(aka Winter Solstice or Mid-Winter; Modranicht "Mother Night"; Mean Geimredh;
Yuletide; Alban Arthan)
The darkest part of the year, the "Dark of the Year". This is
the Winter Soltice. This is the time we wait for the eventual triumph
of the sun.
Yule is a holiday recognized by many neoPagan and Wiccan groups, though
not all. For example, the original Gardnerian rituals had no place for
a Solstice Ritual. I don't have a clue when the name began to be used by
modern Pagans. It is one of the four "Lesser Sabbats".
Yule is pretty much pronounced just like it looks (although if you want
to make a stab at a Scandinavian sound, it'll be more like "yool" and less
The names Modranicht and Yule are Anglo-Saxon in origin. Yule
is purported to be from the Norse for "wheel", or Yula, Anglo-Saxon for
"wheel". In actuality, Jola (Iula in Old English) is the Norse term
for December in general and the Twelve Days of Christmas in particular.
Some elder etymologists have tried to link the term with "Hjol",
an older Germanic term for "wheel", but the evidence is not compelling.
Jule is also a Norwegian meaning "to beat, thresh, whip", and Jula, a general
Scandinavian term for a "yawl".
According to some folkorists, this, not Samhain, is the night of merrymaking
to ward off the ghosts that have grown stronger as the year has progressed.
On the longest night of the year, the darkness is filled with ghosts and
ogres and satyrs.
For many people we see these as ghosts and ogres as psychological phenomema,
the fears and depression that haunt many of us around this darkest time
of the year. For these, the celebration is less one of rejoicing, but of
survival, denying the darkness of the longest night of the year until it
In some neo-Pagan beliefs the solstice represents the birth of the Sun
King, while to others, the rebirth of the human spirit and the warmth of
the divine in everyone (Particularly against the darkest days of
Winter). Birth of The Son, the Great Youth, the Young Angus, as well
as the Birth of the Bright One, Lugh -- And in that birth, we are reborn
in the frozen depths of winter's despair and we can once more see the world
as through the eyes of a child.
Some sources say that this is the night that the Goddess awakens from her
rest to discover that she is pregnant with the Sun God.
Many sources assert many things about the custom of the Yule Log,
and these will all be related here. I am unsatisfied with most
of them. For the record, there is something refered to as a "Jule
Leg" in Norse, referring to some form of Christmas game, although it seems
a "leg" is a burial place, or grave.
Basically, the Yule Log is a single log that is large enough to burn for
at least 12 hours, to light and warm the home during the long dark night.
Some people use a smaller, more symbolic log, or even a candle.
Some people belief that the log should be of a specific wood (e.g.
Some feel that the remnants of the previous year's log should be used to
light the log.
Some feel that the log should be charged in a Circle, and kept in
a sacred space for the entire year from the preceeding Yule.
Some wish on the log, or the fire.
The fire might be used for pyromancy.
The log is the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Spark of Hope in
the Long Dark Night of the Soul.
Beginning of the reign of the Oak King (Rebirth, Life, and the waxing Sun),
who has defeated the Holly King, (death, darkness and the waning Sun),
who has ruled either since Samhain or Midsummer.
For some people, this is a celebration of the Horned God Cerrunos, and
the Goddess Bridget.
At this point, most house work, such as spinning, and farm work stops for
the next two weeks.
This has historically been a festival typified by drinking, gift giving,
and licentious behavior; Dressing up like a stag, bull, or other wild animal
and so forth.
Some neoPagans have Yule trees or decorate their homes with pine branches,
or sprigs of holly, ivy and mistletoe (symbolizing fertility and everlasting
life by their evergreen nature).
Some people even seem to have a "Father Winter", or a secular Santa Claus,
bearing gifts. Gift exchange is also a common theme, as well as feasting
This is historically, not a "Celtic" holiday, but more generally is appears
to have been more of Germanic origin)