The Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. On Thursday, December 21, 2023 at 8:27 pm (MST) we gather together in the cold, to celebrate Yule. On this, the longest night of the year, there will be celebrations, gatherings, and joy, across the land. All are welcome, as we light the Yule log, and give thanks in the still of the night. In our hearts, we feel a great warmth growing, for come morning, the days will start growing longer and hope will be renewed. The winds and snow will continue for the next three months, perhaps even longer, but the light will offer us comfort and carry us through until spring.
The Winter Solstice, a night celebrating both an ending, and a beginning, is one of the oldest celebrations on earth. The origins of Yule are debated each year, but most historians agree that the roots of this winter solstice ritual reside with the ancient Norse, thousands of year ago. The Norse celebration of Jól (Jul) was a time of merry-making, celebrating a new year, sacrifices to the Gods, especially the God Odin, and feasting. Over the years, Yule has had a prominent place in European, and later all Western history, with many of the traditional elements eventually being incorporated in Christianity. Some of these include the tree, yule log, visiting your neighbors to sing (caroling), and more.
Our Celtic ancestors also contributed to many of the modern day neo-pagan Solstice celebrations and elements of modern day Christmas. The richly detailed tale of the Holly King and the Oak King, personifications of the light half and dark half of the year, are woven into legend as they battle for control of the light, each commanding a six month period. The Druids revered evergreens, Mistletoe and Holly, which are used in most modern celebrations. Additionally, the depiction of the Holly King, in all his glorious regalia, is a possible source for Father Christmas.
Tonight, we are blessed to be together, sharing in good company and feasting. As we celebrate the stillness of this longest night, we remember those who have left this physical world, those new souls who were born this year, and make a joint call for peace across the world.
Yule Ritual Preparations (as written)
This ritual should be performed outside with a generous bonfire and plenty of food, drink, and good company.
What items you’ll need to collect for this ritual (as written)
Quarter Candles (yellow, red, blue, green)
Large White Goddess Candle
Yule Log (The ritual host chooses what to consecrate it with)
Decorate the altar with winter greens (pine, holly, mistletoe, etc.)
Fresh cut evergreen branches, in good quantity
Small White taper candles; one for each person in attendance
Food and Drinks
Any portion of the ritual that is bracketed by <> symbols should be understood as instructional notes and not to be spoken aloud.
Our Yule Ritual Commences
<Using your Wand or Athame, point in each cardinal directions while calling the quarters; ask all participants to turn in the direction, following your lead>
As the blessed light now returns to darkness, I do call and conjure this space of duality, spirituality, knowledge, and empowerment! All are welcome to share the love, energy, and magick of the night!
Calling the Quarters
Tonight, on this glorious night, we start our journey with fresh eyes facing the East. For as we ponder the ways of the great darkness, we certainly must know that come morn, the light of the new day will be our comforting guide. Yet, until then, we are left with the great expanse to tantalize our minds. <light yellow candle>
Now to the South, for on this cold night, we seek the warmth and comfort of the flame. But moreover, we seek the source of the light, the origins of the great mysteries, and the foundations for our principles. True, though we may never find them, the quest will provide us with a wellspring of knowledge and fascination along the way. Knowledge, which shall be the seeds of future generations of humanity. <light red candle>
As we turn to the West, I bid you to think of more than just the elements. For on this great night of celebration, our focus is broad and wonderous. We seek to engage with the physical world, the spiritual world, and the great energy that binds them together. There are those among us who have recently departed their physical form, but have lingered just long enough to pass their last messages before crossing over. <light blue candle>
Now lastly we look to the North, the traditional direction of night. And on this longest of nights, we shall find our gaze persisting in this direction. For stillness gives us nothing more than a unburdened canvas, upon which we have the opportunity to create epics, maps, landscapes, and coded messages to the great beyond. <light green candle>
<Ritual leader should raise their arms high, near the circle center>
Great Goddess, our circle is filled with the wonderous energy of the season. We are on the cusp of both meditation and merriment, two seemingly opposing forces, yet both somehow sharing the same space among us. Ans if one from beyond this circle should approach, we shall open and invite them to join us, for no souls shall be denied the opportunity to become one with those who reside upon the higher planes, nor the open opportunity for community and togetherness. <Light Goddess candle>
Yule has always been a time of celebration. As we make merriment on the longest night of the year, we should do so with a joyful noise within our hearts. Tonight we have two selections, the first a short cover of the Solstice Carole, by Merrigan, and the second is an energetic rendition of The Carol of the Bells, by Dragontor.
