Yule For Witches: Origin, Celebrations, Crafts and Ideas
Last Updated: November 22, 2023
Yule, Yuletide, and Witchy Christmas! We love to hear it, but what does it actually mean? Is there such a thing as a pagan Christmas? Can we exchange witchy gifts that day, or do we just have to wait until the 25th? How should we celebrate it, anyway? There’s a lot of questions for beginner witches and those interested in pagan roots, and so it is my hope to share some ideas and inspiration for you as we move into a winter period, reflecting on what is important to us, and more specifically who and the why.
Yule is often celebrated on December 21st or 22nd (June 20–21 in the Southern Hemisphere), around the Winter Solstice, and this year Yule is Thu, 21 Dec 2023 – Mon, 1 Jan 2024. Its festivities generally last for a week, and during this time we celebrate the return of light as the days begin to get longer again. This is a time for introspection, renewal, and setting intentions for the new year.
But where did Yule come from? And what can we do for it? Read more below babe!
What Is Yule?
Yule is a pagan holiday close to the winter solstice, celebrating the year coming to an end and the new year beginning. Hypothetically, if Mabon is a swap out for Thanksgiving, and Samhain is the equivalent of modern-day Christmas for witches, then Yule is the New Years Eve celebration.
As the earth is resting, and we move closer to Spring and Imbolg, Yule provides us a moment to be with our loved ones, to respect the earth with stillness and quiet, and to reflect on our personal progress, goals and desires. Yule involves feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and honoring the gods. It absolutely was a time of community gathering, storytelling, and enjoying life, and this is something we can strive to embrace for the future.
The origin of Yule can be traced back to the Norse tradition (also known as Jul, jól, ġēola or joulu) where it was celebrated somewhat as a 12-day festival honoring the god Odin and the spirits of ancestors. It was also seen as a time to honor the winter gods and goddesses and their role in bringing spring back. Jolnir was thought to be an aspect of Odin, as written in Óðins nöfn in the Prose Edda, and this would be a deified aspect of respecting the dead as well as the living, from our people to our living environment around us which would be preserving harsh colds and dark winter nights.
In different pagan traditions we also hear of a Holly King and Oak King, who represent the two halves of the year, and during Yule there is a symbolic battle between the two. The Holly King represents the dark half of the year while the Oak King represents the light half.
With many of our favourite deity duos, such as Hades & Persephone in the Underworld, Innana and Erishkigal or Isis with Osiris in the Duat, this battle of two parts with unique position, power and personality is often symbolic or a metaphor in some way. In the case of many stories, themes can also be seen as a representation of the balance between light and dark, life and death, and the cyclical nature of the seasons.
Yule is a reminder that the earth is not dead, but just resting, and there is power in stillness much like the Hermit card has his own moments of quiet.
Why Get Involved With Yule As A Witch?
Yule is simply a great time for us to do what we love doing as witches: magick and rituals!
Community is something that in a world of AI and instant gratification we need to nurture. Without it, we will struggle for a sense of belonging and sometimes try to fill that up with more superficial things. The reality is, we all want deep-rooted connections.
As witches, we can turn this into an opportunity for self-discovery and reflection through ritual and magick, connecting with ourselves and the earth during this important time of year. We can also use this time to connect with our loved ones (chosen family or by blood), and we can use the time to work on personal development and manifestation.
Not sure where to start? Here are some simple ways you can incorporate Yule correspondences into your practice:
- Try the Yule Tarot Spreads we have on the website for insight and inspiration!
- Decorate your altar or sacred space with traditional Yule symbols such as evergreen, holly, mistletoe, and pine cones
- Hang bells around your home and on door frames or door handles to drive away negativity and bring in positive energy and cheer for this festive period
- Light candles in colors associated with the season (red, green, gold) for warmth, prosperity, and abundance
- Create a Yule wreath or garland with natural materials like pine branches, cinnamon sticks, and dried orange slices. Wreaths symbolise the Wheel of the Year, yes, but also life and death, cycles, rebirth and much more.
- Make offerings to the gods and goddesses associated with this time of year, such as Odin, Freyr, and Frigga
- Make Yule wishes with pinecones; write your wish in paper or on bay leave, sprinkle with cinnamon, and burn in an open fire to release to the universe (you could state your intention or a blessing before putting it in).
- Take part in traditional Yule rituals like burning a Yule log or making a Yule log cake
- Use Yule herbs and spices in your cooking and baking, such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and rosemary
- Spend time outdoors and connect with the natural world around you through nature walks or outdoor meditation practices. As much Vitamin D and fresh air that you can get during this time will be essential for your health as well as mental well-being!
