depression symptoms “quiet down.” Who cares what others call the tree.
Pagans Feeling Anxiety during the Holidays
I have a number of Pagan friends who have to hide their faith from their Christian family and friends. Talk about anxiety! What if the pagan lets something slip like: “Oh, yeah. I had so much fun a Pantheacon”?
Here are some of things I do to lower my anxiety levels.
I have a particular family member who works with some people who are not open to hearing about the pagan path. So I make sure to guard my own energy before an event with that particular group. I prepare to listen and talk about things that this group is comfortable talking about.
Most importantly, I make sure to devote time with like-minded pagans so I feel safe and nurtured—and renewed in energy.
About dealing with the consumerism of the season:
I didn’t participate in Black Friday. I did not run around and attempt to get big bargains. That activity has nothing to do with the true meaning of the holiday Yule, which is about honoring the birth of the God, and the return of the sun.
Pagans and Wiccans know what Yule really means.
I practice being gentle with myself about gift-giving. Sure, you can give close ones gifts. Just go easy about it.
The way to deal with depression and anxiety is to nurture yourself.
Focus on being in the present moment. Find the beauty you cherish and create your own meaning.
Yule is when the god is reborn from the virgin goddess. The goddess turns once more into her youthful form, as the young virgin mother. At Yule the goddess is the new mother and the god is her child.
Yule is also the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. In early human history, people feared that the sun would not reappear without help. With this belief began the custom of lighting candles and fires to lure back the sun. It was believed that this ritual would help the god to be reborn from the goddess, by helping the goddess to have an easy delivery.
Evergreen trees are associated with the Yule season. Our ancestors revered evergreens. Why? Evergreens were seen as proof of everlasting life. They saw that evergreen trees were the one source of life that continued to live and stay green throughout the year. Even in the deepest winter. They didn’t die with the rest of the plants during the cold months. They were special. Beginning with the Celtic Druids of central Europe during the Late Bronze Age, evergreens became sacred due to their representation of everlasting life.
The people of the day brought evergreens into their homes and decorated them with small gifts to the god and goddess. Candles were placed on the bows of the trees (I do not recommend this due to fire hazard). This is where Yule trees come from, and, incidentally, where the Christian’s get their Christmas tree. The Yule tree was so popular that the Church couldn’t stamp out the practice. The rest is history.
For Wiccans, Yule logs are another nice custom of at Yule. The pagans of northern Europe began the custom of cutting off a piece of a Yule tree (usually an oak tree) to save for a ritual the following year. For the ritual, people would gather on a hillside for a sacred bonfire and celebration. Afterward, they brought home a lit branch from the bonfire to light their fires at home, which had all been extinguished prior to the sacred gathering. They would then light their last years Yule log in their fireplace to bless their home. This tradition continues today.
At Yule celebrations, we gather with our loved ones to enjoy the merriment of the Sabbat with food and drink. We open gifts and sing songs about the god’s return.
(Note that those without fireplaces can drill holes into the top of a Yule log and burn candles. Commercially made Yule logs with candleholders are also available.)
What You Will Need
Blessing Baskets are a great tradition I’m starting up for this Yule. A Blessing Basket consists of a small basket that you hang on the Yule tree. Place the Blessing Basket somewhere special and prominent on the tree. What do you put inside the Blessings Basket? Small treats like candies and such, plus a small gift. Most important, include a piece of paper inscribed with a blessing of good fortune.
How to make a Blessing Basket
What you will need:
One small basket
Tissue paper preferably in red and or green.
Candy and small gift.
Slip of paper inscribed with a blessing of good fortune.
Putting it together:
1) Take the basket and decorate it in whichever fashion you like, keeping the inside empty, here mine is already decorated.
One small basket
2) Take the tissue paper and lay it flat on the table.
Tissue Paper Open On Table.
3) Place candy and goodies on the tissue paper.
Place Candy on tissue.
Place Candy on tissue.
4) Place the slip of paper inscribed with the fortune and a small gift in the middle of the tissue paper.
Place gift and paper now ready To wrap.
5) Gather corners of the tissue paper and bunch the corners together.
Gather the edges.
6) Use ribbon to tie up the bundle.
7) Place inside the basket.
Place In Basket
8) Make a loop to hang your Blessing Basket on your Yule tree.
Finished Blessing Basket
On Yule each person picks a basket that they did not assemble. The person reads their blessing of good fortune which brightens their Yule season.