The Yule Log is a tradition that dates back in time, to the Hearth fires of early European pagans. The winter solstice (sabbat) signaled the beginning of the new year’s cycle. The new hearth fires would be kindled with the remnants of the previous year’s log.
The new log would be chosen and brought to the home or village to be burned through the entire length of the year’s longest night. There would be celebrations and storytelling, of the feats of heroes and warriors of the past as well as lessons for the children.
Yule logs were burned with the intentions of thanking the local deities for all that the previous year had to offer and each person began their new year with wishes and intentions for the upcoming year.
There are different stories about why the Yule log is an important tradition in the pagan faiths. Some tell a story of the battle between the Oak and Holly kings for dominance over the other.
Others tell stories of a celebration of the return of the Sun. The winter solstice is the direct opposite of the summer solstice. This is the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of winter. It also marks the end of the progression of days growing shorter and nights growing longer.
The tradition of the Yule log has been carried on in the form of Yule cakes and decorative logs used as center pieces. Often the stories behind them are no longer remembered or have been retold in ways that support a newer set of winter traditions. A modern way to celebrate the solstice with a Yule log is to create one with candles that can be replace each year. It is also nice to use greenery that can be refreshed each year too.
Locally gathered and recycled items.
The log my daughter and I created this year is a decorative version. The materials we used are found in nature in the area we live. We live in the Arizona desert, so some of the traditional materials are not easily gathered within walking distance of our home. It is not necessary that you gather the materials within walking distance, but I chose this as part of the criteria for what we gathered. I felt this would be a simple way of honoring the fact that the ancestors didn’t have automobiles or craft shops and mass retailers available to them for gathering their supplies.
In the desert behind our home there is a large very old Black walnut tree. To honor this grandmother’s presence in our lives we went and gathered up three of the branches she had lost this year. My husband cut the lengths of these three branches to about 18 inches.
My daughter and I bundled them together with white, gold and red ribbons. These ribbons were originally her hair ties and she decided since we were gathering supplies locally she could recycle her hair ribbons. Going along with Jolene’s theme of recycling I found some Christmas candles, from years ago, and brought them out to be included in our Yule log.
|Adding pine boughs.|
The colors of the ribbons and candles are traditionalholiday colors. There are many ideas about what these colors represent, but to us the gold represents the returning of the sun’s energy, white is the blanket of snow that covers much of the northern world this time of year as well as the goddess. Green is the color of the evergreens that seem to live through even the harshest of conditions. Red is the color of the berries left from the last harvest that will sustain the wildlife until spring arrives.
The final touches are cinnamon sticks, cedar boughs and pinecones we gathered from the trees growing along the fence line where she catches the school bus, another short walk from our home. The cinnamon sticks are always in my cupboard and always smell so good this time of year as we bake our goodies to share with our neighbors.
This year we will celebrate the return of the Sun by writing our wishes and intentions for the new year on one side of a slip of paper, and a list of all we are grateful for this year on the other side. As we each contemplate these things we then light the slips of paper on fire with the candles in the log and let them burn out in a fire safe dish. Once they have extinguished themselves we will scatter the ashes to the wind, and let go of the previous year while welcoming the new one.
|Finished Yule Log on Winter altar.|
Have a Wicked Good Day!
P.S. Be sure to follow all the links in the article... there are recipies,Yule history and shopping links.