Well hello everyone, and happy Yule season. Before I say anything else, I want to thank everyone for your kind comments and reviews; they are my lifeblood. And I’d like to give a huge, warm, consensual hug to Julie for becoming a supporter of the show. You are so lovely. I have the most wonderful, thoughtful, powerful witches listening and supporting this podcast and you humble me. Let’s get into the meat of the episode today. I hope everyone is recovered from the New Moon and solar eclipse we just enjoyed at the end of this past week. I was so physically wiped out that I really didn’t do much of anything for it. I just didn’t have the energy. But maybe you did, and if so I would love to hear about it.
Now, Yule-slash-the winter solstice is still a couple weeks away, but I wanted to talk about the history, origins, and traditional Yule activities a little earlier than that. Sometimes I’ll see some cool sabbat activity or learn some new lore right before a sabbat and get a little bummed because I didn’t see it sooner. Especially if it involves some spellwork or a traditional activity, or something that takes a little time and preparation.
So that’s where we’re coming from today. I will still be talking about Yule for the rest of the month in one way or another though, I’m warning you now. I love Yule, and I won’t be shutting up about it any time soon. We will be talking about Spirit Guides and the Fae in the next couple episodes, so this month won’t be all Yule, as I promised last week, but it is gonna pop up, so just, fair warning. Anyway!
Yule. What is it. Yule is a 12-day Germanic feast holiday traditionally associated with the Great Hunt, the god Odin, and the winter solstice. Historically, it was a time of celebration, of candle-lighting, of decorating, of gift-giving, of singing, of feasts and gatherings. Scholars have pieced together its history pretty well, but there isn’t a whole ton of written records that we can look to, and of course once the early Christians got hold of Yule, the original history and traditions became very muddied.
These days, Yule is basically treated as just the religious name for the Winter Solstice but it’s so much more than that. And obviously, Christianity has been cribbing from paganism since the very beginning. Some examples of this are, firstly, the fact that the birth of Christ is celebrated in December to begin with. December has nothing to do with the literal day of his birth, which religious scholars actually estimate would have been sometime in the spring anyway. A couple other traditions that people think of as Christian are Yule trees, or Christmas trees, to use the more common term.
In the Holy Bible, the book of Jeremiah preaches against participating in the pagan custom of decorating trees with silver and gold, but that didn’t and it still doesn’t prevent good Christians from putting trees in their homes and decorating them with silver and gold. Meeting under the mistletoe was actually a Druidic custom to foster peace. Giving and receiving gifts is a completely pagan tradition that was co-opted by Christianity.
So with very few exceptions, all of those things that westerners associate with Christmas are really just paganism repackaged. Which is why I decorate the hell out of my house, inside and out. And if any Christians want to know why I, as a witch, celebrate Christmas, I would just invite them to ask themselves why they, as Christians, are celebrating Yule. And I don’t mean to dump on Christian witches, at all. That isn’t where I’m coming from. And if you are a Christian witch, this is probably the one time of year when your witchcraft and your Christian faith mingle most closely. Well, maybe until Easter. But I digress.
In terms of how it relates to the wheel of the year, Yule is the time when we recognize that the day has grown short. The fields have gone bare. The weather is cold, the animals are sleeping. We are once again approaching the time when the night grows longer and longer, and longer still, until the solstice itself, which is the shortest day of the year. And the morning after the solstice dawns, the balance will begin to return. The winter solstice is a promise that dark days don’t last forever.
Yule is also a time when we stay gathered and huddled together with our families and our dear friends more. We may play games, tell stories, drink and eat and sing together. The festivals at this time of year are more intimate, and tend to be closer to home than those festivals in the warmer times of year. Yule is a time for introspection. For deep conversations. It’s a time to take stock of what we have accomplished this year. It’s a time to sit with that for a while and ask ourselves if what we wanted at this time last year is still what we want going forward.
