The Story of Yule

The Story of Yule

How Christianity and Paganism are alike

Christmas is, by all means, an extremely diverse holiday. While we fail to notice it most of the time, cultural aspects from all around the world come together and merge into the holiday that we know of as Christmas. Of course, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, the son of God. However, Christmas isn't as simple as that, especially when gift-giving, reindeer, elves, trees, and snow are thrown into the mix; after all, baby Jesus certainly never saw snow!

This raises the question: where do these aspects come from? While there are many different cultures and religions that have inspired the modern-day celebration of Christmas, one religious celebration stands out the most: the pagan celebration of the winter solstice known as Yule.

Out of all winter celebrations that take place during this time of year, one of the least-recognized seems to be Yule, celebrated by both pagans and Wiccans. Historically celebrated by Germanic pagans, Yule is the celebration of the coming light, which will bear itself when spring arrives. Similarly to Christmas, Yule marks the time in which the new year begins, as seen in the wheel of the year.

As with most Sabbats, we pagans decorate our altar (our sacred place of worship) in honor of the holiday:

When you look at these pagan altars, you can see the similarities between Yule and Christmas imagery: snow, ribbons, candles, evergreens, etc. My personal altar features similar aspects, such as candles, ornaments, and even a small tree.

Of course, you probably noticed the strange logs featured in each of these images. These are known to pagans as (not surprisingly) Yule Logs, which actually are an ancient Celtic phallic symbol (ancient paganism was quite fond of phallic symbols). The use of phallic symbols in Yule comes from the fact that Yule is considered to be the day of rebirth of the Horned God, who, in turn, symbolizes the sun. Of course, considering that the days after yule will be longer and the nights shorter, it makes sense that ancient Pagans would believe this to be, quite literally, the birth of the sun.

Yule logs are one of the many pagan symbols that have made their way into the modern Christmas; after all, one of the most popular Christmas dishes is the Yule log cake.

Somewhat less apetizing after realizing what it represents...

Since these pagan traditions came from primarily Germanic regions, symbols such as snow, reindeer, and evergreen trees came to represent the season. Of course, since Yule is the celebration of the coming of the light, candles were a very prominent symbol to the pagans of the past. To modern pagans, not only candles, but also artificial lights uphold the symbolism of the Horned god.

Yule, like most other Sabbats, is a massive celebration, celebrated with caroling, wassailing, mistletoe, and gifts, as well as prayers and elaborate rituals performed to honor the coming of the Horned God, one of the primary Wiccan deities. Gift-giving was very prominent in the Roman holiday Saturnalia, which was adopted by the Germanic pagans, and, finally, adopted by the Christians.

Of course, many Christians are horrified at the realization that their holy day is so similar to a pagan holiday. However, it is important to remember that history isn't always exclusive; cultures have always merged and split over time, and customs have always been adopted and abandoned. This does not mean that Yule is Christian, nor that Christmas is Pagan; it is simply a similarity developed due to cultural exchanges. Some other similarities between Pagan and Christian traditions are Ostara and Easter, as well as Lughnasadh and Thanksgiving.

It's so easy to alienate those who have different customs than us, but it's of upmost importance that we remember that, within all of our differences, we can cherish the things that bring us together. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and Blessed Yule.

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5 Different Types Of Witches

Witchcraft is an ancient practice that dates back centuries and is kept alive by many people today.

If you've ever been taught anything about witchcraft you've probably heard of the law of three. If not that's perfectly fine, but perk up cause this is just plain good life advice. Anything you put out into this world good or bad comes back to you three times over. This being said, the sigma on witchcraft being 'evil' confuses me. People just don't hear about how witchcraft is actually practiced. It's used to help the people around you and gain personal enlightenment. Rarely is a witch heard of doing magic that would be deemed 'dark.' The belief systems people have set in place are all unique and wonderful. That's why I decided to list some of the most popular sect's of the craft people practice around the world.

1. Eclectic Witch

An Eclectic witch will study different traditions and rituals from all types of the craft. They embody a practice that is suited to the individuals specific interests and needs. They do not follow any particular sect of witchcraft, but instead make their own beliefs based on the parts of the craft the resonate with most. For instance two eclectic witches can meet and have completely different belief system because they are set up by the individual.

2. Kitchen Witch

You can often times find kitchen witches making delicious meals that satiate the soul as well as the taste buds. They use magic in both their every day life as well as in cooking, turning crock-pots into modern day cauldrons. They specialize in herbal knowledge and the nature of plant based magic.

