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Forum Home > Blessed Yule & Winter Solstice ~ > YULE: History & Traditions . . .

Azhdaya Ravenwolf
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Posts: 354

Yule

Yule

Hauling a Yule log, 1832

Also called

Yuletide, Yulefest

Observed by

Northern Europeans and various English-speaking peoples

Type

Cultural, Germanic Pagan then Christian, secular, and contemporary Paganism

Significance

Winter Festival.

Date

Historically January and December, modernly around Christmas

Celebrations

Festivals, Burning Yule Logs, Feasting, Caroling, Being with Loved Ones.

Related to

Christmas, Winter solstice (Midwinter), quarter days, Wheel of the Year, Winter Festivals

Midvinterblot

Painting by Carl Larsson in the Swedish National museum's stairway (detail march 2008).

From: Wikipedia . . .

Yule or Yuletide ("Yule-time") is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. The festival was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt.

 

Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for the Christian Christmas (with its religious rites), but also for other holidays of the season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. The fact that Yule is not etymologically tied to Christianity means Yule in the Nordic countries is also celebrated by many non-Christians and even by the non-religious. The non-religious treat Yule as an entirely secular tradition. A number of Neopagans have introduced their own rites.

 

Etymology

 

Yule is the modern English representative of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating "(the 12-day festival of) Yule" (later: "Christmastide") and the latter indicating "(the month of) Yule", whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate to Gothic (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse (Icelandic) jól (Danish and Swedish jul and Norwegian jul or jol) as well as ýlir. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group.

Germanic Paganism

Gothic and Old English

Yule is attested early in the history of the Germanic peoples; from the 4th century Gothic language it appears in the month name fruma jiuleis.

 Gothic letter faihu.svgGothic letter raida.svgGothic letter urus.svgGothic letter manna.svgGothic letter ahsa.svg Gothic letter jer.svg Gothic letter eis.svgGothic letter urus.svgGothic letter lagus.svgGothic letter aihvus.svgGothic letter eis.svgGothic letter sauil.svg

 

About AD 730, the English historian Bede wrote that the Anglo-Saxon calendar included the months geola or giuli corresponding with either modern December or December and January. He gave December 25 as the first day of the heathen year and wrote that the Anglo-Saxons celebrated all night long to honor the Germanic Divine Mothers:

 

They began the year with December 25, the day some now celebrate as Christmas; and the very night to which we attach special sanctity they designated by the heathen term Mōdraniht, that is, the mothers' night — a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies they performed while watching this night through.

Old Norse

 

In chapter 55 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, different names for the gods are given. One of the names provided is "Yule-beings." A work by the skald Eyvindr skáldaspillir that uses the term is then quoted, which reads:

 

Again we have produced Yule-being's feast [mead of poetry], our rulers' eulogy, like a bridge of masonry.

Ynglinga saga, the first book of Heimskringla, first mentions a Yule feast in 840. Saga of Hákon the Good credits King Haakon I of Norway with the Christianization of Norway, as well as rescheduling the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at the time. The saga states that when Haakon arrived in Norway he was confirmed a Christian, but since the land was still altogether heathen and they retained their practices, Haakon hid his Christianity to receive the help of "great chieftains." In time, Haakon had a law passed that established that Yule celebrations were to take place at the same time as when the Christians held their celebrations, "and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holiday while the ale lasted."

 

Yule had previously been celebrated on midwinter night for three nights, according to the saga. Haakon planned that when he had solidly established himself and held power over the whole country, he would then "have the gospel preached." According to the saga, the result of this was that his popularity caused many to allow themselves to be baptized, and some people stopped making sacrifices. Haakon spent most of this time in Trondheim, Norway. When Haakon believed that he wielded enough power, he requested a bishop and other priests from England, and they came to Norway. Upon their arrival, "Haakon made it known that he would have the gospel preached in the whole country." The saga continues describing the reactions of various regional things as they differ the matter to one another.

