ASIC Yule Tableau
This page briefly describes the meanings of the various symbols in our display for the Winter Solstice at the Celebrate the Season event.
Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is the nature-based calendar of Wicca based on four solar festivals and four seasonal festivals between them. Collectively, these holidays are known as sabbats.
For Wiccans and other Pagans, Yule is the sabbat that begins our spiritual year. The name “Yule” comes from the pre-Christian festivities of Germanic tribes and is believed to have meant "feast". In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the Winter Solstice—the shortest day and longest night. The actual date varies slightly each year, yet we typically celebrate the holiday around December 21st. (Since sabbats are seasonal, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Yule about June 21st.)
Wreaths were also traditional in ancient times for they symbolized the wheel of the year and the completion of another cycle. They were made of evergreens and adorned with cones and berries and hung as decoration throughout the home. They were also given as gifts to symbolize the infinity of goodwill, friendship and joyfulness.
The primary icon of Wicca and many other Pagans is the pentagram. Generally, the pentagram is only the five-pointed star and the pentacle is the star with a circle enclosing it. In traditional Wicca, the points of the star represent the four Platonic elements – Fire is the lower right, Earth the lower left, Water the upper right, and Air the upper left. The point at the top symbolizes Spirit – the place where the elements come together and connect us to the Source.
Since the Sun’s light is still dim for several more weeks, this sabbat reminds us about the virtue of patience. Meditating on the enchanting stillness, the crystal clarity of the twinkling stars in the cold night sky above, creating spells for peace, love, harmony, family, and new beginnings can be physically represented by bell ringing and caroling. Looking ahead, the waning half of the year is over, and warmth, growth, and light will return again in the Spring.
Lady of the Sea Islands
The emblem of Ancient Sea Island Continuum represents our connection to the cycles of life upon the Sea Islands, and to the many cultures that have lived here in relation to the natural environment. This affinity is felt most vividly in the life cycle of spartina, the marsh cord grass that surrounds the Sea Islands.
These grasses support an abundance of living things, converting the sun’s energy into food and structure, and as they die, they feed the shrimp and shellfish harvested in our oceans.
We connect with this cycle throughout the year, as we watch the colors of the reeds glistening green in the summertime, and in the winter, turning brown and dying, the bundles collecting and drifting out to sea. Against this direct association to the seasons, we understand on a higher level our own community’s and our own individual connection to the earth.
The Horned One
The short version of the Wiccan Rede archaically says, “An ye harm none, do what ye will”. The Rede is the key moral system in the religion of Wicca and other witchcraft-based faiths. The 17th stanza of the longer version shown here pertains to Yule and invites attention to the male aspect of Divinity.
In the Wheel of the Year, Yule marks the death and rebirth of the Horned God, an aspect of the sun god when the mother Goddess, the moon, gives birth to him once again. And as the days grow longer the Horned One rules a bit more with every passing day.
Ancient Celtic Druids believed the evergreen was sacred and represented everlasting life because it did not shed its leaves as the deciduous trees did. Therefore, they represented the eternal aspect of the Goddess who also never dies. Their greenery was symbolic of the hope for the return of the Sun’s light and warmth.
The custom of burning a Yule Log began with ancient Scandinavians who burned a huge log, felled from an Ash tree, to honor their god Thor. In the Celtic tradition, a continual hearth fire was kept to prevent spirits from entering the home. In order for the fire to keep burning, a large oak tree was felled and brought into the home where the tree was placed trunk first into the hearth, with the last remnants set aside to burn with next year’s fire. It was also believed that the longer the Yule log burned, the faster the sun would come to warm the earth.
Holly, which represents the masculine element, was often used to decorate doors, windows and fireplaces. Because of its prickliness it was thought to capture or ward off evil spirits before they could enter a home and cause harm. To the ancient Celts, the red berries corresponded to the menstrual blood of their beloved Goddess.