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Posts Tagged ‘yule’

I’ve long thought about writing up the holidays that I celebrate, as an Anglo-Saxon pagan druid with a strong English folk bent. So here you go – the wheel of the year, with the names I call each holiday and what I do primarily to celebrate each one.

  • Yule – greenery, lights, candles, and 12 days of preparation to begin the new year
  • Candlemas – the celebration of the returning light. Buying and preparing candles, cleaning oil lamps, blessing the home with light.
  • Eostara – the celebration of the dawn, the radiant dawn maiden Eostre, and the balancing towards the growing light of the year. Sometimes just “Spring Equinox”
  • May Day – For summer is a comin’ in and winter’s gone away-oh. Celebration of summer, and also of the first harvests of vegetables in Texas, planted back in February.
  • Midsummer – bonfires, grilling, burned herbs for protection, and protection against hurricanes and tropical storms. Purification by fire, dawn and sunset rituals.
  • Lammas – John Barleycorn, the sacrifice of Ing, the first grain harvest. Loaves baked and sacrificed for the blessings of the harvest for the whole season. Sacrifice – personal and as a group – made to ensure the prosperity of the group.
  • Harvest Home – very much a mini-Thanksgiving, this is the height of the harvest, and the middle of the second growing season in Texas. Naming a harvest queen, drawing her around in a wagon to bless the town. The “holy month” of the harvest.
  • Hallows – Ancestor’s night, the welcoming in of winter, the blood harvest and final sacrifice. Celebration of prosperity (hopefully) and of a year well spent. Entering into a liminal time between Hallows and Yule in preparation for beginning the cycle again.

I should note that a lot of this calendar is UPG and modern Neopaganism derived, just with an English-folk flavor to it. It works for me, and makes me feel connected to the ancestors of spirit from whom I draw my practice.

I also observe the Anglo-Saxon Lunar Months, which begin on the new moon – the true new moon, not the dark moon (so 2-3 days after the actual “dark moon”, when the first crescent is visible in the sky). You can find out when those dates are here.

This lunar calendar is given to us by Bede, so your mileage may vary as to how accurate it is, but I find it meshes well with the 8 holidays I celebrate above:

January, Bede explained, corresponds to an Anglo-Saxon month known as Æftera Geola, or “After Yule”—the month, quite literally, after Christmas.

February was Sōlmōnath, a name that apparently derived from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; according to Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest. The connection between Old English mud and Bede’s “month of cakes” has long confused scholars of Old English, with some claiming that Bede could even have gotten the name wrong—but it’s plausible that the name Sōlmōnath might have referred to the cakes’ sandy, gritty texture.

March was Hrēðmonath to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, and was named in honor of a little-known pagan fertility goddess named Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern dialects of English, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century.

April corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Eostremonath, which took its name from another mysterious pagan deity named Eostre. She is thought to have been a goddess of the dawn who was honored with a festival around the time of the spring equinox, which, according to some accounts, eventually morphed into our festival of Easter. Oddly, no account of Eostre is recorded anywhere else outside of Bede’s writings, casting some doubt on the reliability of his account—but as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one.”

May was Thrimilce, or “the month of three milkings,” when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day.

June and July were together known as Liða, an Old English word meaning “mild” or “gentle,” which referred to the period of warm, seasonable weather either side of Midsummer. To differentiate between the two, June was sometimes known as Ærraliða, or “before-mild,” and July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;” in some years a “leap month” was added to the calendar at the height of the summer, which was Thriliða, or the “third-mild.”

August was Weodmonath or the “plant month.”

After that came September, or Hāligmonath, meaning “holy month,” when celebrations and religious festivals would be held to celebrate a successful summer’s crop.
October was Winterfylleth, or the “winter full moon,” because, as Bede explained, winter was said to begin on the first full moon in October.

November was Blōtmonath, or “the month of blood sacrifices.” No one is quite sure what the purpose of this late autumnal sacrifice would have been, but it’s likely that any older or infirm livestock that seemed unlikely to see out bad weather ahead would be killed both as a stockpile of food, and as an offering for a safe and mild winter.

And December, finally, was Ærra Geola or the month “before Yule,” after which Æftera Geola would come round again.

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One of my favorite blogs is the one written by Hecate Demetersdatter. She’s a grandmother (a Nonna) and a Witch, and I get a great deal of inspiration and knowledge from reading her tales and posts. Even though we’ve never met, I consider her an elder in my path – someone I can learn many things from, because she’s been doing this a long time, and she knows her stuff and shares it willingly (at least parts of it) on her blog.

She’s the inspiration for my being a “Druid of this place” – of truly caring for and knowing the land I live on, even if I am a youngish Druid, and don’t have years of experience under my belt. (She also loves poetry and ballet, two of my own loves, and so her blog frequently delights me with those as well.)

Anyway, she’s posted a Solstice Tale that I found delightful and thoughtful, and, should you be so inclined, I think you’d enjoy it too.

