Yule 2020 – The winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year. Throughout history, cultures across the globe have elevated this day into a wonderful celebration occasion. A day when all things are quiet and peace reigns; even if it only lasts a short time. This year we gather under the waxing moon, we must realize that the world has been through a period of great change; so much of a change that it isn’t expected to return to the ‘way it was” ever again. Because of this, it’s more urgent that we rise above the noise of politics, the coronavirus, and the world economy to reach out to our fellow human beings in a show of global unity. Starting tomorrow, the days will slowly lengthen and the frigid grasp of winter will start to release us from its icy grip. As we welcome the return of the sun, we must also welcome and encourage a return to an environment of peace, sharing, love, and understanding. With one voice, we can overcome anything.
Our Yule celebration falls on December 21st, in North America this year. This year’s ritual will be a mix of traditions and welcoming the sun’s return. Fire and light are traditional symbols of Yule and we’ll see why our ancient ancestors placed such value on those icons.
This Yule 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 – Red (South,) Yellow (East,) Green (North,) and Blue (West)
Goddess Candle – Large White Candle (I use a three wick candle for the Goddess)
Small Sturdy Candles for each person
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.
The 2021 Yule Ritual
<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. Form a circle on this on sacred ground. By the light of the fire we consecrate this place. All are equal in this sacred space. Behold! The Yule circle is cast!”
Join Us as We Call the Quarters
Look to the EAST, the direction of AIR, where the winter winds gather strength enough to be felt in every corner of the world. great and mighty winds originate. On this night we seek the guidance to move and change in an inspiring way, as to seek out the energies of both night and day and combine them into a glorious plan of flight into the cosmos. We seek unity and the new beginnings that accompany this upward freedom, and the eventual bonding of all human souls. <light yellow candle>
Look to the SOUTH, the direction of FIRE, where the eternal flames burn with a white-hot intensity; spreading a glorious warmth across the land. As we stand united on this night to celebrate Yule and the return of the sun, we offer our gratitude for the gift that has been bestowed upon each soul gathered. We seek the council of the spirits from across the great divide to prepare us for that day when all humankind shall share one heartbeat. <light red candle>
Look to the WEST, the direction of the WATER, where the mighty rivers spring forth from the land and flow in all directions; filling the lowlands with clean fresh water. Even though the land is frozen, we are reminded that not everything is what it seems as face value. As the days grow longer and the lands warmer, the ice will transform and once again flow in perfect harmony with the landscape. Remind us that a quick judgement can lead to confusion, and that time is the greatest tool for revealing every side of everything. <light blue candle>
Look to the NORTH, the direction of the EARTH spirits, and the great outpouring of life itself. All things that lie dormant, whether in caves, fissures, or hidden beneath thick bark or frozen soil, will soon break forth with life again. Soon the planet will be teeming with rebirth and renewal as it does each spring. Teach us to understand the value of seasonal renewal, not just for our crops and livestock, but also for our inner selves and our spiritual health. <light green candle>
Great Goddess, she who is mother, maiden, and crone alike, Queen of all that is seen and unseen, we humbly ask for your presence in this Yule circle tonight. With outstretched hands, we ask for your insight and advice as we cross from the dark half into the light half of the year. Each heart holds a special place for your eternal light, and each soul a memory of your never ending love, forgiveness, and compassion. <Light Goddess Candle>
Yule is and has always been a time of celebration. As we make merriment on the longest night of the year, we cannot forget those who walked these paths before us and the many blessings we have been afforded this year. Traditionally, we have a message of peace and tranquility during the season, so in support of that great feeling, our musical selection is called Yule Song, by Tor Lundvall. It’s hauntingly beautiful and brings a feeling of quiet contemplative joy.
For those who follow the ways of the old, Yule is celebrated as the dark half of the year is coming to an end. Tomorrow and each day thereafter, the sun will rise a bit earlier and set a bit later, until the waking hours count more than those of the darkness. Humans have celebrated this great shift for more than 12,000 years. Evidence from across the world, found in the many great monuments still standing, point to this day being more significant than most others. We’ll briefly look at some of the traditions found around the world, and how many of those practices are still being honored in our modern world.
The Norse peoples, who inhabited modern-day Sweden, Denmark, and Norway celebrated Yule from the winter solstice through January. The men and their sons would trek deep into the forest and return home with a long thick log, of which one end would be placed in the fire. The burning log would be fed into the fire for as many days as it took until it was nearly burned away; understanding that sometimes this could take several weeks. This log would eventually be known as the Yule log as the tradition spread to the Celts in Britain and the Gaelic European tribes. The celebrations, which included drinking, feasting, and cleansing rituals, grew and became more specific by culture. Yule logs were decorated with pine cones, ivy, and sprigs of holly, and consecrated with wine and salt before being set alight. Each element was significant as part of a greater ritual to usher in a fruitful spring by burning away the remnants of the past. As the log came close to being totally burned, the end was saved and kept safely tucked away for use the following year, when it was used to light the new Yule log. The ashes were spread throughout their fields as protection against evil and misfortune. When Christianity came to Europe in the fourth century, many families continued to celebrate the Yule log tradition inside their own homes, eventually adding the practice into what is called Christmas today.
