Wheel of the Year with Panaradia
YULE by Diana Paar
MEANING & INTENTION
Scientifically, the winter solstice marks the longest night of the shortest day of the solar year. When the Sun returns the next morning each day will last a little longer than the one before it, until of course the longest day occurs in June at the summer solstice after which the shift returns to shortening times of sunlight. As the equinoxes mark equal times of day and night for us, the solstices mark the extremes of the turning of the wheel of the year. And with winter we experience the longest of the dark before receiving the blessing of the newborn sun’s return with light, love and promise.
This is one of those times of year that makes devotees of archeo astronomy so happy – the light at Newgrange, the light at Stonehenge, etc. Seeing the Sun itself awakening on solstice morning was an important demarcation for he ancients and is still emotionally satisfying for many of us today. For those of us like myself who view Samhain as the end of the year and the next six weeks a gap time, the moment of winter solstice is the true herald of the new year – which this year occurs on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 5:44 AM EST.
One of the names for the winter solstice is Yule or Yuletide for the holiday season itself. Like many of the terms we use in contemporary paganism, not all of them can be traced back with etymological accuracy. The word “Yule” comes from the northern branch of pre-Christian month names, including but not limited to: Germanic (jeola), Old English (geol) and Norse (jul, jol, joul or joulu) all of whom used the word or its derivations for this month of year – and by extension also for their Rites of Winter.
SOME NEW-PAGAN RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS
- Mother & Child (Modron & Mabion OR Earth Mother & Sun/Son of Light)
- Frau Holle (Mother Goose)
- Odin, All Father (Santa)
- Hen Gwyr – The Harvester (The Old Man at the end of the year)
TRADITIONS & PRACTICES
CELEBRATE THE RETURN OF THE LIGHT
WHAT ARE THE TRADITIONS?
Incorporating the traditions of our childhood. Many neo-pagans in the Pittsburgh area grew up Roman Catholic & therefore have an affinity for candles, incense & (sometimes) liturgy in a foreign language like Latin or Polish. My experience: midnight mass at St Stanislaus church with a procession of little girls in white dresses, tinsel halos on their heads, each holding a lit candle. The Polish Christmas carols we sang along with, even if we didn’t know what the words meant. I kept many of these in my current spiritual practice: a single candle re-lit as a symbol of the returning solar light.
- TREE & Bringing in the Evergreens – the Christmas tree or Yule bush; Living plants – bringing in the pine, cedar & juniper into the house. The sights & smells of the season.
- Mistletoe & Holly
- SANTA Odin – origins of Santa “Yule Father” or Pere Noel
- FEASTING – Cooking: the sacrifice of the mother/nurturer
- GIFTING – tallying up the year for good & bad kids; rewards & punishments; exchanging gifts with loved ones
- Wassailing & Caroling
- Yule Log
- Holly & Ivy
- Red & Green
It’s a special time of year for the folk of western society, regardless of their religious or cultural associations. While Christians celebrate Christmas with advent calendars marking the time until the birth of their savior, we Pagans are bringing in evergreen, mistletoe and holly and lighting a Yule Log or candle in anticipation of the return of the Sun. Our Jewish brothers and sisters light the candles of a Menorah for 8 days and many African Americans recognize Kwanzaa as a way to honor the traditions of their ancestors. As the earth turns and with it our relationship to the Sun as the source of all life, everyone has a right to celebrate the solstice – in any and all ways they feel inclined to do so.