Happy Yule 2021! Welcome to the Rational Heathen’s Yule (b)Log–see what I did there? I want to wish you a happy Yule 2021. No, this year sucked, just like the last one, but hopefully you didn’t have to deal with getting sick from COVID-19.
Watch the Sunrise over Stonehenge on the Solstice!
Most of this post are roundups of past Yule posts, but I have a special treat for you! You can watch the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge live, which is way cool, thanks to the English Heritage site. The live video will happen the morning of December 22nd due to the timing of the winter solstice. Click on the link above to get access to the various channels, including their YouTube Channel. It’s all free and very cool.
I know many Heathens want to celebrate Yule, but don’t necessarily have an idea how to do it. This is a great book, if you’re looking for ideas.
Enjoy! And have a Happy Yule 2021!
The Rational Heathen
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Once again, the so-called ultra-right have decided that there’s a war on Christmas this year. That somehow the unclean masses won’t know it’s the Christmas season when their favorite fast food joint wishes them Happy Holidays. Or their favorite coffee shop have red paper cups instead of “Merry Christmas” written on them.
Uh really? Seriously?
Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?
I can just imagine the conversation at the local Denny’s:
Greeter: Welcome to Denny’s.
Ignorant Patron: I see Happy Holidays on the lectern. What does that mean?
Greeter: Excuse me?
Ignorant Patron: What Holidays are we talking about?
Greeter: Well, there are several this time of year. Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, Solstice, and others I’m not familiar with.
Ignorant Patron. Wow! Christmas? I didn’t know Christmas happened in December! I bet I’d know if you had a Merry Christmas sign instead of a Happy Holidays sign. I guess I should be buying presents.
Okay, okay, that wouldn’t happen. At least not in the United States. But you get my point. In a country where the major religion is still Christianity, albeit waning, you can’t swing an Elf on the Shelf without hitting something Christmas-sy in local stores. And those who are Christian pretty much know who Christ was — if he existed at all.
Why Happy Holidays at All?
As much as our Christian citizens would like to batter people over the head with “Merry Christmas,” the reality is that we live in a diverse culture in the United States. Christianity is diminishing at a rapid rate, where it was maybe 70 percent of the US population around 2007 or so, it is now around 65 percent of the US population as of 2019 according to Pew Research. Yeah, that means that 35 percent of the US population worships something else, or nothing else.
Many of these people are “Nones,” meaning that they don’t belong to an organized religion and certainly don’t call themselves Christian. In many cases they’re not atheists, but may believe in a higher power or powers.
Given that there is a large number of non-Christians in this country, retailers have decided that it is better to be inclusive than divisive. Hence, “Happy Holidays.” I suppose one could get offended by the word, “Holidays” because it comes from the words, “holy days,” but I digress.
The Christians Weren’t the First to Celebrate Around Christmas
Saturnalia included gift giving, singing, playing games, decorating, dressing in costumes, and feasting. Slaves often got the time off and the master of the house served them (maybe where Boxing Day came from?). Each house had a “Lord of Misrule” who proceeded over chaos in the household. This person was usually low on the social ladder and could insult guests, play tricks, and award special cookies with coins in them to people.
Christmas naturally adopted the pagan trappings so that pagans would be more inclined to join the new religion. Since no one really knows when (or if) Christ was born, making up a date closest to the solstice made a lot of sense to win converts.
Our Ancestors Celebrated Yule
Yule is the winter solstice, here in the Northern Hemisphere. Our ancestors celebrated Yule because it was the return of the light. Solstice was very important part of living in the Northern Hemisphere, especially if you were farmers. If the sun did not return, it could spell the beginning of Fimbulvintr–the long dark winter before Ragnarok. So, having the sun return was a big deal.
I could go into all the myths surrounding Yule, but this post is getting off topic. So, let me get back onto it.
