Most folks have heard of bonfires as part of solstice celebrations, in the Northern Tradition we also have traditions concerning the yule log, as well as the ashen faggot which was a collection of bundled branches that were burned instead. We see in the Christian practice of Saint Lucy’s Day, what I feel is a pre-Christian practice of bringing light on the darkest and longest of nights.
Among English sources, we know that remnants of the previous years yule log, was used to help light the next year. By doing so we have a tradition that has the light (while now extinguished) ‘kept’ throughout the year. In part this becomes something like a folk amulet of good luck, but also a means to ‘restart the light’ on the coldest, darkest, and longest night of the year when it roles around again.
The yule log is even now part of the national holiday decor… as there is now a ‘Yule Log’ on display next to the National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C. and within line of sight of the White House.
While captain obvious gets that obviously we need wood for the fire, don’t forget that a fire can be more than just a source of light and warmth on a cold and dark night, but it can also be used to burn offerings. In folk traditions throughout Europe we see fragrant herbs as an item added to varying celebrations that used a bonfire or some such. So this yuletide, don’t forget to also think of tossing pleasing herbs onto the fire too, to give an offering of fragrant aroma to our Gods and Goddesses, our ancestors, and the land vaettir.
This year I’m using cedar sprig tips for that evergreen seasonal appeal. I’m also using cloves. Most people may not realize this, but popularized in the 1800’s was the exotic treat of having an orange as a Christmas present or stocking stuffer. For those who had more wealth available to them for such things, would make a pomander: that takes the orange and combines it with decorative placement of cloves in it. So the cloves to me are a traditional seasonal scent that evokes memories of my childhood and making the orange pomanders with my mother. I’m also using some cinnamon sticks since I associate this time of year very strongly with cinnamon. As much as those fond seasonal scents for this time of year, I’m also including a dash of lavender as a wish for the spring to come. Until the yuletide, I have my mixture in a special box sitting on the altar.
Are there any particular fragrances you associate with this time of year that you plan on burning in the yule fire in offering?