For people of nearly every religious background, the season of the Winter Solstice is a time to gather with family and loved ones to celebrate the expectation of the strengthening of the sun. For Pagans and Wiccans, it's generally celebrated as Yule, but there are literally dozens of ways to thoroughly enjoy this season.
The date of Yule, or the Winter Solstice, varies between December 20-22 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 20-22 in the Southern Hemisphere. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Yule falls on Dec. 21 this year, while June 21 was Yule for those living below the equator. Regardless of where you live, it is the time when we Pagans and Wiccans honor the slow return of the sun, by gathering together in love and merriment on the longest night of the year!
As a Solitary Practitioner in the Eclectic Wiccan tradition, I borrow liberally from faiths around the globe to celebrate this wonderful and joyous Sabbat. It is for me, a time to reflect on my tangible and intangible contributions to the world around me, and to renew my dedication to religious, ethnic, racial, cultural, and sexual tolerances, and to reaffirm my core spiritual responsibility to work at easing the burdens – as much as I am able – of those around me.
I respect Christians and Christmas, and because I am a former follower of that path, I have adapted some of that symbolism into my own practice – but I do not use anything related to Christ. Of course, it was early Christianity that initially adapted (um, rather forcefully actually) its holiday from the existing Pagan practices of the time in an attempt to convert those pesky non-believers, so it seems only fair that I would be among the tens of thousands to bring it full circle and return these ancient and glorious celebrations back to the Grove where they belong!
Of course, anyone who lives in the U.S. and isn't a Christian knows how difficult it is to avoid the holiday of all others. I choose to view Christmas in a primarily secular sense, that way I can enjoy the season with co-workers and friends, without having to clash on the religious issue. The only exception to this is a spiritual goal that I believe we can all agree on regardless of any or no religious path: Promoting peace, and good will/glad tidings to all!
In many Celtic-based traditions of Neo-Paganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King kills the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him. The Holly King then rules until Yule, when the cycle continues.
In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, the consorts battling for the favor of the Goddess, then retiring to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more. It is important to note that each cycle offers an equal opportunity to honor the Goddess as it does the God.
I love these particualar traditions, and follow this concept throughout my personal celebrations, and decorations, always remembering the ever Turning of the Wheel.
Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.
Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.
Yule is a time of great symbolism and power. It marks the return of the sun, when they days finally begin to get a little longer. It's also a time to celebrate with family and friends, and share the spirit of giving during the holidays. Here are some great Yule rituals that you can do to celebrate this winter Sabbat, either as part of a group or as a solitary.
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 cold days would begin to wane and 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.
A Yule Sabbat Celebration of Lights
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.
Time Required: Varied
01 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' (Dedicated to the God) on a riser, so it's above the rest. Don't light any of the candles just yet.
02 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.
03 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.
04 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.
Repeat this until all the candles are lit and burning. Then say:
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.
05 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, light!"
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.
** 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.
What You Need:
Lots of candles, including a Sun Candle
A feast with lots of winter-themed food
Yule Tree Blessing
If your family uses a holiday tree at Yule – and many Pagan/Wiccan families do – you might want to consider a blessing ritual for the tree, both at the time you cut it down and again before you've decorated it. Although many families use fake holiday trees, a cut one from a tree farm is actually more environmentally friendly, so if you've never considered a live tree, maybe this is a good year to start a new tradition in your house.
Things to Take With You
You'll want to have the following items on hand when you go to cut down a tree for Yule:
A sharp saw
Some fertilizer sticks and birdseed
Selecting Your Tree
First of all, make sure you're in a place where you have permission to cut trees. Either find a local Christmas tree farm, or if you're on private property, get the approval of the landowner before you cut anything. Never cut a tree down in a park or forest without permission.
Don't just randomly start hacking away at trees. Take some time to wander around and find the tree that's right for you. Often, you'll know the right tree when you find it – it will be just the right height and width, the exact fullness you want, and so forth. In our family, our annual tradition is that we only cut down our tree if it has a bird's nest in it (obviously, by December the birds don't need it any more, it's just something my teenager started as a child).
