Godi holds the ceremonial hammer and opens the circle with the traditional blessing:
In the Elhaz position standing facing North the Godi speaks:
Hammer to the North, hold and hallow this holy stead.
Godi faces East and speaks:
Hammer to the East, hold and hallow this holy stead.
Godi faces South and speaks:
Hammer to the South, hold and hallow this holy stead.
Godi faces West and speaks:
Hammer to the West, hold and hallow this holy stead.
Godi return to the North position and speaks:
In the name of Thor we call to the ancient Gods and Goddesses – all. May this Hammer, symbol of Mjolnir and symbol of Thor, reaffirm the abundant strength and power of our Gods and of our people. I consecrate this place of community and frith, banishing from it all impure influences. May our minds in this consecrated place likewise be sanctified, as is our will to the just services of Odin, ancient god of our people. As Heimdall guards the Bifrost, may this place be warded against all forces unharmonious to our purpose here this day. Wights of the land, wherever we may be, give us your blessing this Mother’s Night.
Godi now lights candles.
Godi faces circle, holding a filled ceremonial mead horn high with both hands and speaks:
Gods of the Aesir and Vanir
You come to us this Winter Solstice
As a longship through the ageless, misty sea –
Reaching its port of call
As helmsmen to our folk
Through aeons you have watched us.
We lift this horn of mead to you,
Lords of the two horizons,
Bequeath to us the token of your guidance.
Now may the days grow ever longer,
May the light shine forth from the sky,
Turning the tide of winter.
Here do we burn the mighty Yule log
And celebrate the cycle of the new year.
To you we now hail the sun’s rebirth.
Ring out the old,
Ring in the new –
Ring out the false,
Ring in the true.
The origin of the word Yule comes from a Northern European word “jol”. The feast known as Jolnir was celebrated as a fire festival of light honoring Odin. In the early Anglo-Saxon language, the word Yule derived from “geola,” which means “the yoke” of the year. Yule literally means “wheel,” when the sun is at its lowest ebb, but is reborn to regenerate the earth in spring. Yule is the shortest day flanked on each side by the longest nights. It is a time to welcome the sun back from its slumber and exchange tokens of joy with friends and family.
The Yule season runs a magical twelve days, starting on Mother’s Nights, December 20th to December 31st, and is considered the holiest feast of the festival cycles. The twelve days of Yule represent the twelve months of the year in microcosm.
Mother’s Night is so named as it is the day when night gives birth to a new sun. The twelfth night is ended with much oath making and celebration. Norsemen were known to make their oaths on the backs of a live boar in honor of Freyr and his trademark battle boar, Gullinbursti.
The right eye of Odin represents to sun, as does the solar wheel symbol. Yule is a sun festival held in honor of Odin as well as Thor and Freyr. As Balder is the god of midsummer’s sun, Freyr is the god of the midwinter sun. To the Romans the Yule tradition was the festival of Sol Invictus, the undefeated sun, which included the celebration of Saturnalia, an intense time of merry-making.
Yule involves both matriarchal and patriarchal symbology. As the mother goddess (moon) gives birth to the father god (sun), she then rests through the cold months which belong to the newborn infant god. In the Norse Yule festivals, the dead were always commemorated and believed to be present in spirit, Yule sacrifices were known to be offered for growth.
It has been an unbroken custom to use the evergreen tree as the foremost symbol of the Yule season, as it remains green the year round. The evergreen tree is a token of that which never dies, “everlasting” life eternal, akin in this respect to the world tree Yggdrasil. The druids are known to have tied gilded apples to the Yule tree as a symbol of fire in honor of the Allfather Odin.
Burning the Yule tree holds its origins in man’s effort to return the gift of fire to the gods by burning a tree along with sacrificial gifts. These burnt offerings would also be characterized in the form of bonfires and the Yule log. The Yule log is traditionally oak, ash, or beech and directly associated with fire as the purifying emanations of the Sun God. The log is personally cut and brought into the house with ceremony on the eve of Yule, and ignited with a piece of the previous year’s Yule log is available.
