[Cover Photo: An early winter sunrise bathes the landscape in pinks and purples]
Yule is the Norse term for the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, a time of hope as we draw the old year to a close and begin anew. Although most pagans have adopted this name for the holiday, humanity has celebrated this return of the light for millennia, under different appellations in cultures across the globe. The Romans brought in live oak and other evergreen plants, gave gifts, lit candles and celebrated the festivals of Mithras, God of Light, or Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. In Celtic lands where winters were colder, huge bonfires were the order of the day, sympathetic magic to encourage the sun’s return. The Yule log tradition stems from the bringing indoors of a large section of tree trunk, estimated to be enough to burn for a full twelve days, a period of annual feasting as the old year died and was reborn into the new. Stone markers, from monoliths to the extravagant display of Stonehenge, were created to mark the exact moment of the light’s return.