One of everyone’s favorite holidays, Yule is more than just presents and great food. This is the time when the days begin to get longer after what seems to many to be an eternity of darkness and short days. Yule is the shortest day of the year, but acts as a turning point at which time the days will begin to lengthen again. Commonly viewed as the day where the Holly and Oak Kings battle it out for control of the world, Yule is the time of the rebirth of the Sun God, from which point on we watch as he gains strength until his eventual peak at the summer solstice, followed by his slow decline to his weakened state near Samhain.
Many ancient traditions held a celebration associated with the return of the light where the mythology suggested the rebirth of a god of some kind. For example, in Greek tradition, Persephone, the daughter of Demeter would live in the Underworld during winter (the time during which Demeter would be beside herself with grief and allow the Earth to wither). In the summer months, Demeter would be happy and would take excellent care of the world. While this doesn’t necessarily specify a rebirth of a god, the story of Demeter and Persephone is one that shows how ancient traditions related the changes of the seasons to various goings on with their gods. Eventually, as Christianity became a more popular and widespread religion, the church changed the date of Jesus’ birth (previously believed to be February or March) to match the rebirth of the Sun God on December 21st in paganism to help the pagans more easily relate to the church’s teachings. This is why today Jesus’ birthday is Christmas Day, December 25th.
Deities Associated With Yule
There are a number of deities associated with Yule, and this is a time where the Goddess is seen as her Mother aspect in the sense that she gives birth to the Sun God. While this is a theme at this time, the deities associated with winter can be as follows.
The Cailleach is usually depicted as an old hag of a goddess, surfacing around Samhain and not leaving until Beltaine. She’s believed to carry a staff that can freeze the ground, and is known to only have one eye. She can be compared to the likes of Baba Yaga from the Slavic pantheon. While she’s considered a creation goddess, Cailleach is also bringer of storms and fierce weather.
A falcon god, Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, sometimes referred to as God of the Sky. He battled many other gods to try to retrieve his father’s body when Osiris was murdered, even traversing the length and breadth of Egypt to find his body parts to return them to Isis who wanted to attempt to bring him back to life.
Holly/Oak King; Horned God
Many pantheons hold a variety of stories about the Horned God or the Oak and Holly Kings. The Horned God is the personification of the newly reborn sun, while the Oak and Holly Kings battle it out on the day of Yule for control over the earth, with the Holly King being more victorious at Litha, the summer solstice and the Oak King being more victorious at Yule – neither ever being more victorious than the other.
Foods For Yule
Many of the Yule foods are typical of the season, with stews, soups and warming dishes being popular. A typical meal would be similar to that of the Christmas meal, with turkey, stuffing, seasonal vegetables, mulled wine and the like being consumed. Cookies, cakes and pies are popular for both consumption by people as well as offerings, with pies like pumpkin being a good choice. Think of anything spicy – that is to say, made with spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger and so forth as being a good addition to a Yule spread.
For those looking to get more in touch with the energies associated with Yule, these correspondences will help tune you in and get you ready for the holiday and festive season:
- Colors: Red, green, gold, silver, maroon and deep purples.
- Deities: The Horned God, Persephone, Demeter, Cailleach and any other winter-based deities or deities associated with the rebirth of the Sun God.
- Herbs: Cinnamon, clove, ginger, pine, rosemary, patchouli, myrrh, frankincense.
- Animals: Deer/Stag, buffalo, squirrels, robins, wolves, general forest dwellers.
- Crystals: Emerald, garnet, blue topaz, citrine, quartz, jet, ruby.
- Incense: Frankincense, myrrh, bayberry, pine, cedar, cinnamon, spruce
- Rituals: Have a gathering with friends where gifts are exchanged. Decorate your home or office space with holly, spruce, pine and berry decor, laced with red and gold ribbons. Leave offerings outside for animals and birds. Cook a hearty meal for family and friends featuring seasonal foods. Plan gift exchange parties and games, especially ones where the gifts must be handmade. Spend time sharing stories of the past year with loved ones.
Yule is a wonderful time of year that helps us warm the cockles of the heart against the deepest cold of the winter with fun and festivities with all our favourite people. Gifts are exchanged and mulled wine drunk by the gallon as we enjoy time with our loved ones, sharing stories and expressing our love, all the while celebrating the return of longer days and the eventual summer to come.
If you liked this blog about Yule, stay tuned for our next one, which will be all about Imbolc!