Welcome to Halloween 2021. If you’re new to this blog, you may not be aware that I am not the Samhain/ Halloween kind of person. BUT, I understand that a number of you are, so with that in mind, check out my blogs on Halloween.
If you’re wondering why I’m not into the whole Halloween thing, you can probably glean some info from the posts. I’m not going to go through it all here again.
- Harvest, Alfarblot, and Preparations
- The Werewolf in the Viking Age (Halloween Special)
- Samhain, Alfarblot, Winternights, and Halloween
- Some Final Thoughts about Halloween
- Handwringing and Hecate
- Samhain — Or it’s Not My Holiday
Have a safe halloween 2021, whether you celebrate it or not.
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Here in the Northern Rockies, harvest is in full swing. Lots of peppers, corn, beans, potatoes, melons, and pumpkins fill the farmer’s markets. Inevitably, that means food banks get a ridiculous amount of produce donated from local farms.
I am far from rich, being a writer. (And if you want to support my writing, go to my patreon page and sign up — or buy me a coffee.) That’s why I hunt and go to food banks. Since the main food bank in my area now allows one to take whatever you need, I’ve been back there once every two weeks. They say some people go there every day, but I live out of town a fair ways, so to save fuel, I have to plan trips accordingly.
I won’t bore you with my shopping experience, but suffice to say, most of the food had been picked over early. That being said, as I waited, stuff that I actually needed appeared and I was able to bring home a lot of good stuff.
Last night I created ratatouille and filled my dehydrator with parsley and peppers. I couldn’t help thinking about our ancestors and what they must have gone through during this time to prepare for winter. I have to do a fair amount of preps, but it couldn’t be anything like what they did.
The Harvest and Preparation
Our ancestors needed to prepare for the lean winter months. That required them to pay attention to the harvest. Harvest was a time when everyone worked, from the highest thegn to the lowest slave. Landowners at least had to supervise the harvest and keep track of everything being done, if they wanted it done correctly. Women and children had to help process the food to ensure it was properly preserved.
If you were a lord, you might have delegated oversight to trusted men or women, but this depended on how much land you owned, what time in history you lived, and how big your kindred was. Remember, kindreds were basically extended family. There might be people whom you had no famillial ties within your village, but they and their families had some positive aspects for being considered part of your kindred.
Maybe they were warriors who fought alongside you. Maybe they were people who helped you out, or whom you helped out. Basically, your community was there for protection and help. Because it was unlikely that separately they were stronger without you (or you without them).
Preparation for the Darkness
Winter, for all its beauty and majesty, could be a very brutal time for kindreds. Basically if you didn’t have the food saved, you were shit out of luck. Sure, there was game and fish to be had–assuming you could break a hole in the ice or find game in the snow–but other than your livestock and your food stores, that was it when it came to edible foods. The northern hemisphere was retreating into darkness, culminating in the solstice where the light returned.
The gods help you if you had raiders, thieves, pests, or a bad harvest. There’s a reason why our ancestors were good warriors. They had to be. Not only did they raid other peoples for their treasures, but they also had to defend their homes against other raiders. Losing your food was a death sentence, unless you somehow procured more. This is why it was so important to be part of a kindred and not an outlaw. Outlaws didn’t have the safety of a kindred.
Planning for a Harvest Festival
Now with the harvest almost completed, we modern day Heathens can look to have a harvest festival now. Maybe it’s winter finding, Alfarblot, or Samhain for you. Maybe you just want to celebrate Harvest. That’s perfectly acceptable. Maybe you’ve had a rough year and need something to look forward to. Maybe you had a good year and need to celebrate it. As a Heathen, the second harvest festival seems like a good idea.
Like most Heathens, I feel that more celebrations are better than too little. So, if you want to celebrate Harvest, Halloween, Winter Finding, and Alfarblot, go for it. Just be aware you’ll have a very busy schedule.
Our ancestors celebrated a holiday known as Alfarblot. It was to remember our male ancestors. When it was celebrated exactly, we don’t know, but I seem to recall it could have been in the fall or the winter. Choosing to remember our male ancestors during the second harvest festival seems appropriate. So, if you want to celebrate Alfarblot around Halloween or Samhain, that’s perfectly okay. I like to think of it around the beginning of November, but anytime around Halloween is fine. Seeing as we really don’t know all the holidays from the past, we can celebrate it in the spirit as it was intended.
