We hope you enjoy our handy visual guide to Yule magic. Please feel free to share!
Associated with wisdom, knowledge, battle, sorcery, the runes, and Yule. Also known as Wish-Giver, Odin is honoured at Yule with gifts of food for which he is apt to bestow a gift of his own.
“I am the light that dawns at the edge of the world. I am the silent seed that sleeps in the soil. I hold within me the potential of all that I may yet be. I am the Winter’s dream. I am the sun reborn. I am the spirit of light set free. Blessed Be.” Reproduced with kind permission by Amy Riddle, CC of On a Journey Back to Her Wings.
Use garnet for courage and protection, to stay positive and to persevere, even through tough times. Garnet strengthens family bonds and promotes love and friendship. Wear it when spending time with loved ones this Yule.
Ritual: Give & Receive
It’s gift-giving season and you’ll likely be doing plenty of that. But how are you at receiving? Be mindful about how you receive what the universe is trying to give you this Yule. Sometimes unseen forces are at work behind our friends’ kind offers of help, the gifts that we’re given, or even money we may receive unexpectedly. Be open to the good things coming your way and accept them graciously, with thanks.
Cloak: Winter Queen Velvet Cloak with Fur Trim
One of our favourites from last year, the Winter Queen velvet cloak in blue with silvery lining and faux fur trim evokes the clear blue skies of a crisp winter’s day.
Will you be leaving out any offerings this Yule for a bearded, jolly old man? You probably grew out of all that years ago, but you might just reconsider if we look deeper at who that old man with the white beard really is…
Santa Claus is a figure of our childhoods, supposedly based on a 4th century Turkish Bishop by the name of St Nicholas of Myra who gave out gifts to the poor, but look deeper an consider this – do they have many reindeer in Turkey? And how come Santa is said to live at the North Pole or in Lapland? Why, if Santa is based on St Nicholas, does he not live in Turkey? Snow features heavily in the idea of Yule, yet a white Christmas is pretty elusive.
Perhaps the origins of Santa lie further North in Scandinavia, where reindeer and snow are far more commonplace. The ancient legends of the North feature Odin, god of Wisdom, Magick and War. Odin has only one eye, having exchanged the other for wisdom at the well of Mimir, and he traditionally has a long, grey beard. According to the ancient Skaldic poem Óðins Nöfn (Odin’s names) he was known as, amongst other things, “Langbarðr” (Longbeard) even “Jólnir” (Yuleman). Odin is a fascinating deity; He is interested in gaining as much wisdom as He possibly can, and wanders through the worlds as a traveller, sometimes on foot and sometimes riding out to lead the Wild Hunt.
Eight-legged Sleipnir and Santa’s reindeer
The Wild Hunt is known throughout Europe and led by many different gods, goddesses and heroes, depending on local lore. It is a spectral hunt featuring lost souls or monsters, and to see the Wild Hunt was considered a very ill omen indeed. The Wild Hunt is also said to ride out during the winter, most famously at Samhain and Yule. Odin’s steed for the Wild Hunt is the magickal, eight-legged horse Sleipnir, who, according to legend, could traverse great distances in very little or no time at all – exactly as Santa’s reindeer are said to do on Christmas Eve. Sleipnir’s eight legs eventually became the eight traditional reindeer, before Rudolph joined the team.
One gift always calls for another
According to Phyllis Siefker in her book Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years, the practice of children leaving out offerings of food and drink for Santa and his reindeer is a leftover from the Norse practice of leaving out gifts for Odin and Sleipnir. In the Havamal (‘Sayings of the High One’ – in other words: Odin) there is the line “one gift always calls for another”, so Odin was said to leave behind gifts of sweets and blessings in exchange for the offerings. In this Odin was given the name Oski (Wish-giver).
The origins of Lapland’s flying reindeer
Norse children would put carrots or straw into their shoes as food for Sleipnir and this is reminiscent of the custom of leaving out stockings. The Sámi peoples of Sápmi, better known as Lapland, traditionally used straw instead of stockings in their boots, which were often made of reindeer skin. The Sámi peoples are most famously linked in our imaginations with reindeer herding and brightly coloured clothing. They have a custom of feeding the red and white Fly-Agaric mushroom to their reindeer and collecting the urine to drink. The reindeer’s digestive system gets rid of the more harmful toxins, and leaves much of the hallucinogenic substances behind. Could this be the origin of flying reindeer?
