Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have a Cool Yule

I have known quite a few pagans and Wiccans over the years. Some were really believers, others not so much. There are a few that did it for shock value. Little Man's birth parents were Wiccan (although I think his mom was part of the shock value school than true believer). Out of respect for their beliefs, I have educated myself on their traditions.
Wiccans celebrate nature, and their holidays (known as sabbats) revolve around the equinoxes and agricultural traditions. Many of the Wiccans I've known in the past didn't cast spells or even owned a cauldron. Instead of going to church, they gathered together for a meal and to celebrate nature.
I don't know what his family did, and quite frankly, I don't think he remembers any of it. It's probably hard to be a Wiccan in South Dakota.
Today is the winter solstice, which is a major holiday for Wiccans.
Reading up on the celebration, there are a lot of Christian symbols. Despite claiming that they are of ancient origins , Wicca actually is about 100 years old, with many traditions originating in the 1950's and Gerald Gardner. There are ties to the past, but for most purposes, the "craft" isn't even old enough to collect social security.
However, many elements of their practices and belief have evolved out of British and Celtic folklore. In fact, many of the Wiccans I know have followed this path to feel closer to their heritage. The concept of the battle between the holly king and the ivy king (central to the Yule celebration) has it's origins in British folktales. The Holly King is Father Christmas (Santa Claus) and is representative of winter, the ivy king represents the summer. Each year, they do battle and (spoiler alert) Father Christmas wins! As part of the celebration, Wiccans sing the carol, "the Holly and the Ivy"

Also an integral part of the celebration is getting a Yule tree and decorating it, similar to the Christmas tree. Origins of The Christmas tree can be traced back to pre Christian celebrations, and as early as 15th century London, it was recorded that folks decorated with evergreens. The actual use of a tree is German in origin (hence o Tannenbaum ), and many Wiccans follow a definately British path, so some use a Yule log. (for some reason, a log seems less festive)
Some other Christmas traditions shared by Wiccans include kissing under the mistletoe, singing carols, making decorations and ornaments for your tree/log, drinking wassail (which apparently is also poured onto the log/tree). Baking cookies is also an activity shared by both faiths. Both groups exchange presents and work for peace on earth and goodwill to man.
I have to admit when I googled Yule recipes, and came up with a lot of cutesy websites with spinning pentagrams and Loreena McKinnit music playing I wanted to give up. Rumpled up the outline of this and write something different. Most recipes are basically Christmas recipes changed to "Yule" (which apparently is pronounced eew-lee, again who knew?).

Whatever. Have a cool Yule.


Sheilagh Lee said...

you have a cool yule too.
Here's Louis Armstrong singing it

Wayne Pitchko said...

nicely done....thanks for sharing