Time Traveler’s Christmas : Happy Yule Fest!

 

 

 

 

viking yule2

New religions new traditions

Previous Christmas guide post: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/time-travelers-guide-to-christmas-oh-christmas-tree/

Christmas music: https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/musical-inspiration-christmas-music/

yule the longest night Yule_log

First of all, I do need to acknowledge that some people may take offense at portions of this next discussion about the origins and history of Christmas.  A great many Christians firmly believe that Christmas is their own personal, sacred holiday and that it should be observed within the context of  the Christian symbolism of  it.

 

The early Christian Church involvement

If you have been following our previous discussion, you will already know that we have touched on many of the pre-Christian roots of the holiday. For an excellent article that refers to the true history of  what Christmas should mean, please read this article!

http://time.com/3631899/christians-christmas/

The mid winter festival and holiday was around long before Christianity ever became a part of it. In fact, in terms of the history of civilization, the Christian addition to the holiday is quite recent. We have already pointed out that the early Christian Church could not compete with the so called Pagan religions and beliefs so they instead chose to incorporate those traditions and beliefs into their religion in order to convert the Pagans.

There are many Christians today who believe that they as Christians somehow own the rights and observances of this holiday? They cry outrage and criticism that others have taken the Christ of  Christmas in such ways as referring to the day as x-mas.  In reality, the x has been a part of the holiday since it’s earliest days of Christianity!

xp in x-mas

http://news.yahoo.com/x-xmas-literally-means-christ-150002098.html

 

The winter Solstice celebrations have been around probably since the earliest beginnings of man’s understanding and record keeping of the seasons, the sun and the darkness.

The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

 

Neolithic site of Goseck circle. The yellow lines are the direction the Sun rises and sets at winter solstice.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Because the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun‘s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay‘s redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia‘s slave and master reversals.

Some time during the fourth century, the Christian Church became involved in the celebration.

Athelstan

 The chronography of 354 AD contains early evidence of the celebration on December 25 of a Christian liturgical feast of the birth of Jesus. This was in Rome, while in Eastern Christianity the birth of Jesus was already celebrated in connection with the Epiphany on January 6.  The December 25 celebration was imported into the East later: in Antioch by John Chrysostom towards the end of the 4th century, probably in 388, and in Alexandria only in the following century. Even in the West, the January 6 celebration of the nativity of Jesus seems to have continued until after 380.  In 245, Origen of Alexandria, writing about Leviticus 12:1–8, commented that Scripture mentions only sinners as celebrating their birthdays, namely Pharaoh, who then had his chief baker hanged (Genesis 40:20–22), and Herod, who then had John the Baptist beheaded (Mark 6:21–27), and mentions saints as cursing the day of their birth, namely Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14–15) and Job (Job 3:1–16).  In 303, Arnobius ridiculed the idea of celebrating the birthdays of gods, a passage cited as evidence that Arnobius was unaware of any nativity celebration.[55] Since Christmas does not celebrate Christ’s birth “as God” but “as man”, this is not evidence against Christmas being a feast at this time.  The fact the Donatists of North Africa celebrated Christmas may indicate that the feast was established by the time that church was created in 311.

ChristAsSol

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Main article: Sol Invictus

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means “the birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, a festival inaugurated by the Roman emperor Aurelian to celebrate the sun god and celebrated at the winter solstice, 25 December.  During the reign of the emperor Constantine, Christian writers assimilated this feast as the birthday of Jesus, associating him with the ‘sun of righteousness’ mentioned in Malachi 4:2 (Sol Iustitiae).   In his work Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus (c. 130–202) identified the conception of Jesus as March 25 and linked it to the crucifixion, with the birth of Jesus nine months after on December 25.  Celebration of the conception of Jesus, known as the Annunciation, became associated with the spring equinox, thus led to Christmas coinciding with the winter solstice.   An anonymous work known as De Pascha Computus (243) linked the idea that creation began at the spring equinox, on 25 March with the conception or birth (the word nascor can mean either) of Jesus on 28 March, the day of the creation of the sun in the Genesis account. One translation reads: “O the splendid and divine providence of the Lord, that on that day, the very day, on which the sun was made, the 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said, ‘Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.'”

