Monday, 21 December 2009

Yule, the Holly King v Oak King & other random facts

The dark nights have drawn to their longest point and time has come for the Oak King to triumph over the Holly King. By cutting off the Holly Kings Head, the Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer. The Holly King has represented Death and darkness since Samhain. Yule is bringing our spirits high as we rejoice with the light returning, time to be reborn, new lives beginning. A different version of the Holly v Oak King theme is the ritual hunting and killing of a Wren. The Wren, little King of the Waning Year, is killed by the Robin Redbreast, King of the Waxing Year. The Robin finds the Wren hiding in an Ivy bush (or as in some parts of Ireland - a holly bush).
There is also the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight where you can see similarities to the holly/oak stories. The following is a translated chapter (no.13)
"Never fear," he said, "I'm not fishing for a fightwith the beardless children on the benches all about. If I were strapped on steel on a sturdy horseno man here has might to match me. No, I have come to this court for a bit of Christmas funfitting for Yuletide and New Years with such a fine crowd. Who here in this house thinks he has what it takes,has bold blood and a brash head, and dares to stand his ground, giving stroke for stroke? Here! I shall give him this gilded blade as my gift; this heavy axe shall be his, to handle as he likes. And I shall stand here bare of armour, and brave the first blow. If anyone's tough enough to try out my game, let him come here quickly and claim his weapon! I give up all rights; he will get it for keeps. I'll stand like a tree trunk -- he can strike at me once, if you'll grant me the right to give as good as I getin play. But later is soon enough, a full year and a day. Get up, if you think you're rough, let's sees what you dare to say!"

Our Yule Altar

Yule was not celebrated in early Celtic traditions. It was brought to Britain by the invading Saxons who viewed Yule as the "turning time". Yule literally means "wheel" in Old Norse. Because the symbolism of the wheel was so important to this Sabbat, it became a day sacred to Goddesses of the spinning wheel. Wreaths were a popular representation of the endless cycle…the Wheel of the Year.

Evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not "die" thereby representing the eternal aspect of the goddess. Mistletoe represented the seed of the God, and at Midwinter, the Druids are said to have gone deep into the forest to harvest the mistletoe. They cut the mistletoe with a golden sickle and caught it in a white cloth for it was not to touch the ground in deference of its sacredness.

Yule is a solar festival. The Yule log, which is made of oak from the previous year is burned into the fire to symbolize the Newborn Sun/Son. Some of the log is saved and kept throughout the year to protect the home and is thought to bring the home prosperity and good luck throughout the year. That piece is used to light the next year's log. The log was usually cut from the God-related oak tree. Originally, the Yule log was brought into the home amid much dancing and ceremony before being lit in the fireplace.

Our candle representing the new light/Sun

Disjointed though this post is I hope it is of some interest! Have a good Yule.

1 comment:

Maluszeq said...

Thank you for the non-random facts. Your post help me to understand the meaning of the yule log and the kings. :)