Tag Archives: Yule

Why the world needs Pagans this holiday season

As many of you may have noticed, the world has gotten a bit crazier than normal in recent years. A trend that started after 9/11 of increased fear, war mongering and general xenophobia has reached such epic proportions that if Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann were running in the 2016 election they would seem like the sane, moderate choice.

ISIL/ISIS/Daesh is gaining ground throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and continually launching attacks in Europe, and now the US, scaring the crap out the American public in the process.

This last, is of course, what Daesh wants. They have started using Donald Trump’s speeches as recruiting material. They love the xenophobia, and the hysterical rhetoric, because they know that when we turn against people in our community, or who wish to be part of our community, they will have to find somewhere to be accepted. And ISIS is waiting with outstretched arms and a suicide vest.

This fear, however, is not universal. Yes, most of the world, including most muslims, are angry and disgusted by ISIS. Many are in favor of the US reducing it’s nuclear arsenal one missile at a time.  But the fear is not universal, nor should it be.

You are about 4000 times more likely to kill yourself than to be killed by a terrorist, if you live in the US., and suicide is only the 10th highest annual killer (according to the CDC). In fact, your odds of being killed by a terrorist in the US are about 1 in 20 million.

While many in the US support screening out all muslims (presumably by getting them to say ‘Shibboleth’) most Europeans do not. There are many complicated reasons for this, but there is one big factor: Recent History.

Growing up in Europe in the seventies, we were subject to ongoing terror campaigns from the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, ETA and the Red Brigade to name a few.  We grew up angry and disgusted with their attacks – but not fearful. We were not fearful because our parents were not fearful, and our parents were not fearful, because, in comparison to the world war that had ripped their lives apart growing up, these attacks were small potatoes in comparison.

Leaving aside the occasional sociopath like Timothy McVey, the US has not had many major attacks since pearl harbor, and even then, there were no attacks on the continental US during World War II.

Consequently, the events of 9/11 burned a scar deeply into the minds of every man, woman and child and that scar has shaped US foreign and domestic policy ever since.

More than that, with the addition of Russia and NATO into the middle eastern mix, we are shaping up for a self fulfilling prophecy of the Christian and Muslim end times. This is also, what Daesh wants, and unfortunately, it appears to be what many in the evangelical community are hoping for as well, because then, they believe, their savior will return.

Regardless of my personal thoughts about the likelihood of this happening, they believe it, and many seem willing to throw away their basic morality in pursuit of this goal.

As pagans, we are used to being vilified, accused, excluded and laughed at.  But as my old history teacher used to say, the bad things that happen to us build character, and it is the character of people that will decide what happens next.

Pagans have a love of the earth, and of all life. Even the meat eaters among us are conscious of the sacred nature of the life we have taken that we may live, and many choose to honor that in their own way.

This season, we need calm reason, not mindless rhetoric. We need love, not fear; we need hope, not desperation.

Mid winter was traditionally a time when wars stopped, and people huddled together to last out the cold winter and share what they had with each other, healing old wounds in the process.

Use the gifts that you have nurtured to spread love and acceptance as the old year ends. Don’t engage in petty bickering, name calling or setting yourself up in opposition to those whose only crime is being a different creed than you. Most Muslims hate what is being done by sociopaths in the name of Islam, and despite what you read, many are speaking out, just as we would, if it happened to us.

Lead by example. Show those in your community that you are not afraid. Anger is a useful tool sometimes, but hate is always self defeating, and Fear is almost always useless. Use common sense. Be cautious if you must, but be cautious based on reason.

Turn off the 24 hour news cycle and watch something beautiful instead. Spend time with friends and family, go outside and experience the beauty of the Rhythm of Life.

Help those who need help. Feed those who are hungry, nurture those who are lonely, and give voice to those who have none.

Organize, help, share, and most importantly, Love.