Cutting Down Your Tree
If you've found the right tree, take a moment to touch it. Feel its energy flowing from the earth and into you. Recognize that once you've cut it down, it will no longer be a living thing. In many traditions, people find it comforting to ask the tree for permission to make the first cut. In Dorothy Morrison's book Yule, she recommends asking the tree to move its spirit deep into the ground so that it will not feel injury or pain when you cut the trunk.
Use the following blessing before you make the cut:
O evergreen, mighty tree, you who are full of life.
I am about to make the cut, and ask your permission.
We will take you into our home and honor you,
adorning you with light in this season of the sun.
We ask you, o evergreen, to bless our home with your energy.
As an alternative, if you have children with you and you'd like to make the occasion more fun than somber, try something like this instead:
Evergreen, evergreen, big fat tree!
I ask you now please to come home with me!
We'll cover you with ornaments and lots of pretty lights,
and let you shine about our house at Yule, the longest night!
Thank you, tree, thank you tree, for the gift you give today,
we'll plant another in your name, when spring comes our way!
Make the cut about eight inches above the ground, and cut quickly. Make sure no one is standing on the opposite side when the tree begins to fall. Using the gloves to protect your hands if necessary, tie the rope around the trunk so you can pull it out of the area. Before leaving, push the fertilizer sticks into the soil near the cut trunk. This will promote new growth from the remaining stump. If you can, periodically stop by and add more fertilizer sticks to the newly sprouted branches.
You may wish to also leave some birdseed on the ground as an offering to the wildlife in the area. Some families even use the birdseed to cast a protective circle around the stump where they've cut their tree down. Finally, if you've promised to plant a new tree somewhere in the spring, be sure to keep your word.
Decorating Your Tree
Decorating a Yule tree is a lot of fun, and should be a celebration of family. Put on some holiday music, light some incense or scented candles, get a pot of herbal tea brewing, and turn it into a ritual of its own. Before you decorate, you may wish to bless the tree once more.
Have on hand some salt, incense, a candle and water. Bless the tree as follows:
By the powers of earth, I bless this tree,
that it shall remain sacred, a symbol of life,
stable and strong in our home throughout the Yule season.
By the powers of air, I bless this tree,
as the cool winter winds blow away the baggage of the old year,
and we welcome the brightness of the new into our hearts and home.
By the powers of fire, I bless this tree,
as the days have gotten shorter, and the nights grown dark,
yet the warmth of the sun is returning, bringing with it life.
By the powers of water, I bless this tree,
a gift I give, that it may stay bright and green for us a bit longer,
so that we can enjoy the harmony and peace of Yule.
As you say the blessing, sprinkle the salt around the tree in a circle (not on the tree, just around it), smudging with the incense, passing the candle over it, and finally, adding water to the tray at the bottom.
Once you've finished the blessing, decorate your tree and celebrate!
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. 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.
Time Required: Varied
01 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.
02 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 amongst 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.
03 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.
What You Need:
A Yule Log
Family and friends to share the ceremony
Goddess Ritual for Yule
Yule is the time of the Winter Solstice, and for some Wiccans, 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.
01 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.
02 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.
03 If you normally cast a circle, do so now.
04 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.
05 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.
06 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.
07 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.
08 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.
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!
What You Need:
A pair of seasonally-colored candles
Incense in a Yule-themed scent
Candles, lights, and sparkly things as you like!
Before you hold your Yule ritual, you may want to set up an altar to celebrate the season. Here are some quick tips on how to decorate for the Yule holiday, keeping the themes and symbolism of the Sabbat in mind, and ideas on how to deck your halls and walls for winter solstice. Enjoy the magic of the season with a Yule-themed altar!
Winter is here, and even if the snow hasn't fallen yet, there's a definite chill in the air. Use cold colors to decorate your altar, such as blues and silvers and whites. Also find ways to include the reds, whites and greens of the season. Evergreen boughs never go out of style, so add some dark greens as well. Cover your altar with a cloth in a cool color, and then add candles in a variety of different wintery shades. Use candles in silvers and golds – and sparkle is always good too!
