The High Days: Yule

Anciently Yule was a time of feasting, celebration, and sacrifice that took place between mid-November and early January, often centered around offerings made to Óðinn, a byname of whom is Júlnir, or Yule-Father. As with the Irish season of Samhain, it was a time to slaughter and preserve meat, and the honoring of ancestors, particularly female ancestors (as seen in the midwinter celebration of Mother’s Night), was prevalent.

Perhaps the most prominent survival from ancient pagan religion into the practices of modern Neopaganism is the reverence for the return of the sun after the longest night on the winter solstice. This likely stems directly from the celebration of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti—Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, instituted in CE 274 by the Roman Emperor Aurelian and celebrated on the third day after sunrise after the solstice, on December 25. Though it was a popular tenet in Victorian scholarship that Christianity appropriated this celebration for its own celebration of the Divine Son’s nativity (a notion that has not waned in reactionary popularity in modern Paganism even as better scholarship has largely corrected it), Christmas in fact was first celebrated on that date several decades earlier and was established according to a whole body of esoteric Jewish lore quite removed from Roman influence. Germanic tradition much more obviously influenced the Christian holiday (though less so than one might assume on the surface).

The purpose of Yule as it is currently celebrated is to gather together in community during the darkest times of the year, and frequently groups will hold vigil all night to await and honor the rise of the sun. It remains a time to feast, to make merry, and to hold onto hope against hardship.

Ritual Attendance:
19 December 2015, Raven’s Hollow Protogrove, ADF

Responding to warnings of chaos and obstacles headed our way in the omen for Samhain, and the massive swell of turmoil in our local, religious, national, and global communities, this rite was focused around honoring Týr and the dwarves and a magical working to bind destructive chaos. As the magic involved in this rite dealt with especially perilous energies, participants were sained with red brick dust on their foreheads.

We made crafts to honor the dwarves, among which was a rope that invoked the mysteries of the six ingredients of Gleipnir. We performed our own rebinding of those energies, making two chains of paper (one of precious-but-disruptive things specially sacrificed in honor of Týr’s lost hand; one of things that needed binding—e.g. everything from discordant behavior in local communities to the apparent rising swell of fascistic tendencies in America and elsewhere), which were fed to the fire; the flames blazed up in the shape of a bright, inverted ‘Tiwaz’ rune. The cord was used to bind an effigy of Fenrir himself, which was then buried in the area used to make offerings to acknowledge the Outsiders and circled with more brick dust.

The rite itself was somewhat chaotic, as was to be expected, given its content, but was largely successful. Three questions were asked for the omen: “Were our offerings accepted?”—Berkano was drawn, an unequivocal yes; “Were our workings effective?”—to which Laguz Yule 2015was drawn in answer and was read as a combination of hidden treasures and the overwhelming quality of the sea, interpreted as chaos can never be fully restrained, but it has been partially forestalled; and “How can we create order and stability in our world?” Nauðiz, Perthro, Mannaz were drawn and read as a prescription to embrace simplicity and community, and reduce distractions and excess.