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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in yule
December 21 - Longest Night Fire Ceremony

December is named for the Roman goddess Decima, one of the three fates. The word Yule comes from the Germanic jol, which means midwinter, and is celebrated on the shortest day of the year. The old tradition was to have a vigil at a bonfire to make sure the sun did indeed rise again. This primeval custom evolved to become a storytelling evening and while it may well to be too cold to sit outside in snow and sleet, congregating around a blazing hearth fire, dining and talking deep into the night is important for your community to truly know each other, impart wisdom and speak to hopes and dreams. Greet the new sun with stronger connections and a shared vision for the coming solar year.

What you need:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
All Time Is Now (Happy Yule!)

Dear Moon Muser,

As I write to you (3rd version is the charm) in the complete darkness this morning due to a power outage at the exact moment of starting (a sign!) I just knew I needed to send this version of my museletter to you.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I wish you and yours all blessings, this holiday season and in the new year.

Since we won’t be visiting face-to-face, I made a little video of what you’d see were we visiting here. 

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It was the afternoon of Midwinter's Eve. The house was clean and decked, full of good smells. All day long, I'd been rushing around: cooking, prepping for the big ritual that evening. But at last everything that needed to be done, was done.

Suddenly, out of the blue shadows of the year's longest night, a voice:

 

And so the shortest day came, and the year died.

 

That's the first time that I ever heard Susan Cooper's iconic poem, The Shortest Day.

 

 

Newberry Medal winner Susan Cooper (b. 1935) understands magic: she authored the well-loved Dark Is Rising series. (Did you pull the eponymous Dark Is Rising off the shelf this year in the lead-up to Yule? I did.)

The voice that I heard in the darkness of that afternoon was that of John Langstaff, Grand Master of the perennial Christmas Revels. Susan Cooper wrote The Shortest Day specifically for the Revels in 1977, and her ode to Yule has opened that event—not to mention innumerable pagan rituals—ever since.

At long last, her jewel of a poem has received the setting that it deserves. Last year it was released as a picture book, illustrated—illuminated, I really should say—by Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for merriment, and making merry—and let us take a moment to savor that fine old phrase, and consider the implications: “merry” isn't something that you are, it's something that you do—is a fine old Yuletide thew (that's “custom” in Witch).

Still, there's something about the greeting “Merry Yule” that, like a shot of vinegar, sets my teeth on edge.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you why. To my ear, it smacks of keeping up with the cowans, which (in my experience) is rarely the best modus operandi. Yule is Yule, its own thing, not something that you write in, having erased “Christmas.”

So, if not a merry one, then what kind of Yule do we wish one another?

The default adjective for holiday salutations in English is, of course, “happy.” There are worse things than a Happy Yule. Colorful, though, it's not. Likewise, since the greeting is often yoked with “and a Happy New Year,” you've suddenly got a “happy-happy” pairing which is, to say the least, infelicitous. Then there's that clunky BUM-bum-BUM meter to it. “Happy Yule” may do the job, but dance on the tongue it doesn't.

Well, when in doubt, consult the kinfolk. Norwegians wish one another a Gledelig Jul, and Danes a Glaedelig Jul: a Glad Yule. (Icelandic is similar: Gledileg Jól.) Now, a glad Yule certainly beats a sad one, but in English there's something forced about the phrase, almost pretentious. It sounds like Translation-ese, which—of course—is exactly what it is. Cognate-for-cognate isn't necessarily best translation strategy.

For Swedes, though, it's God Jul: a Good Yule. Now that I like. Forceful, firm, terse even. (It's cold up here in the North Country: you don't want to go letting all that cold air in. Hence our proverbial Northron taciturnity.) Metrically, it's got that nice, assertive spondee: BUM-BUM. A Good Yule doesn't mess around. A Good Yule tells you what's what. It goes in, does what needs to be done, and gets out again. A Good Yule is lean, and sinewy, and oh-so honey-sweet on the tongue.

It's worth noting that up in Scotland where Yule's Yule and no one has ever bothered with that newfangled Christmas business, it's still Guid Yule, short and sweet.

Well, in the pagan world you'll make up your own mind, and glad I am of it. If you wish me a Merry Yule, or a Happy one, or even a Glad one, I'll gladly take it—as witches say—with both hands.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Yule Ritual Plan

Planning a ritual in the time of Covid may require some adaptations. My kindred usually does winter holidays indoors, as illustrated by the picture above of last year's Yule, but this year we decided to do a bonfire outside in my back yard. Outdoor events are considered safer than indoor ones.

Ritual planning can require some forethought even if you've conducted a lot of rituals. Here are some ideas for an Asatru style Yule ritual, which other kinds of heathens, pagans, and polytheists might like to vik as well. (Asatruars sometimes semi-humorously say we are "viking" something, because that sounds so much cooler than "stealing.")

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

My hands-down favorite Jewsploitation film (yes, gods help us, there really is such a genre), is the campy, satirical 2003 Hebrew Hammer. Here's the story.

Evil gay Santa (hey, a little gratuitous homophobia always makes everything funnier, right?) formulates a plot to destroy all the other winter holidays by absorbing them into one big, undifferentiated Christmas blob.

So the Hebrew Hammer, a nebbishy Jewish superhero—he's straight, of course—teams up with the guy from the Kwanzaa Liberation Front (also straight) to foil evil gay Santa's evil plot.

 

Satire aside, you have to appreciate the very real problem that the film addresses. Christmas as we know it has become a cannibalistic microorganism that just wants to engulf all the other holiday amoebas in its environment.

Part of this, of course, is nicey-nice Kumbaya feel-goodism. See, we're really all just alike: we all celebrate at this time of year.

In fact, of course, we don't. Muslims, for instance, don't have a festival of lights at this time of year (or at all, really). Diwali, in late October or early November, is nowhere near the Christmas orbit.

Things get a little more complicated with Yule. Pagans like to think of Yule as the mother and Christmas the daughter festival, but that's really a pretty disingenuous reading of the relationship between the two. In fact—like it or not—our modern Yule has been reborn from the womb of Christmas, and the two holidays still look a lot (some of us would say, too much) alike.

Yes, it would be nice to think that, for a while, we can all just set aside our differences and celebrate together. But reducing all the other winter holidays to mere satellites of Christmas is no way to go about it.

So in fact, no, Yule is not the pagan Christmas, and we're not all just the same.

So what?

 

On Midwinter's Eve, we sing the Sun down from the highest hill in town and kindle a fire as it sets. This fire we keep burning all night. In the morning, we sing the Sun back up out of the Mississippi Valley.

Every year, as crows call overhead, and light and color stream back into the world after the year's longest night, I always think: this is it. This is real Yule, in the nutshell.

Let me tell you, it doesn't look anything like Christmas.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    When I was very young the Christmas decorations didn't go up until after Thanksgiving even in the stores. I remember being shocke

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