The Yule candle is another symbol of light in the darkness of winter. Customarily, it was a large ornamental candle, usually blue, green, or red in color, which is lit at the beginning of Mother’s Night. Often it is displayed in the window of a home to signify good will.
Holly and mistletoe are also a popular standard of the old tradition, and particularly spiritual to the Druids. It was believed that all who passed under the mistletoe were kissed by Freya, our goddess of fertility. Additionally, mistletoe was the fateful poison which brought the demise of the heretofore invincible Balder, the god of the summer son. So, it is believed that mistletoe symbolizes the death of the summer son while the winter son reigns. To decorate with evergreen, holly, and ivy is a long time tradition in the homes during Yule, paying homage to the feminine elements. The prickly holly signifies the male, and the entwining, yielding ivy is the female. Together they remind us that nature never dies, but is waiting to be reborn again in Spring. The colors of these plants have significance as well: red for the sun, green for eternal life, and white for purity.
Another Attendant reads:
The sunwheel is one of the oldest symbols of the mystic power of the sun. The sunwheel is of key importance in Asatru Yule ceremony. The right spokes of the wheel demonstrate the division of the year into the seasons, showing the movement of time. On the spiritual level, it is symbolic of the “seasons of the soul”. The wheel of the year represents the journey of the soul as it moves through the cycles of the natural and the supernatural. Also represented in the spokes are the nine worlds of Yggdrasil with Midgard in the center forming an apex of the eight spokes. It is the wheel of nature representing the sacred circle.
Traditionally a wheel is prepared for the evening close of every Yule ceremony. The wheel is set on fire and rolled down a hill. This display is to demonstrate the image of fire and the return of the sun. It is important to know that the Santa Claus we all know and love today evolved to his present popularized form through the Allfather Odin. For a long time, the Odin celebrated at Yule was in the horned guise of Herne the Hunter, then known as Neck or Nick, meaning “spirit”. The Christian church adopted the pagan shaman, canonizing him and changing his name to Saint Nicholas. The Americanized Santa of today is a commercialized consumer image that was created by the Coca Cola Corporation advertisers in 1931 to promote the sale of their soft drinks.
Odin is known not only as a warrior god, but also as the bringer of sunshine and gifts. In return, sacrificial harvest gifts had to be left for his holy steed Sleipnir. Like today these special gifts were left in socks, boots, and clogs.
During the chant a small sunwheel of wicker or wood is passed around the circle, turning continuously as each celebrant passes it to the next.
An Attendant plays a drum beat before each stanza:
Odin, be in my thoughts,
And in my understanding;
Odin, be in my eyes,
And in my seeing;
Odin, be in my mouth,
And in my speaking;
Odin, be in my head,
And in my thinking;
Odin, be at my side,
In my departing.
The Wheel of life is turning
Through this winter night of darkness.
Wheel – symbol of endless dominion;
Wheel that binds immortal gods to men.
The Wheel of Life is turning,
Sun disk – Eye of Odin
Life giving fire!
Wheel of time, force, and motion,
By your power all creation turns.
In the dawn of newborn light
We celebrate the festival of Yule.
Hear us now, O Gods
As we pay honor to life’s Majestic Radiance!
Bonfire dancing, everyone joins hands around the bonfire and moves in sunwise direction during the first two lines of the chant. On the second two lines of the chant, everyone steps inward towards the flame and back outwards. This continues until the time that a complete revolution has been made around the bonfire. If appropriate, two or more revolutions may be made. Godi will stop when the energy has culminated.
Golden Sun, star of light,
Return again into your height.
Golden Sun, the bane of night,
We call you now, give darkness flight!
