(circa December 21)
by Scott Cunningham
The altar is adorned with evergreens such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar, and the same can be laid to mark the Circle. Dried leaves can also be placed on the altar.
The cauldron, resting on the altar on a heat-proof surface (or placed before it if too large), should be filled with ignitable spirit (alcohol), or a red candle can be placed within it. At outdoor rites, lay a fire within the cauldron to be lit during ritual.
Arrange the altar, light the candles and incense, and cast the Circle. Recite the Blessing Chant. Invoke the Goddess and God. Stand before the cauldron and gaze within it. Say these or similar words:
"I sorrow not,
though the world is wrapped in sleep.
I sorrow not,
though the icy winds blast.
I sorrow not,
though the snow falls hard and deep.
I sorrow not,
this too shall soon be past."
Ignite the cauldron (or candle), using long matches or a taper. As the flame(s) leap up say:
"I light this fire in Your honor,
You have created life from death;
warmth from cold;
The Sun lives once again;
the time of light is waxing.
ever-returning God of the Sun!
Hail Mother of All!"
Circle the altar and cauldron slowly, clockwise, watching the flames. Say the following chant for some time:
"The wheel turns; the power burns."
Meditate upon the Sun, on the hidden energies lying dormant in winter, not only in the Earth but within ourselves. Think of birth not as the start of life but as its continuance. Welcome the return of the God. After a time cease and stand once again before the altar and flaming caldron. Say:
"Great God of the Sun,
I welcome Your return.
May You shine brightly upon the Goddess;
may You shine brightly upon the Earth,
scattering seeds and fertilizing the land.
All blessings upon You,
reborn One of the Sun!"
Works of magick, if necessary, may follow. Celebrate the Simple Feast (Cakes and Ale). The circle is released.
One traditional Yuletide practice is the creation of a Yule tree. This can be a living, potted tree which can later be planted in the ground, or a cut one. The choice is yours. Appropriate Pagan decorations are fun to make, from strings of dried rosebuds and cinnamon sticks (or popcorn and cranberries) for garlands, to bags of fragrant spices which are hung from boughs. Quartz crystals can be wrapped with shiny wire and suspended from sturdy branches to resemble icicles. Apples, oranges and lemons hanging from boughs are strikingly beautiful, natural decorations, and were customary in ancient times.
Many enjoy the custom of lighting the Yule log. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. If you choose to burn one, select a proper log (traditionally of oak or pine). Carve or chalk a figure of the Sun (such as a rayed disc) or the God (a horned circle or a figure of a man) upon it, with the Boline, and set it alight in the fireplace at dusk on Yule. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days.
As to food, nuts, fruits such as apples and pears, cakes of carraways soaked in cider, and (for non-vegetarians) pork are traditional fare. Wassil, lambswool, hibiscus or ginger tea and fine drinks for the Simple Feast or Yule Meals.
Book of Shadows © 2001, Dana (Huntress of the Dark)