In the fourth century, John Chrysostom, who promoted the celebration on 25 December, commented on the connection: “But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December … the eight before the calends of January [25 December] …, But they call it the ‘Birthday of the Unconquered’. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord …? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice.”  With regard to a December religious feast of the sun as a god (Sol), as distinct from a solstice feast of the (re)birth of the astronomical sun, one scholar has commented that, “while the winter solstice on or around December 25 was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas”.  “Thomas Talley has shown that, although the Emperor Aurelian’s dedication of a temple to the sun god in the Campus Martius (C.E. 274) probably took place on the ‘Birthday of the Invincible Sun’ on December 25, the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days, as one might expect.”   The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought remarks on the uncertainty about the order of precedence between the religious celebrations of the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun and of the birthday of Jesus, stating that the hypothesis that 25 December was chosen for celebrating the birth of Jesus on the basis of the belief that his conception occurred on 25 March “potentially establishes 25 December as a Christian festival before Aurelian’s decree, which, when promulgated, might have provided for the Christian feast both opportunity and challenge.

 

There is of course far more involved in the Church’s attempt to take over the Holiday from the Pagan influences, this is just a very brief and basic description it. What it came down to though, was a thought on the winter solstice of, if you can’t eliminate it or beat it… join it and make it your own. While the masses converted to Christianity, most of them still continued with their winter Solstice traditions and celebrations despite every attempt by the early Church to eradicate the celebrations.

My personal thought on the current outpouring of criticism and demands for Christ to be put back in Christmas… it was always first and foremost a Pagan festival, perhaps all of the so called Pagans of the World should speak up and insist upon putting the Pagan back in Yule! If one were to use the early Church’s definition and perception of Pagan, that would include a great many people today. The early Christian Church recognized only one true religion- that being the Roman Catholic Church, anyone who did not follow that religion and it’s beliefs would be considered a Pagan, a heretic, a heathen.

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

gods of our saxon gods 1.sun god 2. moon god 3.god tiw 4. woden

Another excellent article on thoughts about the holiday: Putting Odin back into the Yule Tide Season!

http://ezinearticles.com/?Putting-Odin-Back-Into-the-Yule-Tide-Season&id=3005931

 

Now that we have discussed the early Church’s involvement in the holiday, let’s move on to the Pagan celebration that seems to have had the most influence on our present day traditions and celebrations of the holiday.

Yule

yule9 yule2

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a pagan religious festival observed by the historical Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. The earliest references to Yule are by way of indigenous Germanic month names Ærra Jéola (Before Yule) or Jiuli and Æftera Jéola (After Yule). Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.

Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. A number of Neopagans have introduced their own rites.

 

Yule is the modern English representation of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastide“) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”, whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate with Gothic (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse (Icelandic and Faroese) jól (Danish and Swedish jul and Norwegian jul or jol) as well as ýlir,  Estonian jõul(ud) and Finnish joulu. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group, too.

The noun Yuletide is first attested from around 1475.  The word is attested in an explicitly pre-Christian context primarily in Old Norse. Among many others (see List of names of Odin), the long-bearded god Odin bears the names jólfaðr (Old Norse ‘Yule father’) and jólnir (Old Norse ‘the Yule one’). In plural (Old Norse jólnar; ‘the Yule ones’) may refer to the Norse gods in general. In Old Norse poetry, the word is often employed as a synonym for ‘feast’, such as in the kenning hugins jól (Old Norse ‘Huginn‘s Yule’ > ‘a raven’s feast’).

 

Yule is attested early in the history of the Germanic peoples; from the 4th century Gothic language it appears in the month name fruma jiuleis, and, in the 8th century, the English historian Bede wrote that the Anglo-Saxon calendar included the months geola or giuli corresponding with either modern December or December and January.

While the Old Norse month name ýlir is similarly attested, the Old Norse corpus also contains numerous references to an event by the Old Norse form of the name, jól. In chapter 55 of the Prose Edda book Skáldskaparmál, different names for the gods are given. One of the names provided is “Yule-beings.” A work by the skald Eyvindr Skáldaspillir that uses the term is then quoted, which reads “again we have produced Yule-being’s feast [mead of poetry], our rulers’ eulogy, like a bridge of masonry.”  In addition, one of the numerous names of Odin is Jólnir, referring to the event.

The Saga of Hákon the Good credits King Haakon I of Norway with the Christianization of Norway as well as rescheduling the date of Yule to coincide with Christian celebrations held at the time. The saga states that when Haakon arrived in Norway he was confirmed a Christian, but since the land was still altogether heathen and the people retained their pagan practices, Haakon hid his Christianity to receive the help of the “great chieftains.” In time, Haakon had a law passed establishing that Yule celebrations were to take place at the same time as the Christians celebrated Christmas, “and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holiday while the ale lasted.”

