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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Some Helpful Facts About Witches, In Case You're Curious Or Spooked

We don't really ride broomsticks!

I am a witch!

The words alone conjure up a variety of mental images. Most of the time you're going to think of Halloween. Or perhaps you thought of famous shows like "Casper and Wendy," "Hocus Pocus," "Bewitched," "Charmed," and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." Maybe some of you more nerdy people thought of "Monty Python" and getting turned into a newt! (You'll get better!)

However, it's a relatively small number of people whose first thought was that I was being serious. In all actuality, I was being 100% serious though. But what does that even mean? Well, in short, it's a little bit different for everyone, but it means that you practice magic.

Before I get into the details of what constitutes witchcraft, I would like to start off by making it clear that I am not talking about Wicca. Wicca is a religion, which, although it often goes hand-in-hand with witchcraft, is a wholly separate thing. One can be a witch without being Wicca, or vice versa.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about what makes a witch, well, a witch. Simply put, a witch is someone who practices witchcraft, but of course, that just brings up further questions. So let's talk about what witchcraft is. Well, there are hundreds of small things that constitute as witchcraft. The most notable would be astrology and tarot, two forms of divination that are quite popular in the modern world.

Some other practices are carving runes, working with aromatherapy, lighting candles in specific patterns, and reverence of nature. While just having a tarot deck or reading the stars doesn't quite make you a witch, it's a start. It's the combination of many of these practices into a daily lifestyle that makes a person into a witch.

You may ask "but what about summoning demons and casting hexes on people?" The quick answer to that is to just say just a Hollywood thing, but of course, the long answer is a little bit more of a grey area. While yes there are witches who summon spirits or cast spells on others, it's a rare day that anything dangerous or evil is actually happening. I've never personally summoned anything, but my spells have never consisted of more than small things to make sure my friends and family are safe.

If you've got any interest in witchcraft, I'd recommend reading up on it yourself! In libraries or on the internet. In libraries, you should look under occultism, look for Dewey Decimal numbers in the 130's. Online just google for "modern witchcraft." Do remember, that witchcraft isn't against religion! (See: Kabbalah and the Key of Solomon) There are even Christian witches!

If you choose to be a witch, remember that not every witch is the same and the rules are pretty vague! Make it your own and make sure you are happy with who you are.

Cover Image Credit: @90sbabiesstore

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The Evil That Wicca Is Not

It's not exactly like the Sanderson Sisters do it.

Religion is equal parts beautiful and intimidating. Google defines religion as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." This belief system is designed to bring hope into society. It's a light in the darkness that gives us something to hold onto. However, what a lot of people forget to remember is that their religion isn't the only religion. Their version of God isn't the only version of God out there.

Wicca is one of those religions that gets a bad rap. I mean, looking back in history if somebody even speculated another person was a witch they were burned at the stake. Society has its set of normalized religions, and nine times out of ten Wicca wouldn't make the cut. However, over the years I've met a couple wonderful people that practice Wicca and let me tell you it is one of the most peaceful religions I've come to learn. One of their biggest moral statements shows that:

"'An' it harm none, do what ye will."

First, let's erase the stigma. Witches don't do the devil's work. They don't call upon demons and use dark magic to do their bidding. They aren't this group of people that have green skin, warts on their nose, and cackle on broomsticks when the moon is high in the sky.

They do, however, utilize the earth and care for it incredibly deep. The Wiccans that I have known have a green thumb like no other and know much more about gardening than most people. They feel a bond with nature, the elements, and the universe that is so pure and good. Wiccans know how to use herbs and spices to cleanse a home or to make amazing tea.

Their connection to the universe is magical. Wiccan strongly believe in signs from the universe whether it comes in the form of feathers in your path or a spirit animal. If you ask the universe a question, with enough time and a keen eye you will receive an answer. If you believe in this even just a little bit, it's pretty interesting what you can pick up on.

Their rituals are so peaceful. They, at least in my understanding and experience, tend to involve crystals, salt, sigils (symbols that hold power), candles, and plenty other things. Sprinkling salt near a doorway after deep cleaning your home is a good way to get rid of negative energy, and painting a protection sigil on your door with lemon juice is a good way to keep the negative energy out. Do you like wearing certain crystals? If you charge them by the light of a full moon, it'll do wonders.

The people that practice it are like anybody else. You could be walking among somebody that's Wicca every single day and you'd never know it. They're like any other caring human being with a kind heart. They want nothing but good for other people and the world around them.

In short, I think it's important to remember that plenty of religions –– not just Wicca –– might not necessarily be what everyone perceives as normal, but that doesn't mean its evil. It just means it's different, and different is beautiful.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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