Why this Isn’t a War on Christmas in the United States
First, Christians are late-comers when it comes to holidays around the solstice. Humans have celebrated the solstices since Stonehenge, and probably before that. We don’t know how they celebrated it, but we know summer solstice was important enough to mark it with a menhir known as the “heel stone.” On winter solstice, archaeological evidence shows it was likely they sacrificed pigs then. A trilithon marked the sun setting on winter solstice.
Christmas is simply a made up holiday to keep the pagans in line. We know the Christmas stories have their roots in the Exodus, and therefore have pagan roots. So, if anyone ought to be screaming, it should be the pagans. But we don’t, because we aren’t assholes.
I doubt many people in Western countries are saying that Christians shouldn’t celebrate their made up holiday. What the rest of us are saying is be a bit more inclusive and less self-centered. You’re not the only people who celebrate around this time of year.
The REAL War on Christmas
Actually, there has been wars on Christmas in the past. Only problem was, Christians banned Christmas all by themselves. In 1647, the English parliament banned Christmas, which was rescinded when Charles II retook the throne. In 1659, Boston outlawed Christmas, but eventually that law was revoked in 1681. You got to admit, those Puritans were joys to be around.
Nowadays, if you want to see the real war on Christmas, look at any totalitarian government. The People’s Republic of China, for example, insists on atheism and has shut down Christian churches. The USSR in the past had persecuted Christians. So, calling a request for inclusiveness a “war on Christmas” is the right wing version of being a snowflake. Seriously.
Look, I certainly not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, especially if it’s heartfelt. I will wish my Jewish friends happy Hanukkah, if I know they celebrate it. Basically, if you aren’t an asshole, I’m good with whatever you celebrate. I put up a “Christmas tree” even though it’s really a Yule tree. I wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas because that’s what they celebrate. I don’t go ape-shit if they wish me Merry Christmas back.
So, my friends, I wish you a happy Yule, or whatever you celebrate. Have a safe one.
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If you’re new to Heathenism, or even if you’ve been a Heathen for a while, you may or may not have seen the Julbock or Yule Goat as part of the Yule celebration. The Yule Goat or Julbock is a pagan Scandinavian tradition that predates Christianity that sneaked into Christmas celebrations in Scandinavia. It’s an interesting tradition that we can easily incorporate into our Yule festivities.
What is the Julbock?
You may be wondering what the Yule Goat is and what significance it has for Heathens. After all, a goat is a goat, right? Well, maybe.
The Julbock is associated with the last sheaf of grain harvested, which in the past was considered to have magical properties. Called the julbocken, it was associated with proto-Slavic beliefs with the god of the harvest and the fertile sun, Devac, represented by a white goat. It was common for someone to dress up as a goat and demand presents as offerings. In this way, Yule was part of the harvest festival that has been carried into the winter solstice, perhaps as a way to entice the sun to return by paying tribute.
Historians think the Yule Goat may be linked to Thor’s goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr in many respects. Given that Thor provides rains and Sif, his consort, is the goddess of grain, you can kind of see the relationship and symbolism.
The current Julbock appears in Scandinavian tradition as straw tied with red ribbons in the shape of a goat. The Gävle Goat is Sweden is probably the best known Julbock since 1966. Not surprisingly, it has been vandalized by arson at least 36 times and has been hit by cars, kicked to pieces, and stolen. Apparently it is too big of a temptation to not offer it to the sun.
In the past, the Julbock kept watch to ensure the Yule, and later Christmas, preparations were done correctly. It seems to be a benevolent Krampus in that respect. In medieval times, the Julbock was associated with wassailing, playing pranks, and performing plays. Youths in costumes would go house to house singing and performing plays for food and spirits. These plays would often feature a Julbock in them.
In the 19th century, the Julbock was the bringer of presents before the whole Santa Claus thing took hold in Scandinavia. An adult male relative of the house would dress up as a goat and hand out presents. This eventually faded out as the Santa Claus tradition took hold in the latter half of the 19th century. Even so, there is at least one piece of art showing a rather pagan Santa Claus riding a goat. This artwork is entitled “Old Christmas” which gives us an interesting mix of the two traditions.