Yule had previously been celebrated for three nights from midwinter night, according to the saga. Haakon planned that when he had solidly established himself and held power over the whole country, he would then “have the gospel preached.” According to the saga, the result was that his popularity caused many to allow themselves to be baptised, and some people stopped making sacrifices. Haakon spent most of this time in Trondheim, Norway. When Haakon believed that he wielded enough power, he requested a bishop and other priests from England, and they came to Norway. On their arrival, “Haakon made it known that he would have the gospel preached in the whole country.” The saga continues, describing the different reactions of various regional things.

                     It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part of the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [ sacrificial blood ], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding the blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs [ aspergills ]. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and served as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat.

vikings_gallery8_9-P vikings_gallery8_8-P vikings_gallery8_7-P vikings_gallery8_6-P

The narrative continues that toasts were to be drunk. The first toast was to be drunk to Odin “for victory and power to the king”, the second to the gods Njörðr and Freyr “for good harvests and for peace”, and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself. In addition, toasts were drunk to the memory of departed kinsfolk. These were called “minni [memorial toast]”.

The Svarfdæla saga records a story in which a berserker put off a duel until three days after Yule to honour the sanctity of the holiday. Grettis Saga refers to Yule as a time of “greatest mirth and joy among men.”  This saga is set soon after Iceland converted to Christianity and identifies Yule with Christmas: “No Christian man is wont to eat meat this day [Yule Eve], because that on the morrow is the first day of Yule,” says she, “wherefore must men first fast today.”

Haakon the Good ruled Norway during the early 900s. He lived from 920-961 and spent most of his youth being raised in England and fostered by King Haakon was fostered by King Athelstan, as part of a peace agreement made by his father, for which reason Haakon was nicknamed Adalsteinfostre.  The English king brought him up in the Christian religion.  When Haakon returned to Norway to claim his throne, he was successful in every way except converting the Norse to Christianity. Haakon was frequently successful in everything he undertook except in his attempt to introduce Christianity, which aroused an opposition he did not feel strong enough to face. So entirely did even his immediate circle ignore his religion that Eyvindr Skáldaspillir, his court poet, composed the poem Hákonarmál on his death, representing his reception by the Norse gods into Valhalla.

The Nordic regions were the most resistant and longest hold outs to the conversion to Christianity, perhaps that is one of the reasons that their ancient traditions have remained with us even though for the most part, theirs was an oral history and language. Their ancient beliefs were so strong that they have continued to influence us to the present day.

Scholars have connected the month event and Yule time period to the Wild Hunt (a ghostly procession in the winter sky), the god Odin (who is attested in Germanic areas as leading the Wild Hunt and, as mentioned above, bears the name Jólnir), and increased supernatural activity, such as the aforementioned Wild Hunt and the increased activities of draugar—undead beings who walk the earth.

Modranicht, an event focused on collective female beings attested by Bede as having occurred among the pagan Anglo-Saxons on what is now Christmas Eve, has been seen as further evidence of a fertility event during the Yule period.

The events of Yule are generally held to have centred on Midwinter (although specific dating is a matter of debate), and feasting, drinking, and sacrifice (blót) were involved. Scholar Rudolf Simek comments that the pagan Yule feast “had a pronounced religious character” and comments that “it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages.” The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar (Sonargöltr) still reflected in the Christmas ham, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs, and customs which Simek takes as “indicat[ing] the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times.”

When the Norse migrated to the British Isles, they brought their religion, their beliefs, traditions and Yule with them.  In the northern regions such as Scotland, traces of it can be found in Hogmanay, and throughout the rest of the Isles, it has merged with the celebration of Christmas until it is difficult to differentiate any of it!

yule log5 yule-log6

The celebration of Yule became Yuletide, Christmastide, Candlemas, Twelve days of Christmas… All of these had origins and roots in the ancient Yule celebration and observance.

One of the most familiar of the traditions is the Yule log.

yule4

A yule log is a large wooden log which is burned in the hearth as a part of traditional Yule or modern Christmas celebrations in several European cultures. It may also be associated with the winter solstice festival or the Twelve Days of Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Twelfth Night.

