Saturday, December 4, 2010

simple yule rituals

Materials Needed:
Dirt from the land you live on (to represent the Earth)
A candle (bright yellow to represent fire, and the sun)
Water (to represent, of course water.  From your tap is fine)
Incense (to represent air. Choose a scent that represents the holiday to you)
An evergreen branch (small or large will do)
A small offering to the Reborn God (something handmade by you, a string of beads, etc.)
And most important, a quiet ritual space where you will not be disturbed.
Additional materials, such as pine cones, antlers, flowers, etc. can be added to the ritual space as desired.  I usually have many things around me, that have special meaning to me, but this is meant to be a very simple ritual for the newcomer, so I will forgo adding more than needed
Place the Earth element in the North, the Air in the East, the Fire in the South, and the Water in the West.  Try to place them so that you can reach each of them easily from one position.  This can be on a small table, a tree stump, or the ground.  If you wish, cover the area with a cloth that you will only use for ritual to help put you in the right frame of mind for it.  Light the Fire candle, and meditate on what Yule means to you.
if your not quite sure what yule means to you refer to this-
Our Christian friends are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically we Pagans celebrate the 'Christmas' season. Even though we prefer to use the word 'Yule', and our celebrations may peak a few days BEFORE the 25th, we nonetheless follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a 'Nativity set', though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Nature, Father Time, and the Baby Sun-God. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.
In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with it's associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made ILLEGAL in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes. And many of them (like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur) possessed a narrative of birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to that of Jesus. And to make matters worse, many of them pre-dated the Christian Savior.
Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God -- by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, 'the dark night of our souls', there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth.
That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians. Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it, and tried more than once to reject it. There had been a tradition in the West that Mary bore the child Jesus on the twenty-fifth day, but no one could seem to decide on the month. Finally, in 320 C.E., the Catholic Fathers in Rome decided to make it December, in an effort to co-opt the Mithraic celebration of the Romans and the Yule celebrations of the Celts and Saxons.
There was never much pretense that the date they finally chose was historically accurate. Shepherds just don't 'tend their flocks by night' in the high pastures in the dead of winter! But if one wishes to use the New Testament as historical evidence, this reference may point to sometime in the spring as the time of Jesus's birth. This is because the lambing season occurs in the spring and that is the only time when shepherds are likely to 'watch their flocks by night' -- to make sure the lambing goes well. Knowing this, the Eastern half of the Church continued to reject December 25, preferring a 'movable date' fixed by their astrologers according to the moon.
Thus, despite its shaky start (for over three centuries, no one knew when Jesus was supposed to have been born!), December 25 finally began to catch on. By 529, it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks, bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season. This last point is perhaps the hardest to impress upon the modern reader, who is lucky to get a single day off work. Christmas, in the Middle Ages, was not a SINGLE day, but rather a period of TWELVE days, from December 25 to January 6. The Twelve Days of Christmas, in fact. It is certainly lamentable that the modern world has abandoned this approach, along with the popular Twelfth Night celebrations.
Of course, the Christian version of the holiday spread to many countries no faster than Christianity itself, which means that 'Christmas' wasn't celebrated in Ireland until the late fifth century; in England, Switzerland, and Austria until the seventh; in Germany until the eighth; and in the Slavic lands until the ninth and tenth. Not that these countries lacked their own mid-winter celebrations of Yuletide. Long before the world had heard of Jesus, Pagans had been observing the season by bringing in the Yule log, wishing on it, and lighting it from the remains of last year's log. Riddles were posed and answered, magic and rituals were practiced, wild boars were sacrificed and consumed along with large quantities of liquor, corn dollies were carried from house to house while caroling, fertility rites were practiced (girls standing under a sprig of mistletoe were subject to a bit more than a kiss), and divination's were cast for the coming Spring. Many of these Pagan customs, in an appropriately watered-down form, have entered the mainstream of Christian celebration, though most celebrants do not realize (or do not mention it, if they do) their origins.
For modern Witches, Yule (from the Anglo-Saxon 'Yula', meaning 'wheel' of the year) is usually celebrated on the actual Winter Solstice, which may vary by a few days, though it usually occurs on or around December 21st. It is a Lesser Sabbat or Lower Holiday in the modern Pagan calendar, one of the four quarter-days of the year, but a very important one. This year (2010) it occurs on December 21st at 7:38 pm CST. Pagan customs are still enthusiastically followed. Once, the Yule log had been the center of the celebration. It was lighted on the eve of the solstice (it should light on the first try) and must be kept burning for twelve hours, for good luck. It should be made of ash. Later, the Yule log was replaced by the Yule tree but, instead of burning it, burning candles were placed on it. In Christianity, Protestants might claim that Martin Luther invented the custom, and Catholics might grant St. Boniface the honor, but the custom can demonstrably be traced back through the Roman Saturnalia all the way to ancient Egypt. Needless to say, such a tree should be cut down rather than purchased, and should be disposed of by burning, the proper way to dispatch any sacred object.
Along with the evergreen, the holly and the ivy and the mistletoe were important plants of the season, all symbolizing fertility and everlasting life. Mistletoe was especially venerated by the Celtic Druids, who cut it with a golden sickle on the sixth night of the moon, and believed it to be an aphrodisiac. (Magically -- not medicinally! It's highly toxic!) But aphrodisiacs must have been the smallest part of the Yuletide menu in ancient times, as contemporary reports indicate that the tables fairly creaked under the strain of every type of good food. And drink! The most popular of which was the 'wassail cup' deriving its name from the Anglo-Saxon term 'waes hael' (be whole or hale).
Medieval Christmas folklore seems endless: that animals will all kneel down as the Holy Night arrives, that bees hum the '100th psalm' on Christmas Eve, that a windy Christmas will bring good luck, that a person born on Christmas Day can see the Little People, that a cricket on the hearth brings good luck, that if one opens all the doors of the house at midnight all the evil spirits will depart, that you will have one lucky month for each Christmas pudding you sample, that the tree must be taken down by Twelfth Night or bad luck is sure to follow, that 'if Christmas on a Sunday be, a windy winter we shall see', that 'hours of sun on Christmas Day, so many frosts in the month of May', that one can use the Twelve Days of Christmas to predict the weather for each of the twelve months of the coming year, and so on.
Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again. To conclude with a long-overdue paraphrase, 'Goddess bless us, every one!'

