Celebrating the Solstice: Patheos Pagan Writers on Yule

Celebrating the Solstice: Patheos Pagan Writers on Yule December 13, 2015

Yule and the Holiday Season can be celebrated hundreds of different ways. I asked some of the writers here at Patheos Pagan how they celebrate the Winter Solstice (and I do really wish I had an Australian writer!) and got a variety of answers. However you celebrate, have a blessed Yule!

"Twelfth Night (The King Drinks)" by David Teniers.  From WikiMedia.  (Your Yule doesn't look like this?)
“Twelfth Night (The King Drinks)” by David Teniers. From WikiMedia. (Your Yule doesn’t look like this?)

Irisanya Moon Charged by the Goddess

For me, Solstice begins at the beginning of December, with picking out a Yule tree and making a night of decorating it. Each ornament has come from a relative and some now Beloved Dead. We tell stories of our loved ones as we place the ornaments on and then light the tree to call them, to welcome them into our home for the holiday time. We laugh, we cry, and we remember. We take a piece of the tree from the year before and light that in the fireplace, and light a spinning golden angel thing that’s of our ancestry. We call in the magick of returning light, while giving gratitude for the longer nights, for the peace they bring and the hope they beckon.

Lisa Wagoner Witch, Indeed

I celebrate the Winter Solstice in community, as part of clergy at our local goddess temple. We spend the evening in song and dance,cakes and ale, and sharing our stories of celebration with lovely community. At home, candles stay lit all night, as we await the dawn, recalling memories and highlights of this year. We also watch festive, favorite movies. Before dawn, we go out to the local lake with coffee and hot chocolate to greet the morning sun. Then we take a brisk walk around the lake (around two miles), go out for breakfast, and go back home to nap.

Gwyn 3 Pagans & A Cat

Every member of my family is following a different Solitary Pagan path. So, we try to incorporate a little something from each out paths to celebrate Yule. My husband, Car, is a Druid. We begin the festive season by lighting candles, in a Yule log he fashions, for the twelve days before the Winter Solistice. Our child, Ode, is a Syncretic Heathen. We incorporate their tradition of Modraniht (or Mother’s Night) on December 20th, honoring Frigga, mother spirits and ancestors. We tell stories of family and eat a meal.

“Deer Running in the Snow” by Gustave Courbet, from WikiMedia.

We celebrate the Winter Solstice by lighting a single candle in the morning (to welcome Winter, farewell the darkness and rejoice in the eventual return of the Sun) which will burn until the next morning. In the evening, we light the Yule log, exchange gifts and do a blessings spell for the coming year. We share a meal and enjoy an evening of divination or a game. And then in honor of Ode’s Heathen tradition, we continue to light the candles of the Yule log for another 10 days. Yule is the main holiday we celebrate together and it is one of the best.

Jason Mankey (Raise the Horns):

For me Yuletide isn’t a day, it’s a season. There are parties both at our house and at those of our friends, and of course a coven ritual on the Friday closest to solstice. Coven Yule is always fun and comes complete with Secret Bafana (like Secret Santa but with a gift-giving Witch!), and this year we will be doing a Yule Ritual with our Gardneiran coven too! So there’s three Yule rituals.

I decorate for the Holidays like a crazy person, so our house looks like Christmas just threw up in it. Speaking of Christmas we still celebrate that too, my wife and I both having grown up in households that honored the holiday. On Christmas Eve we usually visit our local pub where Santa Claus stops in for a visit. It all ends for me the first week of January post-New Year’s.

Lilith Dorsey Voodoo Universe

Winter solstice is an especially precious time of year for me and my spiritual family. We take the opportunity of the longest night of the year to both honor the Dark Goddesses and celebrate and give thanks for the light. Candles are charged, readings are done and tables are set for both the living and the dead. Stories are told of Yuletides past. Personally I also like to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, which as we all know is a thinly veiled witches tale. We see Mary loose her clothes, dance by the light of the moon, and manifest all her wildest dreams.

