Merry Yuletide
Old and New Traditions

By Ingrid Jeffries
“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love” Hamilton W. Mabie

On this, the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, tribes of the past celebrated the rebirth
of the Sun / Son King. With the advent of winter, even as darkness dominates the day, the light grows
stronger. The Sun has reached its most southerly point and will now from 0 degrees Capricorn begin its
trek north once again. The austerity of this season encourages us to go inward and connect with the
dream time, like the mother bear that hibernates yet nurtures her young (the future) we too must sustain
our vision in the darkest period. As a culture we tend to fear the dark, equating it with things sinister. Yet, it
is in shadow away from the Sun’s light that the seed takes root. The word “solstice” is Latin for the “sun
stands still.” It is at this time that we too must enter into the spirit of stillness. Culturally, we like to be full
and active. We fear the void’s indeterminate state, but emptiness is the place of infinite possibility.
Astrologically, the solstice points are connected to our work in the world. The Sun in Capricorn is when we
review our commitments and obligations. Capricorn is a sign that is associated with established orders,
business and worldly concerns. We often envision its planetary ruler, Saturn, as an old man with a scythe;
symbolic of the reaper, the God of Agriculture, and Father Time. The placement of Saturn in your birth
chart indicates where a karmic debt has occurred. This debt will require concentrated effort and discipline
to master and overcome its obstacles. Yet, Saturn also points to the aspects of one’s life which can
become your greatest strength if you are willing to face your fears and difficulties honestly, and work with
them patiently. In Capricorn we reap what we have sown in the world, for this reason gift giving has long
been an integral aspect of the myriad of festivities associated with the solstice.
Ultimately Capricorn is an earth sign and as such is feminine. Of all the astrological signs, Capricorn
carries the symbolism of the triple Goddess. We often see images of the mother and her child at this time
of year with the imagery of the crone / wise women found in the magi. Many of the traditions associated
with this time are pre-Christian and involved divination, foretelling the future, as the turning of the season
was considered magical.  The twelve days of Christmas has its roots in an older pagan time when the
Scandinavian festival of Yuletide and the Roman Saturnalia were celebrated.
Here are a few Yule divination traditions:
In Russia, there’s a Christmas divination that involves candles. A girl would sit in a darkened room, with two
lighted candles and two mirrors, pointed so that one reflects the candlelight into the other. The viewer
would seek the seventh reflection, then look until her future would be seen.
In Spain, there’s an old custom that is a holdover from Roman days. The urn of fate is a large bowl
containing slips of paper on which are written all the names of those at a family get-together. The slips of
paper are drawn out two at a time. Those whose names are so joined are to be devoted friends for the
year. Apparently, there’s often a little finagling to help matchmaking along, as well.
In Scandinavia, some families place all their shoes together, as this will cause them to live in harmony
throughout the year.
And in many, many cultures, it’s considered bad luck for a fire or a candle to go out on Solstice (or
Christmas Day in more recent times) as this is a holdover from the Yule log that was intended to burn for
the festival’s twelve nights.
Some Possible Rituals & Traditions for this time of Year
v        Strengthen bonds with family and friends by visiting and/or exchanging gifts and greetings. This is a
season of honoring the ancestors.
v         Decorate your home with lights, greens, and holiday colors. Bless your home with a Yule wreath on
your front door and sprigs of mistletoe inside.
v        Create a Yule log. The Yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set
ablaze at the time of winter
solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun. The Yule log can be made of any wood. Each
releases its own kind of magic Directions are at
v        If you are part of a group, take up a collection of food and/or clothing at your Yule gathering and
give what you collected to a social service agency to distribute to the needy.
v        Place sunflower seeds outside for wild birds to feast upon.
v        Greet the Sun at dawn on Solstice morning by ringing bells.
v        Do magic for a more peaceful planet.
v        Honor the new solar year with light. Do a Solstice Eve ritual in which you meditate in darkness and
then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing chants and carols.
v        If you have a indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire circle, burn an oak log as a Yule log and save a bit
to start next year’s fire. **
v        Donate food and clothing to the poor in your area.
v        Volunteer time at a social service agency.
v        Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds.
v        Donate funds and items to non-profit groups
v        Meditate for world peace.
v        Work magic for a healthier planet.
v        Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the New Year.

