'Tis a fine, foolish thing to wear a crown.
(Proverb of New Crete)
Sometimes Old Hornie wears an ass's ears.
Tomorrow is Thirteenth Night, the last of Yule, when the Merry Monarch of Misrule holds sway.
It's a short reign, but a merry one.
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
They say that if you add up all the gifts in The Twelve Days of Christmas, you get 364.
The Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) Days of Yule are a microcosm, a year in little.
So Yule is actually the Yules: Twelve (witches would say Thirteen) of them, and every one a Yule.
The same pattern of the Twelve Between turns up elsewhere. The old Zoroastrian New Year, Nawrúz, at the vernal equinox, is a festival of thirteen days.
Mircea Eliade suggests that the intercalary dozen serves to reconcile a solar year of 365 days with a lunar year (= 12 lunations) of 352.
There's actually an old (15th century) Scots song kin to the one you may know called The Thirteen Days of Yule. It begins:
Well, it's here: the Thirteenth Night before Yule.
So potent a power is Yule that the Thirteen Nights cast a sort of shadow before them, a kind of inverse Yule.
These are the year's darkest nights. In the darkness, monsters assemble, more and more each night. It is the season of the troll.
Troll Night they call it, the thirteenth before Mother Night. At the doorstep, they lay out offerings, but the doors themselves they ward and hammer-sign from within. Here and no further, the wardings and offerings say.
Word is, the trolls will be particularly bad this year. Bad governance, or the threat thereof, always angers the beings of the land.
In some places, Yule goes out with a blaze.
Where my parents live, there's a drop-off point in the parking lot at one of the local malls. Yule trees, wreaths, and swags of greenery—now beginning to dry—accumulate there.
And on the Saturday after Thirteen Night—brought to you courtesy of the local fire department—old Yule goes out in a blaze of glory.
Bold Yuletide is past, Thirteenth Night is the last.
So we bid you adieu: great joy to the New.
On the morning of Thirteenth Day, the warlocks sit in the sauna and sing their warlocks: varð-lokkur, their songs of power.
They sing up the Sun, in its years and days.
They sing up the seeds, and the harvest to be.
They sing up the lambing, the calving, the fawning.
At the turning of winter, the warlocks sing summer.
Around here there's a social institution known as the Minnesota Long Goodbye, a fixture of local Politeness culture. “Well, guess we'll be heading out,” you say. But you can't leave yet; that would imply that you aren't enjoying the company, and are eager to go. 5 minutes later, you stand up. 5 minutes after that you put on your coat. Another 5, and you go to the door. Leaning against the door-jamb, you talk for yet another 5. Then you actually leave.
Yule is like that. This year the last of the Thirteen Nights was January 2; the Merry Monarch of Misrule (in her Steampunk crown) presided over one final debauch, and we sang the old Yule songs for the last time this season. Time to head on out, I guess.
But Yule itself has yet to come down. The tree and other appurtenances generally go up in mid-December and linger until mid-January or so: about a month, a twelving of the year. (By long-standing household tradition, our tree finally comes down on King Day: no work, no school.) Here in the Northlands, Yule ushers in the coldest, most housebound time of the year: “As the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger” goes the saying. (Variant: “As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens.”) On the couch the other night, I closed the novel I'd just finished reading, turned off the light, and laid back in quiet appreciation of the Yule Tree's ongoing beauty and magic: a fountain of light in the heart of darkest winter.