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4 Wands of Yew: The Four of Wands and Yule

Our open Yule ritual run by my coven never usually falls on Yule (December 21st this past year). We had ours on December 8th, and it was a beautiful ritual but I didn’t truly see/feel that until afterward. As a member of the ritual team, I had my “eye of the prize” of helping to lead a ritual that would be beautiful and potent for the attendees, which led to me not recognizing the beauty of the actual ritual during it. My natural tendency is to go into extreme planning and practical mode when being a helper bee.

In preparation for this ritual, I was asked to sing “Winter’s Carol” by Tori Amos as our Winter Queen lit the candles around the circle for all the attendees. Panic mode only increased. I practiced the song until my voice went hoarse from the effort.

As I practiced the song, I read the lyrics first, and then practiced singing with the words, and then singing without. As a tarot reader, I tend to insert tarot meaning into the world. If a reference to tarot is already there, I will pick up on it like a bolt of lightning to the brain.

Some of the lyrics are as follows:

“Through a midwinter clearing, a forest greets the snowy evening.
With four wands of yew, the Holly King passes the torch as it was intended.”

Ding ding ding! The alarm bells started ringing when I heard “four wands of yew” and I immediately thought, “Holy crap! The Four of Wands!”

What does the Four of Wands represent? What does it mean in the context of Yule? What is the significance of Yew?

Let us start with the 4 of Wands. In the traditional Rider-Waite Deck, the 4 of Wands is depicted joyously, with the four wands in the card as the pillars of what looks like a tent or even a chuppah on a wedding day... in keeping with the joy, there are usually two figures standing underneath the flowery tent with bouquets raised up in celebration. Roughly interpreted, the 4 of Wands represents a joyous get-together with community, communication, the benefits of teamwork, and gatherings. I can’t think of a more appropriate card to describe Yule. Even if the 4 of Wands is reversed, it is still in keeping of the downsides of the holiday season, with breakdown in communication and transitions occurring... when teamwork goes awry and families don’t see eye to eye. Sometimes the holiday season can seem to be the roughest time of year.

In all the contexts of Yule (good and bad), the Four of Wands fits very well.

So what about the Yew tree? I knew very little about Yew until doing a little research. Apparently, the Yew tree is called, “The tree of death.” It is also known as the tree of resurrection, eternal life, and immortality. Yew trees are said to be biologically capable of living indefinitely, but upon closer research, I discovered that one of the most ancient Yew trees on Earth is estimated to be 2,000 years old. Compared to a human’s lifespan, 2,000 years seems to be closer to immortality than we could ever hope to become.

It is also directly linked to the Winter Solstice! Clearly, Ms. Amos knew what she was doing when she wrote the song. Yew is also known as the tree that guards the Underworld and assists in guiding souls from one world to the next ( So, this begs the question of why all the doom and gloom? Why is the same tree known to be planted in graveyards mentioned and associated with a sabbat that traditionally symbolizes the return of more daylight and less night?

The return of more light also raises more possibilities of shadows occurring. Our tradition at Yule is to all light white candles to take home with us, lighting our candle every time we need the reminder that the sun is returning; that light is still inside of us even as the earth turns cold, snowy, and inhospitable. The wintertime parallels the descent into the Underworld of Persephone... so too do we turn inward during the winter and find that our own selves hold demons that we need to exorcise in order to hibernate properly. Instead of turning that light into a symbol that means nothing, we shine the light on our darker selves in order to better understand and perhaps correct our flaws in preparation for another calendar year.

Many blessings to you in the New Year!


Image courtesy of debspoons/

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Tagged in: sabbats tarot yule
Owner and content-provider of Tarot by Hilary, professional tarot reader with over fourteen years of experience slinging the cards, posts weekly on the Tarot by Hilary blog, and all around woman-about-town. My clients are awesome, and you should be one of them.


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