- Perform a personal ritual for releasing old habits or negative patterns to make way for new growth and intentions for the upcoming year
Yule Celebration Ideas
Some popular Yule practices include creating wreaths, decorating trees with offerings or natural materials such as pine cones, herbs and fruits, lighting candles that symbolize the return of light, and performing rituals for blessings, prosperity and protection in the coming year. It is also a good time for divination, astrology and reflection on the past year as there is so much more night and darkness to work with.
For gift-giving, you can get creative with handmade gifts or find unique witchy items to exchange with loved ones. You can organise community swaps online to see what need’s can be fulfilled or even just donate for the sake of community and support. Yule is also a time to connect with nature and give back by participating in environmental activities such as planting trees or donating to conservation organizations. Traditionally, a tree was brought inside for Yule to protect from the elements and to provide a home for nature spirits during the harsh winter months – this is where the modern Xmas tree comes from!
As we celebrate this special time of year, may we remember the importance of community, reflection and connection with nature.
Whether you’re a 1st December type of witch, or you wait until the run-up to Yule and Christmas to decorate, it’s been proven by psychologists that decorating helps link people to their personal past through nostalgia in a positive way that lessens stress and anxiety levels,and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas and Yule decorations early is a way for folks wanting to reconnect with their childhoods.
Some common symbols of Yule include evergreens, mistletoe, holly, pine cones, as well as the colors green, red and gold. The Yule log is also a popular symbol that represents the return of light to the world. This tradition dates back to ancient times when people would bring in a large log into their home and burn it
People traditionally brought in a Yule tree inside to nurture for winter as it was believed to protect them from the elements, and care for the nature spirits living in it’s branches. This is where the modern Christmas tree comes from!
Incorporating these symbols into your decorations can help bring a sense of tradition, nostalgia, child-like wonder and connection to the holiday season. You can also get creative and add your own personal touches with handmade ornaments or unique finds (I love a charity shop deep dive!)
Yule Offerings To Deities, Gods, Guides And Ancestors
Offerings are a way to show gratitude, respect and connection with those who guide us in our spiritual journey. During Yule, you can make offerings to deities, gods and goddesses associated with this time of year such as Odin, Freyr and Frigga. You can also make offerings to your spirit guides or ancestors who have passed on before you. Yule offerings are witches Xmas presents after all.
Some traditional offerings for Yule include mulled wine, cider or mead, honey cakes, pine cones, evergreen branches and mistletoe. You can also make offerings of gratitude by giving back to your community or the natural world through acts of kindness or environmental activities. Why not create environmentally friendly offerings that go outside, such as homemade breads, seedbombs, nurturing herbs or outdoor bird feeders. This not only honors and gives thanks to the spirits around us, but also helps nourish them during the cold winter months. Or you could craft your own dedicated art to them, using things like branches, pebbles that you paint, create essential oil blends for anointment, even maybe dedicate a yule poem or prayer to them.
Whatever traditions you choose to incorporate into your Yule celebrations, remember to do so with intention, gratitude and connection with nature and those who came before us.
Yule Log Cake
We might not be out of the broom closet so a Yule Log display wouldn’t be the best solution for us… but everyone loves cake. No-one questions cake! In case you’re more Kitchen Witch than Crafting Witch (basically me) then here is a recipe for you to create a real showstopper bouche-de-Noel made with love, magick and a perfect sweet treat.
Here is a simple recipe for a delicious and magickal Yule log cake:
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp butter (melted)
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Chocolate chips or chopped nuts (optional for decoration, and you can stick it on with additional chocolate sauce or ganache)
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Slowly mix in the melted butter, water, and ½ tsp vanilla extract into the egg mixture.
- Gradually add in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mixing well until smooth.
- Pour batter onto prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer with a spatula.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when lightly touched.
- While the cake is still warm, gently roll it into a log shape using the parchment paper to help you.
- Let the rolled up cake cool completely before filling.
- In a separate bowl, beat together heavy cream, powdered sugar, and 2 tsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.
- Carefully unroll the cake and spread the whipped cream filling evenly onto the surface.
- Roll the cake back up into a log shape, gently peeling away the parchment paper as you go.
- Place on a serving dish and decorate with extra filling, chocolate chips or chopped nuts if desired. A simple dusting of good-quality fairtrade cocoa powder is always nice!
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Enjoy your delicious and magickal Yule log cake! You can also customize this recipe by adding in seasonal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger for an extra touch of Yuletide flavor. Happy baking and blessed be! Lastly as a note remember to give thanks and blessings to the community, loved ones and nature for all the blessings that have been given to you in return, as it is a genuinely magickal time of year.
