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Monday, November 28, 2011

Symbols of Yule

Monday, November 28, 2011
Yule is a major holiday to many pagans; to some it is the beginning of the year and the rebirth of the Pagan God of Light, to others it is the return of the sun as Frey. But many decorations, symbols and traditions are held in common, even with Christmas and Hanukkah.

When people think of Yule, they, in most cases, instantly think of evergreens and mistletoe. Evergreens have always symbolized power to conquer death and winter, since they stay green throughout the year. Mistletoe was called "All-Heal" by the Druids and represented their god. There is also an ancient Norse legend relates that Freya, the goddess of love, placed mistletoe in a tree between Heaven and earth, and decided that people who pass underneath it should kiss. The plant then became a sign of love and friendship.

But what else can you decorate with as a Pagan practicing Yule? Well staying within the plant family there is Holly and Ivy, and there is the Yule log. Holly long a symbol of protection, it is also an evergreen bush. Also Romans at one time would send the plant to friends and family at the new year as a symbol of good wishes.

The Yule log was used by the Celts to symbolize the story of Yule. This log, representing the Oak King, adored with traditions evergreens, representing the Holly King, signifies the death of darkness and the warmth of the Sun during the newly born solar year. According to ancient Celtic tradition, the log should burn continuously for twelve days, and a bit of wood should be saved to start the next year’s fire. The first day of Yule varies depending upon religious belief. Pagans usually light the Yule fire on the Winter Solstice. This may not be practical especially in these days, when many do not have fireplaces. What you can do is take a oak log and decorate it with holly and mount three candles within it. Light these candles to represent the returning light. The number of candles does not matter, I have seen three candles, representing the three faces of the Goddess, and I have heard of eight, like the menorah.

Speaking of candles, they are also an appropriate decorations. The tradition of lighting candles may have come from the ancient Romans, who gave them as gifts during the festival of Saturnalia. Their brightness was thought to chase away the dark and urge the sun back into the sky.

Now we come to the Yule tree, itself. The Germans originally decorated their trees with fruit, candy, cookies, and flowers. These ornaments symbolized the abundance to come when the Sun shed His warmth. They decorated their trees with round, three-dimensional shaped ornaments replicating the shape of the Sun to honor it. You can also decorate the tree with tinsel and lights to represent the stars and put a star on the top to represent the sun and moon.

According to legend, the snowflake was formed from the tears that Demeter cried after Persephone’s descent into the Underworld. The microscopic flakes have six sides, and since six is the numerological digit associated with affection, the snowflake was used by Pagans as a winter symbol of love

So incorporate some of these things into your Yule traditions and make merry. Don't be afraid to take traditions of other religions, because in most cases a lot of these things have already been adopted from the Pagans of ancient Europe.

Blessed Be!

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