How to Add the Julbock in Your Heathen Celebrations
Julbock for sale at Amazon
Now that you know a bit about the Julbock, you may be wondering how to add it to your own Heathen celebrations. Unless you’re a farmer, chances are you don’t have the last bundle of wheat from the harvest, so you may have to be satisfied with your own Julbock decoration or even these nice Julbock Yule tree ornaments.
But you don’t have to stop there with relegating the Julbock as a Yuletide decoration. If you have a large party on Yule, you can add your own Yule play which includes the Julbock. Celebrate Yule by wassailing. When it comes time to handing out Yule presents, who says you wouldn’t look marvelous in horns and a goat hide? Many cool possibilities here.
So, those are my thoughts on the Julbock. Maybe you have some ideas for celebrating Yule that I haven’t mentioned. Let me know how you incorporate the Julbock in your Yule.
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I was reading a blog post on Patheos about society and merchants killing Thanksgiving. I found it an interesting read and I had to sit and think about the idea a bit. The blogger, I think, got it right in some ways and wrong in others. Since I am most likely older than the blogger (I painfully admit this), I can probably add my two cents as to what is happening to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.
What Thanksgiving was in Relation to Christmas
Before I get some push back, let me state that even though I’m Heathen, I recognize that the “holiday season” is largely the Christmas season. That’s because the majority of people in the US are still Christian, and even those who aren’t Christian still celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. So even though Christmas is just a hijacked Yule, I’m going to be a realist here and talk about what the majority of Americans celebrate.
Thanksgiving was born out of the traditional harvest festivals. It became an official American holiday in 1863 thanks to Abraham Lincoln. Before that, it was mostly celebrated in New England, although presidents before Lincoln would often declare a day of Thanksgiving. If you want the whole story, you can read my post on it.
Thanksgiving, due to its proximity to Christmas, was a natural start of the holiday season, once Christmas became popular, thanks to Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria. (Christmas, by the way, was not that popular of a holiday in the New World, thanks to our Puritan founders.) Even in Europe, Christmas was unpopular by the 19th century, requiring Dickens to give it a facelift. In Medieval times, it was a time of communal feasting and playing games. Much of that stopped abruptly when the Black Death hit.
So, by the time World War II came along, Christmas had enjoyed enough popularity to have President Franklin D. Roosevelt tinker with the date of Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday of the month so that merchants could plan their holiday sales. Seriously.
Thanksgiving and the Christmas Buying Season
The blogger bemoaned the fact that Thanksgiving is being run over by black Friday sales that start on Thursday in the hopes to lure more shoppers to buy. And in truth, the holiday season is often a make or break time for many merchants. But should it mean that the stores should be open for you to buy stuff when people should be staying home with their families?
As old as I am (old as dirt, I reckon), I seem to recall that the Christmas buying season started around Thanksgiving, but I don’t remember Black Fridays until at least the 70s, but the term was coined in the 50s because cops had to pull 12 hour shifts to deal with the shoppers. Since I didn’t live in Philadelphia, that’s probably why I don’t remember it much when I was a kid. This Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving is a headache and one either people will embrace or decide to skip. It depends on how popular it will be for the trend to survive, but I’m counting on people to use their smartphones and buy online on Thanksgiving.
What I’m More Concerned With
As depressing as Christmas shopping taking over Thanksgiving is, I’m more concerned with the lack of association of the Thanksgiving and Harvest festivals. Sure, kids learn to draw turkeys and pumpkins and corn, but in most cases kids don’t see turkeys other than in books and in videos and have never stepped foot in a field where corn and pumpkins are grown. They and probably their parents look at the world through their extremely urban or suburban living. Sure, they might get a chance to visit a farm on a school trip, but that really is about the extent. So when they have their highly processed bird at Thanksgiving, they haven’t really had a connection to the harvest. Instead, it’s an excuse to eat and then sit on the couch and play video games or watch football. And yes. we look at Thanksgiving as the beginning of the Christmas buying season. Yay.