Odin could travel great distances at speed
When Odin travelled in the world of Men, he was often elusive, transitory and disguised. He wore a pointed hat, with a wide brim and long flowing robes and carried a special spear, his equivalent of St Nick’s Crosier. Odin is a shapeshifter and magician, two characteristics that Santa also shares – after all, Santa can allegedly stop time, not to mention get down the chimney.
Odin’s little helpers
Like Santa, Odin was also acquainted with Elves. The word Elf comes from the Germanic Alf, and the Svartalfs (Dwarves) created gifts for the Gods such as Odin’s spear and a special ring that could magically duplicate itself.
Odin sits on a High Seat from which he can see all the Nine Worlds. Two black ravens called Huginn and Muginn tell him all that has happened in the Worlds. Could these be the origins of the Black Jacks or Black Peter who spy on us all throughout the year? Yet another of Odin’s names was Sanngetal (Truth-finder).
The true meaning of Yule
Odin’s real gift is not sweets or other transient blessings, but wisdom. He discovered the Runes, and in some accounts, gave them to mankind. So this Yule, think about sharing the old stories with their wisdom. It may be time to reinvigorate the tradition of leaving a little something out for Odin and Sleipnir, too.
Have a magical Yule!
Ceri is a Priestess of Brighid and perpetual student of the earth’s mysteries. She is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and her fourth thriller is out now. Ceri also makes Pagan jewellery and prayer beads for her online shop, Land Sea Sky Treasures.
The Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. From this point the sun’s strength waxes after the darkest days of winter. Evergreens are brought into the home to represent the green that will soon return to the land. Fire magic is important – think of the Yule log, candles and Christmas lights – as a way of honouring the sun god, whoever he is to you.
At Yule we meet Danu, the old woman of winter who has lost all her flesh, becoming light and insubstantial. The Crone of Samhain leads us into death and Danu is death itself – absolute stillness.
It is easy to become distracted by the commercialism of this time of year, however the celebrations we have at Midwinter are an ancient tradition, marking the shortest day and longest night of the year. After this time, the days become longer again and we feel we are over the worst of winter’s darkness.
To connect with the energy of Yule, why not choose to make your Yuletide gifts, rather than buying something mass-produced from the shops? If you don’t have time for this, remember that buying locally handmade gifts is a more meaningful and responsibile way to show appreciation for your loved ones.
At this time of year, pagans turn inward, seeking personal growth. In the meditation below, we meet Danu, an ancient goddess revered across the British Isles and Europe. It is said that those who worshipped her, the Tuatha de Danaan (the children of Danu), retreated into the hollow hills of Ireland when Christianity overcame the Old Ways. There, they became the immortal Fair Folk, and Danu’s legend lives on as the Goddess of faery ways.
Danu is the power that is in the land, never to be overcome by mortals.
Imagine that you are walking in a forest at night. The ground is cloaked in snow and stars shine above you, but you are dressed warmly. You come to a clearing, encircled by trees, in which the light of the moon shines down between the bare branches of a tree.
You wait, taking in the beauty and serenity of this place. The carpet of snow lends a stillness and a silence to the scene, and here and there it glitters with reflected moonlight.
You watch your breath billow and curl as it leaves your body. Cold air stings your face, but you are wrapped up and snug.
Then she appears between the trees, stepping into the clearing. It is Danu, Mother of All Life, Ancient Grandmother.
She is here to give you a Yuletide gift. She holds it out to you. You may recognise it at once, or perhaps it is a symbolic or abstract gift. Receive the gift with thanks. If you do not know what it is, ask for understanding.
Meditate on the theme of development within the darkness. Connect with your unique gifts and abilities that will flourish during the year ahead. Danu has given you a gift deep within your soul – ask her how you can develop it and bring it out into the world.
Give thanks for what you have received and what you will receive in the coming year. Say goodbye to the Mother of All Life and the forest, but know that you can return here anytime you desire.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
At Yule, ask Danu to be with you. May she help you hear the wisdom deep within yourself. May she help you make time for stillness, for in darkness, seeds germinate.