Consecration of the Yule Log
In ancient times, our ancestors would burn an entire tree during their Yule celebrations, slowly pushing it into the hearth over a period of 12 days. But before the actual burning, the host would consecrate the log with spices, wine, and other sacred herbs. Then once the log was properly seasoned, the remaining piece of the previous year’s log would be set alight and used to start the current year’s log on fire. One reason for this lengthy process, was that some of our ancestors believed that the sun stood still during the cold of winter, and that by keeping the log burning for a long period, encouraged the sun to restart it’s movement. The process was taken very seriously, and letting the Yule log burn out would certainly bring bad luck on the family in the coming year, so it was monitored closely.
Option #1 – The tradition of bringing last year’s log into the next year is a powerful symbol of tradition and family. This piece I hold now remains from my last Yule celebration, and I share it with all of you. It’s energy is strong. <if you have a prior remnant>
Option #2 – Tonight, we begin our journey by celebrating our first Yule as a community and extended family. We use this evergreen branch as our source of light, for the evergreen symbolizes ever-lasting life and through their strength, gives strength to all things around it. <if this is your first Yule or you do not have a remnant>
And so now, as we prepare to light our Yule log, first we offer libations to the Sun God so that the days may grow long, the weather stay mild, and prosperity shall blanket the lands and people who reside upon it. As we consecrate this sacred wood, we also pledge to focus our energies to endure, accomplish, and manifest our desires and tasks during the coming year.
<At this stage, the ritual leader has the liberty to consecrate the Yule log and say whatever words they wish to say, once the consecration is complete, continue.>
“Praises to the Sun God being reborn, praises to the growing light, the longer days, and the warming nights! So Mote it Be!”
<Light the remnant or evergreen branch, then use it to light part of the new Yule log, then carefully slide it into the fire>
Pondering the Darkness
On this long night, it’s a worthy and noble endeavor to take time to reflect and ponder the magick of the universe. Not simply to look at the night sky, but to look through it, beyond it, and into the very fabric of it. For we are but tiny specks in this great universe, yet we are capable of so much.
I imagine our ancestors gathered together high upon a windy hill, or amongst the stones of a sacred grove. There, they shared the ancient wisdom of their tribe with the younger members, to put them on the right pathway in life. They would offer prayers and make sacrifices for safety, fortune, and health, but also, they would quest for knowledge. Now, turn towards the North, and surrender your thoughts to the great unknown. Find fortunes and wellsprings of guidance from the great beyond.
<this is a time for meditation, so allow ample silence for as long as necessary>
Sharing of the Greens and Strengthening the Bond
Throughout history, our ancestors across many different cultures saw evergreens as something special. Unlike the other foliage and plants, evergreens continued to hold their color and vibrancy, despite the raging winds, snow, and cold of winter. Because of this, the evergreens developed a magickal reputation of being more powerful than even death itself, so much that they were used in magickal elixirs, and sacred rituals.
During the Yule season, fresh evergreens were lovingly cut and brought into the home for adornment of the hearth and entranceways and windows. The fresh scent and unyielding color helped to lift the spirits of people who were often shut inside during the cold months. They were revered as symbols of life and longevity.
<distribute an ample amount of evergreen items to all>
We surround ourselves with the magick of nature when we honor the evergreens. The earth is our home, the land our source of sustenance. The stone and soil our gateway to all that we need to survive. The energy from the earth grounds us. For the land, we give thanks.
<direct each person to put some greens on the ground and stand upon them>
As we have gazed out into the great expanse, our minds have wandered into bastions of universal knowledge, thought provoking sights, and a renewed sense of optimism. The sky is infinite and breathtaking. For the sky, we give thanks.
<hold greens above your head, then toss a section into the fire>
Our foundation, security, and futures rest with our beliefs. We have cast off the materialism and false hope of the modern world, and put our faith in the old ways, the old customs, and old traditions. Deep in our hearts, we know our truth. We honor the Gods & the Goddesses.
<hold greens to your heart, then toss a section into the fire>
Many footsteps have crossed this land. Fathers, Mothers, Sons, and Daughters lived in harmony with their kin folk. Wisdom was passed through word of mouth, attention to technique, and execution of action. Those people are our people. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten. We honor the ancestors and those who have passed from this plane to the next
<turn to the West and bow slightly, touch the greens to your head, then to your heart, kiss them. then toss a section into the fire>
Tonight, we are all connected. My energy is your energy, and your energy is mine. We are no longer individuals; we are indeed a community. And as a community, we honor one another. Look to the right and to the left. These are your brothers and sisters. Alone we are strong, but as one, we are infinite.
