Yule 2019 – Where the magic of the winter solstice is on full display and the world is momentarily at peace. This year we gather under the starry night with the remnants of the Full Cold Moon waning to celebrate the season. This night is the longest night of the year and from this point forward the days will slowly get longer. Throughout time, humans have honored the Winter Solstice and the birth/renewal cycle of life. Yule celebrations can be documented as far back as the 4th Century, but everyone who studies ancient history would agree that it likely started long before then. Yule can occur between December 20th and December 23rd, depending on the year. Yule 2019 falls on Saturday, December 21st (9:19 PM MST).
The Yule 2019 ritual is written to be performed outdoors, complete with a roaring fire and plenty of winter libations, so dress warm and enjoy!
What you’ll need to prepare for this ritual (as written)
Quarter Candles (4 total) in these colors – Red (South,) Yellow (East,) Green (North,) and Blue (West)
Goddess Candle – Large White Candle (I use a three wick candle for the Goddess)
Small Candles for each person
Mistletoe sprigs – enough for every person
Yule Log (please read the entire piece to understand what the guidelines are)
Goblet or ceremonial cup with spirited libation of wine, ale, or mead
Bonfire or fire circle
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed with <> refers to instructions for the ritual leader and should not be spoken aloud.
<Opening Statement – This is a call to action for the participants to stop talking, gather, and prepare to begin the ritual>
“All ye travelers come gather ‘round, With sky above; on sacred ground, We now consecrate this meeting place, Outside of time, Outside of space, Behold! The Yule 2019 circle is cast!”
Join Us as We Call the Quarters
All eyes turn to the EAST, the direction of AIR, where the great and mighty winds originate. On this night, a rare night like none other, we seek your guidance and wisdom. As the Great Wheel turns and one season bows to the next, we offer prayers of thanksgiving for the great currents that purify the atmosphere and lead us to where we need to be – we humbly ask the spirits to join us tonight in this great gathering and prepare us for the new days ahead <light yellow candle>
Now we look to the WEST, the direction of FIRE, where the great forges, with their cleansing flames originate. We stand reflectively on this dark night and realize that because of the gift of fire, we are not subjected to live in darkness. Our prayers of thanksgiving resonate across the barren and frozen landscape as we seek council with the spirits to seek not only heat and light, but to fuel our inner fires which lead to growth and maturity <light red candle>
As we turn to the WEST, the direction of the WATER spirits, we are reminded that all things can be cleansed and all things have different states. Whether liquid, frozen, or in vapor form, water remains the most essential element for our existence. We ask the great spirits of water to join us on this dark and cold night; wash away that which has polluted our lives and recharge our souls with your cleansing and healing energies <light blue candle>
And finally, as we look to the NORTH, the direction of the EARTH spirits, we are awestruck at the outpouring of life, change, and beauty found throughout the land, regardless of the season. For without earth, we are nothing, and if we are nothing, then we cannot share love, happiness, and gratitude. We extend our thankful prayers for the land, the trees, the animals, and the resources provided to each of us, so that we may thrive and multiply. <light green candle>
Great Goddess, Queen of all seasons, eternal beauty, mother, maiden, and crone alike – We humbly ask for your presence in this circle tonight. As we cross from the dark half into the light half of the year, we are once again reminded of your guiding hand in all that we do. <Light Goddess Candle>
Yule has always been a time of celebration. As we make merriment on the longest night of the year, we should take a few moments to remember our ancestors, our fellow human beings, and the many blessings we have been afforded this year. Choosing our musical selection for this year’s festivities has been fun, but also challenging as we’ve had two close choices. In the spirit of the season, we’re going to feature two songs; like a double gift! Our first is called – YULE Winter solstice, a peaceful and elegant Welsh tune by Gwyl Canol Gaeaf.
Our second song is by one of my favorite artists, Loreena McKennitt and it’s called The Old Ways – perfect for your Yule 2019 ritual celebration.
Yule is when the dark half of the year comes to an end. Tomorrow morning, the sun will climb a little higher into the sky and remain there a little bit longer. Each successive day the time will grow until we reach the Summer Solstice and then the process will reverse. Also, on this night, our ancestors would celebrate the rebirth of the Oak King (the Sun King) .
Across the many villages, bonfires were lit in the fields, while children went from house to house offering gifts of fruit spiked with cloves. A traditional drink called wassail was used to toast the barren trees and empty fields for luck. Evergreen boughs, a symbol of immortality, were brought inside the home for luck and benevolent nature spirits were invited in as well. At the peak of the celebration, the ceremonial Yule log was dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace, where it would burn for 12 days.
Our ceremony tonight is about remembering the key elements to this great celebration, starting with mistletoe.
We cannot discuss Yule without mistletoe. Our Celtic ancestors revered all evergreen plants mainly because while other trees were seemingly dying and giving up their leaves, the evergreens remained green and healthy. Mistletoe, Holly, and various pine trees were celebrated in the winter months due to the contrast they made with the barren landscape of winter. One tradition of Yule was to bring these evergreens into the home. It was a form of sympathetic magick in which those who practiced it, believed they could somehow harness the life force of the evergreens to enrich themselves. Throughout time, this practice evolved and is now the basis for most decorating themes.
