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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in yule

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru Altar for Sumbel and Blot

This photo is my altar for a holiday sumbel and blot, such as Yule. Sumbel is the toasting and blot is the blessing.

Altars for different purposes will have different things on them. This one is a portable altar used for community ritual. A permanent altar dedicated to a god or ancestor or to the gods generally, also called a shrine, would generally have fewer working tools and more symbols, and would probably include representations of the gods or other beings to whom it is dedicated, such as statues or pictures, and possibly sacrifices to them. Some Asatruars keep shrines and some don't, but any Asatru community ritual includes a sumbel, and most include a blot.

The altar for a sumbel has to include something to drink since sumbel is a toasting ritual. Asatru uses a drinking horn for this ritual. We use a cow's horn to honor Audhumla, the sacred cow who was the first self-aware being. Our mythology says that before time began or the World Tree grew, Audhumla licked the gods and the giants out of the ice and nurtured them on her milk. So a cow's horn represents the Great Mother.

There are two bottles and two horns on the altar in this picture because one bottle and horn set is for alcohol and one is for a non-alcoholic beverage. This altar also contains a bottle opener. This isn't a dedicated holy bottle opener, just the normal one from my kitchen, but being used for ritual means this opener is going to have a bit of specialness about it even after being returned to normal use. It is traditional to toast with mead, but other beverages work, too.

The altar for blot almost always contains all the things for sumbel as well because sumbel usually comes first and then blot. In the old days, the blot bowl caught the blood of a sacrificed animal, keeping the blood from touching the ground, and then the blood was sprinkled over the participants to bless them. In modern times, the bowl is partially filled with water, and then the dregs of the horn are poured in the bowl after the sumbel, and the mead / water mixture is sprinkled over the participants to bless them.

The pine branch on the altar is the asperger, which is used to sprinkle the water onto the participants. This pine branch is from a sacred pine tree I maintain at my home for this purpose. Before the main ritual, I ritually cut the asperger from the tree with this ritual knife. The knife can then go on the altar, on my belt, or can be put away.

This basic altar contains only the things necessary for the ritual. It can also be decorated with seasonally appropriate decorations, symbols of the gods, and anything meaningful to the godhi or gythia (the conductor of the ritual) or to the ritual participants.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
December Madness

I don't even remember what finally set me off.

One too many Starvation Army bell-ringers?

One too many Muzak Silent Nights?

One too many smiling faces wishing me something that I don't want?

Whatever it was, by the time that I got to work, I was in a state.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Making of Modern Yule

At Yule 1953, after lunch, Gerald Gardner turned to the then newly-initiated Doreen Valiente and said, “Write us up a nice ritual for this evening, would you my dear? There's a good girl.”

The result of this request, Valiente later told Janet and Stuart Farrar, “was the first chant or invocation I ever wrote for Gerald,” who was, she thought, “deliberately throwing me in at the deep end to see what I could do” (Farrar 148n3).

Gardner later described this ritual in his 1954 book Witchcraft Today:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Time Between

Well, I saw it last night, right on cue.

The season's first domestic Yule tree.

It was November 7.

Oh, I understand Christmas creep. I understand the thirst for magic. I understand the craving for celebration by those who really only have one holiday.

By my reckoning, we're a little past the midpoint of the Samhain thirtnight. We're still in the season of the ancestors. The big, public rituals and gatherings are over now. This is the quiet part of Samhain, the interiority, the tag-end, the tail: the time to reflect and look within.

And then comes Time Between: what my friend and colleague Magenta Griffith calls “The Fallows.”

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    May we both live to see it.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'ld love to see what stories and lore would accumulate around groundhog day if it was celebrated with as much enthusiasm as Easte
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I think that as the People of Many Holidays, we've got the long-term advantage here. In the pagan future, I foresee less Yule and
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Back in the early 70's when my family first moved back to Richmond the stores still had Thanksgiving decorations after Halloween.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Leaving a Legacy: Winter Solstice

 

Sun and then rain and then sun and then rain. Everything is beautiful, fresh and green after a relatively dry June - the rain has finally come. Flocks of white sulfur-crested cockatoos careen in the morning shower, revelling in the morning light as the sun glints off their plumage. As the sun breaks through again, the breeze stirs the branches of the eucalypts causing heavy drops to shower down like diamonds. My tabby cat carefully pads his way through the weeds of my front garden, stopping to sniff a long green tendril and his coat shivers when the droplets leftover from the latest shower dribble onto his back. 

 

This is winter solstice in Australia. Or one version of it, anyway. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Long Farewell

Around here there's a social institution known as the Minnesota Long Goodbye, a fixture of local Politeness culture. “Well, guess we'll be heading out,” you say. But you can't leave yet; that would imply that you aren't enjoying the company, and are eager to go. 5 minutes later, you stand up. 5 minutes after that you put on your coat. Another 5, and you go to the door. Leaning against the door-jamb, you talk for yet another 5. Then you actually leave.

Yule is like that. This year the last of the Thirteen Nights was January 2; the Merry Monarch of Misrule (in her Steampunk crown) presided over one final debauch, and we sang the old Yule songs for the last time this season. Time to head on out, I guess.

But Yule itself has yet to come down. The tree and other appurtenances generally go up in mid-December and linger until mid-January or so: about a month, a twelving of the year. (By long-standing household tradition, our tree finally comes down on King Day: no work, no school.) Here in the Northlands, Yule ushers in the coldest, most housebound time of the year: “As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” goes the saying. (Variant: “As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.”) On the couch the other night, I closed the novel I'd just finished reading, turned off the light, and laid back in quiet appreciation of the Yule Tree's ongoing beauty and magic: a fountain of light in the heart of darkest winter.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Crying Yule

In 17th century Yorkshire, after the morning service on Christmas Day, people used to take hands and dance through the church shouting “Yule! Yule! Yule!”

I'll bet the vicar just loved that.

Crying Yule as a refrain to seasonal songs, chants, and dances is an old custom in the English-speaking world (as it still is in Scandinavia) with parallels in a number of non-Germanic cultures. To take just one example, a standard refrain in Latvian Midwinter carols is Kalado, Kalado; Kalado means “Christmas,” but it's yet another descendant of the wide-spread and influential Latin calendae, like Provençal Calena and Russian Kolyadá. The calends of January have much to answer for in the course of cultural (and linguistic) history.

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