At Samhain we honour and welcome the descent into and return of the dark - the beginning of a New Year. We acknowledge that all beginnings emerge from darkness. At the Winter Solstice we reach the depth of that darkness with the shortest day and the longest night of the year. We are in darkness...
It's easy to start to wonder whether the darkness will continue. Will the Earth grow darker and colder as the Sun disappears into the south until only darkness is left? However the Sun stops its decline and for a few days it rises in about the same place. This time is crucial it is the cusp between events. The Sun stands still, and everyone waits for the turning.
Of course we know the light will return. But in the darkness of Winter it's easy to worry and wonder if it will ever happen. Will the light keep its promises? We all have moments of darkness, when we don't know how much deeper we will go before the light starts to return or whether it will. The world has those moments too. It understands, it lives as we do.
But Yule brings a wondrous gift. The rebirth of the sun! The Sun does indeed start north again and light does come back. The Sun returns to the world, our lives and the light comes back. This is indeed something worth celebrating, and a time for great reveling and joy!
Many of the symbols of Christmas echo its aspect of rebirth and hope in darkness. Holly was thought to be important because it retains its greenery right through the winter months, and as such is a symbol of summer life in the winter starkness. Holly was the male symbol of this greenery, and Ivy was the feminine, the two often placed together as a symbol of fecundity at the dark end of the year. There was also a belief that evergreen plants and trees were refuges for the woodland spirits through the winter months.
Another fire tradition was that of the Yule log, lit from the remains of last years log at sunset on the 25th of December. The Yule log was often of Oak or Ash, and the burned remains of it were thought to guard a home against fire and lightning. The ashes were also sprinkled on the surrounding fields to ensure good luck for the coming years harvest. The largest remaining part of the log was kept safe to kindle next years fire.
The Yule Tree
Introduced into modern times apparently by the German Prince Albert in Victorian times. It might be modern but we love it! In ancient Rome pine trees were an essential part of Goddess groves. On the eve of the Midwinter Solstice, Roman priests would cut down a pine tree, decorate it and carry it ceremonially to the temple celebrations. People decked their homes with boughs of evergreen trees and bushes in pots. Pines and firs were cherished as a symbol of rebirth and life in the depth of winter. It was the festival of Saturnalia. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm in the cold winter months - food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat.
This is the festival of light out of darkness and the tradition of lighting candles is ever popular. Red, green and the gold of the Returning Sun are the colours of Yule. Deck your home and altar with evergreens and candles.
This is THE Birthday of the Sun/Son! Exchanging gifts has always been part of this festival. Time to get creative a start making simple but personal gifts to exchange!
During the Winter months, the Nature spirits usually sleep while their plants and trees sleep. However, if you make those of your area welcome within your home, they will spend the cold months inside with you, checking their charges when needed. The Little Ones are a good barometer to the state of vibrations in the house. When negatives are drawn into your house they will become very quiet and withdrawn. They will however be quick to bring anything to your attention that they feel is interupting the vibration of harmony within your home. A simple way to make your home an appealing place for them is with the addition of faery doors.
Believe in the fairies
That make dreams come true,
Believe in the wonder
The stars and the moon,
Believe in the magic
From the fairies above,
They dance on the flowers
And sing the songs of love,
And if you just believe,
And always stay true,
The fairies will be there
To watch over you!
Yule Tree Sachet
5 Ounces of Corn Starch
1 Ounce powdered benzoin gum
1 drop Bergamot oil
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 ounces talc
1 drop of Pine oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Yuletime Hot Chocolate
Makes 5 cups
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup hot water
⅛ tsp salt
4 cups milk (Dairy or non-dairy)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the cocoa, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan.
Over medium heat, stir constantly until the mixture boils. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Stir in the milk and heat, but do not boil.
Remove from the heat and add vanilla; stir well. Serve immediately.
**I've used both vanilla soymilk as well as almond milk to make this and both are delicious!**
If you are burning candles, incense, oils or any other naked flame do remember that in the interests of safety they should be attended at all times!
Frosted Holly Leaves
In the 1800's this craft provided decoration when fresh flowers weren't available. Tuck them in amogst Mistletoe and fir boughs for a little Yule frost.
Choose nice stems and leaves of the Holly then wipe them with a clean dry cloth. Dry them thoroghly but do not allow to shrivel. Dip the edges of each leaf in thin clear glue, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Leave to dry in a warm place
4 ounces of peppermint leaves
1 ounce powdered benzoin gum
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ounces of rose petals
1 teaspoon vanilla
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