There’s a town I enter when I hunt in a certain area which has an honest-to-gods harvest festival annually. That’s because it’s a farm town. When I saw the signs, I was delighted and intrigued. If it wasn’t hunting season, I’d be there just to watch what went on. Unfortunately Skadi has not gifted me an elk this season thus far, so I’m busy looking for those.
Understanding harvest, which is where Thanksgiving comes from, is important. Knowing where our food is from. Actually growing crops and tending livestock. Thanking Freyr for the abundance. Saving the last sheaf of wheat for the wights and gods. Remembering ancestors. That’s what I believe is endangered.
Thanksgiving will undoubtedly morph into something more commercial, if Madison Avenue has its way. But hopefully as Heathenism grows, perhaps more people will pay attention to its roots and recognize the importance of Harvest.
First, before I launch into my blog, I really do want to wish you all a very merry Yule. I know I missed Mother’s Night/Solstice, but honestly things have been a bit busy for me lately, so I apologize to my readers. So, without further yapping about my tardiness, let’s get to the post…
It was my intent to write about Yule, the history, and the feelings one gets this time of the year. All that went out the window when not long after hunting season ended, my husband had an operation (to repair an injury). I was suddenly thrust into doing everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.
Courtesy of Magickal Graphics
Before I knew it, I was taking him to physical therapy, taking care of our ancient parents by driving them to doctor’s appointments, and having all the farm chores to do. This is above my normal work as a freelancer. So, I watched as Yule approached, unable to even get my house clean because too many other important things needed to be done.
On top of that, Skadi lived up to her promise to me. I had gotten a buck for hunting season, but for various and sundry reasons, I failed to get my doe. The goddess is generous and I found a freshly killed fawn just out of its spots by the side of the road, only a few hours dead and well preserved because of the negative temperatures. As I drove the deer over to the game wardens to get my salvage tag, I reflected at how redneck I’ve become. (Incidentally, the meat was good.)
So, I had a roast I had planned for Yule along with a bottle of my best mead. I spent the afternoon
Courtesy of Magickal Graphics
giving water to my animals in 10 degree Fahrenheit weather. I hauled wood for the night. I finished writing blogs for a drug rehab site (stuff I get paid for), and I had to dress a deer before it got dark.
There’s something oddly primeval when you’re dressing out a deer on solstice. Even though I didn’t kill the deer, I went ahead and apologized to it for it losing it’s life in a meaningless fashion. I thanked it and Skadi for the meat. And I finished the work before it got dark.
Dinner ended up late but very good. I had some mead and reflected on how Yule wasn’t anything I envisioned. I spent the day doing things for other people. Come to think of it, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several weeks. Instead of focusing on myself, I’ve been focusing on others.
Christmas Eve came around, and with it came a surprise kidding. I had expected another doe goat to kid first, but while I was watering the goats, I noticed two hooves sticking out of a younger doe’s rear end. I delivered the kid (a hard delivery) and to my chagrin, the doe had no milk. To top it off, the kid had been so big, he had cramped up his front legs in utero and I’m working to get them stretched out so he isn’t crippled. That makes two goat babies I have inside because the weather is so nasty.
Courtesy of Magickal Graphics
Twelve Days of Yule
At first, I blithely announced that I was damn glad Yule goes over 12 days. Tonight, I sort of look on the whole process in despair. Whatever I thought Yule would be just isn’t going to happen, because life just is. At the same time, in between all the craziness of life, I realize that we celebrate our family and the return of the sun. And to be honest, I’m looking forward to the increase in light.
This Yule will be memorable to me. Not because of the feasting and celebrating, but more because it is about the season and my family, more than anything else. I give thanks to the gods and wights for their help, and I look forward to a better, upcoming new year.
To all of you, I hope you had a good Mother’s Night/Solstice, Christmas, and I hope you enjoy the rest of Yule.
When I’m talking about “coming out,” I’m using the term as it relates to letting loved ones know that you’re a Heathen. I can’t speak in terms of homosexuality because I am very heterosexual, but telling a loved one that I’m a Heathen was harder than you can ever imagine. If you’re a closet heathen as I was, perhaps you will glean something useful about announcing to your family you are pagan.
