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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Yule log

Posted by on in Culture Blogs



A year without a Yule log. Gods, what a grim prospect.

The Yule Log is the holiday's oldest thew (custom), and by all accounts brings luck to the household for the year to come. Surely anyone can see that a fireless hearth at Yule bodes ill. If you have the wherewithal to uphold this thew, it well behooves you to do so.

The logical time for the burning of the Yule Log would be Midwinter's Eve, but Mother Night is one night of the year when I'm certain not to be at home, since our ritual is always over at R___'s house, where the coven Yule Log crackles merrily on the hearth throughout the festivities.

So in practice, I've tended to light the household Log on the night of the 24th: what's usually the Fourth or Fifth Night of Yule. It's a nice, quiet night when I don't generally have a lot of other things going on and, after all the hurly-burly of the lead-up to, and beginning of, Yule it's nice to spend a quiet, contemplative evening with the Fire.

Well, but this year I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Lows that night were in the double digits below zero, and the prospect of opening the damper and having all the warmth in the house go up the chimney on the coldest night of the Winter so far was just not a relishable prospect.

I remind myself that Yule begins, not ends, with the Sunstead (Solstice). Thirteen Nights we've got, for the burning of the Yule Log.

So now I'm thinking New Year's Eve, or possibly Thirteenth Night. We'll see what the weather looks like when we get there.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

90-some degrees, humid enough to stick a knife into, and here I am stacking billets of firewood. I must be insane.

The old mulberry tree stood at the corner of the fence for probably 45-50 years, chance-sown, no doubt, by some bird. Every May it besplattered the sidewalk beneath with profligate bounty. Ten years ago it died, and has been drying in place ever since.

Monday we cut it down, and cut it up. Now I'm stacking the fruits of our labor.

Yule-logs for the next 10 years here, if not longer. Some say oak, but I think that fruitwood makes the best Yule-logs. You have only to think about the symbolism to see why. Not to mention that fruitwood burns sweetly, fragrant.

I like to have known the tree that my Yule-log comes from. The Old Ways are all about relationship. In the Old Days, you had a relationship with nearly everything in your life: the food you ate, the wood you burned, the clothes you wore.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The King is Dead

The Yule Log is ash now, its ancient work accomplished.

I kneel on the hearth and sift the ash with my fingers, seeking the last charred remnants.

From such bits of last year's Log, I kindled this fire on Midwinter's Eve. Stalwart, this Yule's Log burned for nearly two full days.

I knew the tree that it came from. Five years ago, on Midsummer's Day, a massive line of thunderstorms crashed through the city, leaving hundreds of broken trees in its wake. From one such, an elegant silver maple across the street—seventy-five years old, if a day—this log was cut. Since when it has dried on the front porch, awaiting its sacred work.

I close the damper and wrap the handful of charcoal in an old, stained piece of silk, stowing the packet in a canvas bag that once held brown basmati rice. There on the back stairs, beneath the bronze Green Man mask, the fragments will await next Yule, warding the house until then (it is said) from fire and lightning-strike.

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A Matter of Magic, or: When Is a Yule Log Not a Yule Log?

When is a Yule log not a Yule log?

When it's split, that's when.

The Yule log is probably the most ancient symbol of Yule. It's a cross-cut section of tree-trunk that goes onto the hearth on Midwinter's Eve, large enough to burn through the year's longest night, from Sundown to (hopefully) Sunrise.

(In these hearthless days, the Yule Log often reincarnates as a mere domestic decoration, a “log” only by courtesy, adorned with candles and faux greenery. Well, a symbol of a symbol is better than nothing, I suppose. Still, it seems a sorry fate for the former lord of the feast, ancient and massive.)

The symbolism you can figure out for yourself. (If you can't, there's always Wiccapedia.) Since most American homes lack hearths these days, here's the thing to remember: that the Yule log is precisely a log is what makes it what it is.

In the course of everyday life, you don't burn logs on the hearth. A whole—unsplit—log doesn't burn well. Since it has no sharp edges, it doesn't light readily, and when it does finally catch, it burns slowly and—frankly—doesn't give off much heat. Also, unsplit logs are big, heavy, and impractical to schlep. For day-to-day use, you split your logs into firewood.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Where the Fire Lives

In 1543, Henry the Eighth extinguished the Holy Fire which had burned at the sanctuary of Brigid at Kildare since before anyone could remember.

(The eternal flame is an ancient tradition among Indo-European peoples. In some Zoroastrian temples in Iran, the same fires, lovingly tended by their communities down the centuries, have burned continuously for more than 1200 years.)

In 1993, the Brigidine Sisters of Kildare relit Brigid's Fire. Since then, it has burned continuously and spread all over the world.

(No, I'm not rushing the season. Bear with me, dear reader.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Good Morning Yule

In Serbia, when you see someone dragging a Yule Log homeward, you greet it with respect and say (I'm translating into Pagan here): Good morning Yule.

Since the Yule Log and the Yule Tree are essentially analogous, as the veritable heart (one could well say, the embodiment) of the festival, this strikes me as fitting etiquette for the latter as well.

These days, when I see a car bearing a tree homeward, I tip my hat and greet it as it deserves.

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