Yule  & The Winter Solstice 101

themori-witch:

Summer is over, Winter is in full swing, and Yule is upon us. 

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Yule, pronounced “yool”, falls on the 21st of December in the Northern Hemisphere, a date that is also known as the Winter Solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere (below the equator), Yule falls on the 21st of June.

The Winter Solstice is the day of the year when the night is longest and the day is shortest. After the solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

Some Historical & Cultural Stuff:

Yule is the time of the year when the “dark half” of the year ends and the “light half begins”. 

Until the 16th century, the winter months were infamous for being times of famine in Europe – most cattle were slaughtered during this time so that they did not need to be fed during the winter. The feed was needed for the mouths of the farmers and the people. This meant that the solstice was a time when meat was plentiful, and is the reason why a lot of the celebrations surrounding this time of year centre around feasting and merriment.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, there was a feast (named the Feast of Juul) that lasted for twelve (12) days. It celebrated the rebirth of the sun, and from this feast came the custom of burning a Yule log.

In ancient Rome, the Festival of Saturnalia (famously referenced in an episode of The Big Bang Theory) was the pillar of solstice celebrations. It was used to honour the God of agricultural bounty, Saturn and lasted around a week. Saturnalia was characterised by feasting, debauchery and the exchanging of gifts.
Does that sound familiar? Well, it should! Many of these customs were absorbed and assimilated into Christian Christmas celebrations upon Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. This was done to make the conversion less of a shock.


Yule Associations: 

Colours: 

Red, green, gold; white; silver; yellow.

Herbs & Plants:

Mistletoe, Snowdrop, Lemongrass; Chive; Cinnamon; Sage; Rosemary; Ginger; Garlic; Orange Peel; Dill; Basil; Black Pepper; Bay Leaf; Ash; Thistle; Evergreen; Cedar; Frankincense; Holly; Ivy; Juniper; Mistletoe; Oak; Pine; Sandalwood; Yew; Cypress; Fir; Comfrey; Elder; Chestnut; Myrrh.

Symbols:
Mistletoe, pillar candles in any associated colour, evergreen boughs and wreaths; fruit studded with cloves; wassail; Yule logs; holly.

Food & Drink:
Yule log, wine (mulled), cider; turkey; lamb; venison; beef; cranberries; stew; pork; nuts; oranges; clementines. Seasonal vegetables. Wassail. Apples. Fruit. Cakes soaked in alcohol.

Stones Crystals & Metals:
Gold, silver, diamonds; rubies; emeralds; bloodstone’ quartz.

Activities & Things to Do:
Carolling. Wassailing, feasting, exchanging gifts; burning fires/candles; decorating a Yule tree and making decorations to put on it, such as Witch Balls, clove pricked fruit; make Winter potpourri.

Spells, Magick & Rituals:
Cleansing, taking down old wards and putting up new ones, divination; reflective workings; workings related to new beginnings and fresh starts. Workings for goals and ambitions. Earth based magick.