Yule is a pagan celebration that occurs during the Winter Solstice. It marks the longest night of the year and symbolizes the return of the sun. From here on out, the days will slowly start to get longer and sunlight starts to make its way back into our lives. Yule follows the harvest celebration Samhain, which indicates the end of the harvest season and also the end of the Wheel of the Year Celebrations. Since Samhain is the end, that makes Yule the beginning. This is a time of rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal.
Yule is the holiday that inspired Christmas, and you will find many similarities between the two celebrations. People decorate their houses with garlands made from evergreen trees, strings of popcorn, and cranberries to add a pop of color, while mistletoe and holly hang in doorways. A prominent symbol for Yule is the Yule log. A Yule log is a specially chosen tree that is placed in the fire, burning the trunk first. As the trunk of the tree burns down, the rest of the tree is fed into the fire, keeping the celebration going for many days. It is said that the Yule log will burn for 12 days straight, which later inspired the phrase “twelve days of Christmas." The fire in which the Yule log is burned is also special. Some of the ashes from last year's log are set aside and brought out to be placed in this year's fire. The ashes represent prosperity, protection, and rebirth. The ashes that were not set aside are mixed into garden beds to help promote healthy soil and plants that thrive.
A folk story for this time is that of the two mighty kings, the Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak and the Holly King are both brothers and rivals. They battle one another twice a year on the Summer and Winter solstice. Both are equally matched and each one will have his time of power and defeat. They symbolize light and darkness throughout the year and the changing seasons. The kings are each one half of a whole and they need each other in order to be complete. The Oak King is in power when the leaves are full and crops are thriving. As the year goes on he slowly loses his power and is eventually defeated by the Holly King. The Holly King is prosperous during the colder months and reaches the height of his power in the winter.
Herbs for Yule:
Plants for Yule:
- Evergreen trees
Ways to Celebrate Yule:
- Drinking cider, mead, and wine
- Celebrating with friends
- Setting an altar
- Burning the yule log
- Making garlands or decorating evergreen trees
- Checking in with yourself and your shadow self
- Kitchen witchery
DIY Herbal Incense for Yule by Amanda Furbee
In Honor of Yule, enjoy this herbal incense blend recipe during celebrations to give you light through the dark months of winter.
- 2-3 Bay leaves
- 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
- ½ Tablespoon Nutmeg
- 2 Tablespoons Juniper Berry
- 2 Tablespoons Orange Peel
- 2 Sprigs Cedar Leaf
- 1 Tablespoon White Oak Bark
- Make sure all your ingredients are fully dry before burning.
- Take a grinder or mortal and pestle and grind down your herbs. It does not need to be in powder form, but just not full of large chunks.
- Blend everything together.
- Store in a glass jar with label. Seal up for freshness.
- To burn: Sprinkle a little in your fire or add on top of burning charcoal in a fire safe container.