Source: Magickal Graphics
A Little Background
Those who have read my posts know I was raised Roman Catholic. In retrospect, I recognize that Roman Catholicism is closer to paganism than a lot of Christianity, but it isn’t heathenism by a long stretch. I even went to parochial school for a while, which in the long run made me less Christian as I started going beyond the fear of hell and damnation. Religion, in one form or another, is a method of control, in my not so humble opinion. While I am far from communist, I do think that Marx did hit it on the head that religion is an opiate of the masses.
So. with these beliefs, how could I possibly be a theist, let alone a heathen? As they say on the Facebook relationship status, “It’s complicated.” Tyr and Thor pretty much drove me back to the theist realm, even if at times I appear agnostic.
Source: Magickal Graphics
Announcing my Heathenism
It took years for me to tell my husband I was a heathen. It was hard. Very hard. Even though he wasn’t surprised, he was puzzled why I didn’t tell him before. It’s hard to express the feelings: worry that he’ll think I’m crazy, worried that he’ll find my beliefs too weird, and a concern about what happens next. I should have spoken sooner, but I didn’t. I told him the story and I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. I supplied my own condemnation.
In the end, his response was more wait and see. Basically, he had no way to judge heathenism except through my behavior. So, I relaxed a bit and decided I was far too anxious about it. I realized that being heathen hadn’t changed who I was. I am who I am. I still celebrate the secular version of holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I can now add Yule and other holidays to the mix. I’m pretty toned down when it comes to religion, so that aspect is private. (Yeah, me. Go figure.)
My response to those who say I’m going to be burning in their hell.
Some Practical Advice
If you’re a heathen who hasn’t told your family about your change, take a deep breath and think about it. Not everyone is going to have a open mind like my husband. If, for example, you come from a Bible-belt family who is staunchly Christian, you’re probably not going to get much support from them by announcing you’re heathen. Only you can decide if it is the right thing to do, or whether they’ll ostracize you. I’d like to say it doesn’t happen, but obviously, it does. If you’re going to make the announcement, find someone in your family whom you can trust, who can also be sympathetic and helpful. If they have advice, listen. Maybe your older sister is good with you being pagan, but she knows darn well that your parents couldn’t deal with it. Maybe it’s not that important to tell them and estrange your family members.
If you don’t have a person in your family who wouldn’t be shocked by your change in religion and who can’t help you and give you good advice, ask yourself honestly what you hope to gain by letting your family know of your heathenism. It sounds harsh, but you have to understand what you hope to gain by it. Put aside the feelings of guilt that you inherited from Christianity and look logically at the best (and worst) outcomes. Will your family tell you that you are going to burn in hell for eternity and make your life hell on earth? Or are they more relaxed and open-minded? Knowing where your loved ones stand is important when it comes to whether to tell them or not.
Source: Magickal Graphics
If your family does accept your newfound faith, don’t weird them out. Instead, be yourself as you have in the past. Maybe they’re curious as to what holidays you celebrate. Don’t put their religion down when you talk to them; instead, consider drawing the parallels between the two religions. One easy time to deal with is Yule. You can point out all the similarities of Yule and Christmas and your family will enjoy learning about Yule. You can incorporate whatever you and your family have celebrated in the past while still adding pagan twists. This isn’t a particularly dogmatic religion here. Heathens have and do incorporate other traditions in our religion.
For example, I love Christmas carols. There’s no good reason for me to give them up. My husband loves medieval music, so it’s no big deal for us to incorporate seasonal music with Christmas carols. Yule and Christmas just means we have more feasts and more celebrations. I know of at least one heathen who celebrates Mother’s Night and secular Christmas. All good, in my opinion.
Being a Solitary Heathen
Telling or not telling may put you in the role of a solitary heathen. It can be lonely choosing that, but since you may be the only one in your family, whether you announce your heathenism or not, it’s pretty much the road you’re traveling. I would recommend seeking out other heathens in your community or online in order to have someone to talk to about it. There are plenty of heathens willing to talk to you and give advice. Want face-to-face time? I run into heathens all the time at science fiction conventions. Yes, you will find heathens there as well as the various gatherings for pagans.
