Yule (Lore from our 2011 Open Ritual)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
by Aislin

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is traditionally celebrated around the 21st or 22nd of December. The wheel of the year brings us to Yule and the God (who died at Samhain) is reborn. Winter Solstice marks a point of dramatic natural change at most places on Earth. One of the most common themes that is played out during this part of the year is the Celtic battle between the aging Holly King (who represents the darkness of the old year) and the young Oak King (who symbolizes the light of the new year). Winter Solstice marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year. From now until Litha, the days will begin to grow longer as we welcome back the returning Sun. On Yule, we honor the Goddess, Mother Earth, for giving birth once more to the Sun.

People around the world celebrate this time of year with varying traditional festivals such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Yule. For this reason, Yule is one of the most widely celebrated of all of the sabbats. The customs and lore have deeply invaded popular cultures and mainstream religions and virtually every culture in the Northern Hemisphere acknowledges this time of year as special in one way or another. It is widely believed that many of the traditional symbols marking this part of the year are actually taken from ancient pagan traditions. For example, the traditional Christmas tree is believed to originate all the way back to the Greeks and Romans of the 8th century. Santa Clause, or Kris Kringle, may actually have his origins in the Aryan God Odin, Lord of the Winds. Wassail comes to us from the Anglo-Saxons and means to hail or salute. Trees were sprinkled with a mixture of eggs, apples, wine, and ale and this was believed to increase fertility and good fortune for the coming year.

Many gods and goddesses were celebrated and hailed during this time of year. Among the gods were Apollo, Balder, Father Sun, Father Winter, Jesus, Saturn, Mithra, Oak King, Odin, Ra, Thor, Woden, and Zeus. Among the goddesses were Demeter, Frigg, Freya, Isis, Mary, Sophia, Mother Night, and Lucina. This year, we have chosen to celebrate Frigg and Baldur. Frigg was a Norse Goddess who had the power of prophesy but she did not always reveal all that she knew. Her name means “love” or “beloved one.” She was the goddess associated with the end of the year, as she sat at her spindle and wove the destiny of both the gods and man. Frigg was also the mother of Baldur, whose father was Odin. Frigg saw the destiny of her son as well as his coming death. She set about to change his destiny and she extracted a promise from all living things that they would play no part in his death. However, she overlooked the Mistletoe plant, which she believed was insignificant. Loki, the Trickster, saw her error, and he made a dart from this poisonous plant, which eventually found it’s way into Baldur’s heart. Hermod, Baldur’s brother and messenger of the Norse gods, felt the pain of his mother over the passing of Baldur and travelled to the underworld to appeal to Hel. She told him that she would only release his brother if all things in the world, living and dead, wept for him as well. All things took pity on her and wept, except for Loki who refused to mourn. Therefore, Frigg and Hermod were ultimately unable to rescue Baldur. However, Frigg is worshiped as a great mother who tried to save her son and she protects all women who are pregnant and giving birth. Tonight, we honor both Frigg and her son Baldur.