Throughout the year a lot of influence is found and attention given to the moon. However, it is during the sabbats that we take a look at the Sun and its position. Yule is the Winter Solstice and the lack of sun causes death and cold. The sun is needed for warmth, growth and the continuation of life. There are many traditions/lore followed throughout this time of year. Although I am sure not to cover all of them, I will discuss some traditions which I am familiar with.
In many traditions (Celtic, Greek, etc.) there is significance on the twin kings battle. The names of the Kings vary depending on tradition but the story remains basically the same. They war against each other for the ultimate throne continuously. The Oak King is represented in the Oak trees and the Holly King in the holly. As we watch the weather change, you can see that in the winter months the holly trees thrive while the oaks are naked, bare and just surviving. It is throughout this time that the Holly King is winning his war. Yet, in the summer the Oak is full, colorful and absolutely stunning. That is the time that the Oak King is in his prime and winning the ultimate fight. So to every season there is another one looming and as the kings war one is winning, one is losing but each will have their turn. At winter solstice, the Holly King is winning; however, his prime has been found and so the only place to go is down for him. From here on out the Oak Kings rain will gain strength until it reaches its prime at the Summer Solstice…..and so the cycle continues.
Christians have traditions that are similar to pagan celebration of this sabbat as it’s the time of Jesus’s birth. Holly is important to them because of its representation of drops of blood shed for salvation. The holly wood is said to of been used to make the cross. Some even believe that the word “holy” was once derived from “holly”.
Dionysus, a solar god, and Zeus’s sun was said to have turned water into wine by sacrificing his life in the Roman traditions. So these people considered drinking the wine of Dionysus, drinking his blood. This in turn, has some similarities to the later used Christian concept of using wine as the blood of Christ.
In Egypt the significance was placed on the Battle of Isis. This one is very similar to the Celtic tradition in that there is a war between brothers. Here it is between Set and Osiris. Osiris wins out and the Set is resurrected by his brother’s wife, Isis. Isis and Osiris are the birth parents to the God that Egyptians honor as the Sun, Horus.
As, I mentioned earlier, there are far more traditions and lore than I mentioned here in relation to the Winter Solstice. In the majority of them the core theme seems to run the same. It is the translation, and in the expression of these cultures that we see change the most. It is very interesting really, seeing how one idea can be interpreted and expressed in many different ways.
This month we will focus on Yule. We will discuss correspondences, ritual ideas, recipes, and more to help you celebrate the season in a way that is meaningful to you and your family.