Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Blessed Yule, and a Joyful Saturnalia! What many celebrate as Christmas stems from a festive amalgamation of Pagan lore synthesized with the Nativity story as the conversion of Pagans to Christians — some willing others resisting — took place over thousands of years in Europe. While singing “Carol of the Bells” at maximum volume, wreath making and burning a Yule log, there’s no conflict of interest for this curious seeker. Maybe it’s being an immigrant’s daughter that makes me love celebrating a melting pot of holidays. Maybe it’s the glitzy collection of sparkling ornaments as presents rest underneath a tree. Either way, a feeling of wonder and a sense of promise as we collectively celebrate Yuletide cheer is what truly makes this time of year golden.
On Monday December 21st at 11:49pm EST, we celebrate Yule or the Winter Solstice. It’s the longest night, and when we astrologically enter the sign of Capricorn, wise old Father Time. The mythology of Yule ushers in the beginning of shorter nights and longer days: the Goddess giving birth to the Sun God, the Child of Promise, symbolically marks the return of light. Another familiar tale for Yuletide is the battle between the king brothers, Holly and Oak. Modern witches celebrate the light overcoming the dark, as the two brothers are rivals yet one cannot exist without the other for they represent balance essential in nature. Every year at Yule, the Oak King cuts off the Holly King’s head and rules for six months until midsummer, when the Holly King kills the Oak King ruling until midwinter as the cycle continues.
As we enter into the final two weeks of December it’s practically mandatory to be reflective. What better time to do a ritual? Whether you’re feeling the full force of holiday anxiety or bliss, a little reflection and a visual reminder of what could come in the New Year is vital to get through midwinter malaise. Create a Yuletide altar with a green/seasonal cloth and decorate with all the trimmings such as herbs of mistletoe, holly, ivy, pine and evergreen. Burn a bit of frankincense, copal or any solar incense to beckon the light and set the mood. In the center of your altar place a log, preferably of Oak or simply Oak bark/branches if you can’t find an entire log to represent the Child of Promise. Don’t forget a silver or white candle for the Goddess and a green or gold candle for the God. Light them first, then with the Goddess candle ignite the Yule log and gaze into the purifying flames. As you watch the Yule log burn, keep your Book of Shadows (your private spellbook) handy, and if any resolutions or intentions spring to mind write them down and keep it tucked away on your altar until next year when you can burn it with the Yule log and let the dance of magic and wonder continue.