May you live in peace this holiday season, and help others to do the same.

earthlove

Yule – December 21st

Winter Solstice, the return of the sun, was truly a cause for celebration among our ancestors. Yule begins on Mother Night. At the Yule the Goddess shows her Life-in-Death aspect. In this season she is the White Lady Queen of the cold darkness yet this is her moment of giving birth to the child of promise who brings back light and warmth to her kingdom.

 

 

Most Christmas traditions are rooted deep in ancient Yule rituals, many coming from the Vikings. During the Winter Solstice the Vikings honored their Asa Gods with religious rituals and feasting. A wild boar was sacrificed to Frey, the God of fertility and farming, to assure a good growing season in the coming year. They then feasted on the boar and this is the origin of today’s Christmas ham. During the twelve day festival a giant Sun wheel was set on fire and rolled down a hill to entice the sun to return. This could possibly be the source of the Christmas wreath.

Another ancient tradition is the Yule log, a large oak log decorated with sprigs of fir, holly or yew. This was carved with runes asking the Gods to protect them from misfortune. To make your own Yule log use a piece of apple, birch or oak. Begin by drilling holes for the three candles of the Triple Goddess; red to symbolize the bloodshed of birth, white for the innocence of new life and green symbolizing the growth process. Be sure to trim the bottom of the log to steady it. Decorate with greens, wild rose hips and winter berries. To insure good fortune and prosperity anoint with a sprinkle of apple cider and dust with corn meal before lighting the candles. Be sure to return the wood chips and sawdust to the sleeping earth. A piece of the log should be saved to protect the home during the coming year and to light next year’s fire.


The Yule tree was often adorned with symbols representing the sun, moon and stars. These, along with pieces of food, small statues of the Gods and carved runes were used to entice the tree spirits to come back in the spring. Gifts were also hung on the tree as offerings to the Gods.

Our pagan ancestors would dress someone to represent Old Man Winter, wrapped in a hooded fur coat with a long white beard. It is believed that he represented Odin and he traveled on Sleiphir, Odin’s great white horse. Old Man Winter was welcomed into homes and invited to join the festivities. When the Vikings conquered Britain in the 8th and 9th centuries, he was introduced there and became Father Christmas.

Ancient myths surround the mistletoe. It was believed to resurrect the dead. This was based on the legend about the resurrection of Balder, God of Light and Goodness, who was killed by a mistletoe arrow but resurrected when the tears of his mother Frigga turned the red mistletoe berries white. Mistletoe was considered magical and thought to have great healing powers.

The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Christmas symbols. Its origin is the legend of the protective, good natured Thunder God Thor who rode in the sky in a wagon pulled by two magical goats. They would visit the homes and bring happiness and protection at this very special time of the year. An old custom was for young people to dress up in goat skins and go from house to house to sing and perform simple plays. They were rewarded with food and drink.
What Yule celebration would be complete without a steaming cup Wassail to warm the chill of night while encircling the bonfires? ‘Waes Hale’, good health! This spicy holiday drink is more of an event than mere refreshment. An important ritual for the benefit of the apple harvest as well as the health of the local economy this tradition is still practiced in many areas. Gathering in the apple orchard on the ‘twelfth night’ townsfolk would drink large amounts of wassail with great mirth, merriment and dancing around the bonfires in order to honor the orchard and ensure good yields.

Here is one recipe for wassail:

Heat a large container of ale or beer, about 3 or 4 pints. Add:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup mixed spice (cinnamon sticks and whole cloves are also excellent)
2 or 3 small sweet apples, cut up
1 1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 1/4 cup orange juice
the juice of 2 lemons
Place over a slow flame; then, before it begins to boil, take off the heat and whip up some cream. Let this float on top of the brew like foam.
Put in a suitably large bowl (the more ornate the better)

Now go out to a tree or trees with a few friends (these don’t have to be apple trees, since all can benefit from a well-intentioned blessing, but it is traditional to wassail fruit-bearing trees). Wet the roots liberally with the brew. Pass the rest around and when everyone is thoroughly warmed up sing a wassailing song, for example:

Here’s to thee, old apple tree.
Whence thou may’st bud and whence thou may’st blow,
And whence thou may’st bear apples now.
Hats full, caps full, bushel, bushel sacks full, and my pockets full too!

