“The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is grey.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame,
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.”
Yule Blessings Friends, I sit at the window and watch the snow falling slowly, peacefully. The time of darkness is upon us and the spirit is that of hope as we look toward the Winter Solstice to bring forth the light and longer days.
The Pagan home is no different to others at Yule except that instead of a nativity scene I have an Altar decorated with greenery from the forest, candles and dried orange slices, bells and a cauldron. There are pomanders decorating pine cone filled bowls and the tree is adorned with ornaments we’ve collected over the years, each with their own unique story.
(Below my Yule Altar – Photo by Jennifer Pedraza Richardson)
Winter Solstice is the longest night, the first day of Winter. The Sun God is reborn. Solstice falls on December 21st when the Sun moves into Capricorn.
One way pagans celebrate the season is with Wassailing. This is an ancient ritual of blessing the land and orchards with fertility for the coming year. It can also be physical fertility if you’re hoping to conceive a child in the new year.
Note: Most pagan rituals are preferably performed out in nature but if you are indoors make sure you have your cauldron as we will be pouring the ale over the greenery.
This can be done with a coven or alone. Set up the altar at the north end and fill a goblet with ale (if it’s a group then a goblet per participant). You’ll also need some greenery from outside (a branch of Fir, Spruce or Pine). After casting the circle and calling the quartars and Gods, take your goblet and say:
For Solitary Practitioners: “hail and wassail to myself and good cheer! May my blessings increase as waxes the year!”
For a Coven: “Hail and wassail to everyone here. May our blessing increase as waxes the year!”
Now take the greenery and raise it to shoulder level or higher and say:
“We (I) grow like trees and our (my) labours bear fruits;
like tree we (I am) are grounded, like trees we(I) have roots.
We can shade one another and shelter from storm;
We bend to each other by passions keep warm.
Like trees may we (I) blossom and keep safe the vale- As an orchard we (I) thrive! Now Hail! and Wassail!”
Take the greenery and place it on the ground (if you are outside) or place it in the cauldron and pour the ale over the greenery.
This rite is about acknowledging our connection to the God in his vegetable aspect – He is the evergreen as well as the deciduous trees that take the form of death every Yuletide and are reborn to leaf, flower and fruit when Spring and Summer come again.
I’ve always loved Wintertime and was lucky to grow up in Ontario where winters brought snowfalls to skate and toboggan in. When I was a child, not aware yet of my natural pagan tendencies I used to hold a “funeral for the dying nature” in late Autumn – that’s what I called it at least. I was raised a catholic but something deep in me, even at a tender age knew who I really was. I’d gather up leaves and flower petals from around the yard and dig graves in the dirt then place the leaves into their graves and say catholic prayers as this was all I knew. A few hail Mary’s and the ritual was completed. I find it funny that I was unknowingly practicing pagan rituals, it just felt normal to me to bid my farewells to the season.
I took a walk this evening in the snow, the city muffled under the white blanket that fell all day. Homes and balconies adorned with colourful festive lights. It got me thinking about how everyone, no matter what path they follow, take a moment at this time to observe the season in their own way. As a Pagan, it’s a magickal time, a time to remember and practice ancient rituals and traditions; a time where the home and hearth take centre stage. Baking cookies is something many families do and for our pagan ancestors, enjoying sweet treats was a way to see off the old year and ensure that the new year was ushered in with “sweetness” – they didn’t have sugar but honey would be used.
My wish for you this Yuletide is that you find peace and happiness in everything you do. That you be surrounded by loved ones and feel the warmth of the season in your heart. Merry meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet Again!