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by Author Unknown
The turning of the wheel now
brings us to Yule, known also as Midwinter and the Winter Solstice. For many, this time of year finds
us baking cookies,
planning festive occasions for friends and family, searching for that "perfect" tree to place in our homes,
firewood for those cold nights so soon upon us. The scent of cinnamon, apples
and evergreen unite to evoke memories long
forgotten. Yule is the celebration of
the return of the Sun. It is the time of the winter solstice, when the nights are
at their longest. After the moment of the solstice,
the days begin to grow in strength again, and the tide in the struggle
light and dark begins to turn.
To Wiccans and Pagans of most
traditions, the Sun represents the male aspect of Deity His death and rebirth on the WinterSolstice is viewed as the death
of the old solar year and the birth of the new. This eternal struggle is
symbolized in some traditions by the battle between
the Oak King (God of the Waxing Year or the Divine Child) and the Holly King (God
of the Waning Year or the Dark Lord).
At Yule, the Oak King vanquishes the Holly King. At Litha, or summer solstice (when the days begin to grow shorter), the Holly
King is victorious over the Oak King. The names by which the God was known have varied from culture to culture; thus to the
Norse and Anglo-Saxons he was
Balder, to the Celts, Bel, etc. Despite different names, his attributes generally remained
the same, making him easy to
recognize. Yule symbols and themes have long been a part of our pagan past which stretches
far behind us, our parents, or even great
grandparents. These traditions and others were carried over to America by the
immigrants and settlers of the New World. Christmas (also known as Yule-day) is a good example of a purely Pagan festival,
adopted by the Christian religion for its own purposes.
History shows us that long before
the fourth century, when many Christians began to observe Christmas on the 25th of December, the
Pagans celebrated the
birth of the son of the
Babylonian Queen of Heaven. Yuletide (Norse) lasts from December 20th through December 31st. It
begins on "Mother Night" and ends twelve days later on "Yule Night"; hence the "Twelve Days of Christmas" tradition. The Norse
word for Yule means "Wheel." In ancient Chaldee, the word Yule meant "infant" or "little child." The concept of the Old Father
Time and the Baby New Year have these same pagan overtones as well. Each are views of the old being replaced by
the ever recurring cycle of life.
In Rome, at the time of the winter
solstice, there was a great festival called the Feast of
Saturn, or Saturnalia. This was a period of great revelry, drunkenness,
and merriment. Slave and master were equal for the entirety of the festival; in fact, one slave was chosen to be the "temporary"
master, wearing the royal purple and being called "The Lord of Misrule." Even today, one of the major parts of Yule is the
feast which accompanies it. All celebrants, no matter what their name for the season, feel its joy and festivity. For a while,
at least, we are friendly to everyone.
Some of our Yule customs actually
originated in ancient Babylon. The Yule candles stem from the rites held on the eve of the Babylonian God's
It was one of the distinguishing peculiarities of his worship to have lighted wax candles on the altars. The first
trees are often thought to have been firs, although this tradition was also followed by the early Egyptians, who used a palm
tree (symbol of victory). Its green presence in winter reminds us of rebirth, the continuation of life's cycle. Some early
the tree as a symbol of the new born God, Baal-berith (Lord of the Tree). His appearance or rebirth at
Yule shows his victory over
In early Rome, the 25th of December
was observed as the birthday of the unconquered Sun, the day when the victorious God reappeared on earth in the form of a
Santa Claus is another familiar
immigrant. In the seventeenth century, Santa (known then as
St. Nicholas), came to America with the Dutch. Actually, the
image we now have of Santa comes from the poem, "A Visit from St.
Nicholas" (The Night Before Christmas) written in 1822
by New York clergyman Dr. Clement C. Moore. Inspired by the earlier writings of
Washington Irving, where the first mention
of Santa's sleigh and reindeer appear, the poem inspires us to this day with its image of
a bewhiskered jolly fat man.
There may be some very distinct Pagan connections behind jolly old Santa. Nik was a name for Woden, who
rode a white horse
through the sky. In early folklore, Santa also rode a white horse though the sky. Woden is very much a Holly King
as is Santa Claus. Some have said he is a confusion between Saturn, who is stern and solemn, and Bacchus, who is anything
Thus we get the jolly fat man with rosy cheeks who brings toys to the children, but only to the good ones!
Another tradition followed at
Yule is that of wassailing. The most common use of the
term "wassail" is in describing a festive drink, of which there
are various recipes to be found, using ale or cider. It was also the
custom to carry the brew about the neighborhood in
a wooden bowl (wassail bowl), leading a procession from door to door singing and
spreading the feeling of benevolence
and good cheer. Another form of wassailing is seen in the British Isles. There, in addition to the
drink being observed
among people, the locals "wassail" the trees. A hymn is usually sung to the tree wishing it good health and long life. A blessing
is also bestowed upon it to be fruitful; then guns are fired or some other loud noise is made in order to drive off any woeful
spirits. Toasts to the tree are then drunk from the wassail bowl. When all have finished their toasts, the remainder of the
liquid is poured out on the earth around the trunk while bread or cakes from the wassail celebrations are placed upon its
Some suggestions for celebrating
Decorate a tree inside or outside your home with festive baubles, stars/moons/suns or candy canes. Make sure you
use lots of lights!
