What is the Winter Solstice and Yule?
The Winter Solstice is a solar holiday that occurs on December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere. During this time, the earth’s axis is tilted farthest away from the sun, creating the longest night of the year. The Winter Solstice is celebrated across many pagan traditions, honoring the sun and the halfway point of winter.
Yule was originally celebrated by the Norse and Scandinavian peoples. Depending upon the source, Yule was celebrated as a two month celebration beginning mid-November, a 12 day celebration starting on the Solstice, or a three day feast beginning on the eve of the Winter Solstice. Today, many Pagans still celebrate Yule on the day of the Winter Solstice. Pagans celebrate the rebirth of the sun through gift exchanges, merriment, and deep spiritual reflection. For Pagans, this is a time of new beginnings, rebirth, transformation, getting rid of unwanted habits, and creativity. The symbols of Yule are evergreens, the Yule Log, a Yule tree, mistletoe, holly, wreaths, and bells. The colors of Yule are white, green, red, gold, and silver.
The Yule Tree
Evergreens are popular decorations during Yule because they remind us that life continues through the cold and dark winter. Traditions of decorating with evergreens date back to many ancient civilizations, including the Romans. Today, Pagans decorate a pine, fir, cedar, juniper, or spruce as their Yule tree. One way to celebrate Yule is to craft a magical ornament to hang on your Yule tree.
Magical Ornaments, an exercise from Jason Mankey’s Llewellyn’s Little Book of Yule.
You will need:
- Clear, fillable plastic ornaments
- Ornament hooks
- Spell components
- Determine the magical purpose of your ornament by asking yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with this spell?” This will determine the components you will place inside your ornament. I recommend writing out in a few words what exactly you want to accomplish.
Gather your spell components that look nice, but also serve the magical purpose of the ornament. You can look up your own spell correspondences or use some of the suggested components below.
- Health: white ribbons, citrine, fluorite, jasper, cedar, fir, lavender, poinsettia, or peppermint.
- Love: red ribbons, pearl, rose quartz, mistletoe, or cinnamon.
- Good grades: green ribbons, aventurine, pine, cinnamon, oak, orange fruit, or spearmint.
- Starting a new habit: gold or silver ribbons, sunstone, tiger’s eye, holly, spruce, lemon, clove, or bells.
- Place your items into the ornament in a way that is visually appealing to you. Use glue to secure your components inside. As you place your items in the ornament, think about what you are trying to accomplish with your magic and visualize yourself doing it.
- Once you have filled up your ornament, close it and hold it in your hands. Again, think about what you are trying to accomplish and the purpose of your ornament. State out loud one sentence that describes the purpose of your ornament.
- Next, place your ornament on your tree in a spot that will be easy for you to see on a daily basis. Reflect on the meaning behind the ornament every time you walk past it.
The Yule Log
The Yule log has taken on many forms throughout Pagan celebrations. Traditionally, the Yule log was the primary piece of wood used in the fire during the night of the Winter Solstice. Today, many Pagans use a decorative Yule log adorned with ribbons, candles, and other symbols of the season. Another popular version of the Yule log is the dessert version. This Yule log is made out of cake and frosting rolled into the shape of a log. No matter what form the Yule log takes, it symbolizes health and prosperity for the coming year.
Decorative Yule Log
You will need:
- A piece of wood
- Ribbons in the colors of gold, silver, red, green, or white
- Battery powered candles (tea light or small candles)
- Yule symbols for decoration
- Determine what type of wood you would like to be the base of your Yule log. You can use a natural or artificial piece of wood. Evergreen, oak, and cedar trees are traditionally used.
- Gather ribbons and battery powered candles based on the size of the Yule log you have selected.
- Gather Yule symbols you would like to use to decorate your Yule log. This can include pine cones, dried berries, mistletoe, holly, pine needles, ivy, cinnamon sticks, poinsettia, or juniper. Take a walk in nature to gather supplies or go to a dollar store for artificial versions.
- Attach your decorations to your Yule log with glue. Once completed, place your Yule log in a place you can enjoy all winter long.
Other Ways to Celebrate Yule
Solstice Walk: Take the time to slow down and enjoy nature with a nighttime nature walk.
You will need:
- A lantern or flashlight
- Hot cocoa or tea
- Warm clothes and hiking shoes
- Determine where and when to take your nature walk. You can walk in your neighborhood or at your local park.
- Collect the supplies you need for your walk to stay safe and warm. Make hot cocoa or tea to add to a thermos. Gather warm clothing like mittens, hats, scarves, and a good pair of boots.
- Take time to enjoy nature during your walk. Find a spot to sit and enjoy your hot cocoa or tea. Look up at the stars and take deep breaths or fresh air. Look for evergreens or catch snowflakes.
- Once you have finished your walk, change into warm clothes and record your experience in a journal.
Snow Magic: Snow magic is beneficial for stopping or freezing things in your life. Try this spell to help stop your bad habits. Remember magical work does not replace non-magical work to make a change.
You will need:
- A piece of paper
- A pen or pencil
- Wait until there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground.
- Determine the bad habit you want to get rid of and write it down on a piece of paper.
- Stand outside in the snow and state out loud how you will no longer do your bad habit.
- Bury the piece of paper in the snow.
When the snow melts, the snow will take your bad habit with it.
Light Exercise: Get rid of negativity and stress with this light exercise from Arin Murphy-Hiscock’s The Witch's Book of Self-Care.
You will need:
- A comfortable place to sit without being disturbed
- Find a comfortable spot where you won't be disturbed and sit in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths.
- With each following breath, imagine drawing light into your body.
- Allow the light to slowly fill up your whole body, from your toes to the top of your head.
- Visualize the light pushing out any stress or negativity as you fill up your body with light.
- Once your whole body is filled with light and your stress is gone, hold the light throughout your body for 3 slow breaths.
- Take one final deep breath and let the light slowly fade along with your stress.
Once the light has completely faded, open your eyes.
Alexander, S. (2015). Modern Witchcraft Spell Book: Your Complete Guide to Crafting and Casting Spells. Adams Media.
Diaz, J. (2019). Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within. Hay House Inc.
Diaz, J. (2020). Plant Witchery: Discover the Sacred Language, Wisdom, and Magic of 200 Plants. Hay House Inc.
Dugan, E. (2018). Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch. Llewellyn Publications.
Mankey, J. (2020). Llewellyns Little Book of Yule. Llewellyn Publications.
Murphy-Hiscock, A. (2018). The Witch's Book of Self-Care: Magical Ways to Pamper, Soothe, and Care for Your Body and Spirit. Adams Media.