Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yule, Winter Celebration of the Sun

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, is the shortest day of the year. From here on out the days will grow longer, and the nights shorter. This ancient seasonal festival represents the return of the sun. Many cultures celebrated the Winter Solstice, such as the Celts, the Germanic tribes, the Greeks, Egyptians, Norse and more. In the middle of the cold of winter, people would pray for the return of the sun to bring life back to the land once more.

Some cultures, such as the Celtic, Germanic and Norse, started a tradition of throwing a large log onto the hearth fire to symbolize the sun. This became known as the Yule log and became a yearly representation of the suns return. Each year people would throw the yule log on the fire, and keep a piece of it for the next year. So when the next Winter Solstice came, they would light the fire with the piece of the log from last year. This was a way to symbolize the old being reborn into the new. Representing the rebirth of the sun.

Goddesses honored at this time of year are The Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of Sovereignty and Battle, Isis Egyptian Mother Goddess of the Universe, Freyja Norse Goddess of Beauty and War and The Cailleach, Celtic Crone Goddess of Winter.

I have a great recipe for Yule Wassail, which is a winter drink that you can make with or without wine/alcohol. It has lovely spices and it's very seasonal so I decided to share it here. I make the kind with alcohol, so if you would rather go alcohol free, substitute the wine for apple cider, and don't add the brandy :) The origins of the drink "Wassail" comes from an ancient celebration of sorts where wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. They would pour wine and cider on the ground to encourage fertility in the crops. Some say that over time wassailing turned into the modern Christmas caroling. For more on the ancient act of wassailing, check out Enjoy!

Yule Wassail

  • One bottle of red wine (suggestions: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot or a Spanish red)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 sliced apple


Combine all ingredients in either a large pot or a slow cooker. Gently warm the ingredients on low to medium heat (avoid boiling), for 20-25 minutes. Stirring occasionally. When the wine is steaming and the ingredients have blended well it is ready to serve. Ladle into mugs (leaving seasonings behind) and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy the Wassail! Wishing you all many Yule Blessings!

Picture courtesy of Josephine WallLink

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pythia, Ancient Priestess of Delphi

The Pythia was the name of the Oracular Priestess at Delphi in the Temple of Apollo. The Pythia was widely respected for her prophecies. She was said to be the most prestigious oracle in the ancient Greek world. The Oracle at Delphi was thought to begin around 800 BCE, and officially ended around 393 CE. When the oracle would perform her prophetic rituals, she would enter the inner chamber of the temple, known as adyton, and sit on a tripod like chair, while holding laurel leaves. Nearby her was the opening in the earth or omphalos which translates to mean navel in Greek. This is where the sacred vapors came from that put the Priestess into a trance like state.

When a person came for a prophecy, they would make a sacrifice, and present a question to a male Priest. The Priest would then go and consult the Oracle. After she gave her prophecy, the Priest would interpret it for the person who was seeking it. It is said that the life of a Pythia was exhaustive and that many died young. The cause of this was most likely the fact that they were inhaling poisonous vapors.

To become the Priestess of Delphi, there were certain things required of the woman chosen. She would have had to have led a life of purity, and been a person of good character. If you were chosen to be the Pythia, you had to sever all ties with your family, friends etc. The Pythia could have been from an aristocratic family, or she could have been a peasant. According to archaeologist John Hale, The Priestesses of Delphi were chosen based more on their ability than their social stature. Being the Pythia also meant that you were privy to many liberties. Like free housing and freedom from taxation, also a salary and an ability to own land. They were highly regarded in Greek society.

The Pythia only gave prophecies during the nine warmest months of the year. During the winter months Apollo was said to leave his temple and return in the Spring. A month after he returned, the Priestess of Delphi would undergo purification rites which included fasting, ritual bathing and drinking holy water from nearby springs. This was all done to prepare the Oracle for communication with the Divine.

Being the Oracle at Delphi was a highly honored position. She played a very important role in Greek society, so much so that virtually no major decision was made without consulting the Pythia first.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the ancient Priestess of Delphi!

Photo courtesy of John Collier

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hel, Norse Queen of the Underworld

Hel was the Goddess of death and the Underworld in Norse mythology. She is often a misunderstood Goddess as many Goddesses of the Underworld are. She is said to be the daughter of Loki, a trickster God of the Norse, and a Giantess. Her body was seen as half dead and half alive. Some say that part of of her body was beautiful while the other was horrid like death. To me this symbolizes the light and dark aspects within all of us.

Her namesake comes from the realm she ruled which was Helheim, one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. It was thought that those who died of disease or old age, went to Helheim and those who died victoriously in battle went to Valhalla. Hel is also the judge of souls to determine where in Helheim they will go. Those who were evil in life go to a realm of icy cold death, this part of Helheim is where the Christian "Hell" comes from. Where souls would be damned for an eternity. The others entering her realm who died of natural causes, disease, etc., were watched over by Hel and given a chance for rebirth. The world of Hel, it is sometimes called, is similar to that of the Greek Underworld, where there were also different realms within it. Like Tartarus was the place were the evil dead would go, and The Elysian fields were a beautiful place where to good would go, and these souls also had a chance for rebirth.

One of the myths involving Hel is the story of the death of Baldr. Tricked by Loki, Baldr died in a contest that took place in Asgard, which is known as the capitol of the Gods. Upon his death he was sent to the realm of Hel where he was welcomed with a feast. Though back in his world, Baldr was deeply mourned, and his brother decided to ride the eight legged horse Sleipnir into Helheim to try and retrieve his brother. When he arrives, he begs Hel to return his beloved brother, saying that all in his realm have wept for him. Hel says, "If all things in the world, alive or dead, weep for him, then he will be allowed to return to the Aesir. If anyone speaks against him or refuses to cry, then he will remain with Hel." - quoted from the Prose Edda.

Hel represents endings and beginnings, and also the darker aspects of life and of ourselves. She teaches us that after death is the opportunity for rebirth, in anything in our lives. The ending of one thing becomes the beginning of another. In magic, in Norse religion, through the practice of Seidr, a Norse form of prophetic and shamanistic witchcraft, practitioners would call on Hel for astral travel, to travel to the world of the spirits and communicate with them. You can call of her Linktoday for such magical acts as well as divination. She is usually honored at Samhain and Yule, and on the dark/waning moon.

On your altar for Hel, have colors of black and white, crystals of moonstone, black onyx and hematite, white flowers, representation of a raven and a picture of her in her half dead, half live form to represent the duality in nature and in ourselves.

For more on this Great Goddess, check out Order of the White Moon

Enjoy working with this ancient Goddess of death and rebirth!

Picture courtesy of: Norsemen

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winner of Yule Ornament from the Whimsical Pixie!

Thank you to everyone who entered! And the winner is.........Calling Vesta! Congratulations! I hope everyone had fun playing. Thank you to Paula at The Whimsical Pixie for her lovely donation! Enjoy your new beautiful ornament Calling Vesta!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...