Celtic Yule – 4 Rituals

yuletide

Yule Goddess Ritual for Solitaries

Yule is the time of the Winter Solstice, and for many Pagans, it’s a time to say goodbye to the old, and welcome the new. As the sun returns to the earth, life begins once more. This ritual can be performed by a solitary practitioner, either male or female. It’s also easily adaptable to a small group of people.

Perform this ritual on the evening of the Winter Solstice. If you normally wear a ritual robe or ceremonial gown, do so — and feel free to embellish for the season! Consider a crown of holly, a special Yule-themed robe, or adding holiday bling to your existing robe. Sparkly is good! Decorate your altar with a Yule log or tree (although obviously the tree might have to go on the floor, rather than the altar itself), lots of seasonal symbolism, and candles — after all, Yule is a celebration of light.

You’ll also want to have some holiday incense on your altar. Frankincense, cinnamon, myrrh — all are appropriate to the season; don’t light it just yet, though.Finally, have two candles in seasonal colors.

If you normally cast a circle, do so now.

To begin the ritual, sit on the floor near your altar — don’t light the candles just yet. Take a few moments to remember what it was like for our ancestors at this time of year. The harvest had been brought in, and they knew that in a few months, their stockpiles of food would be running low. It was the season of Death, the time when the earth went dormant once more, sleeping until the spring returned. Our ancestors knew that despite the darkness of this night, soon the light would return to the earth, bringing with it life. This night, the Winter Solstice, welcomes back the Sun, the ultimate giver of light.

Light the first candle, and say:

Tonight is the night of the Solstice,
the longest night of the year.
As the Wheel turns once more, I know that
tomorrow, the Sun will begin its journey back to us.
With it, new life will begin,
a blessing from Earth to her children.

Light the second candle, and say:

It is the season of the winter goddess.
Tonight I celebrate the festival of the winter solstice,
the rebirth of the Sun, and the return of light to the Earth.
As the Wheel of the Year turns once more,
I honor the eternal cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Light the remaining candles on the altar at this time, and if you have decorative holiday lighting, turn it on. Return to your place at the altar, and face the holiday tree or Yule log. Raise your arms up to the tree, and say:

Today I honor the god of the forest,
the King of nature, who rules the season.
I give my thanks to the beautiful goddess,
whose blessings bring new life to the earth.
This gift I offer you tonight,
sending my prayers to you upon the air.

Light your incense, and if you’d like to make an offering of food, bread, or something else, do so now. As the smoke of the incense rises to the night sky, meditate on what changes you’d like to see before the next Sabbat. Reflect upon the time of the season. Although winter is here, life lies dormant beneath the soil. What new things will you bring to fruition for yourself when the planting season returns? How will you change yourself, and maintain your spirit throughout the cold months? When you are ready, either end the rite, or continue on with additional rituals, such as Cakes and Ale or Drawing Down the Moon.

Tips:

  1. If you don’t have a ritual robe, you can take a cleansing bath before the rite, and then wear a simple cotton or other organic material. Another option would be to make a robe as a Yule gift to yourself!

 

 

How To Welcome Back the Sun for Yule

The ancients knew that the winter solstice was the longest night of the year — and that meant that the sun was beginning its long journey back towards earth. It was a time of celebration, and for rejoicing in the knowledge that soon, the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would come back to life.

On this one day, the sun stands still in the sky, and everyone on earth knows that change is coming.

Because this is a festival of fire and light, feel free to use lots of candles and lights, solar symbols, bright colors, or even a bonfire. Bring light back into your home and your life.

Like any Sabbat, this festival works well if paired up with a feast. Celebrate the sun’s return by preparing all kinds of winter foods — whip up a batch of cornbread, a pot of buttered rum, plum pudding, cranberry dressing, game stew, etc. Have the whole family eat together prior to the ritual. Clean up, and when you’re done, cover your table or altar with candles.

Use as many as you like; they don’t have to match. In the center, place a sun candle** on a riser, so it’s above the rest. Don’t light any of the candles just yet.

Turn off all the other lights, and face your altar. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

Face the candles, and say:

The wheel of the year has turned once more,
and the nights have grown longer and colder.
Tonight, the darkness begins to retreat,
and light begins its return once again.
As the wheel continues to spin,
the sun returns to us once more.

Light the sun candle, and say:

Even in the darkest hours,
even in the longest nights,
the spark of life lingered on.
Laying dormant, waiting, ready to return
when the time was right.
The darkness will leave us now,
as the sun begins its journey home.

Beginning with the candles closest to the sun candle, and working your way outward, light each of the other candles. As you light each one, say:

As the wheel turns, light returns. The light of the sun has returned to us,
bringing life and warmth with it.
The shadows will vanish, and life will continue.
We are blessed by the light of the sun.

Take a moment to think about what the return of the sun means to you. The return of the light meant many things to different cultures. How does it affect you, and your loved ones? When you’re ready, go through the house and turn all the lights back on. If you have children, make it a game — they can yell out, “Welcome back, sun!”

If you’re not too full from dinner, have some eggnog and cookies on standby, and take the time to bask in the light of your candles and eat some treats. When you’re done, extinguish the candles from the outside of the altar working towards the center, leaving the sun candle for last.

Tips:

** A sun candle is simply a candle you’ve designated to represent the sun in ritual. It can be in a sunny color — gold or yellow — and if you like, you can inscribe it with solar sigils.

If you like, you can do this ritual on the morning of Yule. Cook a big breakfast with lots of eggs, and watch the sun rise. If you do this, you can eliminate all the candles except the sun candle. Allow the sun candle to burn all day before you extinguish it.

