Mistletoe and evergreen wreaths don’t only belong to Christmas! The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, also share these symbolic decorations. Learn more about the importance of Yule and how we can celebrate this natural cycle of the year. Then mark the longest night of the year with a special tarot reading with a tarot spread created by the Mystic Mermaid.
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Yule is one of the sabbats (a day of spiritual importance) on the neo-pagan wheel of the year. It occurs on the Winter Solstice, which is the longest night and shortest day of the year. Each year the exact date varies a bit, but it usually falls on December 21 or 22.
This time of year is very special and unique. It is a time of year when people around the world celebrate. The holidays may go by different names, but across cultures, countries, faiths, and times, this time of year is one of great celebration around the world.
Turning of the Wheel
According to Kiki Dombrowski in her book: Eight Extraordinary Days, the word Yule comes from the Icelandic word “jol” meaning “wheel.”
The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and was honoured, as it marked a big change. From this day forward the days start growing longer. Yule celebrates the return of the Sun King, or the Oak King in Wiccan traditions. The Holly King has been ruling since the Summer Solstice, when the days were progressively getting shorter. He “dies” to be reborn as the Oak King on Yule. Yule is a celebration of the return of the sun. Of longer days and the growing season, of hope, and merry making.
If you are looking to bring more awareness of the cyclical nature of the seasons into your life, honouring the sabbats is a magical way to do so. Below are some traditions that can help you get started!
The Yule Log
Yes, this can be a chocolate cake. We all need a little chocolate sometimes! But in this context, the Yule Log is a literally burning log lit to clear out the old and to welcome the new. There are various perspectives on how to incorporate the Yule log into your Winter Solstice celebrations. Dombrowski tells us that the Yule log is a piece of wood placed in the hearth and lit on the Solstice. People would tell stories and make merry while the fire was going. If the flames were burning in the morning, your year ahead would be blessed. She also says that taking ashes from the yule log and sprinkling them on your land will bless the coming year’s harvest.
Burning During The Darkest Nights
In her book The Modern Guide to Witchcraft, Skye Alexander describes the Yule log as being composed of nine different types of wood with oak being the main sacred wood. She says that if you place the ashes of the yule log in a cloth under your pillow, you will dream of guidance for the year to come.
Both authors describe the tradition of keeping a piece of the Yule log to light next year’s Yule log with.
While the wood of nine sacred trees sounds magical, for many of us living in cities, this is not always doable. But we adapt! Using whatever wood you wish, place it in your indoor or outdoor fire pit. You could have people over for a party, you could throw offerings of herbs or spices into the fire as offerings, you could say what you’re grateful for and what you’d like to release, or anything else that feels in alignment with Yule for you. Some people turn this into a ritual and cast a circle, going the full magical nine yards. Every practitioner is different, so do what feels right for you.
There’s a reason we smooch under mistletoe! No, not because it’s delicious, it’s poisonous, so don’t give mistletoe any smooches! Mistletoe is associated with fertility and is said to have been sacred to the Druids. In his book Witches’ Craft, Bruce K. Wilborn tells us that kissing under mistletoe was a Druid marriage ritual. The kiss under the mistletoe would seal the marriage.
Scott Cunningham tells us in his book Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs that mistletoe is also used for protection. Burning it will drive away evil spirits and kissing under it will help you and your partner to stay in love.
If you wish to incorporate mistletoe into your Yule practice, you don’t have to incorporate kisses! Hang it from your tree, in your bedroom or office, or anywhere else to invite in energies of fertility, love, and protection. Note: when saying “fertility” in this context, that doesn’t necessarily refer to getting pregnant. Fertility can be what we are growing and welcoming into our lives.
Evergreens symbolize everlasting life as they are, as the name tells us, ever green. They are incorporated during Yule to celebrate the life that we still have and the returning of life that will come with the waxing half of the year.
You will see evergreens as Christmas trees (some people call them Yule Trees), as wreaths, and various types of decorations. The wreath symbolizes the turning of the wheel of the year. The never-ending change that is truly the only constant in life. Change is ever present and cyclical. Pine boughs are cleansing when burned. So offering a few to your fire can help you to cleanse your space.
While normally not associated with Yule, these are associated with Christmas. Their symbolism is so closely related to Yule though, so I wished to include it. In her book Plant Witchery, Juliet Diaz tells us that poinsettias are associated with the return of the sun after winter solstice, making it a perfect plant for the season. They’re also associated with wishes and devotion. With the return of the sun and the waxing half of the year, it is a good time to make wishes and to re-evaluate where we would like to focus our devotion for the year ahead.
One beautiful, fragrant, and family friendly Yule tradition is to make a Yule Pomander. These stunning creations will fill your home with magic, and incredible smells, this holiday season.
Winter Solstice Books
If you are looking to do more reading, and there is so much to learn about this special time of year. Here are a few resources.
Yule Tarot Spread
Yule is the first sabbat on the wheel of the year. Samhain, the previous sabbat celebrated at Halloween, being the end of the year sabbat. This is a time of celebrating, sharing what we have, letting go of what no longer serves us from the past year, and looking forward to the return of the light.
Below is a tarot spread I designed exclusively for this article to help you get into the Yule spirit.
May your evergreens be fresh, your yule log burn bright, and may the Oak King bless you in the year to come!
More Holiday Resources
The Mystic Mermaid
Jenny is a professional shamanic practitioner and tarot reader. Her academic background is in French and Spanish translation studies. Through her academic and spiritual studies, she realized we are all spiritual translators, translating our feelings, experiences, and messages from spirit. Jenny endeavours to help people see the light within themselves, each other, and nature, to dream a healed dream into being for ourselves and the world.