Yule 2022 Ritual
December 21st, 2022, 2:48 PM, MST, the Winter Solstice officially welcomes Winter to the land. The shortest day of the year and it’s longest night with just a sliver of light from the waning crescent moon, plus a good chance of snow. It could be one of the darkest 24 hour periods in decades. And despite the darkness, there will be joy and celebrating across the land. For everyone knows that from this day hence, the days will start getting longer. Even though the next three months will be cold and snowy, on this night, no one will speak of such things. Tonight will be a time of endings and beginnings.
The Winter Solstice has been celebrated by ancestors from many ancient races. The celebration of Yule, which is celebrated on the solstice, has it’s roots from a Germanic/Norse Pagan Midwinter celebration. Jól (Jul) originally was a celebration of the wild hunt, and to honor the God Odin. As time passed, Christianity spread across northern Europe. To convince pagans to convert, the church adopted many of the ancient celebrations. Most modern-day holidays originate in pagan practices. Jól became Yule which became the origin of Christmas. Many of the ancient elements of Yule still remain, including the tree, yule log, visiting your neighbors to sing (caroling) and many more.
Tonight we gather to spend time with one another in fellowship and friendship. Hope springs eternal and the sun will return.
Yule Ritual Preparations (as written)
This ritual should be preformed 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 (Consecrated as the host chooses)
Decorate the altar with winter greens (pine, holly, mistletoe, etc.)
Small White taper candles; one for each person (optional: cut cardboard circles with a small hole through them, push candle through for a ‘drip catcher’)
Food and Drinks if you choose to celebrate around the circle fire
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 for 2022
Brothers and sisters, I bid ye gather ‘round, for tonight we stand on sacred ground. Together on this longest night, with open hearts and knowing sight, we gather round to share our love, with friend, stranger, kin, and blood. I conjure now our sacred space!
The Winter Solstice – Calling the Quarters
On this longest of nights, we open our yule ritual by turning eastward, the direction of Air. A great hope fills our hearts, for tomorrow the sun shall rise and stay in the sky just a little bit longer, eventually bringing long days and the great annual warming. Tonight we celebrate the ending of the dark half of year with great revelry and joy. We respectfully seek the company of the Air spirits, to comfort us and protect us as we let our guard down to celebrate. <light yellow candle>
And with the thought of warmth so great on our minds, turn southward, towards the direction of fire. As we long for warmer days ahead, our thoughts drift to the midday sun, hanging peacefully in the air. Soon that great change will be upon us, but not yet. Tonight we shall call upon the great spirits of Fire to keep this gathering a place of warmth and comfort. <light red candle>
The snow and ice has just begun to gather in the fields and glens. As the great wheel turns, so we now turn westward, the direction of Water. Our beautiful frozen landscape reminds us that wherever we go, Water shall be our companion; whether from a rushing stream, melted snow, or the mist from our breath. The great spirits of Water have shown us the way, and we shall always be thankful. <light blue candle>
The hard ground and naked branches remind us that our Great Mother is dormant. Turn northward with me to the direction of Earth. Celebrate the cycle of life and death, of endings and beginnings, for that is how the world has always been. The great spirits of Earth are resting, but also preparing, for as time passes so quickly, soon the great thaw will come and the rich soil will once again call us to the fields. <light green candle>
Great Goddess, Great Mother, Wise Woman, Mother Earth. We call upon you, not to make demands, but to offer our sincere appreciation for the many blessings we have received throughout the year. Too often, we forget the small things, and fail to give thanks. But tonight, we shall remember and offer thanks for the land, the animals, the trees, and the plants. We are humbled by the protection, the care, the compassion, and the love. Our hearts are warmed by the sun, the moon, and the great star fields above. For our children, lovers, friends, and those who have not yet crossed our path. We can only offer our continued prayers for all that has been provided. Our thanks is infinite! <Light Goddess Candle>
The winter solstice is upon us. The night is long and the atmosphere festive. We begin our Yule ritual as we do every ritual, by raising our collective energy. For that, we turn to music! Our ancestors would sing, chant, play flutes and drums to get the crowd engaged before the start of every celebration. For our Yule celebration, in honor of the Yule’s Germanic/Norse roots, our featured song comes from Wardruna, called Solringen (First Flight of the White Raven).
A Yule for Everyone
History tells us that Yule was celebrated differently across northern Europe and Scandinavia. For some cultures, the celebration was for many days, some say that the notion of the twelve days of Christmas originate with these long celebrations. It was certainly a time to celebrate the hunt with many of those groups. Sacrifices were made to the Gods and the meat and copious amounts of mead were consumed throughout. Gift exchange was another element that has its origins in these celebrations based, but nowhere on the scale we see today. Some believe that this was also a time of year to celebrate their dead ancestors.
Each year, many weeks before the winter solstice, the men and their sons would travel into the forest and return home with a long thick log. Mead, wine, herbs, and other dressings would be poured over the log. Then, for as long as it took, usually several weeks, this log would be slowly pushed into the fire, until nothing remained except a small end piece. Some believe that this action was a symbolic way of ‘helping the sun to return with the light.” This tradition would eventually be known as burning the Yule log.