An Attendant speaks:
The tree has had a place of prominence in most ancient myths. Its original mythic function was as the center of the world, a living axis topping the summit of the world mountain and reaching up to Asgard. The tree itself usually incorporates three levels: its roots grown down through Midgard to the underworld, while the trunk rises through the world of men here on Midgard, and holds up the crown of branches and leaves, fruits and nuts, toward the unattainable heights of Asgard. In mythic tradition, however, it is not only the “axis mundi”, connecting the underworld with the realms of the Gods, it is also, the way by which sejdr ascends or descends on his ecstatic visits to the celestial spirits or the souls of the dead, which are known as Niflfarinn, or mist travelers. Because the tree grows green again every year and produces the seeds of the future, it is a major symbol of life, particularly the evergreen, which never dies, for which it has remained the single most identifiable life symbol for the Yule season.
The tree in general symbolizes the human soul and mind, where it has to do the unfolding of personality and the process of spiritual individuation. This type of tree stands at the source of life and bears fruit that grants enlightenment.
There is an ash tree –
Its name is Yggdrasil –
A tall tree sparkling
With clear drops of dew
Which falls from its boughs
Down into the valleys;
Evergreen it stands
Besides the Norns’ spring.
Godi or Attendant speak:
Snow is always personified as a powerful fearful figure. A Russian folk song tells of an elderly childless couple who made a snow doll in their garden which a passing stranger blessed, whereupon it became a living child. The blue eyed, golden haired little girl was very precocious 0 she was like a child of fourteen by the time winter passes. As the snow melted form the fields in Spring, little snow child avoided the sun, in which she melted, and sought the shade of the willow trees. Most of all she liked heavy showers, and when there was a hailstorm she was as gay as if she had found a treasure trove. But on the 24th of June her friends took her on an outing and they were careful to keep her in the shade of the forest. As night fell they lit a bonfire and leapt across back and forth across it. Suddenly they heard a dreadful noise behind them. They could see nothing when they turned to look; Snow Child had disappeared. And though they looked for several days, combing the forest, tree by tree, they could find no trace of their little pale companion. The old couple was inconsolable and imagined that a cruel beast had carried Snow Child off. But, says the song, it was not a beast. When Snow Child followed her friends over the glowing embers she turned into fine rose as a cloudlet to Asgard. The snow child, sweet and innocent as she is, represents the frosty winter, but for all the care that she takes to avoid the sun, she is vanquished in the end. It is interesting that it is not the sun itself which melts her, but the bonfire which in ancestral times was lit to celebrate the sun god at the height of his power, about the time of the Summer Solstice. In this Russian tale there is also a direct reference to the triumph of the rising sun god over the powers of the fading moon goddess.
Ullr’s realm is upon us,
And from the sky
Comes down enormous winter –
Rivers have turned to ice.
Dash down the frosty chill
Throw the Yule log on the fire,
Mix the ceremonial mead,
Hail to our Gods above!
There is great warmth within our spirits.
Equally do we honor the four seasons,
But now the moon has given way to the sun –
The day’s light will be longer
And life’s fertile bounty
By firelight tonight,
I peer out into the still winter darkness.
It is the Mother night of Yule,
The sun’s rebirth.
Bonfires and flaming wheels
Mark this ancient tradition,
In the distance – Sleipnir,
Odin’s eight legged steed,
Clamors above the night mist,
The sound of muted thunder
Now the moon goddess
Makes way for the awakening sun god,
The time of joyful celebration.
Horns of mead, we raise to our gods;
Oaths will be made and much feasting,
The spirits of Odin, Thor, and Freyr,
To their honor and life giving sun
We pay homage
And light the sacred Yule log.
Outside the snow is still falling;
Ullr’s thick white mantle covers the land.
But the days of light will be longer now –
The great yearly cycle has been renewed.
Spirits of Asgard we thank you for your presence here in this circle. We ask for your blessing and while you depart to your noble realm we bid you hail and farewell. I hereby release any Spirits that may have been imprisoned by this ceremony. Depart now in peace to your abodes and habitations. The blót is now ended, let the sumbel begin.