Symbols of Winter
Yule is a Sabbat that reflects the return of the sun, so add solar symbols to your altar. Gold discs, yellow candles, anything bright and shiny can represent the sun. Some people even get a large pillar candle, inscribe it with solar symbols, and designate it as their sun candle. You can also add evergreen boughs, sprigs of holly, pinecones, and as mentioned, a Yule log, and even Santa Claus. Consider antlers or reindeer, along with other symbols of fertility.
Other Signs of the Season
There's no limit to the number of things you can put on your Yule altar, as long as you've got the space. Consider some of these items as part of your Sabbat decor:
Fruit and nuts
Snowflakes, icicles, even a bowl of snow
A Festival of Light
Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there's Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. The Pagan's holiday Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice. On that day, an amazing thing happens in the sky: The earth's axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. Thus as a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light – candles, bonfires, and more.
Origins of Yule
In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting, merrymaking, and, if the Icelandic sagas are to be believed, a time of sacrifice as well. Traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing can all be traced back to Norse origins.
Celtic Celebrations of Winter
The Celts of the British Isles celebrated midwinter as well. Although little is known about the specifics of what they did, many traditions persist. According to the writings of Pliny the Elder, this is the time of year in which Druid priests sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe in celebration.
Few cultures knew how to party like the Romans. Saturnalia was a festival of general merrymaking and debauchery held around the time of the winter solstice. This week-long party was held in honor of the god Saturn, and involved sacrifices, gift-giving, special privileges for slaves, and a lot of feasting. Although this holiday was partly about giving presents, more importantly, it was to honor an agricultural god.
Welcoming the Sun Through the Ages
Four thousand years ago, the Ancient Egyptians took the time to celebrate the daily rebirth of Horus - the god of the Sun. As their culture flourished and spread throughout Mesopotamia, other civilizations decided to get in on the sun-welcoming action. They found that things went really well... until the weather got cooler, and crops began to die. Each year, this cycle of birth, death and rebirth took place, and they began to realize that every year after a period of cold and darkness, the Sun did indeed return.
Winter festivals were also common in Greece and Rome, as well as in the British Isles. When a new religion called Christianity popped up, the new hierarchy had trouble converting the Pagans, and as such, folks didn't want to give up their old holidays. Christian churches were built on old Pagan worship sites, and Pagan symbols were incorporated into the symbolism of Christianity. Within a few centuries, the Christians had everyone worshipping a new holiday, Christmas, which was celebrated on December 25.
In some traditions of Wicca and Paganism as previously described, the Yule celebration comes from the Celtic legend of the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak King, representing the light of the new year, tries each year to usurp the old Holly King, who is the symbol of darkness. Re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.
Twelve Days of Yule Prayers
The winter solstice is a time of reflection, during the darkest and longest night of the year. Why not take a moment to offer up a prayer on Yule? Try a different devotional each day, beginning 12 days prior to the Celebration of Yule (so this year begin the prayers on December 9) to give you food for thought during the holiday season.
Day 1 (December 9): A Prayer to the Earth at Yule
Just because the earth is cold doesn't mean there's nothing going on down there in the soil. Think about what lies dormant in your own life right now, and consider what may bloom a few months from now.
Cold and dark, this time of year,
the earth lies dormant, awaiting the return
of the sun, and with it, life.
Far beneath the frozen surface,
a heartbeat waits,
until the moment is right,
Day 2 (December 10): Sunrise Prayer
The sun returns! The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.
Day 3 (December 11): A Prayer to the Winter Goddess
Despite the fact that some people hate cold weather, it does have its advantages. After all, a good cold day gives us an opportunity to cuddle up indoors with the people we love the most.
O! Mighty goddess, in silvery ice,
watching over us as we sleep,
a layer of shining white,
covering the earth each night,
frost on the world and in the soul,
we thank you for visiting us.
Because of you, we seek warmth
in the comfort of our homes and hearths.
Day 4 (December 12): Counting Your Blessings
Yule should be a time of joy and happiness, but for many people it can be stressful. This is a season to take a moment and be thankful for the blessings you have, and to take a moment to remember those less fortunate.
