On the year’s shortest day and longest night,
Where the Oak King battles to bring us the light,
Families gather for fun, festivities, and feast,
Bringing good cheer to the most and least.
Logs and candles burn happy and bright
To bring back the Sun with strength and might
Signaling the start of the new year to man and beast
To all corners north, south, west, and east.
To all Children of the Goddess today I invite
May you be blessed with all that you delight.
© Ariadne Woods
This week is the last of the long nights before the Wheel Turns, the Oak King wins, and the Goddess gives birth to the God. Or so it goes. Some Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches mark it as the spiritual new year (while others do so at Samhain). Personally, I think both days are appropriate, and the season in between is a time of reflection and sacrifice. It is the season of figuring out what you really want in life.
And after Yule, you have to figure out how you are going to achieve these goals. Some projects are small, like finally cleaning out the damned junk drawer. Others, like pursuing an education or finding a new romantic partner, take much more time, effort, and planning. The key is introspection, knowing exactly what you want. For me, having a strong relationship with my patron goddess and taking time for myself help give me clarity and direction.
If you have not taken the last few weeks to look at your life and choices, this week is your chance. My best advice to you is to get away for a bit. Turn off your laptop and put your phone in a drawer somewhere. If it’s warm, go to a park or your garden. The key is to listen to your heart.
© Ariadne Woods
Yule can be one of the best sabats. And the most stressful. Lots of family and friends and parties. So when it comes to your Yule feast, perhaps easy is the way to go. With an exception of the cake, all of these recipes are low commitment and some can be made a head of time. Try combining them with old, family traditions for a meaningful Yuletude feast!
- World’s Easiest Appetizer: I know dairy products are more of a Imbolc thing, but slicing a good block of cheese will please almost everyone. Plate it with nice crackers and grapes and your golden! Some suggestions: brie, cheddar, and gouda.
- Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad: I made this for my mom’s holiday party a few years ago. It was so tasty and elegant. A big crowd pleaser. Plus, the tomatoes don’t have to be perfect because you’re roasting them.
- Guinness Stew over Mashed Potatoes: Cut 2 lbs. roasting beef into bite sized chunks. Coat them in flour and brown with a little olive oil in a dutch oven (in batches if need be). Set meat aside. Add a little more oil to the pan, then 1 diced onion, half a bag of carrots diced, half a head of celery diced, a lot of thyme, and a bay leaf. After five minutes of cooking, add 3 cloves of minced garlic. Cook for one minute, then set veggies aside. Deglaize the pan with 1 can of Guinness, scraping the bits off the bottom of the dutch oven as the alcohol cooks off. Add 3 cups of beef stock, a few tablespoons of tomato paste, and 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce. Add back into the dutch oven the beef and veggie mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and let cook for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally. About forty minutes before the stew is done, peel, dice, and boil a 5 lb bag of potatoes. While they are cooking, heat some milk, sour creme, butter, salt, pepper, and minced garlic in a saucepan. Drain potatoes when they’re fork tender and mash with milk mixture. To serve, plate potatoes and cover with stew.
- Pan Fried Green Beans: Trim the ends from a bag of green beans. If you want, chop up a shallot or two as well. In a little olive oil, fry the beans and shallots at a medium heat until the skin gets wrinkly. Add two cloves of garlic, cook for another minute, then done!
- Applesauce: You can make your own. Or buy it. But it goes with nearly any meal and kids love it.
- Bouche de Noel: It’s a cake. That looks like a Yule log. Nothing can be more perfect.
- Eggnog: While I am definitely more of a Wassail kind of girl (see my Samahin recipes for the Witch’s Brew), eggnog is a traditional holiday classic.
- Ritual Cakes and Ale: Eggnog or Wassail for the ale and holiday cookies for the cakes. I like using a goodie that someone gave me because it brings good energy into the circle.
© Ariadne Woods
Most witches, Wiccans, and Pagans follow the Eight Great Celtic Sabat model (although there are thousands of other traditions. Read The Grandmother of Time by Z. Budapest and The Pagan Book of Days by Nigel Pennick for more information). The benefit about following the natural world is the major holidays are nicely spaced throughout the year. Getting bummed after Yule? Imbolc is right around the corner. We are constantly celebrating life and the Earth and our faith.