You can read it here.

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This year, in addition to the Yule ritual we’ll be doing tomorrow night with our little study group, I’m planning to loosely follow along with Three Cranes Grove for their “Yule Along”. It’s a set of 12 “feasts” between the solstice and the new year, intended to bring reflection and celebration of the season. I like the idea a lot, and though I’ll be traveling for part of it, I definitely want to do some of these activities.

This is what they have suggested, as well as my plans for each day:

  • 12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer (Woden) – I’ll do an offering to the Wild Hunt (mostly propitiatory – while I honor the Hunt, I don’t want them hanging around my house!)
  • 12/20 Mother’s night/Idesa/Solstice vigil (to be posted that day) – Yule Ritual to the Idesa and Frige, with bonus Solstice Vigil Candles lit from the setting sun, to be burned throughout Yule. Opportunity for oathmaking here; I am considering an oath towards this new study group, to solidify my commitment to them.
  • 12/21 Solstice Day – Baking! Lighting candles! Hooray for the Sun!
  • 12/22 Nature Spirits – Offerings to the nature spirits
  • 12/23 Feast of Fools – Not sure yet what to do here. This is typically about role reversal, but I may just do something silly with my husband/friends.
  • 12/24 Alfar and housewights – housecleaning and offerings to the spirits of my home
  • 12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – Presents! Hooray!
  • 12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – Celebrating being warm with my family.
  • 12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – More presents, this time with extended family. I need to figure out how to work evergreens into this.
  • 12/28 God/desses of the household (Frige) – Knitting! Lots of knitting, as I’m working on two big projects right now.
  • 12/29 Shining ones – Offerings to Thunor, Frige, and Ing Frea
  • 12/30 Bringing in the boar (Ing Frea, deities/spirits concerning oaths) – Roast beast! (Roast beast is a feast I don’t mind in the least!) I’ll make pot roast and consider my new year’s resolutions and any oaths I am considering making.
  • 12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – Party! Big party at my house, with friends and games and fun and champagne. I’ll initiate a conversation about resolutions, and maybe do some divination regarding the new year.
  • 1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time – Clean up, take down, and put away all the holiday stuffs. Get ready to go back to work, cook lunches, and make some pre-prepared meals. Basically return to the normal routine.

Some of these will be a little difficult, but I think planning for them in advance will make sure I stick to it. I love the idea of making Yule a “season” – a time of feasting, sacrifice, and honoring the various Gods and spirits of my path. I think this is a fun way to do it, and it means a little bit of sacred time each day, instead of trying to cram it all into one day and getting burnt out.

What are you doing to celebrate the Solstice/Yule? Any family traditions you have that you’d like to share? I’m always looking for new traditions to borrow and try out!

Blessed Yule!

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I’m always sad to see the Yule season end. I like the anticipation and the coziness of the season, and while it’s fun to ring in the new year with celebrations and champagne, I always find myself a little let down by the sudden wintry reality that follows. Not just back to work again after a break (which is always too short), or the putting away of warm and cheerful decorations, but the seemingly cold feeling of waiting for spring that follows the celebration of the sun’s return.

There’s quite a lot of waiting in the winter, and it feels strongest to me right around the beginning of January. Our weather is such that we dont have long to wait for spring, but it’s frequently rainy and chilly here right now, even if we do get warm days in between. Though the sun is returning, the light doesn’t seem to change quickly enough. It’s still dark when I leave for work, and almost dark when I get home.

I’m looking forward to driving during the sunrise again, in a month or so, and to the days warming up into spring.

This year, though, I am trying to pace myself and savor this time of year. This time of year is so quiet, and I want to take advantage of that. We know the sun is returning, and the patient waiting offers an extension of the time of reflection that usually follows Samhain. I can make plans for my garden, perusing seed catalogues and diagramming garden beds, but I can also take the time to meditate on the cold (or even IN the cold, for short periods of time).

It’s also a good time to enjoy the quiet in my house after the bustle that defines November and December. The early evenings offer more reading time and time to spend preparing my house for the busier times of year, as well as time for deep reflection and increased devotions.

Instead of always looking ahead, this year I want to try to really dig into this period of stillness before Imbolc and the return of spring in March. I will light candles, burn incense, cook warm and hearty foods, and keep the fire of my hearth bright and welcoming.

Then when spring does come, I’ll be rested and ready for growing things and being outside again.

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My winter solstice ritual was performed on Thursday December 20, in the mid-morning. It was a bright, beautifully sunny day, and so it seemed an appropriate time to welcome back the Sun. Ideally I’d perform this ritual at dawn, but at dawn I was taking a sick cat to the vet, so the best laid plans didn’t quite work out.

This was a solitary rite, following the full ADF COoR. For this ritual, I honored the Earth Mother in an unnamed aspect; the Gatekeeper was Cernunnos. Sulis was the primary patron(ess) of this rite. I brought the following offerings: silver for the well, cedar incense for the fire, candles and cinnamon incense for Sulis, and a bottle of good hard cider for the Kindreds (as I can not drink ale or whiskey). The ritual, being for Sulis, is loosely based in the Gaulish hearth culture.