This is a quiet time for the body, but not necessarily for the mind. There are no literal or metaphorical fields to plow, and that gives us time for more intellectual pursuits. I like to think of the Hermit in tarot as representative of the spirit of Yule. The Hermit is an archetype of seeking wisdom and answers inside ourselves, for contemplation, for deep and quiet thought.
The Hermit is not about taking action, and this time of year isn’t about taking action either. It’s about soul searching and personal discovery. This is a good time to read those books you’ve been buying all year, incidentally, and yes I am talking to myself. I have so many books I have to read. I don’t know, maybe I’ll try to figure out how we can have a Middle-Aged Witch book club. I don’t know, I’ll have to think about how we could make that work.
Anyway, Yule is a wonderful time to look forward to what we want to create in the year ahead. Now obviously, you can time your spellwork however you like, but while I use this time to think a bit about what I want to manifest in the next year, I don’t perform that kind of spellwork during Yuletide, I save it for the New Year. At Yule, the spellwork I like to do is related more to taking a retrospective look at the past year and giving thanks for the lessons I learned, the relationships I cultivated, and the intentions that I manifested, and I also do spellwork to refine those things.
So for this Yule, among other things, I will be performing spellwork in appreciation of this podcast, and the many many stumbles and lessons I’ve had along the way, for the connections I’ve had the privilege of making with so many of you, and of course I will be refining the goals I had originally set for this podcast and realigning my intentions and manifestations for it. And again, I have a lot of areas in my life, my family and my career that I will be performing work for as well. And this is a great time of year for that.
Spellwork is really personal of course, and we all do our own thing, which I LOVE. But I will say I like to do a lot of candle work at this time, and I will be burning a lot of spell materials in a fire pit, and of course fire magick, in this particular spell work at this particular time of year will be representative of the return of the sun. It’s very optimistic spellwork, it represents the idea that these manifestations will be called in gradually over the coming seasons as the sun god gains in strength.
And I like to make offerings to nature as well during Yule. Filling bird feeders with suet and seeds is a favorite activity, leaving scraps of cotton yarn for birds, squirrels and other animals to use in their nests is another one, and also leaving gifts and offerings to the Fae.
Yule Logs are a tradition that we absolutely must talk about when we talk about Yule. The original Yule logs were a specially selected log that was decorated with ribbons, pine cones, holly, evergreens, and candles. Sometimes people would write down their wishes for the coming year and tuck them in among the ribbons. Then the log was burnt over the course of 12 nights and the ashes sprinkled throughout the home to offer protection. Any remains of the Yule log were kept safe and burnt with the following year’s Yule log.
If you don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, which we don’t, ours is gas, you can simply burn candles on the Yule log and use it as a decorative piece. We’ve used the same log for years and it’s become a really meaningful piece for our family.
There’s also the chocolate cake Yule log. It’s basically a Swiss roll, but that’s another way to take part in the tradition and it’s really fun for kids. You can bake your own if you’re ambitious, but they’re available in the bakery section of most chain grocery stores. Put a few candles in it and let the kids make wishes for the coming year.
Gifts. Right? We can’t really get through this season without giving some gifts. And while I won’t pretend I give nothing but handmade Yule gifts, I do give SOME handmade gifts, and they’re usually a lot more thoughtful and impactful than giving yet another scarf. One of my favorite books, Hedge Witch Book of Days, suggests homemade bath oils. The author makes these using a simple carrier oil like almond oil or vitamin E oil, and then adding several drops of essential oils. Just make sure they’re the kinds of oils that are safe for use on the body; the oils for diffusers are different from the oils for use in soaps and lotions. You really don’t want cinnamon oil anywhere near your genitals. It can get really spicy.
My daughters did bath salts a few years ago with a big cheap bag of epsom salts and essential oils. You can add dried rosebuds or lavender flowers as well, to make them a little prettier. Small, food-grade glass jars and bottles are easily found online and relatively inexpensive. You can get a dozen for under $20 and that’s 12 handmade gifts you’re giving for less than $2 each.
