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Yule - at the origins of Christmas

Dear witches and sorcerers, I take you with me on my learning trip to pagan festivals!*

Indeed, I am a baby witch and I learn every day, at my own pace.

Yule is one of the 4 Sabbaths celebrating the Sun and Fire Festival. It is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

According to traditions, it can be called winter solstice, Alban Arthan (Druidic tradition), Winter Rite, Midwinter or Yuletide.

Origines of the word

Yule comes from the Norrian word Jol, although the celebration is older than the word describing it.

It is assumed that the word is linked to the Icelandic word hjol and the Danish/Norwegian/Swedish word Hjul which means wheel in Scandinavia. This would refer to the solar cross, or solar wheel (Hjol soil in Icelandic, and Solhjul in Danish/Norwegian, Swedish).

Some linguists also suggest that the French word "pretty" ('joli') and that the English word "Jolly" would probably be derived from the old Norrois word Jol.

Still others think that the name Yule would come from the old English geol referring to the day and the Christmas period, and the Anglican word Guili designating the months of December and January. Yule is a term often used since the half of the 19th century to designate Christmas and its festivities.

Christmas origins

If we know the Christmas celebration well, many things are of Viking origin.

Between December 21 and 23, there is Yule, the day of the winter solstice and the big celebration during which we accept the change of climate and landscape. In the ancient Nordic tradition Viking (of Germanic origin) it lasted the following 12 days until our modern Christmas and New Year. Its date corresponds to that during which the sun enters the sign of Capricorn.

However, according to traditions, Yule can last a day, 12 days, last a month between November and December or between December and January.

The ancient Scandinavians paid tribute to the God Odin, and the Vikings celebrated the return of the sun and the beautiful days (since it was during this period that the days extend).

One of the rituals that still remains today in Scandinavia is that of Julbock (manufacturing a goat in straw generally of wheat). It is decorated with jewelry and fabrics. He represented Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, the two goats who pulled the chariot of Thor.

In Nordic mythology, Heimdall, God guardian of the bidrost, visits the children at the night of Yule and leaves them presents in the socks of those who have done well and ashes in those of those who have a hard time acts during the year .

The cold season being associated with women and by extension to goddesses, the goddess Frigg is considered, in the Nordic and Scandinavian tradition, like the winter queen. The day of the solstice, it would give birth to the reborn sun. The whole being linked to the mother and childbirth.

It is this same role that Holda, Germanic goddess of Yule, carries.

In addition, the pace of life of people slowed down in accordance with that of the day. The light and heat cost a lot, so people went to bed earlier to save up. And they mainly ate seasonal vegetables and dried or savory meats.

Also, and although our current rhythm of life does not follow the codes, it would be great to slow down during this period and take advantage of it to rest and regenerate a little, as our ancestors did, although they did not really have a choice. This would surely help us fight our seasonal depression.

The Saxons living in Great Britain would have taken with them their cult of the Night of Mothers, cults which they celebrated between the 7th and 8th centuries during the Night of the Solstice, according to Bède the Venerable, the first British historian. He explains that this Saxon celebration would have given birth to the Christmas holidays but that it would have been "expurgated" pagan references.

The Etruscans and the Romans celebrated the sun as a male divinity during the feast of the "undefeated sun", sol invictus in Latin. From the year 10 BCE, the Augustus emperor set up a cult in Apollo, a prevailing solar god. In his honor were organized celebrations, games and feasts.

Saturn, another Roman god linked to the winter solstice, especially through the Saturnal Festival during which the regenerative virile force was celebrated. It was a period of festivals and rejoicing when we offered ourselves presents and where we made offerings.

The Vikings celebrated it

Men and women went in the forest to get a beautiful tree to decorate their home. They then engraved runes to ask the gods to hear their wishes and bring to their family health and prosperity.

They then cut a piece of trunk (the "Yule log") and set fire to it, thus representing the rebirth of the sun.

The young men disguised themselves as goats and visited the households of the village then considered as Thor himself. They then saw themselves invited to eat and drink.

Thor was intimately linked to Yule, it was said that he was descending through the fireplace of the Viking houses from his magic cart.

I will not dwell on it but people also sacrificed animals to the gods in order to have good harvests the following year.

In the Scandinavian countries, Christmas still bears the name of Yule although the celebrated traditions have changed.


On the wheel of the year, Yule is the second sabbath. It is happy and bearer of hope.

Well wrapped in warmth, we celebrate the renewal, the links that are created, and the connections whether physical, spiritual or emotional.

- Take advantage of it to illuminate your accommodation, whether candles or garlands, the main thing is to bring the sun at home by this cold period.

- Thank the nature of what it gives us and take advantage of it to have a good meal!

- Make gifts, I don't know about you, but for me, making gifts to others is one of the best ways to feel my heart warm up.

- On the same momentum, take the opportunity to volunteer or make a donation to an association. There is no "good" time to help others but take advantage of it if possible during this period which promises to be the coldest of the year and perhaps the most difficult of the year for many.

- Make your own crown (from holly or not), put strong symbols, for you and with intention, of the season and hang it on your door to protect your home and let good things in it.

- Witch please (Jack Parker) advises us to take empty balls and fill them with ingredients and natural objects loaded with intentions and then hang them on the tree (if you are used to decorating a tree for December).

- Gather with your loved ones and enjoy each other.

- Finally, you can make a list of what has happened to you this year and thank those you hold responsible for these good things.

Neo-druids often pay tribute to the winter solstice. They notably organize a procession to the place where they will practice their ceremony, making offerings to nature, deities and ancestors. They also make divination.

The Heathers and Asatruars respect the Nordic tradition organizing a festival of twelve days, each night bearing a specific activity.

The wiccans celebrate Yule on the day in the winter solstice and the next day. They practice a ceremony alone or in a group where they make a ritual most often turned towards peace, benevolence, or even prosperity. They also make offerings to the goddess or to mother goddesses according to their personal beliefs. It is the idea of revival and light that is also celebrated here. They also prepare and burn a Yule log.

For eclectic witchcraft, it looks like the Wiccan ritual although "less" structured. Sleeping overnight if possible with the fire, they will make a call for the sun in the morning with the idea of helping him to give birth, a symbol of renewal. However, as its name bears, practices can be different.


Here is to help you prepare for your celebration:

Colors: silver, white, gold, red, green.

Crystals and minerals: diamond, garnet, cat eye, blood stone, ruby.

Decorations: candles, logs, bells, crowns, light garlands, holly, poinsettia, tree.

Element: earth.

Incense and oils: cinnamon, cedar, ginger, myrrhe, nutmeg, pine, rosemary, saffron.

Herbs and plants: Achillated, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Thistle, Oak, Juniper, Ginger, Gui, Holly, Laurier, Lier, Mousse, Myrrhe, Pine, Pine, Rosemary, Sauge, Valérian.

Food: cookies, fruit cake, dried fruit, ginger, hibiscus, chicken milk, nuts, orange, pear, apple, pork, spicy wine.

Spells and rituals: tribute to family and friends, meditation, peace, personal renewal.

Symbolism: honor, creative inspiration, introspection, light after darkness, mysteries, new life, reflection, regeneration, renaissance, renewal, transformation.

With that, have a good Christmas, or a good yule ~


Written by and for SparkStudio in 2022.


Sources : / / / / " Witch Please" Jack Parker, Pygmalion, département de Flammarion, 2019

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