Why We Need to Celebrate Harvest
Harvest is a time for celebration of the foods we’ve received from our farmers, but more importantly, the Earth. Just think how our lives would be different if we couldn’t grow fruits and vegetables. As a species, we all might still be hunter/gatherers. Or maybe we wouldn’t even exist because the carrying capacity of the land wouldn’t be able to support so many humans.
Yes, humans domesticated plant and animal species, but without the Earth and our life’s genetics, we would have nothing. Even our biological scientific advancements in genetically modified engineering require DNA. That DNA happened either by the gods or by chance, whichever you believe. Without it, we would be here, nor would we have the foods we eat. Without good weather and optimal growing conditions, we wouldn’t have a harvest.
How to Celebrate the Harvest and Alfarblot
If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the harvest, here are some tips:
- Try cooking some Viking recipes. You can Google “Viking recipes” or try some recipes HERE.
- Give offerings to both the land some recipes HERE and the gods and goddesses of the harvest. This would include Freyr, Freyja, Thor, and Sif.
- Give offerings to Ullr and Skadi for a safe and prosperous hunting season, if you hunt.
- Make a feast from local foods.
- Visit a farm and help with the harvest. Some farms will allow you to pick your own produce for a cost.
- Work with your local food bank or food pantry to help feed the needy.
- Have a harvest game day–Northern peoples loved to play board games and games of strategy in the winter months.
- Decorate your home in an autumn theme. Be sure to do a salt ritual to ensure to banish negative wights.
- Put up photos of your recent ancestors, or things that remind you of your recent ancestors, especially the men. If you don’t know who they might be, or if you don’t want to honor certain men, that’s okay. There are other male ancestors whom you can honor, even if you don’t know them. And you can always honor a man who has made a positive difference in your life.
Those are just some ideas. Let me know what you’re doing!
We’re coming up on August 1st, which is the August Harvest Festival, Hlæfæst. It’s also known to most modern pagans as Lammas. If you’re still using the AFA Holiday wheel-of-the-year, it’s called Freyfaxi. For obvious reasons, I’m not keen on the AFA world, and after having read about the story of Freyfaxi, I don’t consider it a good name for a harvest festival, although Freyfest might be more in tune with the holiday.
What to Call the First Harvest Festival?
So, I’ve decided to simply call it the August Harvest Festival or Hlæfæst (Loaf Feast), in honor of the holiday that existed in Anglo Saxon times before Christianity got its mitts into it. If you feel more comfortable to call it Freyfest, by all means, do so.
What is Lammas or Hlæfæst?
Hlæfæst is probably more of a modern day creation than it is a holiday from the past. We can kind of associate it with Lammas, which is the Wiccan/neopagan version of the holiday. It’s the first of three harvest festivals many Wiccans/neopagans celebrate. Lammas literally means “Loaf Mass” or “Loaf Feast.” As I said above, it has been Christianized, like so many of the pagan holidays, that we have to go by what little we can gleam from past traditions and historical notes.
When the Christians Honored Lugh
I remember going to church while in parochial school during the Blessing of the Loaves, which is the Christian version of Lammas. Naturally the Christians decided to Christianize it to get more people on board with their teachings. In the past, people associate Lammas with Lugh, who is a Celtic god. I can imagine Lugh laughing at the Church because they kept his holiday–they just gave it different trappings.
Can We Celebrate Hlæfæst as Heathens?
Although Lammas celebrates a god from the Celtic pantheon, there’s no reason why we can’t appropriate it and call it Hlæfæst. Hlæfæst celebrates the grain harvest, which honors Sif, Thor, Freyr, and Freyja. Rather than just honor Freyr with Freyfaxi, I think honoring four gods and goddesses is better because these are the gods who make the grain grow. It makes sense to give thanks to them.
Remember that Heathenism, although based on an ancient religion, is pretty much still new, which means a lot is still open for interpretation. You can celebrate Hlæfæst as it suits you and your family.