Ancient Druid priests held the mistletoe plant in the highest regard. Immediately following the Winter Solstice, the Druids would venture deep into places in the forest, only known to them, to gather mistletoe in a special ceremony that lasted for five days. They would harvest mistletoe from sacred Oak trees using a gold sickle. They would then bring the cuttings back to the villages and distribute sprigs of mistletoe to each household to protect them from evil.
Our ancestors also believed in the healing powers of mistletoe (the word “mistletoe” translate to “all heal” in the ancient language). It’s primary use was to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck, heal the sick, and as an antidote for certain types of poison. It’s still used today, medicinally, in some European countries.
So to continue in the ancient traditions, we’ll distribute a sprig of mistletoe to each person. Take it home and proudly place it in your house to ward off evil in the coming year.
<ritual leader should distribute sprigs of mistletoe>
The Eternal Flame
Throughout history, the Yule log has come to mean different things to different organizations and religions. It’s origins are Celtic and quite humble. We’ll learn more shortly as we consecrate and set our Yule log alight, later in the ritual. But first we should revisit the importance of fire in the old world.
One of the most enduring concepts of the ancient world is the importance of fire, and as we stand here in the middle of our winter, it’s not a hard concept to grasp. Without fire, the chances for survival in cold climates were slim to none. The hearth fire was kept burning constantly to ensure the home had heat, light, and a way to cook food. Each year on Beltane, hearth fires were extinguished and later re-lit using a “new” flame generated from a friction device. All fires were lit from the single new flame and the great cycle would continue.
A similar concept occurs with the Yule log, where the current year’s log is lit using the remains of the previous year’s log. A symbolic eternal flame is passed down each year through this ritual. All the energy from the last celebration is infused into this celebration, just as it was the year before and every year before that.
We’d like to offer each person the opportunity to take some of this wonderful energy home with them tonight. We’ll pass out candles now – hold them for later.
<ritual leader should distribute candles to everyone>
Consecration of the Yule Log
In ancient times, the Yule log was actually a whole tree. It was meant to be burned for 12 days in the hearth. The process began with one end being consecrated with wine, then lit with the remnants of the year before’s log, before being pushed partially into the fireplace. As the days passed, more of the tree would be pushed into the flames. The reason for this lengthy process was because the Celts believed the sun stood still during the winter solstice. It was believed that by keeping the Yule log burning for 12 consecutive days, it encouraged the sun to move, which by default would make the days longer. Letting the Yule log burn out would bring bad luck on the family, so it was monitored closely.
A few other worthy pieces of information about the Yule log. It cannot be sold nor purchased; it can be gifted or cut from your own land, just as long as no barter or money changes hands. Our log has been burned for many Yule rituals and it carries all the energies of every ritual held in this circle with it.
And so we offer libations to the Sun God so that the days may grow long, the weather mild, and that prosperity shall blanket the lands and people who reside upon it. As we once again consecrate this sacred wood, we also pledge to focus our energies to endure, accomplish, and manifest our desires and tasks during the coming year.
<Raise the cup in toast to the gathering and then pour the cup’s contents over the Yule log>
“Praises to the Sun God being reborn, praises to the growing light, the longer days, the warming nights, and those who gather on this night to celebrate Yule 2019. So Mote it Be!”
<Carefully place the Yule Log into the fire>
We watch as the joy of past Yule celebrations have become part of our Yule 2019 celebration with the passing of the eternal flame. Please approach the fire and carefully light your candle. <allow time for lighting> Let it burn and then extinguish it. Take it home and light your own Yule log with it, or keep it until next year for the same purpose.
Cakes & Ale
<depending on the weather, you may wish to share food, drinks, or just socialize around the fire – spend as much time as you’d like, but remember to honor the sacred circle and it’s boundaries>
Closing the Yule 2019 Circle
Power of Earth, we thank you for attending this great Yule celebration – leave us with the wisdom of cultivation, the understanding of conservation, and the foresight to preserve the lands for future generations <extinguish green candle>
Power of Water, we thank you for attending this great Yule celebration – fill us with the energies of the never-ending tides so that we may fulfill our duties and destinies <extinguish blue candle>
Power of Fire, we thank you for your presence in this Yule circle – our lessons have taught us that without fire, life would be hard. We thank you for the warmth, the light, and the great power of the eternal flame <extinguish red candle>
Power of Air, we thank you for being part of our Yule celebration – invisible and yet powerful currents are always there to remind us that strength can be found in unexpected places and even though we cannot understand the many mysteries of life, we should have no fear <extinguish yellow candle>
We offer our thanks to the Goddess in all her forms on this Yule night; the youthful Maiden, the fertile Mother, and the wise Crone – Live within each of us throughout the coming year <extinguish Goddess candle>
“This circle is now open”