 

 

How To Hold a Family Yule Log Ceremony

If your family enjoys ritual, you can welcome back the sun at Yule with this simple winter ceremony. The first thing you’ll need is a Yule Log. If you make it a week or two in advance, you can enjoy it as a centerpiece prior to burning it in the ceremony.

Yule Log History

A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. AsChristianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations ofmead, oil or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.

“In Provence (in France), it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening. In Cornwall (in the UK), the log is called ‘The Mock’. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in the UK, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs.”

Celebrate With a Family Ritual

In addition to a Yule log, you’ll also need a fire, so if you can do this ritual outside, that’s even better. As the Yule Log burns, all members of the family should surround it, forming a circle.

If you normally cast a circle, do so at this time.

This first section is for the adults – if there is more than one grownup, they can take turns saying the lines, or say them together:

The Wheel has turned once more, and
the earth has gone to sleep.
The leaves are gone, the crops have returned to the ground.
On this darkest of nights, we celebrate the light.
Tomorrow, the sun will return,
its journey continuing as it always does.
Welcome back, warmth.
Welcome back, light.
Welcome back, life.

The entire group now moves deosil – clockwise, or sunwise – around the fire. When each member has returned to his or her original position, it is time for the children to add their part. This section can be divided among the children, so that each gets a chance to speak.

Shadows go away, darkness is no more,
as the light of the sun comes back to us.
Warm the earth.
Warm the ground.
Warm the sky.
Warm our hearts.
Welcome back, sun.

Finally, each member of the group should take a moment to tell the others one thing that they are thankful for about their family – things like “I am happy that Mom cooks us such wonderful food,” or “I’m proud of Alex because he helps people who need it.”

When everyone has had a chance to speak, walk sunwise once more around the fire, and end the rite. If possible, save a bit of this year’s Yule log to add to the fire for next year’s ceremony.

 

Yule Cleansing Ritual

About a month before Yule rolls in, start thinking about all the clutter you’ve accumulated over the past year. Got pants that are too small or too big? A Chia Pet that never grew? Dishes you hate to use, because they’re just butt-ugly?

Get rid of them!

You’re not obligated to keep things you don’t like, don’t need, or don’t use, and the less physical clutter you have laying around, the easier it is to function on an emotional and spiritual level.

After all, who can focus when they’re constantly having to step over piles of unused junk?

If you’re one of those people who feels bad about getting rid of stuff, donate it to a charity if it’s still clean and in usable condition. Many organizations do coat and clothing drives this time of year; look for one in your area.

If you haven’t worn it, used it, played with it, listened to it or eaten it in the past year, pitch it.

 

Before you start decorating for Yule, you’ll want to get things organized. If you’re not organized yet, now’s your chance to get there. Each member of the family should be responsible for their own belongings. Sort your belongings so they’re in a place you can find them later, in a way that makes sense to you AND your family members.

If your home has a common area like a family room or kitchen that tends to attract clutter, get a basket for each person who lives there.

 Throw all their stuff in their basket — the next time they go to their room, they can take all their stuff with them to put it away.

Do you get magazine subscriptions? Newspapers? Create a place that’s a permanent home for them — a basket in the bathroom, a drawer in the kitchen, wherever people read. Then get into the habit of only keeping the last two issues of each. Recycle the old ones as new ones come in.

Remember, the floor is not a storage place. If you can’t get something put away, get rid of it.

 

Clean your windows. You’d be amazed what a good window washing can do for your house, to say nothing of the way you feel. Mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of warm water and spray down your windows, inside and out. Wipe them off with old newspapers. If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, toss some lemon verbena or lemon balm in the mixture.

If you have curtains, take them down and launder them. Throw a bit of dried herb, such as sage or rosemary, into a cloth baggie and add them to the rinse cycle.

If your windows have mini-blinds, dust them and wipe them down. If it’s warm enough outside, take them outdoors and spray them with your garden hose. Let them dry completely before hanging them back in.

While you’re cleaning the windows, do your mirrors too, using the same mixture as above. As you see your reflection in the mirror, visualize cleaning away negative energy from your life.

 

If you have carpets and rugs, sprinkle them with baking soda and give them a good hearty vacuuming. Make sure you move the furniture around and clean beneath each piece — it’s time to get all the yuck out of your house, and dustbunnies are notorious for getting in the corners under the couch. If you have an extender on your vacuum cleaner, use it to suck up cobwebs and dust from the ceiling fans, baseboards, and other hard-to-reach spots.

Use a broom to sweep out any little bits of dirt and grime — it’s also a symbolic way of sweeping negative energy out of your home.

If you’ve got a filter on your home’s heating system, now’s a good time to replace it with a new, fresh one.

Do you have hardwood floors instead of carpet? Use an environmentally-friendly cleaner to get rid of dirt and grime. Clean baseboards and other woodwork.

Get your bathroom clean. It’s a place in our house we try not to think about unless we’re using it, but there are few things more impressive than a clean bathroom. Scrub toilets, wipe down countertops, and spray out your bathtub.

 

Once you’ve got the physical stuff done, now it’s time to focus on the fun part. Smudge your home with one of the following:

To do a smudging, start at your front door with your incense or smudge stick in a censer or bowl. Move the incense around each door and window, and go through each room, following along the lines of the walls. If you have multiple levels, continue up and down stairs as needed.

Some people like to add a small incantation to the process, like this one:

Yule is here, and I smudge this place,
Fresh and clean, in time and space.
Sage and sweetgrass, burning free,
as the sun returns, so it shall be.

Once you’ve completed the smudging, sit back and enjoy the positive energy that comes with having a clean physical space.

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