By LETHBRIDGE INTERFAITH NETWORK on December 19, 2020.
Part of a series of ongoing contributions from the Lethbridge Interfaith Network
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, and we enter a time of darkness. It’s usually recognized on, or around, Dec. 21, and officially marks the beginning of winter. This is a time for those that follow the earth-based belief system of Paganism to take pause, reflect and prepare for the upcoming winter months. However, it is also a time to remember that the sun’s waning period has come to an end and its warmth andÂ life-giving power will be returning.
Many practices that we see during this holiday season are rooted in the traditions born when Paganism was the dominant belief system. As an earth-based religion, many believed that all things housed a spirit, so during the cold winter nights, individuals would bring in an evergreen tree into the warmth to ensure that the tree spirits would stay warm. The tree would be adorned with shiny ornaments, and treats so that the spirits would be entertained, and well-nourished. We often saw that the top of the tree would be decorated with a five pointed star – encompassing the traditional elements of fire, earth, air, water and aether or spirit. This tradition is still observed today by many members of a variety of faith systems.Â
More traditionally, however, is the burning of the Yule Log. This can be done with your family or individually. Often a group would gather around a fire, allowing the warmth of the flame to embrace their spirits, and lift their souls, as a way of connecting with the year. A log would be carefully chosen, and prepared with branches of pine needles entwined in a ritualistic manner with love and adoration to the gods, goddesses and ancestors who walked before us.
The log would be passed around from member to member, and at that time, each one would include a slip of paper or a branch of sacred herbs – infusing the log with their intentions for the turning of the year. The intentions would be woven into the bundle before being lowered into the fire in a ritualistic manner. The fire would then burn out, and what remained of the log would then be saved to start the next years’ fire.Â
While there are a number of different ways that one could honour this sacred time of the year,Â the important thing to remember is that any ritual or tradition is deeply personal. One thing remains consistent; Yule remains a time of celebration, reflection, and intention setting for the upcoming year.Â
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