Yule, for some it’s Christmas, a time spent with Jesus, for others it’s a time of the dead, a time of the gods, a time of Frost Thurses, and witches.
In the pagan world Yule is a time when everything dies, it destroys everything so it can be reborn into a new world, when spring and summer arrive. This is a time of great danger and great beauty.
As the snow and ice cover everything it paints the world around us in a beautiful chrome color. It sparkles, it’s fun to make homemade ice cream with, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snowmen, all the fun winter activities. However it also kills everything around, it would kill us if we didn’t have the ability to keep ourselves warm.
This type of death isn’t a bad thing, pagans don’t look at the good or bad, it’s more so balance, and what needs to happen, happens to keep the balance. Those things should be worked through and honored because they play a part in the spiritual or metaphysical ecosystem. With that said it can be a time of more fierce type of spirits emerging and running around at this time.
That’s just the type of spirits they are; they are the bitter cold and the dangerous blizzard, they are the ice that slows the blood. They can be worked with, just know they’re of the fiercer sort. Some spirits that come to mind are Krampus, who punishes children who misbehave. He is a half-goat and half-horned creature, he loves strong alcohol as an offering, but leave it outside because you don’t want him coming in your house. This offering will persuade him to just take the alcohol and not the children if he’s pleased. His date of arrival is December 5th (oddly my brother’s birthday), this night he punishes naughty children by whipping them with his switch and taking them back to his lair. He is considered the counterpart to St. Nicholas.
Another spirit that comes to mind is Grýla; some of you may remember her from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, while they were accurate on a lot of levels, the real Grýla is a much more ferocious Giantess witch in Iceland who lives in the mountains and comes down around Christmas to steal naughty children, to cook and eat them. She has the power over the snow, ice, and winter blizzards, she has much say in the flow of the climate in that area.
On 13 nights out of December, her sons; the Yule Lads go out and about causing small mischief each night. Each lad has a speciality they like to cause mischief with the most, and their names reflect that (view chart down below).
Grýla also has a Giant husband named Leppaludi, whom she married after killing her first husband because she got bored of him. Last of the family is Grýla’s black cat, who is just called the Yule Cat. He is a large vicious cat that lurks around the snowy countryside during Christmas time and eats anyone who has not received new clothing to wear before Christmas Eve. I believe the new clothes to be a type of protection charm made by the people who live around that area in Iceland.
This family of Giants and spirits live in a cave together, up in the mountains. Yule begins on December 21 and lasts until January 1. The night before Yule’s first night in my practice as a Völva, is mother’s night; on this night I honor all of my spiritual mother goddesses or wights. On the first night of Yule, December 21, the winter equinox, Odin rides with fallen warriors one last night before they go to their rest, they call it the Wild Hunt. Frigga is also honored as Lady of the Hall, with her sister Fulla, goddess of abundance, and Bestla, Odin’s mother.
The Giant and God of the North Wind Kari is honored during this time as well, he is a white haired jolly old man who loves to sing and is especially associated with Reindeer, St. Nicholas figures are often used to represent him. Another witch is honored at this time, the goddess Holda, who brings gifts to children at this time of the year, she has slowed down though.
Other snow spirits and gods are honored at this time as well, like Hela; as everything dies, Skadi and Rind. Some Yule traditions, which the Christians adopted are the Yule tree, and the Yule log. I love decorating the Yule tree, it is art to me, and an expression of my path. The Yule log is important because it’s a protection from unwanted spirits or energies entering your home during this time of the year.
If you aren’t able to do a Yule log, using candles or doing a fire ceremony will be effective. Fire is important during this time of the year as well because it is what keeps us warm and alive, its necessity for survival is felt heavily at this time of the year, so Giants like Surt may be honored here as well.
Some herbs that are associated with Yule and can be burned in honor of it at this time are Mistletoe, Holly, Pine, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Frankincense, Juniper, Sunflower, and Dried Apple. Stones that can be used in rituals are Clear Quartz, Jet, Ruby, Citrine, Blue Topaz, and Pearls. The foods of this time would be your feast foods like Turkey, Ham, bread, etc. Cookies, milk, tea, and fruits are sacred during this time as well.
Spend time with your spirits, family, and friends around this time. Get warm together, and exchange stories, exchange gifts, exchange food, and keep in mind the powers that rule this time of the year, they are powerful and a much needed aspects in the natural and supernatural worlds.
- My own book of shadows
The 13 Yule Lads
Name Meaning Mischief Arrival Departure
|Stekkjarstaur||Sheep-Cote Clod||Harasses sheep, but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs.||12 December||25 December|
|Giljagaur||Gully Gawk||Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.||13 December||26 December|
|Stúfur||Stubby||Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.||14 December||27 December|
|Þvörusleikir||Spoon-Licker||Steals and licks wooden spoons. Is extremely thin due to malnutrition.||15 December||28 December|
|Pottaskefill||Pot-Scraper||Steals leftovers from pots.||16 December||29 December|
|Askasleikir||Bowl-Licker||Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their “askur” (a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals.||17 December||30 December|
|Hurðaskellir||Door-Slammer||Likes to slam doors, especially during the night, waking people up.||18 December||31 December|
|Skyrgámur||Skyr-Gobbler||A Yule Lad with a great affinity for skyr (similar to yogurt).||19 December||1 January|
|Bjúgnakrækir||Sausage-Swiper||Hides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked.||20 December||2 January|
|Gluggagægir||Window-Peeper||A snoop who looks through windows in search of things to steal.||21 December||3 January|
|Gáttaþefur||Doorway-Sniffer||Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate leaf bread (laufabrauð).||22 December||4 January|
|Ketkrókur||Meat-Hook||Uses a hook to steal meat.||23 December||5 January|
|Kertasníkir||Candle-Stealer||Follows children in order to steal their candles (which were once made of tallow and thus edible).||24 December||6 January|
By Jake Kline, Feature Writer for the Hrafnarfjall Times