Human Resources | News Article

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Spiritual Health: A look at the Winter Solstice - Yule Lore

In this holiday season, we remember some of the Holy days of our neighbors and friends and learn about the beauty of diversity in this Season of Light. This message comes through our Mountain States Center for Diversity.


The date of this sabbat, or seasonal festival, varies from Dec. 20 to Dec. 23, depending on the year in the Gregorian calendar. The winter solstice is celebrated at this time in the northern hemisphere but it is now time to celebrate the summer solstice (Litha) in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.

Yule (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun’s “rebirth” was celebrated with much joy. On this night, our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth. From this day forward, the days would become longer.

Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun. The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not “die” thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Divine). The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Spirits would come and join the celebration. A sprig of holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to visit the residents. Mistletoe was also hung as decoration. It represented the seed of the Divine, and at Midwinter, the Druids would travel deep into the forest to harvest it.

The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder’s land, or given as a gift. ... It must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze by a piece of last year’s log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.

A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners, would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine and flatten one side so it sits upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green and white (season), green, gold and black (the Sun God), or white, red and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds and cloves, and dust with flour.

Many customs created around Yule are identified with Christmas today. If you decorate your home with a Yule tree, holly or candles, you are following some of these old traditions. The Yule log (usually made from a piece of wood saved from the previous year) is burned in the fire to symbolize the Newborn Sun/Son.


Pat Griggs is a community member of the Center for Spiritual Health Diversity Council and a member of the Center for Spiritual Health Professional Advisory Group. Visit Mountain States' Center for Spiritual Health on the intranet on the left side under "Departments" and then "Spiritual Health."