The main thing is to keep your perspective on things. I believe strongly that your beliefs are your own, and it is yours to share or keep as you see fit. With the Internet comes groups of heathens who are willing to reach out to you as surely as the gods reached out to you. It’s your choice to decide whether to tell or not tell your family and friends. Just choose wisely.
I got in a conversation with another pagan on Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and he had a different outlook on the whole Christianity versus Paganism argument. It hit me as having some merit, so I’d thought I’d explore it more in depth.
The person who put forth this argument to me was a Heathen and a Gnostic. (Let that sink in a bit before dismissing it outright.) His basic argument was that Christianity at its beginning had nothing — no holidays, no formal sacraments, etc, — so it took from other religions. In fact, it took so much from pagan religions that the pagan religions actually triumphed. I’ve been mulling it over for some days and while I don’t think it’s entirely correct, I think it has some merit to at least think about.
Christianity at its Core
Christianity is, at its core, a death cult. It focuses not on rewards in the here and now, but after one dies. It even focuses on the gruesome torture and death of their god. While I think that knowing where you’re going when you die is important, I think that this life is just as important on how we live. Yes, Christians do focus on how well behaved they should be because they will receive a reward in “heaven,” but honestly, it takes a fear of eternal punishment to behave correctly? Think about that for a bit.
The major holiday that Christians have recognized since its inception would be Easter, that is the day when Christ allegedly rose from the dead. We know that Easter arose from the Passover festival, around which Christ was allegedly crucified. Easter follows Passover. But we know that it took the name Eostre, and it may have borrowed the pagan trappings of festivals during that time, presumably to make it more palatable to the audience.
return of the sun. While us Heathens can lay claim to Yule, we aren’t the only ones that had midwinter celebrations. The Romans had Saturnalia, which was spent
The Puritans actually banned Christmas (and the saints) because they recognized the pagan origins. For about 25 years England under Oliver Cromwell made Christmas illegal. That joy was brought over with the Puritans who made Christmas illegal. Such was the control of the Puritans that anyone found in Boston exhibiting the Christmas spirit during the years 1659 to 1681 could be fined. What a great bunch.
Incidentally, the Christmas tree came into vogue with Queen Victoria, taking the customs of her husband’s homeland. The Christmas tree popped up around the 17th century in Germany have its, …ahem, roots in paganism.
We have our own celebration of Harvest Home, so saying that Americans “invented” a harvest festival like Thanksgiving isn’t truthful. Now, we did put our own spin on it, but in the end, it is the celebration of family and home, as well as harvest.
The Days of the Week
The months are named after Roman months (gods, Caesars, and numbers), but the days of the week were Roman names changed to our gods, with the exception of Saturday because people probably thought Ymirday might not catch on. (Yeah, I know the story is that there’s no German equivalent to Saturn who was an agricultural god slain by Jupiter, but that’s another story for another time.) So, when we say we’re meeting someone on Thursday, we’re meeting them on Thor’s-day.
Saints versus Polytheism
Becoming Polytheistic was easy after being Catholic for me. Any religion that allows veneration of saints actually lost to the polytheism. Even the Episcopalians have the saints and the time I went to an Episcopalian mass proved to me that they’re Catholics without a pope who allow divorces. We know that some saints were actually gods that got incorporated into the ranks of saints to make the religion more popular (such as Saint Bridget). So, yeah, in some Christian religions, we got some of the gods and goddesses in.
Catholics will tell you that they do not worship saints. That is true at the highest level, but the line gets mighty blurred with the veneration of Mary and other saints.
So Did Heathenism Win?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I would argue yes and no. In the long run, we still have the Christian god, complete with all the stupidity that has subjugated women, condoned slavery, and given us plenty of hangups due to the “do this or you go to hell” mentality. I’m not saying that heathens were morally superior as we had slavery and human sacrifice, but most of us are willing to make the change in the right direction.