Sable Aradia (Between the Shadows)

The family gets together for dinner on Yule Eve, followed by a circle to honor the Holly and Oak Kings (whom we see as brothers or lovers taking turns at sharing power,) the Goddess as a truly Triple Goddess (Crone of Winter, Mother of the Sun, Maiden of the Returning Light), and the coming Sun King. Sometimes we chant and sing Solstice carols. We hold our ritual in the kitchen with all the lights extinguished save one candle on the hearth.

“Cairn in Snow” by Caspar David Friedrich. From WikiMedia

Then when the kids go to bed, we set out the presents and the stockings, just like we did for Christmas when we were small. I go out at midnight (or just before I go to bed) to ponder the beauty of the Longest Night and the stars and the cosmos. I quietly honour the deities of the dark and the stars (including the Star Goddess) and watch for signs or portents; then go to bed. When we get up we open the stockings, then eat breakfast. Usually about that time the sun comes up, so we go out and blow my sacred horn, made from a bull’s horn, to hail the return of the Sun King. Sometimes we also chant. Then we open the presents and spend the day eating baking and the leftovers of last night’s dinner, dispersing at around dinnertime.

Martha Kirby Capo The Corner Crone

Several personal life events have occurred around the time of the Winter Solstice, and so my observances have incorporated aspects of these events–my birthday, my younger son’s birthday, and, when I was 40, an emergency surgery during which I came a little bit closer than anyone was comfortable with to crossing over. Solstice, then, is a time of deep private reflection and heartfelt gratitude; it’s a very interior, inwardly focused time for me. In recent years I’ve been a co-leader of public Solstice Services, which I’ve found to be profoundly satisfying, particularly as a Hekatean Witch calling on and working with Hekate Enodia (the Guide at the crossroads).

Gwion Raven The Witches Next Door

Solstice is such a busy time for The Witches Next Door. It’s the height of the retail season, so our little magickal shop is absolutely bonkers. We attend one public Winter Solstice Ritual. Phoenix has been going to this same ritual for twenty-four years. I’ve been attending for about seventeen. There’s something magickal in the familiar or is that something familiar in the magickal? Our personal ritual often centers around exchanging gifts, we’ve hidden under the Yule tree. The house is quiet, and the only light comes from the twinkle lights. We think about the year that’s gone. We take a breath. We hold each other close. We welcome back the light by lighting a candle that’s special to us both. It’s simple and simply perfect.

Tara Sanchez The DruWitch Way

The festive Season normally starts with St. Lucy, on the 13th, we try and do coven Yule about the same time because trying to get everyone together much later in the month is mayhem. The weekend closest to Solstice sees me high tailing it over to Anglesey to celebrate the return of the sun with the Druids after which we feast on traditional British Curry. My tree goes up as the sun goes down on longest night and I leave the tree lit until morning.

Some people celebrate with a Christmas Dinosaur.
Some people celebrate with a Christmas Dinosaur.

Actual Christmas is a very understated affair because we don’t really see Christmas as our festival, celebrating only for the sake of family and friends. But there is a right royal knees up a few days later because it’s both New Years and my wedding anniversary. By then it’s fair to say I’m all tuckered out and ready for a rest.

Kelden By Athame & Stang

The winter tide is always a time of deep introspection for me. My mind, body, and spirit mirror the natural world which turns inward. The landscape where I live is covered in ice and snow, the temperatures drop to below freezing. It’s a time of death and silent stillness. During this time, the spirits also take on their darker aspects. It’s at this point in the year when the Wild Hunt takes to the sky on nights when winter storms roll through.

The solstice marks the officially arrival of the winter tide. And so I light my candles and leave my offerings to the spirits of the ice and snow. I close my eyes and sink deeper into my inner world, seeking out truths in the shadows of frigid nights, knowing that come spring I will emerge from the depths refreshed and anew.

Scarlet Magdalene Tea Addicted Witch

In one of my trads, we gather the last light from the sunset and bring that candle into our Yule ritual. We also do an all night vigil until the sun comes up the next day. The idea of carrying over the last light into the new year and honoring the new is very much part of the rite.

Tom Swiss The Zen Pagan

Happy Solstice!

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