Yule. For many of us, this word is most associated with the Winter Solstice on December 21. Many folks will stay up through the longest night to welcome the return of the Sun. Did you know that in various older European traditions, Yule was (and is!) celebrated for 12 nights? That's right! From December 21 to January 1, many of our ancestors honored this season. In this post, I'm going to share with you some traditions, and some ideas for creating your own "12 Days of Yule".
In Asatru and Norse Heathenry, the 12 Days begins on the evening of December 20th, so if you want to join in, tonight's your night!
December 20: This is known as Mother's Night. It is sacred to Frigg, Freya, and the Desir. Celebrations center around the females of the family, particularly mothers, and the virtue of Industriousness.
- Honor the 'mothers' in your life through simple chores, giving them a night out or cook a meal for them, anything that honors that person in the way she would like to be honored.
- Create a vision board with goals for the year on it. Write down three bucket list items you'd like to make happen in the new year.
- Clean out closets, clean your house top to bottom. Really cleanse it. Sainne (smudge, cleanse with smoke) all of the rooms in your house.
- Clean your email box(es), organize files, put all of your known scheduled activities into one calendar, etc.
- Clean up your yard if you have things cluttered about.
In what other ways can you honor the virtue of Industriousness?
December 21: The Wild Hunt- sacred to Odin and Ullr. This night focuses on hearth and home, and staying indoors to avoid the wild hunt. This was the night when Odin would ride and gather up lost souls. This celebrates the virtue of Perseverance.
- Have a fire in the fireplace (or light a candle if you don't have one). This is traditional Yule night, as well, so feel free to incorporate whatever Winter Solstice activities you have planned into this night. Make something special to eat/drink. Invite family (whatever that means to you) over and enjoy the warmth of friendship and camaraderie.
- Honor Odin with a dark beer 'sacrifice' to an oak tree.
- Hang trinkets into trees to invite the wood spirits back from their slumber.
- Create mirror wards to hang or bury around your property.
- Celebrate the return of the sun.
Perseverance is the virtue that gets us through the cold winters of our lives (physically and spiritually). In what other ways can you honor this virtue?
December 22: The High Feast of Yule, and the beginning of the runic year. Sacred to Thor and Freyr. Burning a Yule log, and jumping the flames for good luck in the new year, rekindling friendships, taking oaths, and setting goals are all done on this night. This celebrates the virtue of Courage.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courageous people do feel fear, but they are able to manage and overcome their fear so that it does not stop them taking action. They often use the fear to ensure that they are not overly confident and that they take the appropriate actions. Courage isn’t necessarily about running into a fight with your guns blazing.
"For many people, it’s more about standing up for what you believe in and what you know to be right and just, even if it’s not the popular opinion. Many Heathens agree that it takes a lot of courage to live by the Nine Noble Virtues, particularly if you live in an area that’s spiritually conservative, and is generally ruled by Ten of the Other Guy’s Rules. Living your beliefs in the face of opposition requires as much courage as going into battle."- https://www.learnreligions.com/noble-virtues-of-asatru-2561539
- Cultivate or make plans to plant Borage in the new year. Borage is the plant ally of courage.
- Create a Courage Jar. In your journal, write down all of the attributes of courage that you want to embody. Each time you display one of these, write it down, place it in a jar. Next December 22, review all of the times you were courageous, and celebrate yourself!
- Make oaths for the coming year, but make them wisely, as the Old Gods will hold you to your oaths. Breaking an oath is a dangerous thing.
- Create a fire in a cauldron or fire pit. Jump the flames for good luck in the new year.
In what other ways can you honor the virtue of Courage?
December 23: The Fourth Night of Yule. Sacred to Aegir, Niord, and Freya. This is the day to remind one's self of the importance of friendship, and strengthen the bonds of kinship. Feasting is a big part of this day, and it celebrates the virtue of Community.
- Have a potluck with your friends, where each person brings a dish and/or drink to share. Pass out papers and have each person write down the qualities of friendship they admire in the rest of the members. Go around the room and have each person read them out loud.
- Volunteer at a shelter, soup kitchen, home for the elderly, etc.
- Join a local community group or volunteer to help at an event that supports your community.
- Hold a virtual event with friends around the world and let them know how much you value them.
In what other ways can you celebrate the virtue of Community?
December 24: The Fifth Night of Yule. This is the day to celebrate and remember the virtue of Hospitality. It is prevalent in nearly every ancient culture.
- Donate clothing to a homeless shelter.
- Donate money/time to a cause that helps others in need.
- Start a fundraiser to help someone you know
- Share your good fortune in a way that is welcoming
Traditionally, once a guest had eaten at your table, it meant they were also granted your protection while under your roof.
"Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Hand cloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale."
In what other ways can you honor the virtue of Hospitality?
December 25: The Sixth Night of Yule. Sacred to Eir and Healing. This is the day to honor the health of yourself and your loved ones. This celebrates the virtue of Discipline.
As this is traditionally Christmas Day (and yes, it is a secular holiday as well), many folks will be a bit worn out from celebrating. However, the virtue of self-discipline is perfect for a night when it might be easier to ignore everything but that celebration.