How to Celebrate Hlæfæst
Since we’re kind of on our own when it comes to how to celebrate Hlæfæst, I propose the following:
- Bake bread using local wheat or as many local ingredients as you can in honor of Thor and Sif. If it’s too hot, try a bread machine to make your bread.
- Cook a pork roast in honor of Freyr. If it’s just too hot to cook a roast, go with pork chops or some other cut of pork that is simple to cook.
- Cook vegetables and eat produce that is in season along with the pork. Thank Freyja for the food.
- Offer a mead toast and blot to the gods and goddesses that helped bring this food to your table.
- Visit a local farm or farmer’s market and buy fresh produce for yourself and your family.
- Decorate your house with a harvest theme.
- Make offerings to the landvaetr and the gods.
Tell me if you celebrate Lammas or Hlæfæst, and what you do.
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Every year about this time, Heathens, pagans, and those who don’t celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter are quick to point out that Easter isn’t a Christian holiday; yours truly included. But I do wish to address Easter as a Christian holiday, even if it has taken its name and customs from pagan celebrations.
Easter as a Christian Holiday
I’m talking about Easter first as a Christian holiday so we can distinguish between the Christian holiday and a pagan celebration. Despite the name, Easter, the holiday has its roots in the Jewish celebration of Passover.
If you’ve ever watched The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, you know that Passover celebrates the flight of the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s oppression as described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. Never mind that archaeologists are pretty sure that the pyramids were built by paid labor and not slaves. Furthermore there are no records by the Egyptians of Israelites in Egypt, let alone slaves.
Jesus purportedly entered Jerusalem for the week of Passover, which, for his troubles, ended up getting him nailed to a cross.
Why Easter is Primarily Christian
Now, before we go into all the pagan traditions surrounding Easter, I’m going to point out that despite my dislike of Christianity and its destruction of paganism, pagans can only superficially claim Easter because it is around the Vernal Equinox. The whole fairy tale of the “purportedly magic Jew” rising from the dead after being crucified is more or less their shtick. It happens around the time of Passover, which is based on the Book of Exodus in the Bible.
I can hear you saying “But Tyra, what about the other resurrection myths? What about the celebrations of Dionysus and Osiris? What about Beltane? And what about Odin hanging from Yggdrasil for nine days?” Yeah, yeah. All that is true and chances are the Christians stole the ideas from pagans, but the whole bullshit celebration of Easter is undoubtedly theirs. They wove the pagan stories together to fit their religion and there you have it, a Christian story.
Nothing is particularly new with the Jesus story. There have been many instances in religion of gods becoming men or appearing to be men. There are many instances of gods being crucified or hanged from trees. And there are plenty of instances of men or gods rising from the dead and becoming more powerful. The Jesus story is just a narrative that puts those elements together in a one god, Christian fashion.
But Easter is Pagan! Right?
Easter isn’t as pagan as Christmas. Sure, it takes elements from various beliefs and spins them into a story that has both familiar and new elements present. The story uses archetypes that are ingrained in our psyches. But it is a Christian story. Why? Because it doesn’t quite mimic any other pagan myth out there.
Before Easter, pagans may have celebrated the equinoxes, although the solstices seem to be more popular for obvious reasons. Imbolc was the Celtic version of Entschtanning (celebrated by those in Urglaawe) also known as Grundsaudaag, which happened around the first or second of February, which we now celebrate as Groundhog’s Day. Beltane was the Celtic version of Mayday, which celebrated the beginning of summer. As Heathens, we really didn’t have an Equinox celebration, as far as I know.
Although St. Bede mentions the Anglo Saxon month of Eostre, which is named after Eostre/Ostara, we know very little about Eostre. She had a feast day around the same time as Easter, which probably made the whole Christ thing more palatable. The fact that Eostre gave Easter its name is probably one more way the Christian church co-opted Pagans.
What About the Pagan Trappings Around Easter?
Sure, Easter took on the pagan trappings of Eostre/Ostara. No bunnies were visiting Christ on the cross, as far as we know. And while eggs are purported to be the symbol of rebirth among the Jewish peoples, I haven’t done enough research into that to back that up. But you can read about my opinions, Was Easter Appropriated? HERE.