String popcorn and cranberries for your tree, or hang the strings in your outdoor bushes as a treat
for the birds and squirrels.
Bring as much greenery (holly, mistletoe, evergreens) into your home as you can to remind
yourself that life goes on even in the darkest
On solstice night, turn out all the lights in your home
(make sure you have a candle ready with matches). After dwelling on the dark
for a few moments, light the candle and welcome
the Light back into the world. If you wish, gather together a number of candles beforehand and light them all from the central
candle (which should be gold or yellow). Then go through your house turning on every light.
Spend some time helping
out someone who is less fortunate than yourself. Volunteer at a local shelter or hospice.
Decorate a Yule log and burn
it on the night of the solstice or the morning after. Be sure not to let it burn completely! Give a piece
present for their own hearths.
Hold a candlelit vigil on the night of the solstice, and welcome the next morning's
dawn with singing and chanting. Follow your rite with feasting, singing, dancing and merrymaking.
Time has changed some of our
traditions, and hidden others through its passage; yet they remain. To express the holiday with wild abandon, great feasts
and rejoicing has always been done. It was noted in 230 a.d. "how much more faithful are the heathens to their
who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians." So as the Wheel turns toward Imbolg, know that this is a
time of the year to be joyful and express your feelings through kind actions or the exchange of gifts. Whether it be rites
of Saturnalia, Feasts, the Yule Sabbat, Hannakuh, or Christmas that you honor, each of us is following the traditions and
Special Thanks to the Office of Spiral Quartz of From The Spring for
this information. From_The_Spring@yahoogroups.com
Omens, Superstitions and other stuff
Legend has it that animals can speak on Christmas eve. Don't listen to them, though, the same legend
says its unlucky to hear them! Go figure.
Some cattle ranchers believe that if the first person to cross
the threshold on Christmas eve is female, only heifers will be born on
the ranch during the next year, if it is a man then
of course many male calves will be born.
Feeding a sprig of mistletoe to the first cow to bear a calf in the New Year ensures
future fertility for both the cow and calf.In some parts of Britain, it is believed that if Ivy leaves are fed to each cow
after milking but before noon on Christmas morning, the devil is forced to stay away from the herd and its keepers for the
next 12 months.
If the stars shine brightly on Christmas eve, hens will lay well during the coming year.
Trolls, Imps, and Uglies
In Greece, it's customary to burn all old shoes; this will supposedly ward off misfortune
in the new year. The shoe burning custom is most likely a throwback to the ancient Greek family bonfires used to frighten
the Kilallikantzaroi away.
In Sweden, it's believed that trolls travel freely through the countryside from dusk on
Christmas Eve until dawn on Christmas
morning. For this reason, it is common practice in Sweden to stay
during those hours.
In Greece and Poland, it's considered unlucky to be born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Why?
Because the roaming monsters,Kallikantzaroi (Greece) and werewolves (Poland) can easily capture the newborn's spirit and use
it to their own devices.
Ghosts refuse to come out of hiding on Christmas Day. Because of this, it's said that babies
born on this day are forever free of
Food and Consumables
If you refuse to eat mincemeat
pie on Christmas, you will have bad luck in the coming year.
If your friends are important to you, you must eat plum
pudding during the holiday season, otherwise, you will lose a friend before
the next Christmas
To ensure your good
health, eat an apple at midnight on Christmas eve.
After eating supper on Christmas eve, leave a loaf of bread on
the table. This guarantees plenty of bread in the household for the
To ensure good fortune in the coming
year, Christmas cakes must remain uncut until December 24th, even then, one piece must remain
uneaten until after Christmas
In Germany, it's customary to eat lots of greasy pancakes on Winter Solstice, then leave a few on the table to
feed the Winter Hag. What if you forget to leave them? Legend has it that the oversight insults the Hag and makes her very
angry, so angry, in fact, that she will
hunt you down, slice open your belly, and take the cakes right out. Why all the
grease? There's a reason for that, too. Apparently, it
makes the belly so slick that the Hag's knife slides right off,
and no matter how hard She tries, she can't harm you or take your
If you are
planning to give clothing as a holiday gift, take care not to wash and iron it first. Doing so washes away good luck and presses
Hearth and Home
To be free of evil spirits, make sure all the fires in your home continue to burn
throughout the Yuletide season.
To bring harmony to the home, some Scandinavian families place all their shoes together
side by side on Christmas eve.