I am grateful for that which I have.
I am grateful for that which I do not.
I have much more than others, less than some,
But always blessed by the Goddess and God from whom it's all from.
Day 5 (December 13): A Prayer for the Beginning of Winter
In early winter, we can see the skies becoming overcast, and smell fresh snow in the air. Take a few minutes to think about the fact that even if the skies are cold and dark, it's only temporary.
See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way,
for the darkness soon to come.
See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way,
for the world to go cold and lifeless.
See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way,
for the longest night of the year.
See the gray skies overhead, preparing the way,
for the sun to one day return,
bringing with it light.
Day 6 (December 14): Sunset Prayer
The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet, tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.
Day 7 (December 15): A Nordic Yule Blessing
Yule is a time to set aside animosity between yourself and people who would normally antagonize you. The Norsemen had a tradition that enemies who met under a bough of mistletoe were obligated to lay down their arms. Set aside your differences, and think about that as you ponder this devotional.
Beneath the tree of light and life,
a blessing at this season of Jul!
To all that sit at my hearth,
today we are brothers, we are family,
and I drink to your health!
Today is a day to offer hospitality
to all that cross my threshold
in the name of the season.
Day 8 (December 16): A Snow Prayer for Yule
Depending on where you live, you may be seeing snowfall long before Yule arrives. Take a moment to appreciate its beauty, both as it falls and once it covers the ground.
From the reaches of the north,
a place of cold blue beauty,
comes to us the first winter storm.
Wind whipping, flakes flying,
the snow has fallen upon the earth,
keeping us close,
keeping us together,
wrapped up as everything sleeps
beneath a blanket of white.
Day 9 (December 17): A Prayer for the Old Gods
The Holly King is gone, and the Oak King reigns -
Yule is the time of the old winter gods!
Hail to Baldur! To Saturn! To Odin!
Hail to Ameratsu! To Demeter!
Hail to Ra! To Horus!
Hail to Frigga, Minerva Sulis and Cailleach Bheur!
It is their season, and high in the heavens,
may they grant us their blessings this winter day.
Day 10 (December 18): A Celtic Yule Blessing
The Celtic people knew the importance of the solstice. Although the Yule season marks the middle of winter, colder times were still to come. It was important to put aside staple foods for the coming months, because it would be many months before anything fresh grew again. Consider, as you think on this devotional, what your family has put aside – both material goods and things on the spiritual plane.
The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.
Day 11 (December 19): An Elemental Blessing
In the middle of winter, it's hard to remember sometimes that light is coming back to earth. However, despite the gray, cloudy days, we know that soon, the sun will return. Keep this in mind during those dreary days when it seems winter will never end, by invoking the four classical elements.
As the earth grows colder,
the winds blow faster,
the fire dwindles smaller,
and the rains fall harder,
let the light of the sun
find its way home.
Day 12 (December 20): Prayer to the Sun God, Ra
Great sun, wheel of fire, Ra in your glory,
hear me as I honor you on this,
the shortest day of the year.
Summer has gone, passed us by,
the fields are dead and cold,
all of earth sleeps in your absence.
Even in the darkest times,
you light the way for those who would need a beacon,
of hope, of brightness, shining in the night.
Winter is here, and colder days coming,
the fields are bare and the livestock thin.
We light these candles in your honor,
that you might gather your strength
and bring life back to the world.
O Ra, mighty sun above us,
we ask you to return, to bring back to us
the light and the warmth of your fire.
Bring life back to earth,
Bring light back to earth.
Hail Ra! Ruler of the sun!
Yule Magick and its Dieties
The Yule season is full of magick, much of it focusing on rebirth and renewal, as the sun makes its way back to the earth. Focus on this time of new beginnings with your magickal workings.
You might consider magick rituals for your home, for a sick friend, or to renew the earth from a season of over-use and under appreciation. Let your imagination and intuition guide your rituals, allowing the cosmic well-spring flow in the midst of a frozen wonderland.