This year I nearly forgot about Easter except my husband had the day off. And to be point-blank honest, I was more concerned about avoid talking to my Christian family that day instead of anything special. So, our dinner was stir-fry venison. Because that’s a proper Eostre dish. I’m just saying…
This doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Eostre bunnies and stuff yourself full of Cadbury eggs. The whole candy thing was a 19th century invention anyway to give candy makers a boost, so it’s not religious at all. Personally, I’m good with any holiday that promotes candy.
Okay, by now you’re all probably sick and tired of the quarantines and stay-at-home directives. It’s no big thing for me because I’m a writer, and more importantly, an introvert. (Gosh, a writer with a scientific degree? An introvert? Unheard of!) Anyhow, while the Christians are bemoaning they can’t go to mass for Easter, we Heathens can still celebrate the month of Eostre. Even if you’re the sole Heathen among people of other faiths in your household, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy yourself during this time. Here are five ways you can celebrate the Feast of Eostre (whether or not you believe she is a goddess):
1. Dye Eostre Eggs with Your Own Natural Dyes
This one takes a little bit of work and some ingredients, but the colors are spectacular and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it at least once. Most of the ingredients are probably already in your refrigerator or pantry. Here are some links to recipes for dyeing your eggs with natural ingredients that are completely safe (unless you have an allergy to particular food ingredients):
- Kitchn has some eggcellent recipes for dyeing your eggs colors such as blue, pink, lavender, yellow, and orange. They tell you what your eggs will look like if you use white eggs or brown eggs. (Hint: use both and have a host of cool colors!)
- Good Housekeeping has similar recipes, but includes a way to make your eggs dark blue. I like their suggestions.
Dyeing eggs with your own colors is more fun than using tablets out of a package. And you’ll probably like the results better.
2. Eostre Egg Hunts for the Kids (and Pets)
This one doesn’t have to be for kids only, but if you’re alone or staying home with your significant other and no one else, this isn’t probably as fun as it could be. Naturally if you have a yard, hiding eggs becomes easier, but you can also hide eggs in a specific room. If you hide eggs inside, be sure to have an egg count, otherwise you may be in for a nasty surprise (and smell) in a couple of weeks. And while you’re at it, if you have a pet, you might want to hide some treats for them and show them the first few treats, so they might get the idea of searching for treats. Dogs can usually figure this out, but I’m not discounting cats.
3. Have a Feast in Honor of the Gods and Goddesses of Spring
Whether or not you believe that Eostre was the Anglo Saxon goddess (or Ostara, a Germanic goddess) of spring and fertility, we can always hold a feast in honor of the gods and goddesses of spring. Roast a pig or ham in honor of Freyr, and dedicate the feast in honor of him, Freyja, Thor, Gerdr, Sif, and Idunn, among any other gods and goddesses you’d like to include. Even if you’re a solitary Heathen, you can make yourself some pork and make an offering or blot to the gods.
4. Get Your Garden Planted
Whether you live on a farm, in the suburbs, or in the city, you can have your own garden, even if it is only a container garden. In most parts of America, it’s warm enough to start seedlings outdoors, and for those of us who live in the colder climates, we can start them indoors. Not sure what to plant? Start with herbs. Most are easy enough to grow, and you can dry them and use them in a number of recipes and in rituals. Container gardens are great for apartment dwellers because they take up very little room and they are portable.
5. Meditate Outdoors
It’s springtime, which means that you should probably enjoy the outdoors. But with the quarantine, you may be pressed to find a spot where you can enjoy yourself. With meditation, you don’t need a big place to get away: your balcony or backyard will do. Or, if you’re not under a strict stay-at-home order, find a quiet place in a park or forest where you can be away from people and simply meditate. Never meditated before? Check out Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Meditate on the season and the world around you. It will help ground you as a Heathen plus put you more in touch with the gods and goddesses of Heathenry.
Okay, so now you have some things to do for celebrating the Feast of Eostre. Go, and have fun. And stuff yourself with chocolate bunnies, because I said so. Next post, I’ll give you ideas for keeping yourself and the kids busy while indoors.