Yet, I have found that try as I may to celebrate every holiday, I have noticed a pattern about how I approach the Wheel of the Year:
- Yule: Christmas (a very important day in my family) is a few days away and since that’s such a high stress holiday I am too wiped to stay up with the Goddess as she births the God.
- Imbolc: Very informal celebration. This year I had my friends over for mead.
- Ostara: I always seem to forget about it.
- Beltane: One of my favorites, but it always falls on finals or reading days. I do make an effort to do some sort of ritual, though.
- Litha: I go to a local farm festival with my mom every year and go home for a late night ritual. One of the best days of the year.
- Lammas: So. Much. Baking. Always a laid back holiday.
- Mabon: I adore Mabon. Never miss it.
- Samhain: I celebrate it, but I always seem burnt out due to a variety of reasons.
I do not treat them all with the same amount of pomp and circumstance. I mean, it’s not practical for me. I have school, work, family, friends, boyfriend, extra curricular activities, taking care of myself, etc. The prep time is not always there.
What ultimately drives celebratory worship is the connection to particular times of the year. For me, I feel at home in summer and fall holidays. They speak to my soul in such an empowering way, which is what matters the most about sabat celebrations. That connection is key because that is what allows the worshiper to benefit spiritually from the ritual.
© Ariadne Woods
When it comes to Yule, there aren’t as many seasonal myths as there are for other holidays. The most frequent one that comes up in my research is the Holly and Oak Kings. I’ve never been able to pin down this myth’s exact origin, but it is generally believed to be Celtic. Basic story: There are two brothers who rule at different times of the year. At Midwinter and Midsummer they duke it out and from Midwinter to Midsummer the Oak King rules and the Holly King reigns after the Midsummer battle. It is a representation for the change in seasons and the switch in duality. I also want to note that my favorite translation has the Kings as two different aspects of the Stag King. Yule is also strongly associated with the solar deities, so myths about Belenus and Ra definitely apply. The main themes of the season are change and duality. Enjoy reflecting on these aspects as the sun shifts from wax to wane.
© Ariadne Woods
I got home from school less than a week ago and already I want to throttle everyone. I love my family, I do, but it is hard to go from a situation of independence and self reliance to back home on my mom’s couch. You having similar problems? I share with you the tools I use to get me through to the next semester.
- Take a Walk: I realize it’s cold. But getting out of your house and observing nature is good for the soul and has a strong calming affect. Which you’ll need when your great aunt asks for the fourteenth time why you’re not married yet.
- Don’t Revert to Old Habits: This is a good one to buddy up on. My cousin is a former smoker and I eat EVERYTHING IN SIGHT when stressed. So during the holidays we tag-team to keep each other in check.
- Enjoy Traditions: I am so excited for my Solstice vigil, the candlelight service at my mom’s church, gift giving, drinking with my sister and cousin, and my grandmother’s food. Those are what I want to take away from the holidays, not my mom’s nagging.
- Keep in Contact with Friends: They’re going crazy, too. Don’t be the constant texter, but sending each other encouraging texts will help everyone stay happy.
- Headphones: Absolute lifesaver.
© Ariadne Woods
It’s that time of year! Time to start thinking about Yule presents. Stumped? Here’s a few ideas:
- Artwork: Whether a poster, painting, handmade, or purchased, a beautiful picture can personalize the home and deepen spiritual connection in altar areas. If you are creating it for someone else, consider using spiritual texts, myths, and song lyrics as inspiration.
- Divination Accessories: Tarot boxes, rune bags, casting cloths, etc.
- Books: For a friend in your coven who loves myths, consider picking up Edith Hamilton’s collection. For the fiction lover, definitely check out American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
- Herbal Baths, Oil Blends, and Incense: Consider springing for seasonal scents: cinnamon, pine, clove, and orange.
- Food: And by food I mean cookies!
© Ariadne Woods