Lighting the Yule Log
In remembrance of the ancient traditions of our ancestors, we set this consecrated Yule log alight. As it burns, so shall we burn with the heat, warmth, and joy of celebration that the sun has returned!
<set your Yule log alight in the manner you feel is best for your group, being cautious around the fire>
In ancient Ireland, long before our Celtic ancestors made the journey across the channel, there is hard evidence that the winter solstice was celebrated. A surviving historical site at Newgrange dates back to 3700 BCE. This underground cairn appears to have been built specifically to be illuminated by the sun every year at sunrise on the winter solstice. On the morning of the solstice, just before 9 AM, the Newgrange passage is pierced by a shaft of sunlight, through a light box near the entrance. This beam of light illuminates a stone basin at the end of the passage and a series of intricate spiral carvings in the rock. For five consecutive days, this chamber is brilliantly lit for around 17 minutes each morning. This is likely the basis for the extended celebration of Yule in ancient cultures. This site appears to be built specifically for this reason alone, which demonstrates the importance of the solstice and the return of the sun.
Welcoming the Sun
<Distribute candles to all participants>
Although the sun will have set long before our ritual, we can still honor the ancient traditions of our forbearers.
Gather close around the Goddess Candle and focus on the light. We are surrounded by the darkness of the night, the darkness of the world, and the weight of the frigid air is heavy upon our beings. And yet this small flame casts enough light to cause shadows and change our perception of the things nearest to it. This single flame is a beacon, much like a single ray of sunlight. Allow yourselves to be free of all outside thought and only focus on the dancing light. Put forth your hands and feel the small amount of heat that radiates from the flame. Travel back to the days long since past, when your ancestors stood strong in face of the elements, often without the surety that they would live to see the next spring. This single light was the equivalent to the spark of hope that first ray of the retuning sun gave them.
That vision would be etched in the mind of each person and it would be the spark that carried them through the rest of winter. I encourage each of you to step forward and engage with the Goddess and the power of the ancestors by lighting your candle, thus taking a ray hope into your own hands.
<allow each participant to light their candles from the Goddess candle>
Focus on the light each of you now hold. Visualize what your intentions are for the light half of the year and how you will accomplish them. Contemplate what changes you want to make in the coming year and the people you will interact with. Make a pledge to yourself on this night to use this spark of hope to make positive and lasting changes in your life.
<Have everyone say this prayer together>
The great wheel turns
The seasons change
What winter brought
Now starts to wane
As the Sun returns
Our hope does too
As light breaks through
The land is warmed
The spark of life
Is now restored
<ask the group to slowly back away from the center until they are on the edges of the sacred circle>
As the Great Wheel turns, and the sun returns, realize that each of you are your own ray of light. You bring your own sunshine to your life through your positivity, your gratitude, and your love for one another as members of the human race.
Blessed Be !
Cakes & Ale
<depending on the weather, you may wish to share food, drinks, or just socialize around your fire – spend as much time as you’d like, but remember to honor the sacred circle and it’s boundaries – once everyone has had their fill, proceed to the next step and close your circle>
Closing our Yule Circle
Spirits of Earth, as we contemplate the significance of the changing seasons, many minds are deep in thought about the months ahead when plowing, planting, and foraging will commence. As we come to an end of this ritual, we thank you for your presence and ask for guidance in our earthly activities. <extinguish green candle>
Spirits of Water, as we prepare to disperse and each family journey back to their homes, we must pause to offer thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us by water. Without it, we are nothing, but with it, we can change the world. We offer our humble praises and thanks for providing us with that which makes us grow and teaches the great lesson of transformation and renewal. <extinguish blue candle>
Spirits of Fire, as those gathered watch the embers of our great Yule fire and gather the ashes to spread, we feel a sense of hope. Just as our ancestors, we have engaged in a welcoming ritual for the great and powerful sun to return and once again bathe the lands in light and warmth. We thank you for your presence in this circle and in our lives. <extinguish red candle>
Spirits of Air, we thank you for being part of our solstice celebration and marvel at your invisible and yet powerful currents. Even though we may not have true understanding of why and how the winds blow, we are quite certain that they are always there to remind us that strength can be found in unexpected places. <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, but never broken.”
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