“The Earth breathes but one breath each year: from Summer to Winter, a long exhalation, a letting go; at
the Winter Solstice, a moment of stillness and emptiness between breaths; then the long inhalation back
into the Summer fullness."

The creation of a Yule Log* representing what you choose to light your consciousness with in the season
ahead would be wonderful way to use this New Moons energies.   * Directions for creating a Yule log follow
If you would like to know how these energies are specifically influencing your life in the year ahead you can
contact me at:
The Yule Log
Many customs have survived from Pre-Christian times that lend themselves well to our holiday rituals.
Among them is the ever-popular Yule Log. Traditionally, it has been of oak, ash or beech, ritually cut
(often at Dawn) and ceremonially carried into the house. The head of the family with much ceremony
festively lit the log. Toasts were made with wine, cider or brandy, and since they were drunk in the early
morning hours, gave participants a jolly head start to festivities.  A lesser-known tradition is that of the Yule
Clog, a knobby block of wood that was burnt in the kitchen hearth. Household servants were entitled to
imbibe with their meals for as long as the Clog was kept burning. In many parts of Scandinavia, the object
burnt was a fat wax candle, instead of a log. The candle was lit at Dawn and must burn until Midnight, or be
considered an ill omen
Yule Log Magic         
The Yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter
solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun. The Yule log can be made of any wood. Each
releases its own kind of magic.
Aspen: invokes understanding of the grand design.
Birch: signifies new beginnings.
Holly: inspires visions and reveals past lives.
Oak: brings healing, strength, and wisdom.
Pine: signifies prosperity and growth.
Willow: invokes the Goddess to achieve desires.
On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log or on a candle to be
placed on the log in its decorated state or write them on a piece of paper that you also add as a
decoration. You can decorate the log with greenery, flowers, ribbons and herbs for beauty and magical
intent. Some choices might be:
Basil for prosperity and harmony
Carnations-protection, courage, strength, healing, increases magical power, vitality
Cedar-wealth, protection, purification, healing, promotes spirituality
Holly-dreams, protection
Juniper- Exorcism, protection, healing, love
Mistletoe-a catalyst, fertility, health, success, protection, banishing evil
Pine-healing, wealth, protection, purification, exorcism, exorcism, fertility, wealth
Rosemary-health, love, protection, exorcism, purification, increase intellectual powers, peace, blessing,
consecration, very powerful for cleansing and purifying
Roses-love, courage, luck, health, protection, beauty
Ribbons can be used according to their color for magical correspondences.
Rather than candle making to save time, use store bought candles and decorate by carving symbols,
coloring with crayons or paint, pressing flowers and herbs onto the candle with wax or glue or paste
pictures onto it. Before decorating with greenery, flowers or pictures, dip your candle into hot water just
long enough to soften the wax. Place dry materials on the candle in a pleasing pattern, and gently press
into the wax. Then do a quick dip into liquid wax to seal it altogether.
To scent your log:
Explore fragrances by using incense herbs and resins sealed into the wax; you could use the above
process or make the candles with the herbs and resins included in the hot liquid (experiment before you
commit yourself to a big project... if the herb pieces are too large, they'll act like wicks and create a bonfire,
and resins sometimes spit when hot). You could also add pure essential oils to the outside of the finished
candle or the logs greenery or ribbons, or to the liquid wax as the candle burns. I like to do the last one-
especially if you get the unscented candles-try it in a bunch of little tea lights.
For magical work:
Bind your spells or prayers with cotton thread wrapped and knotted around a candle. The usual way is to
knot the intention so that with each one burned, the energy is freed to do its work; this is especially useful
for healing and protection work. Choose appropriate colors for both candle and thread.
Remember that whatever you create has a life force to it.  Fire orientated creations are prone to seizing
upon flammable objects and creatures within their reach. They should never be left unattended unless in a
totally secure environment (like a fireplace or an empty bathtub for overnight).  Be safe.