Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yule Legends, chants, stories and family crafts.

According to legend, the snowflake was formed from the tears that Demeter cried after Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. The microscopic flakes have six sides, and since six is the numerological digit associated with affection, the snowflake was used by Pagans as a winter symbol of love
Christmas Trees and Plants
The tree was an important symbol to every Pagan culture. The oak in particular was venerated by the Druids. Evergreens, which in ancient Rome were thought to have special powers and were used for decoration, symbolized the promised return of life in the spring and came to symbolize eternal life for Christians. The Vikings hung fir and ash trees with war trophies for good luck.
Holly, ivy, and mistletoe were all important plants to the Druids. It was believed that good spirits lived in the branches of holly. Christians believed that the berries had been white before they were turned red by Christ's blood when he was made to wear the crown of thorns. Ivy was associated with the Roman god Bacchus and was not allowed by the Church as decoration until later in the middle ages, when a superstition that it could help recognize witches and protect against plague arose.

Yule Log Hike

Materials: Warm Clothes, Sense of Adventure.

This is an activity that can be done the weekend before Yule. On a bright crisp morning, dress the family warmly and head for the park, mountains, or beach. As you hike along, looking for that special Yule log to place in your hearth, also be looking for decorations to make it personalized by each member of the family. Select a proportionally sized log that will fit easily into your fire place. Ash, oak, or cedar make great Yule logs. Try to find one that has already fallen and is on the ground. On the beach, driftwood can be found and obtained for your log. As you are looking, or on your way back home look for natural decorations to adorn your Yule log with. Traditional adornments are, pine cones, leaves, holly sprigs, mistletoe sprigs, rosebuds, winter flowers, wheat stalks, and corn husks. If you must cut anything from a living plant, remember to ask and thank the plant for its gift. If you don't have a fire place, select a smaller log, slightly flat on one side so that it doesn't roll. Adorning the logs will appear farther along in the activities. (Explain how the Yule log was set ablaze on Solstice night to help vanquish the dark and add strength to the returning sun.)

Welcome Sunshine Bells

Thin Cardboard, Pencil and Scissors, One Light yellow and One Bright Yellow Felt Square (10"x10"), 7 Small Jingle Bells, 12" Gold String or Cord, White Glue, Buttons, Glitter, Sequins.

Help child to draw a circle 7" in diameter, and another circle 7" in diameter with eight 1" triangle rays on the cardboard. Cut out for patterns. Place circle on the light yellow felt square, trace and cut out. Do the same with the "rayed" circle on the bright yellow felt. Using a drinking glass as a guide, trace a circle in the center, on the back side of both felt cut-outs. Carefully fold each circle in half, and make a cut from one side of center circle to the other. Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 cuts per piece. This is how you will get the decoration over the doorknob. Next, line up the circles and the cuts so that the rays extend 1" from behind the light yellow felt circle. Glue together. Allow the child to draw designs on the front of the ornament with glue. Sprinkle with glitter and glue on some sequins and buttons. Cut gold string or cord into three 4" strands. Tie jingle bells (spaced) onto the gold string or cord. Glue string/cord to the bottom of the Sun decoration on the back side. Allow to dry. Place on a doorknob that the bells will jingle as the door is opened and closed. ( Tell children that more than just the sun brightens our lives everyday. Explain the way to welcome the Yule sun back into their lives is to keep the brightness in their hearts all year long. Jingle bells make a warm and inviting sound, and therefore should jingle each time someone enters or leaves a room.)

Cup O' Sunshine

Terra-Cotta Pot, Paints and Paintbrushes, Styrofoam Block, String, Scissors, 1 yd 2" wide Green Ribbon, Yellow, Red, and Orange Lollipops and Sugar Sticks, Jelly Beans.

Clean terra-cotta pot if necessary. Allow to dry. Paint outside and down to first lip of inside with a bright solid color. After this base coat dries, decorate with other colors. When completely dry, place a block of styrofoam in the bottom of the pot. Cut green leaves out of the ribbon and tie to lollipops with string. Push the lollipop sticks into the styrofoam block to anchor them. Add the sugar sticks and fill rest of pot with loose jellybeans. (Explain to children that during the dark part of the year, sometimes we need to make our own sunshine. Let them know that bright colored gardens and flowers will be back in the spring, and this little pot of sunshine will cheer up a sick friend or relative.)

