It's that time of year again, my Pagan pals (and apparently some Atheists as well). Tomorrow morning winter will officially begin. Yule, or the Winter Solstice, has been celebrated in different cultures in different ways for thousands of years. It is the shortest day of the year and in many old cultures it was also the last day of the year or it was close to the New Year (with the exception of the Celtic Pagans who saw Samhain as the New Year) so many of the customs and the rituals surrounding this holiday reflect both an honoring of the sun and its 'return' to earth and the hopes and plans for the upcoming new year.
Since last Yule everything I've posted concerning the Sabbats has been things that I found online. However, for the next turn of the wheel I will be posting information I personally use from books like The Sabbats by Edain McCoy and Book of Shadows by Silver Ravenwolf. The information I give is only a starting point. As Pagans we all have different traditions that we follow, different correspondences that appeal to us, etc. And as a solitary witch I approach the Sabbats in that way as opposed to looking at it from a group perspective as someone in a coven would. Plus, I don't want to post this stuff for Pagans only. I want anyone who is curious to come here and read in plain English about what we do if they want to. Let's face it. As we all know, our rituals got a bad rep long long ago and unfortunately there are still people out there who think that tomorrow witches all over the world will gather in our black hooded cloaks to sacrifice children to demonic forces. If I can make just one person realize that we're not into that sort of thing, that will make me a truly happy witch.
The mythology surrounding the Winter Solstice today usually centers around the Goddess giving birth to the God. This is directly related to the sun's power again waxing and the days slowly growing longer as the sun is the symbol of the God the way that the moon is the symbol of the Goddess. So this day (and night) usually represents the rebirth of the God, the return of the waxing portion of the year, the New Year for non-Celtic traditions or solitaries who walk a Celtic path, and it is used to honor the triple Goddess. This is a time for meditation and introspection. Many Gods and Goddesses have been associated with this solstice through time but common deities worshiped on this date are all reborn Gods and all spinning Goddesses as the sun is reborn and the wheel of the year turns once more.
The color correspondents for this day are usually red, green, white, and gold. I have heard that red comes from the color of berries on plants like holly that live through the winter; green is associated with the few trees and bushes that did not 'die' in the winter months as they symbolized the promise of rebirth; white is associated with snow and gold with the sun. But I am sure there may be variations on the significance of these colors and what they stood for. Symbols of Yule are holly, evergreen trees, the Yule log, and wreaths. Food associated with Yule are poultry, dried fruit, egg nog, pork, and beans. And cookies of course. Plants of this Sabbat include bay, pine, ginger, Valerian, myrrh, and poinsettia.
*The ritual I am about to give you is taken from The Sabbats by Edain McCoy with a portion slipped in there from Silver Ravenwolf's Book of Shadows. I'll mark Silver's part to distinguish between the two. In addition to that, I want to clarify that the Goddess is referred to as a Virgin in this ritual in keeping with the original definition of a Virgin, a woman whole unto herself. This word is not used to indicate whether or not the Goddess has had sex. We do have our beloved Beltaine after all.... ;)
A Yule Ritual:
For this ritual you will need a bowl of salt water placed on your altar. Holly and mistletoe are also suggested. Place the holly on your altar and have the mistletoe ready but not visible. Artificial herbs are fine. A Yule log may also be added but it is optional. If you do add a Yule log, put three candles (one red, one white, and one black) in it.
Cast your circle, call your quarters, and invite your deities.
(The following invocation is from Silver Ravenwolf's Book of Shadows)
Stand before your altar and say:
Morning light will flood the chamber, winter solstice sun. Energy unfolding, Saturn's rule has just begun. Crystals formed of ice and frost freeze field and forest green while mighty Oak and Holly fight for favors from our Queen. The great wheel brings conception, birth and death as days of yore. Each bonfire on a leyline honors what has gone before. Seven planets, seven spheres, seven gates swing open. I lift my arms and call the charge, the incantation spoken! I conjure winter spirits, pour forth the sacred winds. Come hither, oh great fire! The magick now begins! Solar vapors, stormy heavens, clouds of earth and waves unite in your perfection on this, the shortest Solstice day! I hold the key of secrets and the phantoms will avail. The crossroads shimmer open as the rod connects to grail. Seven planets, seven spheres, seven gates swing open. I lift my arms and call the charge, the incantation spoken! Yule logs burning, each spark a blessing brings. Red and green, the sacred blood of past and future kings. Mistletoe and bayberry, winter leaves and resin, spice and myrrh and evergreen connect the earth to heaven. Through scented smoke and sacred prayer I manifest goodwill. Bring peace and joy to everyone and every wish fulfill. Seven planets, seven spheres, seven gates swing open. I lift my arms and call the charge, the incantation spoken.
(The rest is from Edain McCoy)
Blessed be the season of Yule. Blessed be the young Virgin Goddess who gives to her people tonight a newborn God. Blessed be the newborn God.
If you are of a non-Celtic tradition you should next take your athame and walk to the center of your circle saying: Farewell old year. Farewell to the Holly King! Make the sign of the banishing pentagram. Next, say: Welcome New Year! Welcome the Oak King! Make the sign of the invoking pentagram. When you are finished replace your athame on your altar.
Remove the holly from the altar and place it out of sight. Place the mistletoe, the symbol of the Oak King, on top of your altar in a place of honor. Say:
Blessed be the King of the Waxing Year. I pray you will guide your children safely through to the season of warmth and light.
Take the Goddess candle in your left hand and the God candle in your right, saying:
Tonight the Goddess and God are reunited. Tonight life begins anew and light begins anew. Blessed be the one light. Blessed be the divine force of creation.
Move the candle flames together so they are one. Spend a moment reflecting on its meaning and then replace the candles side by side on the altar.
Next, light the Yule log if you have one. Begin at the white candle saying: Blessed be the Virgin, innocent and fresh. Light the white candle. At the red candle say: Blessed be the Mother, fertile and loving. Light the red candle. At the black candle say: Blessed be the Crone, powerful and wise. Light the black candle. Say: Blessed be the Triple Goddess.
Go to the salt water and place your fingertips in it. Anoint your feet, belly, and head. This is the blessing of the triple Goddess. The Virgin is at the feet, the Mother at the belly, and the Crone at the head. You can repeat the words of the lighting of the Yule log at each point. Think about the gifts you want to give this season and what you want from the new year. When you are finished, close your circle.
The circle is open but never broken. Blessed Be!
So there you have the combination I will be using tomorrow in my ritual. I'm also finally starting a tradition I have wanted to start for years. You see, I am quite outnumbered in my house and in my family. I am the only practicing witch. Christmas is the day that my family gets together to exchange gifts and have family time and since I like seeing Christmas as a day set aside for this purpose I have no complaints. However, I have always wanted to give those I love one special gift on my holy day and this year I will finally do that...with my little sister anyway. She is 16 and she doesn't really care why she is getting a present 4 days early, only that she's getting one. It's a win win for both of us. This year is a year to start some new traditions and honor the old ones for me. No matter how you are celebrating it, Blessed Yule! I hope your day is full of mirth and light. :)