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Yule is one of the biggest Heathen celebrations. If you’re new to Heathenism, chances are you know of Yule and maybe got a quick explanation. Or maybe you looked it up on the web. All good. But maybe you want to read about Yule from your Internet curmudgeon and rabble-rouser (That would be me). Seeing as this blog gets the most hits on winter solstice, I’ve finally wizened-up and will post more about Yule.
So, this year, I’m going to give you a nice list of Yule pieces I’ve written in the past and maybe some access to some freebies on December 21st. (Just another reason for you to visit this blog then, eh?)
Yule—What is It?
Yule is a midwinter celebration that occurs on the winter solstice and days following that day. Many pagan religions have some version of Yule to mark the time when the days go from getting shorter to growing longer again. In the northern hemisphere, it is a celebration of the light during the darkest month. It is in anticipation of Sunna taking more away from the dark and cold times and the return of Baldr, the god of the mid-summer sun.
Christmas borrows most of its trappings from pagans, and in particular, the old Heathen customs. Sure, Christmas now celebrates the birth of Christ, whom we have no really good idea when he was born, assuming he even existed. Even the Puritans outlawed Christmas for a time, because they recognized it as a pagan holiday. Man with a beard delivering presents? Yep, Heathen. Singing carols? Heathen. Christmas Ham? Heathen. Feasts? Heathen. Christmas tree? An old Germanic tradition that stems from Heathenry. Mistletoe? Heathen. Yule log? Well, you get the idea…
In fact, if your family is Christian, you can enjoy celebrating Christmas because it’s really Yule with some Christian dress-up. Just don’t be a smart-ass and tell your Christian family that or you’ll be sure to get a lump of coal this year.
A Very Brief History of Yule
We know that the Germanic peoples celebrated Yule at least as early as the 4th Century. Yule was typically held for 12 days, usually starting around the solstice. In the Norse calendar, the month of Yule was known as Ýlir. One of Odin’s many names is Jólnir (Yule-person), which has a the root Jól Yule), thus the association with Yule. During this time, Odin was said to lead the Wild Hunt through Midgard. In some places, children would leave hay in their stockings or shoes for Sleipnir and Odin would return the favor by leaving candy or presents. Yeah, it’s true: Odin is Santa.
In the Saga of Hákon the Good, we know that Yule had diminished to three days, starting at the winter solstice. According to the saga, King Haakon I was instrumental in Christianizing Norway and changing the date of Yule to match Christmas. We can easily see how Yule traditions blended into Christmas traditions as many Heathens became Christianized.
Although Christmas was celebrated in Europe, it really didn’t have the same look as it does now. We can thank Queen Victoria for adopting her husband’s (Prince Albert’s) German customs and making Christmas complete with Christmas trees and feasts. Furthermore, Charles Dickens recreated Christmas in A Christmas Carol.
The Wild Hunt and Yule
Like the Celts, Heathens believed in the Wild Hunt, but the leader of the Wild Hunt was Odin who led his hunters through Midgard. In many stories, he is joined by goddesses, most notably Holda (Frau Holle) and Berchta (Perchta). The Wild Hunt flew in the sky, but occasionally flew down to chase their prey close to the earth. In some places, if you came upon the Wild Hunt and failed to join them, bad things could happen. Or Odin might accidentally run you over on Sleipnir, which is why in some cultures you needed to lie down to avoid being hit by the horses’ hooves if they rode too close to the ground.
What they hunted is up for interpretation. People, souls, or game, the Wild Hunt was something to be feared. The current belief is that the souls of the dead ride with Odin, but I’m fuzzy as to what Odin is hunting. More souls? Possibly. Basically, it’s a time when the veil between the realm of the dead and our world is at its thinnest because of the darkness. This is why we celebrate Mother’s Night (Mōdraniht) on the 20th or 21st of December. Historically, it was celebrated on the 24th. We celebrate Mother’s Night in honor of the disir, our female ancestors.
Modern Yule Celebrations
There are plenty of awesome ways to celebrate Yule. I’ve outlined several in a couple of articles HERE and HERE. I really like Hugin’s Heathen Hof’s 12 Devotional Days of Yule. I think you’ll like them too. Anyway, have a terrific Yule and be sure to check out my post on December 21st.