All pagan celebrations have their differences, but most usually had a regional or local flavor, which stayed put. Yule and its traditions spread to the Celts in Britain and the Gaelic tribes throughout Europe. This was seen as unique. Crossing regions was one thing, but crossing cultures was something else. The God might have changed, but the celebrations, which included sacrifices, drinking, feasting, and cleansing rituals, grew and became more specific over time by the adopted culture. And that growth continued across most of the western world. Yule or the modern name, Christmas, is universal, and speaks to everyone.
Lighting the Yule Log
As time passed, the Yule log became ingrained in dozens of cultures. Prior to burning, logs were decorated, blessed, and doused in libations, herbs and magic. Each year, we continue that tradition, in our own way, but respecting the traditions of the ancestors. But before we do, there are a few important things to know about a Yule log. Make sure your children are close, so they can learn and remember.
A Yule log should be considered sacred. One can be harvested on your own land or received as a gift, as long as no money or barter is exchanged. Yule logs cannot be purchased. One tradition was to burn the Yule log continuously for 12 nights, so you can imagine the size of them. The type of wood was up to the individual family. Some were chosen for their spiritual properties, such as wisdom of the oak. As the log slowly burned down, it would be pushed into the further into the fire. It was considered bad luck to allow it to burn out. On the last day, the fire was put out, and the unburnt end of the Yule log would be tucked safely under the bed, until the following year, when it would be used to start the new Yule log on fire, thus continuing the never-ending cycle.
<If you have the end from last year’s Yule log, hold it high above your head and make sure it’s seen by all. Using a torch (but not the fire pit), light the end piece – If not, find a suitable small branch or piece of wood to substitute>
“In remembrance of the ancient traditions of our ancestors, we light this year’s Yule log. May it provide us with light on this winter solstice, the longest night of the year. As it burns, we shall feel its warmth and embrace in the fact that from this night hence, the days will grow longer, the light will return, and hope shall be our reward”
<Light the Yule log>
Honoring the Winter Solstice – Return of the Light
<Ritual leader should distribute candles to all participants>
The long night of the Winter Solstice was anticipated, as it ushered in the light. Whether Yule was a celebration of the light has been debated for decades. The Norse were not sun-worshippers, but with no records of the ancient Germanic practice, it’s tough to say. As Yule spread, the Celts embraced the holiday as it provided an anchor for their Holly King and Oak King duality. Most students of ancient pagan practices believe the Celtic influence helped add this belief to the original interpretation. Modern day pagans celebrate the return of the sun with a short, sharing the light ceremony.
On our alter burns a candle; white as the new fallen snow. This flame is like a single ray of sunlight; the first ray of the new day tomorrow. Tonight we become one with the light. We embrace it and share it with not just a few people, but with everyone. For the light is something that cannot be hidden or controlled by anyone. As you pass the flame to the next person, say this:
I share this light as I share my hope!
As you receive the light, say this:
I receive this light and speed it’s journey!
<The ritual leader should light their taper candle from the Goddess candle and then light the next persons candle with theirs. That person to the next and so on. The last person can pass the light back to the ritual leader, symbolically closing a circle of light.>
Now focus on the light each of you now hold. You hold a tiny piece of the coming sun, and the new hope. Contemplate the coming year; beginnings and endings, openings and closure. Make a pledge to yourself to become one with this light and embrace all that it symbolizes.
<Have everyone recite this prayer together>
Hope does too
Light breaks through
Some things change
<now 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.
<remind everyone to take their candle home with them as a reminder of this night and the return of the light>
Feasting and Drinking
<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
The night grows cold and the time has come to end this Winter Solstice celebration. We start in the North, where the great spirits of Earth are taking their leave. The ground awaits for the morning sun, a new beginning and a new hope. <extinguish green candle>
Now look to the West. The presence of the great spirits of Water shall not leave this place completely. For the ground is all white and the flakes keep falling. Winter has begun and there are many long months ahead. As we depart, remember that winter is a time of self-growth and learning. <extinguish blue candle>
And now South, we shall turn. The long night continues, but our part has passed. As we depart, the lessons of Fire are upon the cusp of our thinking. For we long for the light and warmer days ahead and tomorrow, the quest begins. <extinguish red candle>
Finally, look to the East, for as we opened this yule ritual with the powerful spirits of Air at our faces, so then shall we close it the same. All eyes shall be upon the horizon as the sun breaks forth across it. The magnificent light and the hope that accompanies it, our within our grasp. <extinguish yellow candle>
Great Goddess, we are not worthy of such wonderous love and abundance. Our gratitude is endless. Protect each and all as the snow piles high and the winds do howl. We ask for blessings in this coming year. <extinguish Goddess Candle>
The Yule Circle is now open!
If you’d like to browse other Full Moon Rituals available, check out the Rites & Rituals Archives on The Gypsy Thread.