The Yule log has been said to have its origins in the historical Germanic paganism which was practiced across Northern Europe prior to Christianization. One of the first people to suggest this was the English historian Henry Bourne, who, writing in the 1720s, described the practice occurring in the Tyne valley. Bourne theorised that the practice derives from customs in 6th to 7th century Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Robert Chambers, in his 1864 work, Book of Days notes that “two popular observances belonging to Christmas are more especially derived from the worship of our pagan ancestors—the hanging up of the mistletoe and the burning of the Yule log.” James George Frazer in his work on anthropology, The Golden Bough (p. 736) holds that “the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice appears to survive” in the Yule log custom. Frazer records traditions from England, France, among the South Slavs, in Central Germany (Meiningen) and western Switzerland (the Bernese Jura).

There is some controversy over the origin of the tradition in England.   Because there are no accounts of the custom in Great Britain prior to the 17th century, some historians and folklorists have theorised that it was not an ancient British custom but was in fact imported into Britain from continental Europe in the early modern period, possibly from Flanders in Belgium, where the tradition thrived in this period. My personal theory on this is that once the Saxons and Vikings who remained in  England converted to Christianity, the practice would have been set aside in the Nobility classes who were trying to adhere to the Church beliefs. It most likely would have continued in rural areas that held on to the old ways much longer.  When the practice returned in the 1600s, it would have been looked on as a novel, new and festive tradition without the previous ties to the pagan religion. There would have been those who remembered the old ways though and embraced this new acceptance of the practice.

The earliest origins of burning the yule log probably involved burning the log outdoors together as a group to keep the darkness at bay on the longest night of the year until the sun returned.  There is evidence of burning of sacred trees such as the Yew tree in ancient Britain.  Fire was sacred to all ancients and they would have revered the burning of  such large and sacred trees as offerings to their Gods.

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/news/the-oldest-living-thing-in-europe/0012067/

 

The yule log is a remnant of the bonfires that the European pagans would set ablaze at the time of winter solstice. These bonfires symbolized the return of the Sun.

An oak log, plus a fireplace or bonfire area is needed for this form of celebration. The oak log should be very dry so that it will blaze well. On the night of Yule, carve a symbol of your hopes for the coming year into the log. Burn the log to release it’s power. It can be decorated with burnable red ribbons of natural fiber and dried holly leaves. In the fireplace or bonfire area, dried kindling should be set to facilitate the burning of the log.The Yule log can be made of any wood (Oak is traditional). Each releases its own kind of magick.

Ash — brings protection, prosperity, and health

Aspen — invokes understanding of the grand design

Birch — signifies new beginnings

Holly — inspires visions and reveals past lives

Oak — brings healing, strength, and wisdom

Pine — signifies prosperity and growth

Willow — invokes the Goddess to achieve desires

http://thecronescottage.tripod.com/thecottagedecyule2001/id16.html

Yule and it’s Viking origins of Odin the Wanderer

Odin on his eight legged horse.

Odin on his eight legged horse.

wodin

Long before Christianity spread throughout the world, Pagan rituals and customs were prevalent throughout the lands and there was another whose arrival was long awaited by the inhabitants of northern Germany and Scandinavia – Odin the Wanderer or Wodan, the father of all the gods. Also known as the warrior god, the legends that became part of our Santa tradition were mostly of the benevolent kind. It was Odin who traveled the skies by night on his sled with his eight-legged horse Sleipner bringing gifts of bread for those in need.

According to Viking lore, the northern Germans and Scandinavians celebrated Yule, a pagan religious festival heralding the arrival of the winter solstice from mid-December to early January. During this time, many believed that Odin, disguised in a long blue-hooded cloak, would travel to earth on his eight-legged horse, to observe homesteaders gathered around the campfires to see how content the people were and for those in need of food, he left his gifts of bread and disappeared.

As traditions grew over time, the children of these lands would anticipate the arrival of gift-bearing Odin and would fill their boots with straw, carrots or sugar and place them near the fireplace so that Sleipnir could come down to eat during his midnight rides. Odin would then reward these kind children by replacing the food with gifts and candy treats inside the boots.

By now, you can see that many of those traditions transcended time albeit with slight changes: the eight-legged horse became eight tiny reindeer; the boots by the fireplaces would eventually become stockings “hung by the chimney with care;” and the food and candy, well those became to toys from the chief toymakers of the land – Santa and his elves!

Although Odin and Santa share many characteristics in that they both are older men with white beards and donning cloaks, there is one striking difference between the two – Odin is missing his left eye. According to legend, Odin ventured to Mimir’s Well, near Jötunheim, the land of the giants, as not Odin himself, but as Vegtam the Wanderer.  To gain knowledge of the past, present and future, Odin had to drink from the Well of Wisdom but for a price.  Ultimately, he had to sacrifice his left eye and today, it lies at the bottom of this Well of Wisdom as a symbol of the price he paid for the wisdom he possesses.  Fascinating legend!   

