The Blessings of Yule

Yule blessings to one and all on this, the shortest day of the year.

Yule, often known as winter solstice is part of the old calendar and is one of the Sabbats from ancient spiritual practices. The tradition draws its roots from ancient Germanic practices celebrating the middle of winter. Researched in depth by scholars, Yule has been connected to the celebration to the Wild Hunt, and the god Odin.

Traditionally, Yule is celebrated on the shortest day of the year and is a festival to welcome in the upcoming days where the sun starts chasing away the darkness, gradually heralding the coming of spring. (Which of course is months and months away.)

Pagans initiated the practice of decorating a tree with edibles for wildlife, as a way of thanking the universe, or the gods, for the year’s blessings. As time passed, the festive tree, the Yule tree was brought indoors. The tree was often decorated with candles to symbolize the sun, moon and stars looking down on the tree of life, which is, in itself, a sacred Pagan symbol. With the rise of Christianity and the scrubbing away of the old traditions, the Yule tree became the Christmas tree.

My first encounter with Yule was my mother’s Yule log. I had no idea what it was or where it came from, and frankly as a child, I didn’t care beyond that it was pretty and we got to burn candles. Fashioned from a birch log, it was decorated with candles, greenery and ribbons. I don’t recall the specifics, just that it was pretty.

This year, in a new tradition, my two oldest granddaughters and I created our own Yule logs. My husband and I gathered a chunk of birch log from our land and he sliced it in half lengthwise. We selected and scavenged the wood from an already downed tree. The oldest grandchild and my husband drilled holes in the two pieces to accommodate candles. Then, we decorated them to match my memories of my mother’s Yule log. Candles, a pretty bow, some festive greens. They are, quite lovely. I can’t wait to gather all of five of my grandchildren to create their own logs for next year.Yule logs displays with candles

As a Pagan, I have a simple Yule celebration. I have a warm and comforting meal with a glass of wine. I spend some time in meditation, thinking of the things I wish to achieve in the coming year and being thankful for the blessings of the previous year. Then, I light a fire in the fireplace using a small chunk of wood saved from last year’s Yule fire. In this fire, I’ll burn a simple Yule log that I’ve decorated.

Decorating the Yule log is a matter of taste. Mine is different every year. Last year, I used wax to paint Runes and blessings on a chunk of dried pine. This year, I’m going to spend part of the day coloring a pretty piece of birch with markers. I’ll draw images of what I wish to see in the upcoming year as well as protective and blessing runes. I’ll add some dried orange and lemon slices, some fresh spruce branches and cinnamon sticks, all tied on with a raffia bow.

This festive Yule log will be burned in the fireplace and a part of it carefully extracted and cooled to start next year’s fire. It’s an ancient belief that saving part of the Yule fire for the year brings protection to the home until the next Yule.

Another great tradition is the edible Yule log. Yes, edible. A thin chocolate cake, layered with jam or whipped cream (or both), rolled into a log shape. It is then iced and dusted with icing sugar. Festive and yummy, it’s a great treat for the evening of Yule.

There’s much more to Yule than this. Pagan traditions vary widely; I suggest spending a few minutes researching these traditions and finding your own way to celebrate.

Yule blessings to you and yours. May the universe bring health, wealth and love in the coming year.