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Origins of Yule

The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5 degree tilt of the earths axis. Because of the way the earth rotates, it points in a fixed direction continuously towards a point in space near the north star, and it is also revolving around the sun. Half of the year there is more exposure from the sun in the southern hemisphere, and the other half of the year in the northern. In the northern hemisphere during noontime the sun is low in the sky during winter. This is the time when the sun is at its lowest evelotion, and is when the winter solstice takes place, it is the first day of winter. The word solstice is dirived from the latin words "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere" meaning to cause to stand still. During prehistoric times in the northern latitudes the aboriginal people found winter to be a very difficult time. This time of year the growing season was over, and they would have to servive with the food that they had stored, and any animals they could catch. As the life giving sun would sink lower in the sky each noon, the people feared that it would eventually dissappear, leaving them in total darkness, and extreme cold. After the winter solstice they had great reason to celebrate as they saw the sun rising, and gaining strength again. Eventhough they new that there would be many more month of cold winter left, they would take comfort in knowing that the warmer seasons for planting and growing would be coming. This is how the concept of birth, death, and rebirth came to be associated with the winter solstice.Back in this prehistoric time the aboriginal people had now instruments to be able to discover the solstice, however they were able to notice the slight elevation in the suns path within days of the actual solstice probably around December 25th, and this would be when the celebrations would take place.

Differant Cultures of Yule

Native American
Both the summer and winter solstices are celebrated by the Pueblo tribe. The rites are built around the sun, the coming of the new year, and the rebirth of vegetation. Some of the rites for this solstice were prayerstick making, altars, prayers, and retreats. The Natives have created countless stone structures in the past to detect the solstice.

There are many differant groups of Neopagans one of which is Wicca. The Wiccan's celebrate the winter solstice which they call Yule. This is a time for introspection, and a time for planning for the future.

Ancient Egypt
On December 21st at midnight the God Man or Savior Osiris died and was entombed. The priests would come out of the inner shrine and cry out "The virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing" and they would show an image of a baby to all the worshipers.

The Jewish people have an 8 day celebration called Hanukkah. This holliday recalls the war that was fought by the Maccabees for religious freedom. In the second century the King of Syria conquered Judea, and stoped the worship in the temple. The King stole the sacred lamp called the menorah from the altar. When the solstice began they had redirected the temple to a pagan deity. A band of rebels lead by Judah the Maccabee succeded in retaking Jerusalem, and restoring the temple along with relighting the menorah. This was exactly 3 years after the flame was extenuished, during the time of the Pagan rite. Even though they only had enough oil to last for 24 hours, the flames burned for eight days.

December 8th or the Sunday that imediately follows the Bodhi Day is celebrated. This celebration recalls when Buddha achieved enlightenment.

Ancient Rome
A feast day for Saturn would begin on December 17th which is called Saturnalia. Ops was on December 19th, and they were later combined into a 2 day celebration. During the Empire, the festivals wouls last a week from December 17th to December 23rd.In the third century Emperor Aurelian blended a number of pagan nativity celebrations like god men, and saviors as Appolo, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, and others into one festival that was called the Bithday of the Unconquered Sun, and this was celebrated on December 25th.

Differant Views
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam view time as linear, as it started with creation. They believe that the world will eventually end one day. The Neopagans, and Aboriginals believe that time is circular, and repetitive. The lunar is the monthly, and the solar is the yearly cyles.

Symbols of Yule

The symbols of the Yule Sabbat are evergreens, fire, garlands of dried flowers or popcorn, holly, misletoe, wreaths, Yule logs, Yule tree. The colors associated with Yule would be red, green, white, silver, and gold. Some of the herbs and flowers that are associated with this sabbat are bayberry, cedar, chamamile, evergreen, frankincense, holly, ivy, juniper, mistletoe, nutmeg, oak, pinecones, poinsettia, rosemary, and sage.

The Yule Log
On Christmas eve a large freshly cut log of wood called the Yule log would be brought into the house for a creat ceremony. The master of the house would place the log on the hearth, and then make libations by sprinkling the trunk with oil, salt, and mulled wine. He would then say a prayer. In some households a young girl would light the log using splinters from the past year that they had carefully saved. In other households the mother would light the log. It is believed that the cinders from this log could protect the house from lightning, and malevolent powers of the devil. The Yule log has many magical properties for the ashes from it. The ashes were kept in the house for the intire year, and were used for many purposes. It would protact the house from thunderstorms, hail, and lightning. The ashes mixed with fodder would make the cows calve, and brands thrown into the soil to keep corn healthy.

These evergreens were cherished during the Yule season for they symbolise rebirth, and life during winter whiteness. Holly was used to decorate doors, window, and fireplaces to ward of or capture evil sprirts before they could enter and cause harm.

The Yule Cat
This legend comes from Iceland, and is of a sinister, and gargantuan Yule cat. The legend says that the cat is ready to eat lasy humans whom did not help with the work in the village, or did not finish all the work on the autumn wool by Yule time.

This was used for special ceremonies by the Druids. This ceremony was held five days after the new moon that followed the winter solstice. Priests would cut the mistletoe from the holy oak tree with a golden sickle, and the branches would have to be cought before they hit the ground.

Some of the food used in the celebration of Yule are cakes, pies, fruits such as apples, and citrus fruits, gingerbread, nuts, turkey, goose, pork, popcorn, sweets, eggnog, and mulled cider.

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