While it may be mostly Pagans and Wiccans who celebrate the Yule holiday, nearly all cultures and faiths have some sort of winter solstice celebration or festival. Because of the theme of endless birth, life, death, and rebirth, the time of the solstice is often associated with deity and other legendary figures. No matter which path you follow, chances are good that one of your gods or goddesses has a winter solstice connection.
Alcyone (Greek): Alcyone is the Kingfisher goddess. She nests every winter for two weeks, and while she does, the wild seas become calm and peaceful.
Ameratasu (Japan): In feudal Japan, worshippers celebrated the return of Ameratasu, the sun goddess, who slept in a cold, remote cave. When the the other gods woke her with a loud celebration, she looked out of the cave and saw an image of herself in a mirror. The other gods convinced her to emerge from her seclusion and return sunlight to the universe.
Baldur (Norse): Baldur is associated with the legend of the mistletoe. His mother, Frigga, honored Baldur and asked all of nature to promise not to harm him. Unfortunately, in her haste, Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, so Loki - the resident trickster - took advantage of the opportunity and fooled Baldur's blind twin, Hod, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe. Baldur was later restored to life.
Bona Dea (Roman): This fertility goddess was worshipped in a secret temple on the Aventine hill in Rome, and only women were permitted to attend her rites. Her annual festival was held early in December.
Cailleach Bheur (Celtic): In Scotland, she is also called Beira, the Queen of Winter. She is the hag aspect of the Triple Goddess, and rules the dark days between Samhain and Beltaine.
Demeter (Greek): Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons and is often connected to the image of the Dark Mother in winter. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter's grief caused the earth to die for six months, until her daughter's return.
Dionysus (Greek): A festival called Brumalia was held every December in honor of Dionysus and his fermented grape wine. The event proved so popular that the Romans adopted it as well in their celebrations of Bacchus.
Frau Holle (Norse): Frau Holle appears in many different forms in Scandinavian mythology and legend. She is associated with both the evergreen plants of the Yule season, and with snowfall, which is said to be Frau Holle shaking out her feathery mattresses.
Frigga (Norse): Frigga honored her son, Baldur, by asking all of nature not to harm him, but in her haste overlooked the mistletoe plant. Loki fooled Baldur's blind twin, Hod, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe but Odin later restored him to life. As thanks, Frigga declared that mistletoe must be regarded as a plant of love, rather than death.
Holly King (British/Celtic): The Holly King is a figure found in British tales and folklore. He is similar to the Green Man, the archetype of the forest. In modern Pagan religion, the Holly King battles the Oak King for supremacy throughout the year. At the winter solstice, the Holly King is defeated.
Horus (Egyptian): Horus was one of the solar deities of the ancient Egyptians. He rose and set every day, and is often associated with Nut, the sky god. Horus later became connected with the aforementioned sun god, Ra.
La Befana (Italian): This character from Italian folklore is similar to St. Nicholas, in that she flies around delivering candy to well-behaved children in early January. She is depicted as an old woman on a broomstick, wearing a black shawl.
Lord of Misrule (British): The custom of appointing a Lord of Misrule to preside over winter holiday festivities actually has its roots in antiquity, during the Roman week of Saturnalia.
Mithras (Roman): Mithras was celebrated as part of a mystery religion in ancient Rome. He was a god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.
Odin (Norse): In some legends, Odin bestowed gifts at Yuletide upon his people, riding a magical flying horse across the sky. This legend may have combined with that of St. Nicholas to create the modern Santa Claus.
Saturn (Roman): Every December, the Romans threw a week-long celebration of debauchery and fun, called Saturnalia in honor of their agricultural god, Saturn. Roles were reversed, and slaves became the masters, at least temporarily. This is where the tradition of the Lord of Misrule originated.
Spider Woman (Hopi): Soyal is the Hopi festival of the winter solstice. It honors the Spider Woman and the Hawk Maiden, and celebrates the sun's victory over winter's darkness.
However you choose to celebrate the Yule Season, please remember also to honor the bonds between you and the planet and the Goddess and God, as well as your family and friends. May all the blessings of the season be yours at this magickal and sacred time, and may your Yule Log truly burn brightly year 'round!
Have a very Cool Yule!
— Danu's Daughter