Yule – Solstice
(Dec 21, 2023)
Key Words: Return of the Light. Death and Rebirth. Regeneration. Introspection. Endings and Beginnings.
Yule is the turning of the year when the earth, after journeying away from the sun, reaches its farthest point, shifts direction, and begins its return journey back towards the light. We experience the longest night and the shortest day. The word solstice comes from the Latin “sol stetit” which means “sun stands still”. Due to our perspective on earth, the sun appears to stand still, to rise and set in the same place for 3 days and nights before the transition into the new sun cycle for the year. Days that have grown increasingly shorter conclude with the celebration of Yule; the rebirth of the sun.
The sleeping earth is filled with magic and mystery. The earth that appears to be dead holds life in seed form. All its energies are directed within. Yule as a celebration of the return of the light is a metaphor for conception, for the new fertile seed within. The seed of the sleeping God who died at the end of the previous year, cut down in the harvest, is nestled in the womb of the Goddess – mother earth – where it gestates and flourishes just as surely as the days begin to lengthen.
The Winter Solstice festival offers an occasion for reflection, storytelling, for celebrating friendship, for renewed hope, and for welcoming the rebirth of the God as represented by the return of the light.
The Eternal Battle of the Oak King and the Holly King
The Oak King and the Holly King are brothers who battle twice each year for ascendancy and rule of the earth. The story of the brothers’ rivalry and battles is intrinsically connected to the solstices, representing the waxing and waning of the sun’s journey throughout the wheel of the year and the cycles of life. The Oak King wins the battle at the Winter Solstice and reigns throughout Spring and Summer. The Holly King wins at the Summer Solstice and reigns throughout Autumn and Winter.
The Oak King is active and dynamic in the outer world. He represents the outward push of energy bringing life, growth, and green things until he reaches the height of his power in the summer where the earth is richly abundant.
The Holly King is active and dynamic in the inner world. He represents the inward draw of energy bringing quiet, calm, and assessment, until he reaches the height of his power in the winter where the earth is dormant, preparing, gestating.
Holly and other evergreen plants have always been cherished at this time of year as natural symbols of rebirth and resurrection, of continuous and eternal life in a world that appears to be otherwise dead. Their color and vibrancy reminds us of the lush greenness of spring and summer and provides hope for its return in the future. They are symbols of life, protection, and prosperity. The tradition of bringing evergreens into our homes at Yuletide is an affirmation of continuing life and trust that the sun will return and cycle continue anew.
Mistletoe is a climbing evergreen considered sacred to Druids and Celts. Rooting itself directly into a tree and wrapping itself around its trunk and branches, mistletoe lives midway between heaven and earth, symbolizing eternal life and a gateway to another world.
Traditionally, sprigs of mistletoe are hung in homes for healing, protection, and to induce beautiful dreams. A shared kiss between a sprig of mistletoe is a promise of love, hope, and unity.
Harvesting, decorating, and burning a Yule log is an ancient solstice tradition that represents the wheel of time and the rebirth of the year through the honoring and sacrifice of the spirit of nature and vegetation. The log embodies living green nature that was cut down in the harvest season only to be reborn and live again in a new form as it becomes a source of heat and light.
When The Yule log is lit, its flames invoke the rays of the sun, lighting the way for its triumphant return. The blaze of the log dispels the cold and darkness of winter, and its ashes are used to fertilize the earth.
It is tradition to keep a portion of the log to use for kindling in the following year to honor the eternal turn of the Wheel of the Year.
Any type of wood but usually oak or oak root, a thick branch from a fruit tree, or a birch log:
Oak to honor the rebirth of the oak king
Fruit to symbolize fertility
Birch white bark is a reflection of surrounding snow.
Endings and Beginnings. Rebirth. Regeneration. Introspection. Plan. Prepare.
Set intentions – What do you want to bring to life in the coming year?
Colors: Red, green, white, gold, silver, icy blues
Crystals: Sunstone, clear quartz, bloodstone, snowflake obsidian
Incense: Frankincense, cedar, pine, cinnamon
Astrological Sign: Sagittarius & Capricorn
Tarot Card : The World
Tree: The Elder Tree • Rebirth, regeneration, death, magic
Moon: The Oak Moon (or Dark Moon) • At this darkest time of the year during the Oak moon, a Druid priest would ritually harvest mistletoe from the oak trees.
Food and Drink: Mulled wine, hot cider, seasonal soups nuts
Traditional motifs: Holly, mistletoe, ivy, icicles, snowflakes, Yule log, gifts, reindeer, bells, wrens, caroling.
How to work with the Winter Full Moon
Take lessons from the wisdom of Mother Nature, the Earth Goddess. Slow down. Spend more time inside getting warm and cozy.
What is changing within you? Spend time dreaming and coming up with new ideas, but delay action on those ideas until the new year. Let them gestate over the winter rather than trying to birth them immediately.
Sleep a little more than you usually would. Read stories in front of a roaring fire
Spend more time with your closest loved ones.
Direct your energy to your spiritual and internal practices, such as meditation, reflection, journaling, counseling, or whatever other form of spiritual and emotional connection works for you.
Consider what is truly valuable. Is it material objects pushed by modern culture or is it something less tangible?
Let go of the old, and bring in the new. Transform with the year.