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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in yule

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Crack Nuts and Cry Yule

Yule, Yule, my belly's full; crack nuts and cry Yule!

(Yorkshire, 17th century)

Well, it's not quite time to cry Yule yet, but in preparation I've certainly been cracking my share of nuts lately. From my Samhain trip down to Midwest Witch Country, I brought back several bags of hickory nuts and black walnuts gathered from the forest floors of the Driftless.

Delicious as they are, I can see why neither species has ever become a commercial success. Their shells are uncompromisingly hard, the nutmeats seated snugly. Shelling them has been an hours-long, involved business of hammers, picks, and tweezers. If ever I wondered what the ancestors did during the long nights of early winter, I now know.

But now, for all my labor, I've got two bags of treasure.

Last modified on

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.

Last modified on

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Darkness and the Winter Solstice

The solstice season is upon us, and it’s only a couple of weeks before the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere. It’s a season of darkness and cold, where we are given the opportunity to find the gifts that darkness brings. It can be hard, when the rest of the world seems to be doing their best to stave off their fear with bright lights, noise and extended shopping hours, but if we are able to push beyond that we can see the sacredness of this holy time, and the exquisite power that it brings.

I am mostly a diurnal creature myself. I prefer to go to bed early and rise early, rather than staying up late. However, at this time of year the darkness catches up with me, and by 4pm it is pitch black out there. My usual sunshine nature turns inwards, and time for reflection and contemplation kick in. But that is not all there is to the darkness that pervades my life at this time of year.  The sweet relief of darkness beckons me to release into its embrace, when edges are abandoned and we are allowed to float free in space and time.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • John Reder
    John Reder says #
    What “impressed” me with what (or how) Joanna wrote is that it triggered the memory of the original Fleetwood Macs song “Bare Tres
  • steven rice
    steven rice says #
    Love it. For many years I was a second shift worker and the shift usually lasted to the early morning hours. Many times I would a
  • Joanna van der Hoeven
    Joanna van der Hoeven says #
    Hello Steven, Oh, how I miss the snow! Living on the edge of the North Sea, the water keeps the temperature too high for snow most

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru Altar for Sumbel and Blot

This photo is my altar for a holiday sumbel and blot, such as Yule. Sumbel is the toasting and blot is the blessing.

Altars for different purposes will have different things on them. This one is a portable altar used for community ritual. A permanent altar dedicated to a god or ancestor or to the gods generally, also called a shrine, would generally have fewer working tools and more symbols, and would probably include representations of the gods or other beings to whom it is dedicated, such as statues or pictures, and possibly sacrifices to them. Some Asatruars keep shrines and some don't, but any Asatru community ritual includes a sumbel, and most include a blot.

The altar for a sumbel has to include something to drink since sumbel is a toasting ritual. Asatru uses a drinking horn for this ritual. We use a cow's horn to honor Audhumla, the sacred cow who was the first self-aware being. Our mythology says that before time began or the World Tree grew, Audhumla licked the gods and the giants out of the ice and nurtured them on her milk. So a cow's horn represents the Great Mother.

There are two bottles and two horns on the altar in this picture because one bottle and horn set is for alcohol and one is for a non-alcoholic beverage. This altar also contains a bottle opener. This isn't a dedicated holy bottle opener, just the normal one from my kitchen, but being used for ritual means this opener is going to have a bit of specialness about it even after being returned to normal use. It is traditional to toast with mead, but other beverages work, too.

The altar for blot almost always contains all the things for sumbel as well because sumbel usually comes first and then blot. In the old days, the blot bowl caught the blood of a sacrificed animal, keeping the blood from touching the ground, and then the blood was sprinkled over the participants to bless them. In modern times, the bowl is partially filled with water, and then the dregs of the horn are poured in the bowl after the sumbel, and the mead / water mixture is sprinkled over the participants to bless them.

The pine branch on the altar is the asperger, which is used to sprinkle the water onto the participants. This pine branch is from a sacred pine tree I maintain at my home for this purpose. Before the main ritual, I ritually cut the asperger from the tree with this ritual knife. The knife can then go on the altar, on my belt, or can be put away.

This basic altar contains only the things necessary for the ritual. It can also be decorated with seasonally appropriate decorations, symbols of the gods, and anything meaningful to the godhi or gythia (the conductor of the ritual) or to the ritual participants.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
December Madness

I don't even remember what finally set me off.

One too many Starvation Army bell-ringers?

One too many Muzak Silent Nights?

One too many smiling faces wishing me something that I don't want?

Whatever it was, by the time that I got to work, I was in a state.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Making of Modern Yule

At Yule 1953, after lunch, Gerald Gardner turned to the then newly-initiated Doreen Valiente and said, “Write us up a nice ritual for this evening, would you my dear? There's a good girl.”

The result of this request, Valiente later told Janet and Stuart Farrar, “was the first chant or invocation I ever wrote for Gerald,” who was, she thought, “deliberately throwing me in at the deep end to see what I could do” (Farrar 148n3).

Gardner later described this ritual in his 1954 book Witchcraft Today:

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Time Between

Well, I saw it last night, right on cue.

The season's first domestic Yule tree.

It was November 7.

Oh, I understand Christmas creep. I understand the thirst for magic. I understand the craving for celebration by those who really only have one holiday.

By my reckoning, we're a little past the midpoint of the Samhain thirtnight. We're still in the season of the ancestors. The big, public rituals and gatherings are over now. This is the quiet part of Samhain, the interiority, the tag-end, the tail: the time to reflect and look within.

And then comes Time Between: what my friend and colleague Magenta Griffith calls “The Fallows.”

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    May we both live to see it.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'ld love to see what stories and lore would accumulate around groundhog day if it was celebrated with as much enthusiasm as Easte
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I think that as the People of Many Holidays, we've got the long-term advantage here. In the pagan future, I foresee less Yule and
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Back in the early 70's when my family first moved back to Richmond the stores still had Thanksgiving decorations after Halloween.

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