I was very pleased with this ritual. I felt like I had more depth and understanding of the COOR, and though I mixed up some of the offerings, I feel like it was a successful rite. (I forgot to give the silver to the well when I created the cosmos, but I rectified that after I lit the fire!) I’m finding a more comfortable voice to speak my rituals in, and I felt that adding inflection and feeling to my voice added inflection and feeling to the ritual itself. My work with increasing connection helped as well, as I definitely felt the portal open when I asked Cernunnos to open the gates. I don’t know that I felt a strong presence from any particular Kindred, but I did feel like I was doing this ritual with the presence of other beings. I also was more familiar with this ritual, so I didn’t feel as much like I was “just” reading it. Some of that probably is helped by my having put my ritual text in a nice binder, so I have something to hold that isn’t just print outs.

Things I will not do in the future – I am a little unsure if I’ll do an offering that includes alcohol at 10am. Since I used the hard cider both for the offerings and as my drink for the blessings, it was a little odd to be drinking that early in the day. I think I’d have been happier with just plain good cider, and leave the hard stuff for afternoon rituals. I also started out the ritual feeling rather rushed for some reason (probably because I was doing the ritual on a day when I was also preparing for holiday travel). I noticed it around the point of the Two Powers meditation and was able to slow myself down and really feel the energy of the rite.

Omens Drawn

  • Uath (Hawthorn) – Fear, Despair, Cleansing, Challenges
  • Onn (Gorse) – Easy Travel, Wheel, Movement, Fertility
  • Ceirt (Apple) – The Otherworld, Shelter, Choice, Vision

You are going through a period of discovery, and fear comes with all new things. This period will be cleansing for you, can be easy if you don’t fight the process, and will lead to a time of great fertility. Through this process you will gain new vision and wisdom, and see things how they really are.

I’ll admit that drawing Hawthorn is a little unsettling, but I think it’s fitting to the challenges that any new path will bring. It’s also a little odd to draw both “easy travel” and “challenges”, but if I take a very literal approach, it could just mean my holiday trips will go easily.

Overall, I think this omen is positive, indicating struggles now but a good outcome later. My instinct is to relate this somewhat to my search for a hearth culture. I’m thinking too much about it, and not letting the process of change happen. I’m actively resisting some parts of that process, which is leading to a good bit of fear. Also there are some Gods whose presence I am uncomfortable with, and one of those seems to be nudging me lately, which is definitely a bit fearful! Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have thrown out my planning and done a different ritual, but I didn’t think of that until after I was done. Maybe I’ll do a second one and see how this other hearth culture feels.

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This isn’t much of a secret Druid tip, so much as just a good way to celebrate the Solstice in a way that pretty much anyone can understand. It’s also the latest you’ll be able to get up and see a sunrise, so if you’ve not done that in awhile, today’s a good day for it (or tomorrow morning). Make sure you get up 10-15 minutes before the actual sunrise, so you have a chance to make a cup of tea or coffee and find a good watching spot. (And hopefully it’s not still snowing where you are!) Take some deep breaths, honor the return of the sun, and be reminded of the beauty in the natural world at liminal times like sunrise. It’s a good time to be a Druid.

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I’ll be doing my Yule ritual today – an ADF style ritual honoring Sulis, modified slightly from the ritual found in the Crane Breviary. I’ve been enjoying looking through the rituals there, and this one seemed to fit the kind of ritual I want to have. I need to look more into the Order of the Crane – it seems like a good balance of inner and outer workings, and like it might provide more of a community than the DP is currently. While I appreciate everything that the DP has to offer, I’ve not felt that it’s brought me much into connection with other Druids, and that’s something I’d really like to have. Plus I just think the Crane symbolism is really rather spiffy.

Husband unit and I will be opening our gifts this evening as well, since we’ll be celebrating multiple times. It always seems like we end up with our own celebration on or just before the actual Solstice, and then various family celebrations happen around their holiday of Christmas. Still, multiple chances to give (and get) presents is OK with me!

I’m not really ready for the holiday season to be “over” though, and I intend to keep the greenery out in the house for awhile, even if I take down the tree. Though the light will begin to be stronger again, it’s still going to be winter for awhile, and I really enjoy the look and smell of evergreens. Most of mine this year are in baskets with florist’s foam, so they’re staying healthy and fragrant.

If you’re one of the people in the path of the winter storm, I hope you have a beautiful, snowy Yule and that the blizzard conditions don’t cause you or your loved ones any harm. Here in the swamp, we’re going to have a slightly cooler, very windy day, but no real effects from the storm front. It would be nice to have snow for the Solstice, but that is extremely rare around here (as is snow any other time during the winter). Still, the cooler day will be nice for having a fire in the fireplace, and maybe it’ll feel a little more like winter today.

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