Infused cooking oils are also really cool to make and give. I like to use olive oil as a carrier, into which I will add some basil and oregano, or rosemary and thyme, maybe red chili flakes and garlic, but basically any combination that sounds good. Let them steep in a pot over very low heat for a little while, bottle them up, and they’re good to go. Make sure you put a ‘use by’ date on the bottles. They’re typically good for about 2 months, and they can really add a nice little kick of flavor to foods.
So that’s kind of how we do Yule here in the Ro house. It’s a favorite time of year for all of us, and there are a lot of what might be considered traditional Christmas activities that we also get up to, like decorating gingerbread houses, although I consider those as another tribute to the Fae, we will also string popcorn for the tree, we bake and give cookies to our neighbors, we make donations of clothes and food to the needy in our community, we do all of those things.
And again, I feel no sense of hypocrisy whatsoever that some people may feel that we are participating in Christmas even though we are Pagans. Yule is better than Christmas, anyway. That’s why the early Christian church borrowed it to liven up their boring religious observance.
Okay, anyway. So I wanted to change gears just for a minute, and go to a question of the week now, and then I wanted to ask a question for you all. So:
I am wondering about all of the jewelry for different things that are available. I was looking to get your opinion on this.
With my anxiety and my stress level going up a little bit, I see a lot of amulets/charms/stones that could protect against these emotions/conditions, but I am skeptical, of course, and not wanting to throw my money away. What is your opinion on using these things for help? I know just like with everything else there are scams everywhere, so can you recommend a legitimate source? I appreciate your help so much!
So on the topic of protection amulets and banishing negativity, I think there are a lot of good things to be said for things like jewelry that you can wear and keep with you at all times, especially in places where you’re likely to be especially stressed, like at work or when you’re around difficult family members. Jewelry is also an excellent way to wear your witchcraft in a subtle way if you’re in a professional environment or around family who may not approve of you just straight up wearing a giant pentagram.
So if you find a piece of jewelry that really appeals to you and is likely to give you some protection, go for it. Do a little research about the materials or stones in the jewelry that will align with your intentions, and yes, you will be able to find a lot of jewelry online that the makers may claim has protective, or calming, or cleansing properties. But I wouldn’t be afraid of wasting your money on these items if you like them and if they are a piece that you can see yourself wearing every day. Because regardless of what the seller may claim about the powerful protection this jewelry may offer you, and their claims may be completely true, you yourself can always enchant any piece of jewelry to have the magickal qualities that you want it to have.
It would be a good idea to cleanse it and charge it with your own intentions to personalize the protection that it gives you though, and charge it at regular intervals (like on the full moon) to keep the protection strong. We talked about how to do this in the Protection Magick episode which was episode… 10, so I won’t belabor the issue too much, but it sufficeth to say that you got this.
As far as shops that I recommend, of course I will always first and foremost recommend a local shop in your area. We gotta support our neighbors. But if that’s not feasible for whatever reason, I like a few Etsy shops for things like this. PandorasboxCT is one that I order from frequently, and also Rory’s Cupboard. There are many really great shops on Etsy, but these happen to be two that I keep going back to. I’ll leave their links in the show notes. Those are two shops that have given me some really good vibes. Their products are great quality, good price, and I feel comfortable recommending them.
So thank you Amy for your question, it was really cool to hear from you again. And now I would like to ask all of you, how do you celebrate Yule? What are some traditions in your family? What kind of witchy gifts do you like to give? I want to open the discussion up and have a little more back and forth. So send me your favorite Yule activities either on Instagram or Facebook at @middleagedwitch or email me at email@example.com. I’ll post your responses so that we can all share our wisdom together with one another. That’s how we grow our knowledge base, and that’s also how we get inspired to create new witchcraft, by seeing what other witches are creating in their practices and figuring out those ideas can play a part in our own craft.
So please, if there’s something you’d like to share, please drop me a quick line. Happy Yuletide everyone, I will be back here next week to talk about Spirit Guides. Until then, my name is Eli, and this has been the Middle-Aged Witch Podcast.