Lift your glasses to the tree and shout “Wassail!” as loud as you can.

Magical associations
apples – love, health, peace
pineapple – healing, money, protection & love lemons – love, happiness & purification
cinnamon – love, psychic awareness & money
sugar – love

A simple Wiccan ritual:
The celebration begins before dawn to culminate into the sun’s birth with a toast of apple juice or wine made to the holly king

Winter day of longest night
Step aside now for the light
Thank you for the things you’ve brought
That only darkness could have wrought

Then name the gifts of darkness such as regeneration, peace, dreams, organization, quietude, etc.
Use a white altar cloth and decorate with evergreens, poinsettias, rosemary, holly, mistletoe and ivy. To insure good luck and prosperity anoint a bayberry candle with oil and roll it in dried chamomile. Burn Yule incense (a mixture of chamomile, ginger, pine and sage). Meditate in the darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting the candle and singing chants and carols.
End the ritual at dawn with a toast of orange juice or mimosa to the sun!

O Newborn Sun of love and light
Rise quickly now, rise high and bright
Gain power in the sky above
I grant to you my support and love

This is an especially magical time when divination of the events of the coming year is also a prominent feature. Rune or Tarot readings can be especially significant at this time as can dreams or visions seen in meditation. Winter Solstice is also an excellent time for banishing rituals to eliminate disease, bad habits and addictions.

While we all enjoy exchanging gifts and feasting with our friends and family at this time of year perhaps we should extend this beautiful custom to include the other living creatures who share this earth with us. Put up bird feeders and keep them stocked with seed. You can make decorative wild bird treats by rolling pinecones in peanut butter and bird seed. This is also a wonderful time to donate funds, time or items to environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace.

Yule Recipes

By Patrick McCleary

Gingerbread Stars

One of the most traditional dishes at this time of the year is gingerbread. My kids and I absolutely love the rich taste of the ginger and molasses. So this past weekend we decided to make some gingerbread.

We had originally planned on making a gingerbread house, but we have had to many failures at that project. So we settled on making shapes instead. Following is the recipe that we used. Hope that you all enjoy as much as we have.

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 1/1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg

Instructions
Sift the dry ingredients together in medium mixing bowl
Beat butter and sugar together in large bowl with electric mixer
Add molasses and egg and beat well
Gradually beat in flour mixture
Press dough into thick flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap
Refrigerate for four hours or overnight
Roll dough to 1/4 thickness on lightly floured surface
Cut into shapes
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 300 degrees
Cool on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes
Remove wire racks and cool completely





Yule Ham with a bit of Rum

Ham is the most traditional dish for this holiday season. And while a ham is easy to cook, the glaze for it is sometimes tougher to make. Here is a recipe that I have used on several occasions to fantastic reviews.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp mustard
2 to 3 Tbsp Dark Rum

In a medium size saucepan whisk together and heat to just before boiling these ingredients. Pour over a fully cooked ham and bake for ten to fifteen minutes more. Now don’t worry about the alcoholic content the cooking should cook out the alcohol. If you are still antsy then you can let the glaze simmer for about five minutes.

Yule Duck on the Grill
This brings me to the other animal that I choose to cook at this season. The duck. While tasty it is very greasy. You can boil it the same way as the ham to get rid of the grease, just be sure not to use the water from boiling the ham.

The last duck I cooked was on the BBQ grill. I arranged coals around a drip pan in the center of the grill. And after dipping the duck in boiling water, I dried it off and placed in on the grill on a low heat and let it slowly cook. I didn’t add anything else to the duck, but I enjoy the taste of the duck alone without any additions.

But you can make an orange glaze for the duck. Here is a recipe from recipecircus.com.
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp brandy

Combine orange juice, marmalade, honey, sugar and brandy in small saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Spoon glaze over ducks and return to oven for 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Watch to prevent scorching. Remove duck to platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.