 

A description of "heathen" Yule practices is provided (notes are Hollander's own):

It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part of the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [ sacrificial blood ], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding the blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs [ aspergills ]. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and served as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat.

The narrative continues that toasts were to be drunk. The first toast was to be drunk to Odin "for victory and power to the king", the second to the gods Njörðr and Freyr "for good harvests and for peace", and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself. In addition, toasts were drunk to the memory of departed kinsfolk. This toast was called "minni [memorial toast]".

 

The Svarfdæla saga records a story in which a berserker put off a duel until three days after Yule to honor the sanctity of the holiday. The Grettis Saga refers to Yule as a time of "greatest mirth and joyance among men."This saga is set soon after Iceland converted to Christianity and identifies Yule with Christmas: "No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day [Yule Eve], because that on the morrow is the first day of Yule," says she, "wherefore must men first fast today."

Theories and interpretation

Yule was an indigenous midwinter (winter solstice) festival celebrated by the pagan Scandinavian and other Germanic people . . . These festivals were also called Jul, midvinterblot, Julblot, jólablót, and julofferfest.

Yule was progressively absorbed into the Christian observations surrounding Christmas . . . Scholar Rudolf Simek says that the Yule feast "had a pronounced religious character", and Simek cites section 7 of Gulaþingslög, where Yule is described as celebrated "for a fertile and peaceful season" and consists of a fertility sacrifice. Simek says that focus was not on the gods of the Vanir, but instead the god Odin, and he notes that one of Odin's many names is Jólnir (Old Norse "yule figure"). Simek says that Odin was associated with Yule, and that the tradition of the Wild Hunt undoubtedly contributed to the association of the two. According to Simek "it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar (Sonargöltr) reflected still in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs, and Simek says these customs "indicate the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times."

 

Specific dating is problematic. In the 13th century, the Old Norse month name ýlir (attested once) refers to the period of time between 14 November and 13 December. The time of Yule falls within around the time of a month that corresponds with the end of the modern calendar year. Scholar Andy Orchard says that "in practice, it is difficult to specify the yule-tide period more accurately than at some point between about mid-November and the beginning of January." Simek says that the Old Norse timing "offers no point of reference for the sacrificial feast" and that "the identification with the mid-winter time of sacrifice is most likely."

 

Some scholars theorize a connection between Yule and the Wild Hunt

Contemporary traditions 

In modern Germanic language-speaking areas, the etymological cognates to Yule are employed for the Christmas . . .  Various traditions are present in these branches, some of which extended from the pre-Christian period. Examples include Jul (Denmark) and Jul (Norway).

Neopaganism

 

As forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some celebrate in a way as close as possible to how they believe Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources including Germanic.

 

In Germanic Neopagan sects, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving. Further attempts at reconstruction of surviving accounts of historical celebrations are often made, a hallmark being variations of the traditional. Groups such as the Asatru Folk Assembly in the US recognize the celebration as lasting 12 days, beginning on the date of the winter solstice.

 

In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun. The method of gathering for this sabbat varies by practitioner. Some have private ceremonies at home, while others do so with their covens.

December 16, 2011 at 12:22 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Azhdaya Ravenwolf
Site Owner
Posts: 354

 

REMEMBER:

 

As always, please feel free to RESPOND and/or ADD to this and ALL Forum Posts & Threads! . . . We are here to "Learn & Share," after all!   :)

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Every Teacher is a Student, every Student a Teacher ~

~ Azhdaya Ravenwolf 

 

December 7, 2015 at 10:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Seawitch
Member
Posts: 16

Blessed Yule to you too! :)  

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December 8, 2015 at 2:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Azhdaya Ravenwolf
Site Owner
Posts: 354

And to you, Seawitch . . . Thank you for posting! :)

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Every Teacher is a Student, every Student a Teacher ~

~ Azhdaya Ravenwolf 

 

December 24, 2015 at 11:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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