Another fun way to celebrate Yule is by incorporating crafts into your practice. I’ll attempt most of these below with my two children but let’s be honest, there’s will always look better than my own. Here are a few ideas for Yule-themed crafts that you can try:
- Create your own Yule wreath using natural materials such as pine branches, holly, and berries
- Make homemade candles with seasonal scents like cinnamon or rosemary
- Craft Yule decorations such as salt dough ornaments or pine cone garlands decorated in desiccated coconut to look like snow
- Stick wooden lollipops together with good glue in the shape of a pentagram, and then glue firs, rosemary, thyme etc onto the front of the sticks, to make a cute and delicious smelling decoration for your kitchen or by the doorway for protection
- Create Yule-themed altar decorations like miniature Yule logs or snowflake candle holders
- Make Snowflakes out of paper, and decorate with your favourite sigils
- Make plant feed (sounds weird but trust me) as a blessing for protection during the harsher weather
- Create poppets to represent deities and energies associated with Yule (e.g. a Santa Claus or Krampus poppet)
- Make Yule-themed spell jars using seasonal herbs and spices
- Create a Yule blessings jar for the upcoming year, filling it with positive intentions and blessings written on small pieces of paper
Get creative and have fun with your Yule crafts! They can be not only beautiful decorations but also meaningful representations of your spiritual practice. Remember to infuse them with positive energy and intention as you create them.
The possibilities are endless – let your creativity flow and enjoy the process of creating something unique for this special holiday. And remember, crafting can also be a meditative practice.
Yule Wassail Traditions
Wassail is a delightful and traditional drink that holds a special place in Yule celebrations. It’s not just a beverage; it’s a warm and communal experience. Wassail is typically a spiced and mulled apple cider, often served generally during the Yuletide season. It’s the witchy equivalent of Mulled Wine at Christmas Markets with friends (and where do you think they got that idea?)
Wassailing, or the act of sharing wassail, has roots in ancient English traditions where people would go door-to-door, singing carols and sharing a communal cup of this spiced drink. The act symbolizes goodwill, unity, and the sharing of blessings.
Wassail incorporates ingredients like apples, spices, and warmth, aligning it with the themes of Yule. These elements symbolize the earth’s abundance even in the winter months, reinforcing the spirit of gratitude and hope. Make your own as simple as warming cider or wine, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange slices on the stove in a pan, and bless it with an encantation of your own intention. As you stir the pot or add spices, focus on the energy you want to infuse into the drink, making it a perfect addition to your Yule spellwork.
It’s excellent for group rituals or gatherings, fostering a genuine sense of togetherness. Sharing a warm cup of wassail can enhance the sense of community and connection during Yule celebrations. But those who are sober, or non-drinking, don’t have to be left out of this work – simply make a non alcoholic version with apple juice or berry juice with an extra sprinkle of nutmeg or ginger.
So, whether you’re raising a cup of traditional wassail or a steaming mug of spiced apple punch, may your Yule be filled with warmth, joy, and the enchantment of shared moments! 🍎✨
Winter Bulb Spells; For Love, For Finances and For Magick
During the winter months, many plants go into a dormant state, waiting for spring to bloom again. But some bulbs, like amaryllis and paperwhites, can be forced to grow indoors during this time of year. Not only do they bring a bit of greenery and life into your home during the cold season, but they also hold powerful magickal properties.
Here are three spells using winter bulbs for love, finances, and general magick:
- For Love: Plant an amaryllis bulb in a pot filled with soil and rose petals. As you do so, visualize the growth of your love; for yourself and for the relationship. Water the plant regularly, infusing it with loving intentions each time. Watch as your amaryllis blooms, symbolizing the growth and blossoming of your love.
- For Finances: Take a paperwhite bulb and place it in a pot filled with soil and coins. As you do so, visualize abundance flowing into your life. Water the plant regularly, infusing it with financial intentions each time. Watch as your paperwhite grows and thrives, symbolizing the growth and prosperity in your finances.
- For Magick: Plant an a garlic bulb together in a pot filled with soil, herbs, and crystals of your choice. As you do so, visualize the merging of different magickal energies into one powerful force. Water the plant regularly, infusing them with your intentions for personal growth and manifestation. As the garlic sprouts and grows, let it remind you of your own magickal abilities and the potential for growth and transformation in your life. This would also make a fantastic offering to Hekate or other deities of magick.
Tend to your plants with care and intention, just as you would tend to your spells. And as always, give thanks to nature and the plant spirits for their assistance in manifesting your desires.
Next I have for you some Yule Tarot Spreads, so you can explore some divination wintertime, and I’d be so glad to see your cards so make sure to tag me in your pictures (and share with me how your Yule crafts and celebrations turn out!) Until next time, Lizzie xox
I love curating divination experiences for those invested in spiritual growth with secular honest vibes. I am that witch you come to for these honest, interesting and beneficial divination experiences!
Herbs are an important part of Samhain, the ancient Celtic celebration that marks the end of one year and the beginning of another.
Enjoy with the energies of Yule using one of the many Yule tarot spreads, and get some insight into your spiritual journey this festive time.