Yule Ritual 2012

Yule is one of my favorite sabbats. As a kid I absolutely cherished Christmas. I loved the lights, the gifts, the festive spirit in the air. Most importantly I loved being with my family, and participating in the traditions we shared together. Some of my favorite memories revolve around the Christmases of my childhood.

When I discovered The Lady and converted to Modern Paganism I was initially worried that I would be unable to transfer the traditions I associated with Christmas to Yule. I was happy to discover that those fears were unfounded, and that in many ways Yule/Christmas is the most pagan of our popular holidays.

Because there are so many Solstice traditions and trappings that I adore I never seem to lack for material at Yule. What I do tend to lack is a filter, so my Yule rituals are always a motley collection of New Year’s Eve, Santa Claus, Christmas carols, gift-giving, and the return of the light/rebirth of the Sun. I should probably limit myself to just a few things, but I just can’t help myself.

Like my Samhain ritual earlier this year there’s a very British Witchcraft feel to parts of this. Some of the language is identical to that ritual too (if it works, why switch it up?). This is mostly a serious ritual, but at the same time I think Yuletide should be festive, so it has multiple moods. The “Return of the Light” portion was inspired by something in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s A Witches Bible, and I might have nicked some lines out of there too.

A quick note on language . . . . yeah there are a few places in this ritual where I reference “Christmas carols” and I think I drop the C-word in a few other places too. I don’t see Christmas as necessarily a “Christian” holiday and many of my Yule and Christmas traditions overlap, to such a degree that I have trouble separating the two holidays. If anyone is bothered by the use of the C-word I apologize in advance.

Yule Ritual

This ritual requires the use of two rooms, a sitting room, and then whatever space you usually use for ritual. The ritual begins with all participants being cleansed and prepared in whatever style you choose (my circle does a ritual hand washing) in the “sitting room.” Once everyone is cleansed, the High Priest reads the Statement of Intent.

Statement of Intent
High Priest: “Tonight we gather to celebrate Yule, the night of the Winter Solstice. We shall witness the rebirth of the Lord of the Sun, and celebrate his return. Cold is upon our door, but with the rebirth of The God and the blessings of the Lady the days will now grow longer. Blessed Be.”

(The High Priestess and Priest instruct the rest of the circle to wait in the sitting room while they set up the sacred space in whatever room you usually use for ritual. Those waiting in the sitting room can meditate on the meaning of the Solstice or listen to Holiday inspired tunes while awaiting further instructions.

Beginning in the East salted water from a bowl or cauldron is sprinkled in the working space. This is followed by a candle preceding from East to North, and then finally a bell is rung at each of the cardinal points.)

Casting the Circle
High Priestess: (with sword in hand, beginning in the East and ending in the North, casting the circle thrice) “I conjure thee oh circle of power, that thou may be a meeting place of love and joy and truth and as a shield against all wickedness and evil. Thou art a boundary between the world of mortals and the realms of the mighty ones; and an entry way to the realm of spirit. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of the Lord and the Lady.”

Calling the Watchtowers

(The invoking and banishing pentagrams are used at each of the cardinal points during the quarter calls. The pentagrams are drawn in the air with the athame just before saying “Hail and welcome.” I find lighting candles after calling quarters/watchtowers annoying so I have them all pre-lit on my altars. The High Priestess and Priest can alternate the saying of the quarters, or they can all be called by one of them.)

East: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, ye Powers of Air; Spirits of Clear Will and Knowledge, I do summon, stir, and call you up, to witness our rites and to guard our Circle. Hail and welcome.”

South: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, ye Powers of Fire; Spirits of Illumination and Desire, I do summon, stir, and call you up, to witness our rites and to guard our Circle. Hail and welcome.”

West: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, ye Powers of Water; Spirits of Death and Initiation, I do summon, stir, and call upon you to Witness our Rites and to guard our Circle. Hail and welcome.”

North: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtower of the North, ye Powers of Earth, Keepers of the Northern Portals, Spirits of Mountain and Plains, I do summon, stir, and call upon you to witness our Rites and to guard our Circle. Hail and welcome.”

The Rebirth of the Sun

(The High Priestess approaches the Priest and says “it is time.” The High Priest closes his eyes and reflects upon the past year, seeing the sun and the turn of the Wheel in his mind’s eye while doing so. When he has fully tapped into the energy of “the old year” he lies down on the floor in the fetal position to represent the dying Sun God. The room is dark except for one lit candle upon the altar. When the Priestess deems the Priest ready she cuts a doorway out of the circle and goes to retrieve the rest of the participants.