If you have holes in your stockings, hang them on the hearth before going to bed on
Christmas eve. It's said that St. Nick will repair
them once he puts the gifts in place.
To determine the kind
of luck you will have in the coming year, place a cherry tree branch in water two weeks before Christmas. Good luck
yours if the branch blossoms by Christmas day.
If there is a hole in your roof, wait until after January 1 to fix
it. It is said that the hole will reappear if you so much as try to
repair it between Christmas and new year's day.
bad luck to bring holly into the home before Christmas eve. Bad luck triples if you remove it from the home before January
Once mistletoe is hung in the home, it must stay in place for one year to ensure good luck. When replaced, the
initial piece should be
Never throw away decorations made of evergreens; they must be burned to ensure
good luck, with the exception of Holly
An ancient German custom dictates that nothing with wheels especially spinning
wheels may be used from the 5 days before the Solstice until
the 6th day afer, apparently, such action insults the Sun
who, at that time of the year, appears to be motionless in the sky. If one
insists on spinning during that time it is said
that the Sun becomes so furious that He causes all fleece and fiber to tangle beyond repair.
Germany, girls play a popular holiday game in which they form a circle around a blindfolded goose. Supposedly, the first girl
to be touched by the goose will marry before the rest of the game participants.
On Christmas even in England, it is
common practice for unmarried girls to knock on the hen house door. She will be married within the
next 12 months if a
rooster answers her by crowing.
In Poland, it is believed that unmarried women can ensure a quick marriage if they
grind poppy seeds on Christmas eve.
Want to see your future lover? Just toss twelve sage leaves on Christmas eve winds
to make the image materialize
In Northern Europe, some unmarried girls arrange three buckets of water in their bedrooms,
then pin three sprigs of holly to their nightgowns before retiring. Supposedly, they are awakened by three loud shouts and
three boisterous chuckles, followed by the apparition of their future husbands. If the buckets are rearranged, there will
a marriage proposal with no ensuing problems; if not, the future husband may not be a willing partner.
harvest will be abundant if the night sky on Christmas eve is clear and starry.
The weather on each of the 12 days
of Christmas foretells the weather for each calendar month of the coming year. For Example, if the first
day of Christmas
is bitterly cold, the month of January will be bitterly cold.
If snow doesn't fall on Christmas, the following easter
will be cold. A breezy Christmas day brings good luck throughout the coming year.
Anyone can bring miracles into someone's life!
by Janet Elaine Smith (posted by permission of the author)
Special Thanks to Mother Myriam Maytorena for sharing
this on her website Manifest Reality (http://manifestreality.com/muse.html)
A Mexican-American woman called the HELP line at Mission Socorro.
It was the fall of the year, almost time for school to start. Her children were balking about going to school, as they had
no shoes. Could we possibly help them?
A call to a locally owned shoe store produced a "good deal" on shoes
in all the proper sizes. They were last year's models, but the kids didn't care. They had no holes in them, and they fit.
The shoes were picked up by the family, and there was no further contact with the family. We assumed that either they
had returned to Texas when they had enough money to go back, or the dad had gotten a job here so they did not need further
help. That is, nothing was heard from them until…
It was probably about fifteen years later. We (Ivan and I) had gone to
the post office in East Grand Forks, MN, where we have always maintained a post office box. The car was parked and the engine
disengaged. A young man came out and got into the car ahead of us. He started his car and backed up--directly into ours!
The man pulled ahead, jumped out of the car and came running back to
see if we were okay. He was not moving fast enough to have done much damage, but I got out of the car and went to make sure.
He did likewise. He asked if he should call the police. We all decided that there was no need for that. He then offered to
exchange information on our insurance companies in case anything showed up later.
I should have figured it out by that time. Anybody who was that careful
about details must be a lawyer!
Anyway, we finally decided to just exchange our personal information
such as name, phone number, etc. I gave him a business card from Mission Socorro and he handed me one of his business cards.
As soon as he looked at the card, his eyes welled up with tears.
He said, "Look at my card." As I did so, I realized that he really was an attorney. His name did not look familiar to me,
but we deal with hundreds of Mexican-Americans every year. Then he explained. "When I was in the 6th grade, I was going to quit school. My mother called somebody at Mission Socorro. She told the
woman that her children were not going to go to school because they were so embarrassed because they did not have any good
shoes to wear. The people at Mission Socorro got shoes for all of us. I went back to school. I was so proud of those shoes!
Because I stayed in school, I was able to get scholarships and go to college. I even went on to law school. I am a lawyer,
and it is all because of Mission Socorro."
How little it seems to supply a simple pair of shoes, but what a
difference one little gift to the right person can make!
About the author: Janet is a prolific writer and co-founder of Mission Socorro.
Give yourself a wonderful treat and visit her website at janetelainesmith.com
I highly recommend her book, "A Christmas Dream".