As a Thanksgiving treat, I’m providing a list of articles I’ve written which covers Thanksgiving in some way. Check them out and have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Is it a Christian or Pagan celebration?
One pagan writer is concerned if Thanksgiving is being preempted by all the other distractions. My thoughts on this.
Most of us Heathens have Christian relatives and friends. Here’s how to have a peaceful Thanksgiving.
Yule is one of our biggest celebrations as Heathens, but if you’re a solitary Heathen, like I am, you may be wondering how in the Hel you can celebrate it. So, I’m offering ways you can enjoy Yule, even if you’re a solitary Heathen.
Greet the Sun on the Solstice
If you’re a morning person, you might want to get up before the dawn and greet the sun. Or, if you’re a crazy bastard, you can stay up and greet the dawn from the other side. Either way, you get to greet the sun on the solstice. Write a prayer or poem to the sun and read it out loud, or just maybe say a few heartfelt words to the sun. Maybe you’re not one for words, but maybe you can read the story how Sunna was put to drive the sun’s chariot each day. Do what feels right to you.
Honor the Ancestors
Mother’s Night is December 20th — a day when we honor all female ancestors who came before us. Even if you do not have recent ancestors you wish to venerate, you can offer food, mead, and other gifts to distant ancestors, both known and unknown, thanking them because without them, you would not be here. You can also offer gifts to the gods, whom many of us look on as our ancestors as well.
Bake Yule Cookies
Nowadays with so many types of cookie cutouts, you’re sure to find cookie cutouts that have no Christian significance. Snowmen, reindeer, Yule trees, stars, are all pretty common. Hel, I bet you could make an angel into a Valkyrie easily. Your non-Heathen friends and family members won’t care about the shapes either.
Make Some Mead
If you have any time off this holiday season, it’s time to get some decent local honey and make some mead. Never made mead before? What is wrong with you? Making basic mead is relatively easy, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wondering what kept you from making it for so long. And while it won’t be ready for this holiday, it’ll be ready for spring. Even a gallon of must makes 5 to 6 bottles of mead, so what are you waiting for? Here’s a mead making kit for you.
Drink Some Mead
Okay, so what do you do in the meantime while you’re waiting for your mead to ferment? Why not enjoy some mead? Don’t have any? That’s okay. You should be able to find someplace that carries esoteric wines like mead in your city or town. Have it ordered, if you really can’t find a place that carries it. Or order online. One meadery who will ship is Hidden Legend.
Make a Yule Feast
Just because you’re the only Heathen around doesn’t mean you can’t share a Yule feast with your family and friends. Invite your friends over on the solstice for a Yule feast, complete with mead. Bake a ham or pork roast and enjoy the holiday with good friends and family. Most people have obligations starting Christmas Eve, so having a celebration for the holidays ahead of the total Christmas thing may be welcomed.
Offer a Blot to the Gods
Offer a blot to the gods this solstice. Write out your prayers or let them come from the heart. Either way, make it personal and heartfelt. Remember each god you honor and those who have helped you in the past year.
Remember the Wights
Whether or not you believe in the wights, now is the time to offer the Tomte and the Nisse as well as any house elves porridge (with a pat of butter). These critters also like milk, cookies, chocolate (keep out of reach of pets), and other gifts.
Hunting season has drawn to a close, which means Yule is around the corner. Suddenly, I’m going from Hunting to Yule once we celebrate Thanksgiving next week. (Yeah, Thanksgiving gets preempted by hunting season.) So, we celebrate Thanksgiving the week after. After that, we’re in the few weeks before Yule, which means a busy time.
This year I told my non-Heathen, agnostic, mostly atheist, husband I wanted to celebrate Yule, too. We were both raised in Catholic families (yeah, crazy) and we were both raised in the Christian tradition of Christmas. So, Yule will be somewhat new to him, and the prayers and offerings will be private.
