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A Heathen Yule - Part 1

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

THE YULE-BRINGER What do Heathens do at “Christmas”?

It’s a simple question with complex and fascinating answers. We don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, but we may still exchange gifts on the same day as the rest of society, for cultural rather than religious reasons.

For Heathens Yule is often the most significant ritual time of the year, following a lunar-solar calendar it was the bridge between the cycles of the sun and the moon. The death of one year and the beginning of the faintest glimmer of light and growth for the new.

We’ll be sharing a series of Heathen Yule posts, for rituals, celebrations, and traditions over the next few days, and our first is...


“Ancient Yule celebrations focused on different deities. For instance, Frey is attested as the focus of Yule in some sources. This month is also the culmination of the goddess-focused traditions that commenced in autumn, such as álfablót, Winter Nights and All Hallows’ celebrations. It is very likely that the figures most associated with Yule varied between regions. However, the figure most widely important for the pre-Christian Yule is probably Odin. One of his names was Jólnir, which approximately translates as “Yuler,” the deity who Yules, who does Yule, or perhaps even Yule-bringer. Saga literature from the Christian age reflects how this god tended to return to human communities, particularly during the Yule period. Odin thus had the role as the personification of Yule, and through the ages, as Odin became an increasingly controversial figure, other personifications, other Yulers, have emerged. Some examples are the Yule Goat, St Staffan, Lusse, Cnut, Thorri, St Lucia, Perchta, and St Nicholas, down to our contemporary Santa Claus. These are reinventions of a characteristic idea of Nordic Animism, in which seasons are personified by different figures. Odin is the leader of the Wild Hunt, the procession of monstrous entities and wights that ravage the land during the Yule period. This role as leader of some sort of carnivalesque procession has been performed by other Yulers through the centuries.”

- (p131) The Nordic Animist Year by Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen.

We’ll be posting our first suggested ritual tomorrow...

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