Sunday, November 2, 2008


As we begin the Pagan New Year I thought I would write some blogs on Yule. The lore and mythology behind it as well as adding some recipes and spellcrafting ideas for you all.
Yule is a time of the Goddess of the Cold Darkness and the birth of the Divine Child, the reborn Sun God. It is a time of renewal and rebirth during Winter, and the turning of the Earth force tides. A time when the waxing Sun overcomes the waning Sun. In some traditions, this is symbolized by the struggle between the Oak King and the Holly King.
The Holly King, represents the Death aspect of the God at this time of year; and the Oak King, represents the opposite aspect of Rebirth (these roles are reversed at Midsummer).
The myth of the Holly King/Oak King probably originated from the Druids to whom these two trees were highly sacred. The Oak King (God of the Waxing Year) kills the Holly King (God of the Waning Year) at Yule (the Winter Solstice). The Oak King then reigns supreme until Litha (the Summer Solstice) when the two battle again, this time with the Holly King victorious.
Examples of the Holly King's image can be seen in our modern Santa Claus. He dons a sprig of holly in his hat, wears red clothing, and drives a team of eight (total number of Solar Sabbats) reindeer, an animal sacred to the Celtic Gods (deer). Mistletoe and holly came into modern Christmas celebrations through the memorializing of this battle. The holly with berries are hung in honor of the Holly King and mistletoe in honor of the Oak King. Although the Holly King and Oak King are mortal enemies at the two Solstices - Yule and Litha - it should be remembered that they are actually two sides of one whole, and neither would exist without the other.
Deities to honor at this time of year include all Newborn Gods and Sun Gods, and all Mother Goddesses and Triple Goddesses. Appropriate Yule Gods include Apollo (Greek), Ra, Osiris, Horus, (all three are Egyptian), Lugh (Irish-Celtic), Odin (Norse), Father Sun (Native American), and Jesus (Christian-Gnostic), to name a few. Goddesses might include the Morrigan, Brigit (both Celtic), Isis (Egyptian), Demeter, Gaea, Pandora, Selene, and Artemis (all five are Greek), Juno and Diana (both Roman), Astarte (Middle Eastern), Spinning Woman (Native American) and the Virgin Mary (Christian-Gnostic).

Spellwork for balance, beauty, peace, and harmony are great to perform at this time of the Pagan year. Love spells and spells to increase happiness are also appropriate. Key actions to remember for Yule are introspection and meditation.

The most common colors used at this Sabbat are red and green, but gold and white are also quite appropriate.
Stones to be used at this celebration include bloodstones, rubies, and garnets. Animals associated with the Yule Sabbat are stags, squirrels, wrens and robins. Mythical creatures associated with Yule are the Phoenix, and trolls.
Herbs and plants that can be used include holly, mistletoe, evergreens, poinsettias, bay, pine, ginger, valerian, and myrrh.

Yule Incense
Recipe by Scott Cunningham

2 parts Frankincense
2 parts Pine needles or resin
1 part Cedar
1 part Juniper berries

Mix and smolder at Wiccan rites on Yule (on or around December 21st), or during the winter months to cleanse the home and to attune with the forces of nature amid the cold days and nights.
(The above recipe for "Yule Incense" is directly quoted from Scott Cunningham's book: "The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews", page 100, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.)

Winter Solstice Ritual Potpourri
Recipe by Gerina Dunwich

20 drops musk oil
25 drops pine oil
1 cup oak moss
2 cups dried mistletoe
1 cup dried poinsettia flowers
1 cup dried bayberries
1/2 cup dried rosemary
1/2 cup dried holly leaves and berries
3 crushed pinecones

Mix the musk and pine oils with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.

(The above recipe for "Winter Solstice Ritual Potpourri" is quoted directly from Gerina Dunwich's book "The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes", page 164, A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995)

Invoking the Holly King
by Ginger Strivelli

Today we do bid Hail to our beloved Holly King
With these ancient carols, we do again sing
He who is called Father Christmas is returning yet again
As the Solstice's longest night has finally begun
We await you, Santa Claus, Lord of Winter
To honor you on this day that you always were
Saint Nicholas, patron of children on Gaia's sphere
This invocation, we pray you do hear
Come bless us, upon this season of the Yuletide
Great Holly King as you fly upon your sleigh ride
Whether your gifts to us be physical or spiritual
We know that they will always be most magical
Grateful, because we know your blessings' great worth
We offer a blessing of our own --- Peace on Earth!


Oak was revered widely. The oak groves were home of the Druid's God and represented power. The oak also stood for Diana and her successive lovers.

The use of bay descends from the Roman's use of this plant and its association with the Roman Sun God Apollo. Bay was adopted by the Celts for use in blessings of strength and health in the New Year.

The oak and holly are sacred to the druids. They represent the myth of the battle of the Oak and Holly Kings. The Oak King, representing rebirth, fights with the Holly King, representing death, and defeats him. The sun begins to get stronger. The Oak Kings rules till the Summer Solstice when the fight begins again, this time the Holly King wins. The sun gets weaker. We may find remnants of the Holly King in the character of Santa Clause. The sprig of holly in his cap and his red clothes are a dead giveaway.

The evergreen nature and red berries of holly are a symbol of enduring life. The red berries also are a symbol of the blood of the Goddess. In spells and rituals holly is used for attaining magickal goals, divination, spells for boosting male sexual prowess. Holly is cut in mid summer and is considered especially strong if found growing on the sacred oak.

Both holly and ivy are considered symbols of eternal life.

Mistletoe is the golden bough of classic legend. It is Viscum album of Europe, with leaves in pairs like wings and white berries. Because of their color, these berries were associated with the semen of the gods and so the plant was given phallic associations. It was (and is) sacred to the Druids. Mostly cut in mid summer for the summer Solstice, it was also used for the Winter Solstice. A golden sickle did the deed, symbolizing for the Druids castration of the god.(The reason for castrating the god was not found during this research.) A white cloth was used to catch the mistletoe before it hit the ground.