As everyone gathers in the ritual space they form a circle around the dying Sun God. All is still, all is quiet, all is calm, and the room is cast in shadows from the one flickering source of light.)

High Priestess: “Lord of the Light, it is time for you to return. Death is not the end of your travels, it is simply one stop in a very long and eternal journey. The Mother calls out to you, return to your perch in the sky so that our children may be bathed in light, love and life. Rejoin us this night of darkness so that we might again find our way! Creation cries out for your return, and weeps in your absence! Return return return!”

(The High Priestess then leans down and puts her hand upon the High Priest. The rest of the circle joins hands around them.)

High Priestess: “Queen of the Moon, Queen of the Sun, Queen of the Heavens, Queen of the Stars, Queen of the Waters, Queen of the Earth, Bring to us the Child of Promise! It is the Great Mother who gives birth to him; it is the Lord who is born again; darkness and tears are set aside when the Sun rises again upon Yule!”

(The High Priestess brings the Priest to his feet and they embrace.)

High Priestess: “Golden Sun of the hill and mountain, illuminate the world, illuminate the land, illuminate the seas, illuminate the rivers! Sorrows be forgotten, joy to the world! Blessed Be the Great Goddess, without beginning, without ending, everlasting to eternity.”

(The Priest and Priestess then lead the circle in a Christmas carol, while everyone dances around the circle hand in hand.)

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.
(repeat if it feels right.)

(In other versions of this rite the return of the Sun is celebrated in the middle of the ritual after the Lord and Lady have been called. This makes no sense to me theologically which is why this part is placed so early in my ritual. How do you call to the God if you are inferring that he’s dead? It makes much more sense to me to mourn his passing and celebrate his return before calling to Him. I also think to properly do this part of the ritual justice the Watchtowers should be present and the circle cast, but that it’s ineffective to have all the participants view the High Priest assuming the role of the Dying God. That’s why I prefer to have them enter the space after he’s ready to inhabit the role.)

Lighting the Yule Tree
High Priest: “Hail the rebirth of the sun, Hail the return of the God”

(The Priest then picks up a tea-light candle and uses the single altar candle to light it. He holds it aloft and then places it either upon the altar, or perhaps on a Yule tree designed to hold such things. (That’s what we use at my house.) As he sets the candle in the tree he says “We welcome the return of the light.” The Priestess also picks up a candle and repeats the candle lighting. The rest of the circle repeats until everyone has lit a candle and welcomed the return of the sun.)

Lighting of the Yule Log
High Priestess: “As our ancestors did, so do we now. On this sacred night we light this Yule log to symbolize this holiday season and to pay homage to the our sisters and brothers across the world who gather on or near the winter solstice to pay their respects to the return of the light. Our differences seem so much slighter at this time of year as we share so many familiar holiday traditions. Blessed Be!”

(At our house, the Yule Log is a carved log with places in it to insert candles.)

Call to Santa Claus
High Priest: “Oh bringer of toys of gifts, Herald of the sun’s rebirth, Tamer of flying reindeer, Crafter of gifts for the young ones, Join us tonight in our circle! Come to us with your long white beard, Black boots and red and white suit. Fill our stocking with sweets and treats, For we’ve been good Pagans this year. We welcome Kris Kringle to our Celebration of the Sun’s rebirth. Hail & Welcome Great Santa Claus!!”

(You’re not surprised this is here are you? I warned you at the beginning. I see Santa Claus, oh ghost of Odin, as a symbol of the Holidays and a powerful entity. He may not be a god in the traditional sense, but his myth has magick, and power.)

Call to the God
High Priest: “We call to the Great God this sacred night of the Winter Solstice. We call to Jack in the Green, he who runs across snow laden forests, protecting the life within so that it may awake in the Spring. We call to the Lord of the Underworld, caretaker of the land of death, whose hand has touched much of this world at this bleak time of year. We call to the Sun, he who is reborn this night, he who gives us light and life. We welcome the Great God in all of his forms and with all of his faces this blessed night. Welcome and blessed be!”

Call to the Goddess
High Priestess: “We call to the Great Goddess this sacred night of the Winter Solstice. We call to the Crone, she whose wisdom in the face of difficulty keeps us here and in health. We call to the Lady of the Moon, she who casts her spell across the snow filled plains, her reflection glistening like silver and melting our hearts with its beauty. We call to the Great Mother, who magickally brings forth life in this time of death. We welcome the Great Goddess in all of her forms and in her many roles this blessed night. Welcome and blessed be!”