<use the greens to link everyone, like holding hands, but with a piece of evergreen as the link between>
Now, we are all linked – one community, both on this side of the veil and across it – one voice, speaking of truth, love, and togetherness – one energy, from the ground to the moon, and all things in between – one circle, continuous, everlasting, and eternal.
To life, to longevity, to health, and to spiritual growth
Blessings to all
<retain one of those pieces to take home with you as a memory of this night>
Celebrating the Return of the Light
<ritual leader should distribute candles to all the participants>
On this longest night, we are surrounded by darkness. Darkness of the night, but also darkness of much of the world. Wars rage in foreign lands, our streets have become battlegrounds, our schools infiltrated with politics and negativity. Hearts are broken and lives are ruined. Greed, lust, and power are everywhere and the lure to simply surrender and cross over to the darkness is prevalent. And yet, some of us choose to resist. Some of us choose to remain true to our hearts and our convictions, knowing that the darkness is all around us. And in this environment, one might ask the simple question of why we hold out hope for positivity?
<ritual leader should move closer to the Goddess candle>
To answer that one question, we need only look at this simple flame. This single candle casts enough light to cause shadows and change our perception of the things nearest to it. This single flame is a beacon, one that attracts, rather than repels. There is a tiny bit of heat radiating away from the small light, but that heat symbolizes hope. To those of us who have studied the lessons of fire, we understand that a single spark can spread to cover an immense territory. The smallest of lights will eventually attract all forms of life, whether curious or desperately in need of comfort. The light is the answer to all of your questions. Darkness will never offer the comfort, the security, and the attraction of the light.
Our ancestors saw this great lesson in the sun, for the sun was the source of all things good and worthy. The sun meant life, it meant security from the things that lurked in the darkness, and banished all fears of starvation and discomfort. It was the personification of hope. And so tonight, our single light represents that same spark of hope. The return of the sun would be the spark that carried those hearty souls through the rest of winter. A ray of light, a gift of hope.
<Pass the flame from the Goddess candle to all participants>
Now focus on the light in your hand. Own the hope that comes with it. 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 longest night to use this spark of hope to make positive and lasting changes in your life.
<Have everyone repeat each line as the leader speaks them>
The great wheel turns
The seasons change
What winter brought
Now starts to wane
As the Sun returns
Our hope does too
Light breaks through
The land is warmed
The spark of life
Is now restored
Closing our Yule Circle
The stillness persists as the deep cold of night takes hold on the land, indicating that the time has arrived to end of Yule gathering. I bid all you merry people, to turn with me once again to the North, so that we may take one last moment to gaze into the night sky and the great unknown. <extinguish green candle>
Now once again, turn with me to the West, the direction of the ancestors. For though they may have departed the land of the living, we know that they are forever in our hearts, sharing sagely advice from across the veil, and nudging us in the direction we need to go, in order to raise our personal vibration. <extinguish blue candle>
And now we look South once again. The light, the heat, and the warmth of the flame have shown us the way to a greater understanding of how our ancestors celebrated the longest night and the significance of the returning sun. For as we depart, we are not without that sacred spark of hope that will carry us through the remainder of the season of cold and frost. <extinguish red candle>
And now, with great reverence, look to the East. Our thoughts are much clearer on this night of Yule. We have engaged our higher thoughts to see things on the larger scale and touched something that will resonate forever. As we look to the east in morning, the rising sun will hold our gaze, rekindle our thoughts to this moment, and be a cause for a great blessed moment of gratitude. <extinguish yellow candle>
And now we stand prepared to depart, and close this Yule circle. Our praises to the Goddess, for this time of togetherness, this night of contemplation, and the spark of hope that the physical and spiritual light. We look forward to the blessings of a New Year, the opportunity to rise higher and share our light with the world. We and forever in a state of gratitude. Bless us, one and all. Protect us, and guide us. <extinguish Goddess Candle>
The Yule Circle is now open!
Feasting & Sharing Company
<After the circle has closed, invite your guests to remain around the warmth of the fire and share food, drinks, and conversation throughout the night.>
Raise your cups, one and all! Good tidings, good health, and blessings to one and all!
2024 Pagan Calendar with all significant dates included