This was written by Mike Nichols, and should help you understand the day even more. 
After meditating, pick up the bowl of Dirt, and say (or think), “I am of this Earth, forever linked to the Gods.”  Draw a pentacle in the dirt.  Replace.
Next pick up the Incense, drawing a pentacle in front of you with it say, “This is the breath of the Gods, which gives me life.”  Replace.
Picking up the candle, say, “This is the Flame that warms our heart, just as the love of the Goddess and the God warms our souls.”  Replace.
Last, pick the bowl of Water up, and say, “And this the ever-changing waters and nourishes life, without which we would not be.”  Replace.
Think on the God’s rebirth, and the lengthening days that follow the Winter Solstice.  Say what is in your heart at this time to the Goddess and the God.  If you are in a situation that you are not comfortable to speak aloud, then think those words. 
Next, take the offering you are giving to the Gods up in your hands, hold it to the sky and say, “This is my gift to you, for you have given many gifts to me.  This symbolizes my pledge to you.”  Replace.  Add why to this why you chose this offering. 
Now for the closing of your ritual.  Take up the Earth again, saying, “Thank you for watching over my rite.”  Pour the dirt back onto the ground if outside, if not, wait till you are completely finished then do it.  Say the thank you for each of the elements.  Pour the water out onto the ground as well.  Take your offering to a favorite tree or plant of yours, and either place it on the branches where it won’t be disturbed, or bury it near the roots.  Place the incense under/over the offering, and leave it to burn itself out.  Take the candle inside, and place in a window.  Let it burn all the way out.  (Make sure there aren’t any curtains or other flammable materials nearby that could catch fire.  Be safe.)  Spend the rest of the day aware of the significance of the day. 
If you have any changes that you would like to make for yourself in this ritual, go ahead.  Paganism is a living religion, always growing and expanding.  To the new person, I would suggest keeping it as simple as possible.  This is why you will not see the usual tools, such as the knife or a circle used here.  It is not needed.  They have their purposes. 
Go with the Gods, Blessed Be.
thanks to
for providing the information 