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is said to derive from the ancient idea that all legal matters were to be settled once and for all under a bough of mistletoe. Kissing under the mistletoe was also considered important for hand fasting. It was an announcement of future intentions, and was repeated after the ceremony.

As mistletoe ages and whithers it turns a golden color. This may connect it to the golden bough legends. This plants was also thought to have the ability to find buried treasure because of an association with the underworld.

In Norse legend mistletoe is a symbol of death and resurrection. The God Baldur was slain with spear made of mistletoe by the blind god Hodur. All things on earth and in heaven had sworn not to harm Baldur because of the petitioning of his mother. It is told that mistletoe had been forgotten by Odhinn in her petitions. All the gods were having fun throwing things at Baldur and watching the projectiles swerving to miss him. Loki grabbed a stick of mistletoe and helped the blind Hodur throw it at Baldur, killing him. Another version says mistletoe was forgotten because it roots in trees not in the ground, being between and not part of the earth or the heavens.

Because of its many, strong, pagan associations mistletoe was banned from the churches.

Candles and fire were used as sympathetic magick to lure the sun back. Candles were left burning on Christmas Eve to guide the Christ child through the darkness. They were lit by the oldest member or head of the house, who would also extinguish them in the morning. It was a bad omen if one was accidentally blown out, and unlucky to touch one after lighting.

Christmas tree
This tradition comes straight from pagan worship of trees and the spirits they contain. Common stories tell of christmas trees being unknown in English speaking countries till the German Prince Albert brought the traditions with him when he married Queen Victoria in 1840. The German name used for these trees is tannenbaum, said to be related to tinne or glastin, the sacred trees of the ancient Celts.

European priests, dendrophori, traveled to a sacred grove and selected a pine tree. They brought the tree back to the town, set it up and decorated it. One type of decoration was an effigy of the gods. This may be the origin of the gingerbread men hung on trees to this day.

According to Christian legend, the German Protestant leader Martin Luther was walking in the woods. He came upon a tree with ice covered branches. The beauty of the sun shining through the branches inspired him. Luther brought the tree back and lit candles behind the tree to show others the beauty.

Trees, Evergreens
Evergreens were considered a manifestation of diety and so, sacred. They remained green did not die each year. A representation of the goddess, the Druids decorated trees each Yule with images of wishes for next year. Fruits were used to symbolize harvest, nuts for fertility, candles, and love charms.

In ancient Greece the fir tree was considered sacred to Artemis, the moon goddess who presided over childbirth.

Being the symbol of renewed life and the return of crops and harvest, evergreen decorations were to be removed by the 12th night after the Solstice. If they were taken away too soon it would mean the loss of prosperity in the coming year, but had to be taken down by Candalmas. Depending on tradition, the greens were either left to whither or were burnt in ceremony. To burn while still green, however, would put household protection in jeopardy.

Yule log
To the Celts, the Yule log was a phallic symbol. The log representing the god, three holes representing the goddess were drilled on top. Three candles, one red, one white, one black, symbolizing the impregnation of the goddess were placed in these holes. To symbolize the intertwining of goddess and god, holly and mistletoe were added. Different contries had different traditions, for example, the Slavs used one candle in orange or gold, colors of the god.

Men and boys, followed by the women, would enter their orchards at dusk on the 12th night. With them they brought trays, pans, kettles and cider. One tree was chosen to represent the orchard. Everyone drank a toast to the chosen tree and poured cider on its roots. Toasted bread soaked in cider was left in a fork of it's branches. Sometimes a branch was pulled down and dipped in a kettle of cider. Some of the men may have bowed down as if carrying heavy sacks of fruit. Women and children danced and shouted. All this to ensure a plentiful crop the next year.

Virgin birth
The original meaning of virgin has been almost lost. It has nothing to do with a breaking of the hymen of a woman. The word was first used to describe priestesses in Mediterranean temples in Roman Pagan times. It meant an independent woman not bound by local law. She had no husband and took as many lovers as she wanted.
In creation myth, the Virgin Goddess gives birth to her son on the Winter Solstice. The Virgin Mary, gives birth to her son, but being virgin in a very different way.

Wreaths use the symbolism of the circle, no beginning and no end. The circle has been used as such a symbol for 4,000 years or more. Scandinavian peasants used wreaths as decoration for Yule, using pine cones and fruits.

Other symbols
Symbols representing Yule include an eight-spoked wheel and bells from the Norse which were used to celebrate dawn after longest night and to frighten powers of darkness highest this night. Other symbols are bayberry, holly, mistletoe, Yule Trees or a small potted tree. Sun or God symbols, such as acorns, pine cones etc.

To insure growth and prosperity, burn a pair of bayberry candles.
If you see the sun shining through the branches of an apple tree on Christmas day, next season's crop will be good.

Gold, White, Green, Red

Mistletoe, Balsam, Fir, Pine cones and needles, Chamomile, Comfrey, Sunflower, Apple, and any dried summer herbs.

Clear quartz, citrine

It is a good time for goal setting magick, new ideas and projects.
Thank you for stopping by Magickal Enchantments Blog, I hope you enjoyed your Yule Reading.
Brightest Blessings,
The Celtic Witch


Princess61470 said...

Wow, there was a ton of info in here and like I knew none of it!! Now I have questions!! What does Christian Gnostic mean?? I read an article on one of the groups and they were saying that no christo pagans were allowed, do you know what that means?? All the info on the trees was cool and I like the story about the Oak King and Holly King and the bit about the virgin birth. Seriously, this blog was full of all kinds of info, loving it!!