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YULE, THE WINTER SOLSTICE & THE WILD HUNT

"The point of power is always in the present moment." Louise Hay

In the north when biting winter winds blow and bare branches rattle like bones, it was thought wise to remain inside at night, especially during the twelve days of Yule. During this gloomy time when the Sun appears to stand still, it was believed that to keep the yule log burning would persuade the Sun to move again and make the days grow longer. The first day of Yule always occurs on the Winter Solstice, and is the beginning of our coldest season. To many European tribes these first twelve days of winter were when the spectral 'Wild Hunt' was most likely to race across the night sky. Ancient customs mark this as the time of the opening of the Underworld's gates, when measures of protection were required for everyone, but especially for the young and the sick. Mistletoe has long been considered a magical plant for its medicinal as well as spiritual properties. To the Celts it was highly esteemed because it grew on the sacred Oaks, offering one protection and enhancing fertility.

In the Germanic tradition it is the Nordic god Odin, also known as Wotan, who leads the Wild Hunt on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, followed by the Valkyries and the ghosts of dead heroes riding their horses with black hounds baying at their feet and hunting horns blowing. If an unlucky traveler happened to be caught outside at this time he/she would be judged on their purity of heart, ability to respect others' perhaps disturbing views (symbolized by Odin and the Hunt), their courage and sense of humor. If he/she passed judgment, they could go home with their shoes full of gold or be given food and drink, but if they were not so lucky they were doomed to a frightening nocturnal journey that may claim their life. Children used to leave their boots or socks out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar for Sleipnir; in return, Odin/Wotan would leave them a gift. In Christian times the figure of Saint Nicholas was superimposed upon Odin, and the kindly, gift-bearing Santa Claus/Father Christmas escorted by reindeer was born.

This solstice is the birth of the winter season and as such astrologers use these cardinal points of the year for forecasting, with this solstice carrying many dynamic energies already being felt. The security orientated Capricorn Sun is in union with expansive Jupiter and thoughtful Mercury, while Mars, the planet that energizes us, faces them from across the zodiac in domestically oriented Cancer. This certainly provides impetus to stabilize the housing industry, while on a personal level we will want to put energy into family and household well-being. The creation of a Yule Log, using the following directions and representing that with which you choose to light your consciousness, is a wonderful way to set the tone for the coming year.

If you would like to know how these energies are specifically influencing your life in the year ahead you can contact me at: IngridJeffries@NorthStarAstrology.net.

The Yule Log

Many customs have survived from Pre-Christian times that lend themselves well to our holiday rituals. Among them is the ever-popular Yule Log. Traditionally, it has been of oak, ash or beech, ritually cut (often at Dawn) and ceremonially carried into the house. The head of the family, with much ceremony, festively lit the log. Toasts were made with wine, cider or brandy, and since they were drunk in the early morning hours, gave participants a jolly head start to festivities. A lesser-known tradition is that of the Yule Clog, a knobby block of wood that was burnt in the kitchen hearth. Household servants were entitled to imbibe with their meals for as long as the Clog was kept burning. In many parts of Scandinavia, the object burnt was a fat wax candle, instead of a log. The candle was lit at Dawn and must burn until Midnight, or be considered an ill omen.

Yule Log Magic

The Yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun. The Yule log can be made of any wood. Each releases its own kind of magic.

  • Aspen: invokes understanding of the grand design.
  • Birch: signifies new beginnings.
  • Holly: inspires visions and reveals past lives.
  • Oak: brings healing, strength, and wisdom.
  • Pine: signifies prosperity and growth.
  • Willow: invokes the Goddess to achieve desires.

On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log or on a candle to be placed on the log in its decorated state or write them on a piece of paper that you also add as a decoration. You can decorate the log with greenery, flowers, ribbons and herbs for beauty and magical intent. Some choices might be:

  • Basil-prosperity and harmony
  • Carnations-protection, courage, strength, healing, increases magical power, vitality
  • Cedar-wealth, protection, purification, healing, promotes spirituality
  • Holly-dreams, protection
  • Juniper-Exorcism, protection, healing, love
  • Mistletoe-a catalyst, fertility, health, success, protection, banishing evil
  • Pine-healing, wealth, protection, purification, exorcism, fertility, wealth
  • Rosemary-health, love, protection, exorcism, purification, increase intellectual powers, peace, blessing, consecration, very powerful for cleansing and purifying
  • Roses-love, courage, luck, health, protection, beauty

Ribbons can be used according to their color for magical correspondences.

Rather than making your own candles, to save time use store bought candles and decorate by carving symbols, coloring with crayons or paint, pressing flowers and herbs onto the candle with wax or glue or paste pictures onto it. Before decorating with greenery, flowers or pictures, dip your candle into hot water just long enough to soften the wax. Place dry materials on the candle in a pleasing pattern, and gently press into the wax. Then do a quick dip into liquid wax to seal it all together.

To scent your log:

Explore fragrances by using incense, herbs and resins sealed into the wax; you could use the above process or make the candles with the herbs and resins included in the hot liquid (experiment before you commit yourself to a big project... if the herb pieces are too large, they'll act like wicks and create a bonfire, and resins sometimes spit when hot). You could also add pure essential oils to the outside of the finished candle or the log's greenery or ribbons, or to the liquid wax as the candle burns. I like to do the last one-especially if you get unscented candles-try it in a bunch of little tea lights.

For magical work:

Bind your spells or prayers with cotton thread wrapped and knotted around a candle. The usual way is to knot the intention(think of a specific prayer or plea as you tie each knot) so that with each one burned, the energy is freed to do its work; this is especially useful for healing and protection work. Choose appropriate colors for both candle and thread.

Remember that whatever you create has a life force to it. Fire orientated creations are prone to seizing upon flammable objects and creatures within their reach. They should never be left unattended unless in a totally secure environment (like a fireplace or an empty bathtub for overnight). Be safe.

THE MAGICK OF COLOR - An Informative Article by Karen Charboneau-Harrison