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Yule Understand in a Minute

You've heard about it before, you've maybe read an article or two, maybe even caught a reference in a jingle, but do you really know what "Yule" is all about?

Let's start with at 4OLK we're a team of Pagan Ministers. We all have our own backgrounds that led us to become the witches we identify as today. Many of us grew up with the same Christmas that so many recognize: trees, caroling, gift giving, etc.

Yule comes from the old Germanic/Scandinavian word "jol" that marked the hunting season after harvest season was complete at Samhain. Jol marked the season of the hunt, and twelve days were celebrated, creating the Yuletide season ending on the New Years. You can find traces of this feast week in the "christmas season" with the Twelth Night associated instead with January 6th, the Epiphany.

The "Sun King" is another image that may be recognizable. At winter solstice, the darkest time of year, the Sun is reborn and begins it's climb towards Summer Solstice's heights. Ancients believed their universal goddess would, in the dark caves and stables, give birth to her child the Sun King, to bring light to the world. In Celtic myth, this is the newborn Sun, the Oak King. In Greek, Apollo the Sun God, was born hidden from the light. Romans celebrated the sun God, "Mithras" and would decorate evergreen trees. Jesus got the holly jolly of Christmas even though many scholar believe he was born in the spring, at the time of the lambing.

Speaking of tress, where did that come from? Some say it's from the Roman 'Saturnalia' celebration, a great mid-winter feast to Saturn. Trees were cut down and displayed in their homes and temples in dedication to Saturn, and they would deck it with gold and silver.

So what else can we debunk for you? The star of wonder perhaps? Well, let's go to Egypt and the surrounding areas. What's visible in the sky at the Winter Solstice? Sirius.

Sirius is the brightest star in the eastern sky, the same star that the Egyptian Horus was born under as well. Behind Sirius is the constellation Orion, which houses three stars long named the "Three Kings" in the iconic belt.

Wreaths? Pagan roots, too. Holly and mistletoe were used in fertility rites for the coming spring. Holly's bright red represented blood, and the white mistletoe berries were meant to represent semen. The holly wreath also tied in the wheel of the year in it's circular shape and ties back to "yule" and it's root word meaning "wheel". The turning of the wheel of the year continues.

The yule log got converted into advent traditions. They were traditionally cut from oak, you drill three holes for candles and then deck the log with holly, ivy, and mistletoe. When the season was over the log would be burned and ashed in ceremony for more fertility rights. When it was time to celebrate with family, loved ones would gather and share a wassail cup, before caroling throughout the evening to herald in the sun's return.

Who's next? Santa? Aka...

- Pere Noel

- St. Nicholas

- Sinterklass

- Julemaden

- Jultomaten

- Grandfather Frost

- Father Christmas

- Santa Claus

- Dun Che Lao Ren

In most cultures, Santa is a shaman or wise man who traveled the area and would help pass along messages and gifts to the snowed in locals by climbing down the chimney. Some tellings claim he observed the reindeer eat the regional red and white mushrooms that grew under the evergreens and gave him holiday visions. Santa was tripping on shrooms, yal. And sharing the messages he got with the locals to keep spirits merry and bright as the long winter nights gave way to longer days come spring.

Blessings and Yuletide Greetings from our Merry 4OLK family.

Common Themes:

  • Birth of the Sun God (or Son of God)

  • Beginnings and Endings / Rebirth

  • Celebration and Merry Making

  • Feasting/Baking

  • Gift Giving

  • Caroling / Storytelling

Color Associations:

  • Red

  • Green

  • Gold

  • Silver

  • Purple

  • Royal Blue

  • White

Common Decorations:

  • Trees 🎄

  • Lights

  • Yule Log

  • Wreaths

  • Greenery

  • Bells 🛎

  • Elves

  • Santa 🎅

  • Candles

  • Holly/Ivy

  • Mistletoe

  • Reindeer

  • Mushrooms 🍄

  • Snowflakes

Oh! One more thing. Go listen to "Santa Claus is Pagan too" on YouTube.

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