Upon the advent of Christianity, Odin eventually evolved into Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus and today, the children await the arrival of Sinterklaas or Santa Claus or both.   According to legend, Odin, the father of all the gods, portrayed one of twelve characters each month of the year. In December, he became Jul and the season of his arrival was known as Jultid or Yuletide.

http://www.examiner.com/article/christmas-traditions-europe-odin-and-the-celebration-of-yule

 

The time of Yule was one of great feasting and merriment as well as being full of sacred rituals.  Besides being a time of greatest darkness and fear, it was also a time to look forward to the sun’s lengthening and to new beginnings.

 

We have been focusing our discussion around the time period of the 800s with the Vikings arrival in England. I have chosen this time period because it provides for a good comparison between the early Christian Church’s influence and the still strong beliefs held by those Vikings. I think it is one of the most interesting eras for the specific reason that it shaped the future of  Europe in so many ways,  was a turning point, and yet left such long lasting traces of the ancient beliefs. This time frame also showed how much power and influence the Roman Catholic Church had at the time in the fact that it so quickly assimilated and converted the Anglo-Saxons in the area. Prior to the 800s, the Saxons were still holding on to their Northern Germanic identities and cultures. Within the space of  less than a century for the most part, those Saxons had completely settled into the areas of Britain.  They became the dominant force with the help of the Church, and had as a compromise, given up any outward sign of their previous culture and belief system. I say outward sign, because many of the Overlords held their old beliefs in some secrecy and it was more a matter of acceding to the Church as a way of receiving the benefits the Church could provide.

 

When the Vikings arrived in England, they were introduced to new teachings, new ways and beliefs. These new beliefs would have an affect on many of the Vikings and would cause them to rethink their own ways.  For what ever reasons, the Vikings would not  forget their old beliefs and traditions as quickly or as easily as the previous Anglo-Saxons had. It would be a long struggle for Christianity to convert these followers of the old Norse Gods and Goddesses.

 

Even the ancient Yule log has taken on a more Christian symbolic form.  The original log with it’s adornments of nature’s symbols attached to it have been replaced with Christian symbolism in the more modern tradition of a small log with three candles to represent the Holy Trinity.  Where once the Holly and Ivy that may have been wrapped around it had more pagan meanings, now they are a part of the Christian symbolism. Holly was once associated with ancient Romans and Druids. 

yule3 yule

 

European Holly  was sacred to druids  who associated it with the winter solstice, and for Romans, holly was considered the plant of Saturn.  European Holly has always traditionally had a strong association with Christmas. Henry VIII wrote a love song Green groweth the holly which alludes to holly and ivy resisting winter blasts and not changing their green hue So I am and ever hath been Unto my lady true.

The Holly and Ivy once symbolized the masculine and feminine and would have probably been an integral part of some Winter Solstice observances that included fertility and new beginnings.

The Christian symbolism of Holly and Ivy are presented in the Christmas Carol, The Holly and the Ivy

The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.

Refrain:
Oh, the rising of the sun and the running of the deer,
The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir.
The holly bears a blossom as white as lily flower,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our sweet saviour
Refrain
The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.
Refrain
The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn.
Refrain
The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.

Earlier Carols reference the more ancient and pagan origins and meanings.

An early book mentions the carol as well as a manuscript containing a more ancient song which is, or was, in the British Museum. The book was printed in 1823 and entitled Ancient Mysteries Described: Especially the English Miracle Plays founded on Aprocryphal New Testament Story extant among the unpublished manuscripts in the British Museum by the author, investigative journalist, devout Christian and former satirist, William Hone (1780–1842), and printed at 45 Ludgate Hill London. The book contains a list of carols (p 99) described as Christmas Carols now annually Printed including 70. The holly and the ivy, now are both well grown.

The book also describes (p 94) a British Museum manuscript: The same volume contains a song on the Holly and the Ivy which I mention because there is an old Carol on the same subject still printed. The MS begins with,

Holly and ivy in the snow in Elmstead Wood

Nay, my nay, hyt shal not be I wys,
Let holy hafe the maystry, as the maner ys:
Holy stond in the hall, faire to behold,
Ivy stond without the dore, she ys ful sore acold,
Nay, my nay etc
Holy and hys mery men, they dawnseyn and they syng,
Ivy and hur maydyns, they wepen and they wryng.
Nay, my nay etc’

The music and most of the text was also collected later by Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) from a woman in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire which is also related to the older carol described as: “The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly”, a contest between the traditional emblems of woman and man respectively.

