First Day Of Yule/Winter Solstice
This is the first day of Yule. Today is Winter Solstice … I was just writing a friend of mine and I had an idea …
I thought that if I was out there in the free-world I would start a holiday tradition for my son and stepson and any other family members or friends that would like to participate …
It seems that a lot of people out there seem to think that I have huge support group with people constantly organizing for me and keeping in all close contact with me. The fact is that I only write one person in the U.S. on any type of regular basis and one person overseas. That’s all. Well, I was going to write them a letter each for the holidays, but I thought that it might be interesting to do so in an update form …
I’ll just do a little free-flow writing and see what happens. I should be out there engaging in some good ole Dionysian revelry but since I can’t I’ll have my own little holiday festival in this little cell …
Everyone has heard of the “12 Days of Christmas.” You know the song, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me / A partridge in a pear tree …” Then, the “lords a leaping” and all that good stuff. The 12 days of Christmas is derived from the pre-Christian celebration of the 12 Days of Yule, or The Festival of Yule — a time for music, dancing, eating, camaraderie. Yule begins today on December 21st, the day of Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. Now the days will get longer, the winter nights shorter. Yule is the holiest feast of the Teutonic year. I can imagine my ancestors, thousands (or maybe hundreds) of years ago, celebrating Yule in what is today’s Black Forest of Germany; passing around big steins of mead (ale) and eating fresh roasted boar and other fresh-cooked game and vegetables:
“This year, Winder Solstice has fallen on a Sunday, day named in honor of the Sun, giver of Life. Children hold up your cups of spiced cider and adults raise your cups of glorious mead. Toast to the High God Frey, who presides over the fruits of the Earth and the Sun. The days will now get longer, the Sun blessing us with its Life giving rays. Toast to Frey, to the first day of Yule, to the Winter Solstice! Let the feast begin!”
Various cultures all over the world, for thousands of years, have celebrated Winter Solstice in various ways. I think it would be cool to celebrate every day of Yule, each day focusing on the way a particular culture celebrates — or used to celebrate — Winter Solstice. It’s very important for children to learn about other cultures at a young age. Perhaps, each day I’d read them a story about a particular God or Goddess and listen to some music and eat some food from where the deity originated. I’d, of course, have everything well prepared ahead of time. At this time, I of course don’t have access to the net or a vast archive of books so I’ll just drop some thoughts from the top of my dome and perhaps reference a few books I have over here.
If I was out in the free-world I’d plan everything with family and friends, but since it’s just me here, I’ll be the sole Festival of Yule planner! I’ll do this as a sort of “What I’d Like to Do” and “What I am Doing in Here.” Every year would be a different, somewhat at least … but I’ll just drop some of my thoughts …
Day 1 December 21st
Winter Solstice. Today, of course, I’ve been writing this and will continue to do so, but I’m also going to read a short, 97 pg. book by Neil Gaiman entitled “Odd And the Frost Giants.” I haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman before but I’ve heard he’s an excellent author — this coming from a few people, who know my taste in books and know that I can’t stomach most “popular fiction” books. It’s really hard for me to find fiction I enjoy reading. I like fiction that’s written in a flowing, musical style with deeply metaphorical and allegorical themes, ideas and characters. It seems that authors hardly write like that anymore. Being able to write in a beautiful, engaging, poetic style while telling a story that speaks to the subconscious and moves the Spirit and touches the Soul, is a very rare talent. Herman Hesse possessed this talent and of the form of writing I’m speaking of, he was a master.
Anyway …If I was out there I’d like to go up to my grandparents ranch …The ranch is around 250 acres in the heavily wooded area of Texas. My Grandpa and Grandma Will have had this ranch since I was a kid. Actually, I’m pretty sure they’ve had it since before I was born. Though I didn’t spend a lot of time with that side of my family, I did go up to the ranch many times growing up. My Grandpa Will had an acre or two of land where he grew some type of tree that can be used for a Christmas tree. (I don’t know the name.) I’d take the boys out to cut down a Christmas tree and I’d talk about where we get the idea of Christmas tree from …
The symbolism of the tree is vast. I remember reading in an excellent book on Symbology that the tree is one of the most important and essential traditional symbols. Tree symbolism goes all the way back to Babylonia and Mesopotamia and I can think of a seemingly countless number of examples …
But, I’ll stick with the Christmas tree we use in today’s time as the, of course, most relevant example. A bit of an interesting note: My first word was “tree, ” said when I was around 6 months old. To this day I still love trees …
In Odinism, there is a “Tree of Life” or “Great World” tree and it’s called the “Yggdrasil. ” Tree worship — specifically, tree worship during Yule — is one of the many “Pagan” customs Christianity adopted. Quite a number of pre-Christian cults/religions utilized tree symbolism. At the risk of sounding rather Eurocentric, let me say that I think the tree symbolism in Odinism is the most relevant to our current Christian tree rituals because the majority of our population is of European decent. And, our use of the Christmas tree came from Europe, along with most other popular Christian traditions. It would be interesting to trace the origin of the first Christmas tree. There’s probably a book on the subject!