Adorning the Yule Log

Holly, Mistletoe, Rosebuds, Pine Cones, Evergreen Sprigs, Gold String/Cord, Gold Bows, Apple Cider, Flour.

After cleaning off the Yule log, let the children decorate it how ever they chose. Glue, wire, or small holes in the log will help to adhere the decorations. Once the log is decorated, "wassail" (toast and douse) it with a libation of apple cider. Finally, dust the log with white flour, set in grate in fireplace, and (parents only) set ablaze. (Explain to children how Yule logs used to smolder for 12 days before there was another ceremony to put the log out. Then apart of the log was strapped to the plow the next spring to spread the blessings over the land, and another piece was saved to light the next Yule's log, the next year.)

Yule Chant Solstice Blessing
Brightly burns the Yule log tonight
Magic dances in firelight
Hold my hand and join the song
Raise the Sun King bright and strong
Dark is giving way to light
As brightly burns the Yule log tonight!

Twas the night before Yuletide and all through the glen
Not a creature was stirring, not a fox, not a hen.
A mantle of snow shone brightly that night
As it lay on the ground, reflecting moonlight.

The faeries were nestled all snug in their trees,
Unmindful of flurries and a chilly north breeze.
The elves and the gnomes were down in their burrows,
Sleeping like babes in their soft earthen furrows.

When low! the earth moved with a thunderous quake,
Causing chairs to fall over and dishes to break.
The Little Folk scrambled to get on their feet
Then raced to the river where they usually meet.

“What happened?” they wondered, they questioned, they probed,
As they shivered in night clothes, some bare-armed, some robed.
“What caused the earth's shudder? What caused her to shiver?”
They all spoke at once as they stood by the river.

Then what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a shining gold light in the shape of a sphere.
It blinked and it twinkled, it winked like an eye,
Then it flew straight up and was lost in the sky.

Before they could murmur, before they could bustle,
There emerged from the crowd, with a swish and a rustle,
A stately old crone with her hand on a cane,
Resplendent in green with a flowing white mane.

As she passed by them the old crone's perfume,
Smelling of meadows and flowers abloom,
Made each of the fey folk think of the spring
When the earth wakes from slumber and the birds start to sing.

“My name is Gaia,” the old crone proclaimed
in a voice that at once was both wild and tamed,
“I've come to remind you, for you seem to forget,
that Yule is the time of re-birth, and yet…”
“I see no hearth fires, hear no music, no bells,
The air isn't filled with fragrant smells
Of baking and roasting, and simmering stews,
Of cider that's mulled or other hot brews.”

“There aren't any children at play in the snow,
Or houses lit up by candles’ glow.
Have you forgotten, my children, the fun
Of celebrating the rebirth of the sun?”

She looked at the fey folk, her eyes going round,
As they shuffled their feet and stared at the ground.
Then she smiled the smile that brings light to the day,
“Come, my children,” she said, “Let's play.”

They gathered the mistletoe, gathered the holly,
Threw off the drab and drew on the jolly.
They lit a big bonfire, and they danced and they sang.
They brought out the bells and clapped when they rang.

They strung lights on the trees, and bows, oh so merry,
In colors of cranberry, bayberry, cherry.
They built giant snowmen and adorned them with hats,
Then surrounded them with snow birds, and snow cats and bats.

Then just before dawn, at the end of their fest,
Before they went homeward to seek out their rest,
The fey folk they gathered ‘round their favorite oak tree
And welcomed the sun ‘neath the tree's finery.

They were just reaching home when suddenly it came,
The gold light returned like an arrow-shot flame.
It lit on the tree top where they could see from afar
The golden-like sphere turned into a star.

The old crone just smiled at the beautiful sight,
"Happy Yuletide, my children," she whispered. "Good night."


oakshea said...

This is so beautiful. Much more sincere in heart and soul than the Night Before Christmas could ever be.