Holly stands in the hall, fair to behold:
Ivy stands without the door, she is full sore a cold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly and his merry men, they dance and they sing,
Ivy and her maidens, they weep and they wring.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Ivy hath chapped fingers, she caught them from the cold,
So might they all have, aye, that with ivy hold.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly hath berries red as any rose,
The forester, the hunter, keep them from the does.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Ivy hath berries black as any sloe;
There come the owl and eat him as she go.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Holly hath birds a fair full flock,
The nightingale, the popinjay, the gentle laverock.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
Good ivy, what birds hast thou?
None but the owlet that cries how, how.
Nay, ivy, nay, it shall not be I wis;
Let holly have the mastery, as the manner is.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holly_and_the_Ivy

 

 

On a personal note, after much reflection on all of the history, and fond memories from my childhood, I chose to include a yule log in our holiday celebration this year.   Growing up, my family was not overly religious and we celebrated the holiday for it’s family traditions rather than any deeply religious or spiritual beliefs. Most of our holiday traditions were family oriented and tied to the traditions of my parents from when they grew up. Often they wouldn’t even know the reason or origin of a tradition other than, “It’s just what we’ve always done.”  My Mother was German, my Father was of  English and Dutch descent, but one thing they both held memories of was the Yule log. So, we always had one as décor at the holidays.

This year, I brought back the tradition. For our family tradition, it had to be a birch log…probably because we lived in Northern Minnesota where the Birch was abundant! Now, after reading some of the symbolism, the Birch does make sense as it represents new beginnings.  Of course, living here in California, I had some difficulty getting a birch log! Amazon.com to the rescue though, and I was able to receive a birch log from my homeland of Northern Minnesota!

wpid-20141212_190123.jpg

It came with the modern Christian symbolism of the trinity of candles and I am fine with that. I did give much thought to the decoration of it though, in reference to more ancient symbolism. Alas… No, I do not have a fire place to put it into so decorating around it will have to suffice.

wpid-20141220_164909.jpg

I used a combination of natural live greenery and some artificial to achieve the affect I wanted, only because I could not find easily purchasable fresh holly or mistletoe.

yule log finished

yule log finished

The Mistletoe Magic :

From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

 Mistletoe_Berries_Uk mistletoe2

The Legend :

For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the center of many folklore. One is associated with the Goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end. In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. But Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it , striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother. It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that who should ever stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm should befall them, only a kiss, a token of love. What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a Christian way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of that Love which conquers Death? Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, make it a just emblematic of that Tree of Life, the leaves of which are for the healing of the nations thus paralleling it to the Virgin Birth of Christ.
Read more at http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm#c7QoxysJ1HStX4Xw.99

 

As we close out this year and prepare for the beginnings of the new year, we pay tribute to those Saxons and  Vikings who met each other in England so long ago. The new ways of the Christian Church met the old beliefs of the Norse Gods and there would be a long dark battle to see the light again. What would emerge was a new beginning, a merging of cultures and traditions even though the Church would attempt ever after to gloss over those old beliefs, eradicate them and turn them into Church approved symbolism.

 

craigh_na_dun_time tours

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/beyond-crag-na-dun-other-sites-and-options-for-your-time-travel-experience/

 

In the coming year, I will be embarking on my Viking time travel adventure courtesy of Mrs. Graham and Crag na dun Time Travel, so I thought it appropriate at this time to pass along Yule Tide and Odin’s Feast greetings from some of those who will be involved in this experience!

viking yule2

Ragnar Lodbrok and his wife, Auslag bid you welcome to their feast at Kattegat.

 

 

Kattegat, Danemark

Kattegat, Danemark

King Egbert of Wessex sends his own greetings and warnings from the Saxon Christians of England

vikings_episode4_gallery_1-P

 

 

King Ecgbert of Wessex

King Ecgbert of Wessex

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

Athelstan the Monk sends his prayers to all.

 

Athelstan the Monk

 

 

Rollo, brother of Ragnar bids you not to forget the old ways and the fires burning from within.

Old ways of yule

Lagertha, one time wife of Ragnar Lodbrok, valiant Shield Maiden and now an Earl in her own right, sends blessings from her home of choice- Hedeby, Scandinavia.

Lagertha's Yule greeting

hedeby2 Hedeby3

 

 

 

 

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