So, I’d go with the boys to cut down a Christmas tree/Yggdrasil tree and discuss all of this. Then, we could put the tree away, ready to take back to our house in Houston. (Really, I think I’d live FAR away from Houston, but I’ll say Houston for now.) We’d have a nice fire built and I’d read an Odinist story to them. I’d also read part of the “Hvaml” poem from the Poetic Edda.
I know that I hung in the wind-torn tree
Nine nights whole, spear-pierced
Consecrated to Odin, myself to my Self above me in the tree,
Whose root no one knows whence it sprang
None brought me bread, none served me drink;
I searched the depths, spied runes of wisdom;Raised them with song, and fell once more thence
Nine Powerful chants I learned
From the wise son of Boltron, Bestla’s father;
A draught I drank of precious mead
Ladled from Odraerir 5140.
I begin to thrive, to grow wise,
To grow greater, and enjoy;
For me words led from words to new words
For me deeds led from deeds to new deeds
([This translation is from Elsa-Brita Titchenell]
Note 5: Boltron is apparently the Trudgalmer, sustaining Life Force, of a previous cycle of Life, Bestla is sister of Bergelmir, wife of Bur, and is the female counterpart of the Karmic seeds of the previous life and of the initial impetus of the present one; odraerir is the well of Mimer, source of wisdom sought by the Gods in manifestation.)
The similarities between the myth of Odin’s self sacrifice and the death (spiritual death?) of Jesus are obvious. Jesus the Christ is said to have had his side pierced with a spear, like Odin. And of course he was resurrected. (There are indeed many other dying and rising God myths.)
When I was a kid I remember my Grandpa Will — who is the son of German immigrants — had me and my cousin (who is the same age as me), go stay in the woods in a deer-stand all night. I actually just remembered this while writing tonight. I’ve read how some cultures still practice “right of passage” rituals for young boys, rituals such as taking boys to the forest overnight or for longer. I don’t know if my Grandpa Will specifically saw leaving us in the woods over night as a particular right of passage ritual; it was probably something his father did with him and he saw as a learning experience. It was. I remember being terrified at first. Coyotes howling. (Surely every howl was part of a plot to methodically stalk, unrepentantly attack and viciously devour … ME!)
Pure quiet, interrupted periodically by one suspicious sound or another …I stayed there all night and afterwards I wasn’t scared of the Woods anymore … So, after talking and telling stories by the fire we’d go have a huge feast inside the ranch house and listen to some music relevant to the Odinist stories and/or to Winter Solstice. Maybe, some of the stories could relate to parts of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” and then we could listen to it … Well, no, I don’t think I’d want to torture my kids ears with German Opera music! Something along the lines of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring’, but for the Winter. I know that there’s some good Orchestral music for the Winter Solstice but I can’t think of anything in particular right now.
We would have good food, good conversation and listen to some nice music. Then I’d have them write down the Hvaml rune poem, cut a branch off of the tree they cut down and take only those two items with them into the woods to spend the night. (They’re different ages so this would be done at different times for each of them).
Bahhhh! The wretched evil Fenris wolf, son of the Norse God of lies, deceit, duplicity and all things dishonorable, Loki, has entered my cell to bite at my Spirit as he bit at Tyr’s hand! He has entered in the form of … horrid “pancakes”! Breakfast time — Hold up!…
I forced myself to eat the little blobs of grease with a bit of dough in them, known by TDJC as “pancakes”. Well, actually I only ate one, out of three.
So, I’d send one of the boys out to the Woods along with the branch and Hvaml rune poem. Perhaps, just the branch for the older one. Before they’d go we’d talk about Man’s separation from Nature and the need to honor and respect the natural World …
When I went to pick them up in the morning I’d give a Thor’s Hammer (Mjollnir) pendant to the oldest boy as a present for his courage. Then, he could pass it down to his younger brother when the time is right. Remember, I’m just thinking as I write …
Now, as for me, I’m about to finish this cup of coffee, write a quick letter and then read this “Odd And the Frost Giants” book by Neil Gaiman. After I’m done reading I’m going to kick back and try to get some rest …