Why I’m Keeping the Prayer and Offerings Private
Prayer and offerings are part of our beliefs, and yet, it can look strange to those outside of our religion. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my beliefs, it’s just that my husband doesn’t understand or believe in them. Looking at it from an atheist perspective, I get it. It looks like a bunch of woo-woo to him and it can look like I’ve lost my marbles. (Maybe I have?) But I do get it. Not everyone is going to look on our religion positively, which is why I’m presenting a more secular Yule to my family and not pushing my religion on those who aren’t interested in it.
Having grown up Catholic, the whole religious thing comes off as a way to either guilt someone or as a way to try to recruit them. I don’t push my beliefs on someone who does not have them.
How I’m Planning to Celebrate Yule
One book I’ve found helpful in celebrating Yule is A Guide to Celebrating the 12 Days of Yule. It’s worth the four bucks on Amazon to buy the eBook, if you’re really looking for ideas. It offered some good ideas for me, so it might come in handy to you too. I’m also blending other celebrations we’ve had in the past.
December 20th — Mother’s Night
I’ve never really celebrated Mother’s Night, except perhaps by baking stuff. Yes, I’ll be baking cookies and desserts to prepare for the upcoming Yule. I’ll also be offering my female ancestors gifts on my altar. When cooking, I often go into meditation and focus on my ancestors. Sometimes, I’ll hear the ones who were closest to me in my mind. It is a day to honor them, so I do things that they would appreciate. Usually involves holiday preparations.
The Christmas/Yule Tree will already be up because I think it’s too much to try to get it put up during this time. Apparently people who put up their Yule trees during Yule don’t have time issues.
December 21st — Solstice/Yule
This is a big day for me. I will designate a Yule log to burn in my woodstove. If I can find good twine, I may make it prettier with pine boughs and pine cones. I will put together a venison roast for dinner and we will crack open a mead to celebrate. I may try my hand at making a yule log cake. In the late evening, I will hold a blot outside for the gods. I will also leave gifts to Sunna, Mani, Baldr, Loki, Tyr, and Skadi on my altar. I may gather the ashes from the Yule log later to smudge the corners of the house for protection. I will read the runes for the Solstice to get a feel as to what is to come for the new year.
December 24th — Christmas Eve
My family celebrates Christmas Eve and Christmas as a secular holiday rather than a religious one. Given that we’ll already have the Christmas Tree up, we have another big meal (usually a venison or antelope roast) and more mead. We exchange presents and open them up. Again, another blot for the gods and the wights.
I like the Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve for reading. This is something I’d love to incorporate in my Yule plans.
December 25th — Christmas
We visit relatives in town and deliver presents. We then come home and have a feast (again). This time, it will be roast goose. Usually, I plan on a pork roast in honor of Freyr, but this year, we have a couple of geese in the freezer, so we’ll have a traditional Dickens type of dinner.
December 31st — New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve has never been a big thing with me. Even so, I’ll probably wait for the New Year and offer a blot to the gods as a thank you for the good things that happened this year and a prayer for a better upcoming year. I will then read the runes for the upcoming year again. Often the runes’ message coincides with what I learned earlier.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day may see me perform a salt ritual to protect the home and farmstead.
My Yule is Low Key (but not Loki)
Yule will be low key, and I prefer it that way. It’s 12 days of festivities and of those 12 days, I celebrate at least three with special meals. The blots I choose to do in private. The offerings will go on my altar and will be either left there, if not perishable, or left outside, if perishable, once I am done with them. Plenty of critters outside will partake of the scraps.
My prayers are more spontaneous, than anything. They come from the heart, and I do not write them down. The salt ritual too isn’t written down, but I call upon the wights to protect the dwelling and barn, and to discourage those wights intent on harm. It does seem to make a difference.
Celebrating with Non-Heathen Family Members
Obviously all my family members are non-Heathen, so I adjust my Yule celebrations toward the secular as well. The offerings and prayers are done when they are asleep (easy for me to do), and with those family members whom I visit at Christmastime, I focus more on seeing them and making them happy, not the religious side. After all, Yule is a family holiday, whether celebrating the ancestors, like on Mother’s Night, or simply getting together with family and friends on Christmas. I’ve learned to take everything in stride on holidays because getting worked up about them is too much stress for me.
Let me know what you do for Yule in the comments and let me know if there are any traditions you do that are special.