Yule is also associated with the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht. In most forms of Wicca, Yule is celebrated on the Winter Solstice as the rebirth of the Great horned hunter god Cernunnos, or the Holly King , and is viewed as the Holly King taking over from the Oak King who is in his prime at Litha. The method of gathering for this sabbat varies by practitioner. Some have private ceremonies at home, while others do so with their covens.
Yule ceremonies include such things as decorating your altar with various items such as pine boughs, holly, or other evergreens, pine cones and poinsettias. Bayberry, blessed thistle, cinnamon, nutmeg , sage, yellow cedar and allspice may also be present. You can also adorn your altar with red, white or green candles. Stones you might want to scatter around your altar are diamonds, emeralds, rubies, bloodstones and garnet. The scents of Frankincense and Myrrh could be wafting through the air along with wintry goodies from the oven for the Yule feast. In ancient Rome, fertility rituals were performed at the temple of Saturn, including sacrifices.
The basis for Santa Claus comes from the story of Odin leading the Wild Hunt in magnificent robes on his horse, Sleipnir. Sleipnir would take huge strides which are likened to the flight of reindeer and children would leave their boots out for Odin to fill with gifts. In Iceland children still leave their boots by the window in observance of the old ways.
Beware the Krampus! On December 5th (Krampusnacht), Krampus, a horned, ugly, terrifying creature with a whip for beating children and unsuspecting young maidens, is armed with Santa's ''naughty list'' to gather up the children and punish them for being bad.
The Yule feast. The feast usually includes some kind of pork loin, roll or pie seasoned with rosemary, garlic, savoury nutmeg and cinnamon. There are always tons of cookies (especially sugar cookies), honey cakes or Yule cakes and of course wassail (ale flavoured with cinnamon, sugar and sliced apples and fruit juices).
The Yule log is believed to have been created by German pagans and is burned over the course of the 3 days of observance.
Some modern pagans still attempt to observe the traditional ways and have a feast, burn a log saved from the year before but the Sabbat among neo-pagans has changed slightly. Yule is a 12 day holiday, and it begins on ''Mothers Night'' (Dec 21st) and ends 12 days later on ''Yule Night'' (Jan 1st). It's the origin for the Christian ''12 Days of Christmas''. Over the evolution of paganism, these legends have developed into various rituals and observations. One of the more detailed or organized observations is closely related to the Celtic legend of Lugh, Eriu and the 12 Days of Yule. The festivals are observed from sunset to sunset - Dec. 20th to Dec. 23rd. During the 1st 3 days - The virgin Maiden Goddess is honoured as your guide for moving forward into the new year, to set you on the right and positive path. From Dec 23rd to Dec 26th, the 2nd set of 3 days - The Mother Goddess is honoured for fertility and all your coming endeavours. Dec 26th to Dec 29; the 3rd set of 3 days - Are set aside for the rebirth of the God, and honouring his guidance through the physical world. Dec. 29 to Jan. 1; these last 3 days are set aside for the Old Crone Goddess who is honoured for wisdom and as your teacher in the cosmic lessons of life and spirit. In modern times, under the solar calendar, she might also be honoured as the waning year giving way to the New Year.
Hope you found this article informative and entertaining, Blessed Yule to all. ~0greenwitch