Monday, 20 December 2010

December - Yule and the sacred oak.

Yule is the celebration of the rebirth of the Sun. It is possible that the name comes from the old Nordic word Jul, meaning wheel. On the winter solstice, on the longest night of the year, people would place and set afire a giant oak log in a community fire pit or families would place a smaller oak log in their fireplace. The log would be lit on the eve of the solstice using the remains of the log from the previous year and would be burned for twelve hours for good luck and protection. As the fire began all other lights would be extinguished and the people would gather round the fire. The celebration of the Yule log fire ended with unburned pieces of the Yule log saved to start the fire of next winter’s solstice Yule log.

Druids believed that anything found growing on an oak tree had been sent from heaven and mistletoe found on oaks was especially sacred. In the Celtic language, mistletoe means “All heal” and it was thought to possess miraculous healing powers and hold the soul of the host tree.

The mistletoe was seen as having awesome power. When everything was dormant in the harsh cold winter, the mistletoe shone forth even in the arms of the sleeping, leafless but sacred oak. The form it took was spherical, its silhouette against the white winter sky a circle, like the wheel, like the sun.

Enemies meeting under the mistletoe cast their weapons aside, greeted each other amicably, and honoured a temporary truce. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship.

Mistletoe was hung over the entry into peoples’ homes and over doorways within their homes as a token of good will and peace to all comers.