Have Children? Then here is something you can do with them 

Start this Seasonal Celebration early in the day, Make Sun symbol ornaments and White Stag Ornaments to hang on the Yule tree, You can always put some type of sealant on the ornaments and hang them outside on a special tree, if this is what you prefer.
Write your own songs to sing to the Lord on his day of rebirth. Decorate the house in Golds, Greens (Ivy, Pine), Whites, some Reds, cut out big Suns and Stars hang them around the house or make a mobile to hang from the ceiling.
Go walking through the woods, park and be on the look out for a Yule Log. And once you locate your Yule log, drill three holes in it, one for a White candle, Red candle, and a Black Candle (Maiden, Mother and Crone) place these in the holes that you drilled in the Yule Log and light the candles.
Decorate your Table/Altar in Golds and Whites.
Have the children and yourself, take a Ritual Bath, burn some Pine Incense or whatever appeals to your emotions and reminds you of Yule. Help each other get dressed for the Celebration of welcoming the rebirth of the Lord, and this is also the time to Thank the Lady. Everyone should have some part in helping to set up the Ritual Area, I use a Gold cord to mark the Circle, this helps the kids, as a Yule Ritual can be pretty long. (let the kids lay down in the Circle, the Lady understands-make special pillows, stuffed with Pine, Orange Peel, of course I wouldn’t suggest using Pine needles, nothing like having one stick you in the cheek, just use some Oil, these pillows are for the kids to put their heads on while they wait for the return of the Sun)
Once it gets closer to the Yule Ritual, have the Children welcome in the guests if any are coming. 

The Ritual:
Lay the Gold cord on the floor Cast your Circle Call the Quarters Welcome the Lady and the Lord

"Welcome to our Yule Ritual, this is the time we look forward to our Sun/Lord/God to return, We have missed him high in the sky, smiling upon us as we start another day, his hugs are the rays that shine upon us as we work or play outside, his kisses are a warm breeze that gently caresses our cheeks, he is the green of the woods, the bright gold of the sun, he is the White Stag in the Woods, Protector and Watcher".
"Father/God/Lord we await your return". (Say as much as you want to, this is also a good short, sweet chant to use to raise any energy you may want during the ritual)
"We light the Candles on the Yule log in honor the Goddess/Mother/Lady, White for the Maiden, Red for the Mother, and Black for the Crone". (Light the candles and let them burn, to almost the Yule log, don’t want the log to catch fire)
"We thank you Goddess/Lady for all that you have given us".(Once again another short and sweet chant to raise energy) At this time Share of some Cakes, Wine/Ale/Fruit Juice should be done. (One of our favorites is light and fluffy Divinity Candy, or baked sugar cookies that look like the Sun)
Share stories about Yule’s past and talk about what you would like to do next Yule Talk about what the Goddess and God mean to you and of course let the Children tell their Stories and feelings too! Exchange small Yule Gifts.

"We thank the Lady and Lord on this day for the gifts they have given us, and for each other. Bright Blessings upon us all".
At this point you can either stay in the Circle and keep on talking until the Sun comes up, or dissolve the Circle, of course always thanking the Quarters and the Lady for being there. Go for a walk outside and Welcome the New day as the Sun comes back.
I know that this Ritual is not as formal, as some would wish, but you have to remember you are involving young Children with short attention spans (some adults have those, too!) These types of Short, Sweet and to the Point Rituals prepare your children for the more Formal ones later in this Lifetime. Blessings for a Bright Yule

a thanks to
for this fun ritual

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