Jumping the Yule Log
High Priest: “Our ancient pagan sisters and brothers often lit large bonfires to celebrate Midwinter and the return of the light. The fires symbolized the burning away of the old year and the light and promise of a new one. Tonight we enter the waxing part of the year, from now on the days get longer and brighter. We take the light of the Yule Log and use it to purify ourselves and to leave behind what’s in the past.”

“Tonight we will all jump the Yule Log, before jumping, yelling out what it is we leave behind in the waning part of the year. As the Yule Log burns, let’s all make new starts in our lives, and leave the bad bits of our past behind.”

(Everyone jumps the Yule Log, saying the name of something we want to leave behind before jumping. While everyone is jumping, the circle sings Christmas carols.)

Passing of the Gifts
High Priestess: “While new religions have claimed the giving of gifts this time of year as their own invention, it is our ancestors who first began the tradition. Ancient pagans exchanged gifts to those they loved at Midwinter, and as a reminder that the gods would always provide. Tonight we exchange gifts to symbolize the gifts of the Lord and Lady and to express our love for one another. Blessed Be!”

(You can do all kinds of different things here. Perhaps your circle exchanges gifts, or you’ve sent up some sort of “Secret Santa” type of thing. The first time we did this ritual we gave everyone in the circle a Christmas Cracker, and then went around the circle to let everyone share what was in their cracker. It was a pretty fun time, with lots of smiles and laughs. Depending on what gifts you give at this point the ritual can take on a festive or a more serious tone.)

The Great Rite/Cakes and Ale
High Priestess: “The days have grown short, the nights cold, but Yule is the promise of brighter days ahead. Through the grace of the Lady the Lord of the Sun is now reborn, and the gods continue to bless us.”

High Priest: “Life is more than a gift, it is a promise. All that dies shall be reborn.”

High Priestess: “We now celebrate the most ancient of magicks, the magick of joining.”

High Priest: “The athame is to the Lord.”

High Priestess: “As the cup is the Lady.”

Both: “United in life and abundance. Blessed Be!”

(Athame is plunged into the chalice.)

High Priest: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this bread.”

(Touches athame to either the bread or the plate it is being served upon.)

High Priestess: “In the names of the Lord and Lady we bless this drink.”

(Touches athame to the top of the cup.)

(There are two ways to celebrate Cakes and Ale, you can either make it a fast thing, or it can be something to linger over. If the mood is right you can tell stories or share a song at this point in the ritual. If there is to be feasting or drinking after the ritual, perhaps you just want to do it quickly.)

Thanking Goddess and God

High Priest: “We thank the Great God for being with us tonight in our circle. As we look up in the sky and see the days get longer in the coming weeks and months we will think of you and say thanks for your presence in our lives. Hail and farewell!”

High Priestess: “We thank the Great Lady for being with us tonight in our circle. Each time the gift of new life visits us this winter season we will think of you and your continual presence in our lives, thank you for your love. Hail and farewell!”

The Yule Log Part Two
High Priestess: “We do not extinguish the candles on the Yule Log, may they burn until the sunrise to honor the child who has been given to us this night. May the candles here burn brightly over the next few weeks as a symbol of hope that all the people in this world might one day come together in love and in peace. Blessed Be!”

Dismissing the Watchtowers

(Just like the beginning calls to the Watchtowers, but in reverse order and with the banish pentagram made before saying “Hail and farewell.”)

North: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North, ye Powers of Earth, Keepers of the Northern Portals, Spirits of Mountain and Plains, you have witnessed our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!” (Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

West: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West, ye Powers of Water; Spirits of Death and Initiation, you have witnessed our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!“ (Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

South: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South, ye Powers of Fire; Spirits of Illumination and Desire, you have witnessed our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell!” (Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

East: “Ye Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East, ye Powers of Air; Spirits of Clear Will and Knowledge, you have witnessed our rites and have guarded our circle well. We thank you for joining us this sacred night. Hail and farewell! (Participants repeat “Hail and farewell.”)

Taking Down the Circle
High Priestess: “I conjured thee oh circle of power as a meeting place to shield us against all wickedness and evil. Thou has served us well, and now we undo this boundary between the world of mortals and those of the mighty ones. We seal forth the entry way from the realm of spirit. All will now be as it once was, and what was once here has been dismissed in the names of the Lord and the Lady. So mote it be!”

Closing Statement
High Priestess: “Our Yuletide Ritual is now at an end. The Sun King is reborn the light has returned. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again! Blessed Be!”

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.


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