Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Solstice and Yule

Winter Solstice: The Return of the Oak King

The Winter Solstice is marked as the day beginning Winter, and has the shortest period of daylight, and the longest night of the year. We celebrate that the sun will rise again tomorrow, and eventually we go back to longer periods of sunlight and daytime. The Winter Solstice usually falls on December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere. We also celebrate Yule at this time during the Solstice.

The celebration of Yule is believed to have been started by German, Nordic, and Celtic pagans as a way to honor the transition of ruling from the Holly King to the Oak King. This was also a time to honor light and the sun, as light and dark struggled in battle, and this is a period where light wins out, so we honor that at Yule. It is often viewed that the Oak King and the Holly King battle each other for control, the Oak King wins and rules until Midsummer.

The Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God, and there for are two parts of a whole, often depicted in different ways as well. The Oak King is often seen as a god of fertility similar to the Green Man or Cerrunnos, while the Holly King is often depicted very similar to what we know as Santa Claus or Father Christmas.

One of the most popular ways to celebrate Yule is with the Yule log. The Yule log was usually a large wooden log, often from an ash tree, that was given as a gift to a neighbor or family member. The log was burned in the family hearth, having been lit from a piece of last year’s Yule log. The log symbolizes prosperity for the New Year and protection for the home from evil.

You can honor the passing of the Holly King by decorating the home in evergreens such as Holly, Rosemary, and Mistletoe, as well as red candles. Leave out a bowl of clove studded fruit such as oranges. Christmas or Yule trees are another way in which to honor the Holly King during Yule. Candles and sparkling ornaments adorning the mantle, trees, and windows help to bring as much light into the home as possible; this honors the light as we move into a time with longer days and the reign of the Oak King. Some people celebrate Yule or the Solstice by turning all off electric from Sundown to Sunset and just letting the Yule log, and candles burn over night. Again this representing bringing light into the home and your life.

Feasting is certainly a way we all love to celebrate any holiday and Yule is no different. Make a big breakfast including eggs (representing the sun with their yolks) and watch the sun rise with your family. The celebratory dinner can include ham, leg of lamb or other roasts, roasted veggies, stuffings and homemade breads and desserts. Eggnog, Ciders and Wassail are drank and used to toast family and friends at the feast. Don’t’ forget to set a place for the God and Goddess (or whatever deity you would like to represent) in their honor.

Yule is a time to celebrate the light of the world with family and friends. Have fun with decorating your home, bringing in the light, cooking a hearty meal to warm you up on the cold days, and give out gifts to honor and respect your loved ones. Everyone can gather around the Yule log, fireplace or a candle and give thanks for all they have received in the past year. This is a time to meditate and focus on what you want to bring to light in the upcoming year. Use this time of introspection and put your energy into welcoming the positive into your life. Focus on any goals or things you want to achieve in the next year.

Any spells done during this time should focus on abundance, peace, harmony and positivity.

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