Yule, the Winter Solstice

Yule, the Winter Solstice, is part of an Introductory Course in Wicca for incarcerated Wiccans, their families and friends, and prison Chaplains. It has been written to provide a greater understanding of Wicca as a spiritual practice and religion for those who seek to understand it, either as an incarcerated Wiccan or as someone who cares about incarcerated Wiccans.

The first of the celebrations, Yule, is somewhat familiar to most people through the term “yule log,” as the trappings of the Christian holiday of Christmas are largely those of Yule, because the date of the Christian holiday was exactly three days after the Wiccan (or more correctly at that time, the pagan holiday) of Yule, December 22nd. Yule celebrates the rebirth of the Sun at the Winter Solstice–the shortest day/longest night of the year is passed, and the hours of daylight will increase from this day forward.

Also called Saturnalia, it is associated with the gods Cernunos, Herne, Odin and Pan and with the goddesses Angerona, Colleda, Frigg and Koliada. Yule is the time when the Goddess labors to bring forth the Star Child,and it was called “Mothernight” by our Northern European ancestors. For Wiccans, this is the Solar God, who by the time of Eostre, will grow into the young man who impregnates the young, fertile aspect of the Goddess, and another Star Child who will succeed him the following Yule. It’s where the phrase “The King is dead! Long live the King!” originates. The symbolism of solar rebirth–the rebirth of the Sun of God–is mirrored in our celebrations. The same symbolism is mirrored in Christianity as well.

By Yule, the days have grown shorter and shorter, and the Sun’s “demise” is fully realized, as the Sun, having moved South continually for six months, makes its lowest point in the sky. Perceivably, the Sun stops moving South, for 3 days. During this 3 day pause, the Sun resides in the vicinity of the Southern Cross, or Crux, constellation. After this time, on December 25th, the Sun moves one degree, this time North, foreshadowing longer days, warmth, and Spring. Thus, it was said, the Sun/Son died on the cross, was dead for 3 days, only to be resurrected or born again. The celebration of the resurrection occurs on the Spring Equinox, Eostre (aka Easter), when the Sun/Sun officially “overpowers” the “evil” darkness, as daytime thereafter becomes noticeably longer in duration than night, and the revitalizing conditions of Spring emerge.

During the period of Yule, the surface of the Earth is stripped of its most luxurious greenery in the dark season, but below the surface, seeds are sleeping, ready for germination. Wiccans take their cue from this to use the darkest time to delve into the deeper places of our minds and spirits, to meditate and bring back new ideas, project and developments in our lives. In our rituals to mark Yule, we look for the invisible Sun, the vital inner spark which, re-energized, will keep our spirits and our physical energy going through the Winter. The candles we light to rekindle the fires of Sol (the Sun) also symbolize our desire to relight our inner Sun.

Next: Imbolc, the Feast of Brigid