by Kassy Fox
Also known as Alban Arthan by the Druids, stretches back in history to many ancient practices. Most of which prominently feature a festival associated with the birth of a God, and hoping to bring back the sun which gives life, encouraging birth and re-birth in the cycle.
Modern Paganism has turned its focus more towards family and festival, celebrating the old traditions very rarely; however, we do see a common theme in the Roman, Celtic, Persian, Swedish, and Norse teachings. Goddesses and Gods born in this season are the bringers of light or representations of the Sun itself. Each culture has its own set of traditions, many that we even see today such as the Yule Log, Mistletoe, and the Yule Candle.
The Yule log in times long ago was a large oak log that was found within the forests, never bought (in England that was seen as bad luck) to be burnt for a specified amount of time (which changed region to region) of several hours or several days but was to be deliberately extinguished and used for the next Yule festival. Having the log snuff itself out was seen as a bad omen.
Mistletoe, from the Old English misteltãn, is seen in modern times as a trap for a kiss. Herbologically is a parasitic plant that grows on various types of trees. When found on oak trees it is held in great veneration by the Druids, seen as a protection against fire and thunder. In Scandinavian mythology, Balder the Beautiful was killed by a spear of mistletoe. However, the most interesting fact is that in churches mistletoe was not allowed, due to its links with Pagan religions. This ancient ban is still widely observed in many churches.
The Yule candle, an ornamental candle of large size, was once widely used at Yule throughout Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia. Over 12 days it was lit often colored green, red, or blue the Yule candle was decorated with evergreen sprigs. Lit on Christmas Eve to shed light on the festival supper and left to burn throughout the night into the morning of Christmas, or to burn throughout the day, the Yule candle was seen as a blessing to the household, and an ill omen should it blow out.
Deeply rooted in the yearly cycle, it is the seed time of year, the longest night and shortest day. Typically celebrated between the 13th-21st/22nd day of the December month it represents the coming birth of spring, encouraging the end to the harsh cold and making offerings to bring on the next season when winter comes to a close. Unlike the Summer Solstice, it is not an outdoor festival. It is more private and domestic. It is still strongly linked with fertility and the continuation of the life cycle, but it is a much more intimate affair meant for family and togetherness, as opposed to an all-encompassing welcome party as its summer counterparts. It is the longest night, where darkness takes hold and the warmth of fire and family makes the hope of spring come alive.
The Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, The Coel Coeth.