3. Elemental Witch

Witches that could be considered 'elemental' normally specialize in one of the four elements; fire, air, water, and earth. In covens calling the corners also comes with the calling of the elements that coincide. In certain belief systems a fifth element is also involves; the spirit element. Although other belief systems work more closely with the spirit world. Elemental witches learn to hone skills related to the element they feel closest to,or in some cases all the elements combined.

4. Hedge Witches

People who classify themselves as hedge witches maintain a solitary practice. They don't seek out covens and rarely participate in rituals. They tend to focus more on self reflection within the craft and making themselves stronger as a person. They are quite similar to shamans in many aspects. They both consider themselves to be able to walk the veil surrounding this world and the next, making them great healers. The 'hedge' part of the name comes from that belief. Hedges use to be used in villages to separate the civilized town from the wild. Much like hedges would exist in both civilization and the wild, a hedge witch exists both here and in the beyond at once.

5.Green witch

Green witches base their belief system on the largely on the earth and mother nature. They do their spells or rituals out in the woods and fields around their home. They often use the elements around them in their practice to create less waste. You can expect most of these witches to have a garden of some type in or around there home. Green witches also tend to have a large knowledge of herbal magic and flower magic making their plants a spectacular sight.

Cover Image Credit: Marc Potts

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Wicca Is Such A Misunderstood Religion, So Let Me Explain It

Wiccan's worship the Earth and Mother Nature.

Wicca/Paganism; such a misunderstood religion.

"You worship the devil!" WRONG! Wiccan's worship the Earth and Mother Nature. Wicca is nothing to play around with and it is to be taken as seriously as any other religion. The pentacle is not that of Satan, but that of the elements. Wind, water, earth, fire, and spirit.

As per the Religious Tolerance, "Wiccans have great reverence for the Earth and for their Goddess and her consort, the Horned God. Their main rule of behavior is the Wiccan Rede which forbids them from harming people, including themselves, except in some cases of self-defense. "

As per the Religious Tolerance, "Because of centuries of religious propaganda and misinformation, many conservative Christians, and others, associate Wiccans with Satanists even though the two belief systems are as different as Christianity and Atheism. "

We, as Wiccan's, also celebrate the holidays as well as the changing of the seasons. Sahmain, the Celtic New Year is celebrated on October 31st, Yule is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, Imbolc is celebrated on February 2nd, Ostara, Beltane, Litha is the celebration of the Summar Solstice, Lughnasadh (Lamma) is the celebration of the first harvest and Mabon is the celebration of the Fall Equinox (the 2nd harvest). As you can see, there is nothing satanic about this religion.

If you are unable to see the positive side of Wicca, then take a look at what a handful of men and women have to say about it.

A fellow Wiccan, Mike Sexton, said, "Wicca honors nature and lets you learn self-empowerment."

My friend, Katilyn Monnier, said, "Wicca is something that we have in all of us. The empathy, that feeling you have when something just doesn't feel right. It is a feeling. It's a calmness amongst the chaos. Wicca isn't about sacrifice, it is about life. The beauty of it, whether it is a deadly fire or a gentle rain. It helps the world grow. Wicca just is."

Another fellow Wiccan, Frank Borello, said, "A good example of this is Gerald Gardner's tradition of Wicca. In 1939 he became involved with the Fellowship of Crotona, an occult group of Co-Masons, a Masonic Theosophist Annie Besant. The members claimed to be hereditary Witches who practiced a Craft passed down to them through the centuries of family training. In 1946, Gardner was introduced to Aleister Crowley. Crowley made Gardner an honorary member of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), a magickal order at one time under Crowley's leadership. Reportedly learning plenty of magickal practices from Crowley.

Based on these earlier coven training and his own historical research, Gardner developed specific rituals, learning criteria and initiation tests for his new denomination of the Craft. In 1953 he initiated Doreen Valiente into his coven. The two collaborated on writing ritual and non-ritual material, a body of work which continues to stand as the authority for what became known as the Gardnerian tradition of Witchcraft or what many know today as Wicca.
Most covens and their eventual traditions are formed in this same way. A teacher often reads, researchers and grows beyond their teacher. They expand their knowledge along with their understandings of spirit, nature, and beliefs. Being exposed to other religions and other people can also provide for alternative views and beliefs. A well-educated teacher/initiated Priest/Priestess will take this knowledge and add it to their practices for their new coven. In doing so, they can establish a new Tradition of Witchcraft."

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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