Discipline includes using one's personal will to uphold honor and other virtues. It’s not easy to be an ethical and just person in today’s society — it often takes some degree of work, and a lot of mental discipline. Will comes into play with that. Upholding the virtues is a choice, and it’s a much simpler path to follow to just ignore them and do what society expects or what’s easy. Discipline is the ability to show your courage, your loyalty, your sense of self-reliance, in the face of personal challenges.
- Ensure that everything is cleaned up and ready for tomorrow
- Create a schedule that helps keep you on track for cleaning, working, laundry, mundane chores, etc.
- Take a break from all of this, and just relax. Honor the spirit of self-care as part of self-discipline
- Help a loved one relax- take over their chores, draw a bath, light candles, put on some soft music.
In what other ways can you celebrate the virtue of Discipline?
December 26: The Seventh Night of Yule. Sacred to Thor. This is the day to remember our impact on our community. Sif is also honored on this day, as both Thor and Sif are protectors of children. This celebrates the virtue of Fidelity.
Fidelity is complex, and involves remaining true to the Gods, kinsmen, a spouse, and community. Much like honor, fidelity is something to be remembered. In many early heathen cultures, an oath was seen as a sacred contract — someone who broke a vow, whether it was to a wife, a friend, or a business partner, was considered a shameful and dishonorable person indeed. The Nine Noble Virtues all tie in together — if you fail to adhere to one, you may have trouble following the others. The concept of fidelity is one of loyalty. If you let down a friend or member of your Kindred or the Gods, then you’re turning your back on your entire community and all that they stand for.
- Define what Fidelity means to you. Write it down. Meditate upon this subject. Really hold it in your thoughts.
- Write a sacred contract with yourself to keep you safe, even from yourself. Honor yourself as worthy of a vow.
- Honor a person that displays this virtue. What traits do they portray that you can emulate?
In what other ways can you honor this virtue?
December 27: The Eighth Night of Yule: Sacred to Scathi and Ullr. This is the day to honor the hunters, and the virtue of Truth.
There are different types of truth — spiritual truth and actual truth. The Havamal says:
"Swear no oath
But what you mean to abide by:
A halter awaits the word breaker,
Villainous is the wolf-of-vows."
The concept of Truth is a powerful one, and stands as a reminder that we must speak of what we know as Truth, rather than what we think others wish to hear.
- Reflect upon the Havamal's words. Words are powerful. To speak truth is a difficult and rewarding thing.
- Create a truth amulet that you can wear, or keep with you that will remind you the you can speak your truth rather than tell others what they need to hear. The truth can be spoken gently and with love, because of its power.
In what other ways can you honor the virtue of Truth?
December 28: The Ninth Night of Yule: Sacred to Odin. Celebrates the virtue of Honor.
Honor: one's reputation and moral compass. Honor plays a significant role in the daily life of many Heathens and Asatruar. This virtue reminds us that our deeds, words, and reputation will outlive our bodies, and that the person we are in life will be remembered for a long time. The epic poem Beowulf cautions, "For a noble man death is better than a shameful life."
- Define the terms "reputation" and "moral compass." What do they mean to you? How do they reflect upon who you really are?
- How does one establish a reputation that can outlive their bodies?
- Read the poem, "Beowulf," or watch a movie version. Do you see honor in the lives of those depicted? How so? In what ways does this translate to your own life?
- Light a candle for those you have known who have displayed this virtue.
In what other ways can you honor the virtue of Honor?
December 29: The Tenth Night of Yule: Sacred to Sunna and ancestors. Celebrates Justice. Offerings to Slepnir (Hay) and Alfar (apples) are done on this night.
- Create a hay and apple offering for Slepnir and Alfar. Leave them outside on this night.
- Create a likeness of Slepnir and/or Alfar. Place on your altar or other place of honor.
- Bake something you love that has apple in it, and dedicate to Alfar.
- Read the stories of Slepnir and Alfar to yourself or family members.
- Drink mulled cider.
- Celebrate your ancestors and justice.
December 30: The Eleventh Night of Yule: Sacred to the Valkyries. On this day, the virtue of Self-reliance is honored.
Self-Reliance is the virtue taking care of oneself, while still maintaining relationships with Deity. It’s important to honor the gods, but also to take care of the body and mind. To do this, many Asatru find a balance between doing for others and doing for the self. To thrive as part of a community, we must also be able to thrive as individuals.
- Create a work-out plan that helps you stay healthy
- Review your habits. Are you able to make healthier choices? What holds you back from this? What changes can you make? How can you create more balance in your life? In what ways can you help yourself to thrive so you can help others to do the same? Write them down, and really take the time to come up with a workable plan.
- Honor the Valkyries with a simple gift of mead or beer, left under a tree or in an appropriate place outside.
December 31: The Twelfth Night of Yule: Sacred to all the Gods and Goddesses. This is the culmination of the 12 nights, and is spent feasting (pork is the main dish), swearing oaths on Thor's hammer, acknowledging the passing year, and and the new one. Oaths and words spoken are said to carry heavy weight on this night. Time to make goals. Wisdom is celebrated.
- This is secular New Year's Eve. One could leave an offering of pork, beer/mead, and something sweet to the gods.
- Swear your oaths on Thor's Hammer. Again, make sure you understand the weight of making an oath.
- Mimir is the god of knowledge and wisdom. He is also thought to be a water sprite. Leave an offering by a natural water source. Be sure it won't contaminate the environment.
- Dance. Celebrate. Enjoy this amazing life as the gift it is.