By the same token, we got our holidays and other pieces infiltrated into Christianity. People who celebrate the holidays are often celebrating the secular holidays rather than what their church would like them to celebrate. Sure, they keep Jesus in Christmas, but seeing as the whole nativity scene is pretty much made up, and seeing we really don’t know much about the historical Jesus, or even if there was one, we can call it a myth and be done with it.
What it does say to me is that Heathens can celebrate those so-called Christian holidays and feel good about putting their own spin on things. At least, that’s how I look at it.
Added for Clarity:
The point the person made was that arguing whether or not to worship Christ was irrelevant because basically Christianity took all the trappings from pagans anyway. We can argue semantics, but that was his point. I was willing to consider his belief and came up with a yes and no observation. I rushed the conclusion, which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I wanted to get the piece out, late as it was.
That being said, I think he does have a point. Is it Heathenism under another flavor? No. Our gods are not revered, although one might be able to point out some obscure saints the Church may have created to appease Heathens. Is Christianity the same as it was when it was conceived? No. It is mostly pagan with the foundation of the Abrahamic faith. Depending on your beliefs in Asatru and Heathenism, you can argue that what parts of paganism was added is superficial. Maybe so, maybe not. I just found it an interesting opinion, and one I couldn’t completely dismiss.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know what I think regarding Christ. But you may not realize that I’m a bit of an undercover heathen, especially around Christian holidays. There are many reasons for this, most being convenience and a desire to not get into an argument with family members who will not change their minds.
Christmas is really a holiday appropriated from pagans. Rather than try to stop pagan Saturnalia, Solstice, and Yule celebrations, Christianity took the holiday and moved Christ’s supposed birthday to coincide with it. Originally Christmas was even banned in the American colonies because of the pagan origins. In fact, most of the Christmas celebrations we have now were instituted in the 19th century. Christmas trees were brought over from the Germans when Queen Victoria created Christmas in an image she wanted to see. Charles Dickens created a Christmas mythos in his novels. Basically what we have now wasn’t how Christmas was celebrated in the past.
The Feast of Yule
The Feast of Juul was pervasive in Scandinavian countries where the Yule log was lit to honor Thor. People lit bonfires to herald the return of the Sun, and those who celebrated welcomed the return of the sun as a symbol that Fimbulvetr, the long winter that preceded Ragnarok, had not come. People who gathered the ashes from the Yule log scattered them in the fields or used them for magic and medicine. In France, some folks kept the ashes under the bed to ward off lightning strikes.
Odin and the Wild Hunt
The solstice was considered the closest time when the veil between the worlds was more thinly stretched. Odin would ride Sleipnir, accompanied by the dead during the Wild Hunt. Children would leave hay for Sleipnir in their boots, and in return Odin would leave them gifts. Hmm, sounds a bit like another old guy who leaves presents for children. I wonder if they’re related? (If you don’t get the sarcasm here, check out the link first.)
Nowadays, Heathens recognize the twelve days of Yule starting with Solstice or Mother’s Night — the time of the year when our northern hemisphere is closest to the world of the dead. The shortest day of the year even feels magical. Especially up north, you’re more likely to see auroras, snow, and just a more magical landscape.
A Heathen in a Christian Land
For those of you who celebrate Yule, the season is indeed magical. For those of us whose families are mostly Christian, Christmas season can be wearing. I actually do love the trappings of Christmas, because, by golly, they’re Heathen with very little disguise. My thought is perhaps even though we do celebrate Christmas, it’s actually celebrating Yule, and maybe that’s all that counts. I certainly have a special celebration of the solstice as part of the festivities.
So, even though I keep my Heathenism more or less quiet, maybe it doesn’t matter. By celebrating the season, I celebrate Yule. So, I’m a bit undercover on this. Well, our ancestors were too. So, from one Heathen, albeit an undercover one, to another, I wish you a most happy Yule. Oh and check out a book by my friend, Josh Heath, who wrote a cool Yule book: