The Bad Witch’s Guide to Yule
I’m always a bad witch, but apparently I really suck at this Yuletide thing. I mean I make my own gifts! I like snow! When people say “season’s greetings” or “Merry Christmas” I smile and mean it! I’m a monster!
The cynical average British Pagan just sort of rolls their eyes at me. I don’t Cringle early. I spend November and December making gifts and decorations (I’m a bit slow this year but we have been adjusting to new medication this year, but I have plans)! I don’t even go and get really drunk!
I mean I clearly suck at this witching thing!
Of course it can be a pain! Its hard work, it’s expensive (though often nowhere near as costly as Samhain in our house). I know you get pine needles in the carpet, but the tree! Ah the tree! We put up our tree either on Yule itself or the day before. It’s always real. Always in soil.
It’s the smell to me. Is it even Yuletide without the smell of pine, holly and orange and clove? The energy of bring a living being into your home. Changes it. It is magickal.
We have handmade ornaments, ones we make each year and ones me made when my daughter was very little. The sun star that goes a top our tree is one she made when she was about 5 or 6 years old from air clay, acrylic paint and ribbon. To me it’s treasure! We always had a candy cane (not a very British treat) to eat while we decorate. We always listen to Jethro Tull and sing along.
The other ornaments are made of cinnamon quills, star anise and dried orange slices, florists wire and ribbon. We make tradition Christmas cakes with lots of fruit steeped in spiced rum, covered in marzipan and snow white icing. No neon red cherries though. We would make in loaf shapes and large rounds dependant on who was getting them. Single folk don’t tend to want to buy a big cake just for themselves but enjoy it.
The fruit perplexes many modern folks especially in America. Yet raisins, plums and dried fruit were mixed with sugar and spice as a herbal remedy to coughs, colds and infections right up until the beginning of of the 20th century. Spiced fruit became traditional, medical and they added some dried breadcrumbs or flour! Minced pies are medicinal! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
The biggest mistake folks make with their dried fruit is just that! They leave it dry! The fruit was only dried because it needed to be preserved. In the food dried fruit was soaked sometimes in strong black tea with spices or with alcohol! Merry Christmas comes from being merry, which meant drunk! Once the fruit as steeped sometimes overnight sometimes longer, then it’s ready for pies, and cakes!
“Come on though! It all sounds like far too much hard work! I mean it’s just a day!” A day? Don’t let folks rob you! Yule is two weeks! Two weeks of family, food and gifts! Now some of you might think this is excessive and more work, but actually removing the pressure and spreading it out makes it a much better holiday! We tend to trim and decorate the tree on the solstice (on the 21st of December) and have in the evening our big meal). The first of our gifts are given. Our daughter might have got her main gift on the solstice or later. Each morning having what would be a stocking filler. Again this means no gift is unappreciated. Each gets its own moment! It isn’t lost in the crush of “OPEN EVERYTHING”. It is quite common for us to open our home to pagans and non-pagans alike whom might not be having a great time. Maybe they don’t have a family to celebrate with. Maybe it’s a break-up. Maybe they are just sad. We sit down and feast together. A roast bird and all the trimmings! I confess I’m lucky as while I do a lot of meal prep my husband cooks the dinner. It is his way of honouring his grandmother who was like a mother to him.
It’s quite odd, but my favourite day is usually the 22nd, because everyone else is in a panic and well, all I have to do is the dishes! I tend to try and make this day “be kind to retail staff day”. I really smile. I say thank you and mean it. I know what fresh hell retail can be!
I might have other meals (when my family and my husband’s Pops was around sometimes we’d do a Christmas day meal too) or Boxing Day (which was traditionally the servant’s day off to celebrate Christmas in the UK). Yet given the choice we declare it a duvet day, watch Doctor Who and eat left-overs and fish finger sandwiches (fish sticks).
Yuletide and the mid-winter season has become a lot about “stuff”. Yet if you let it, if you let go of the cynicism, and rush, if you make it, it really is magickal. Of course you can do rituals and rites. Mix a little “mojo” with your “ho ho ho” but you have to let it in! It’s the spirit of giving, of kindness, of new beginnings!
A handful of compost or earth
A sprig of holly
An acorn or dried oak leaves
Fresh green ivy.
Incense (your own blend but frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon works well)
Carefully (and you might need gloves) holding the holly and ivy walk around the tree three times clockwise. This can be spoken but it is better sung.
“The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees,
That are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.
The rising of the sun!
The running of the deer!
The playing of the merry music
Sweet singing to inspire!”
The ivy is then tapped gently against the tree three times. Then the holly. Then they are both then put aside.
“Lord and Lady of the Forest dream.”
“Spirit of the resting green,
A vessel hear our words:
Spring will come.
Warm winds will blow.
[Waft and blow incense onto the tree]
Water will again flow.
[Pour a little water onto the roots of the tree.]
Earth will again make things grow.
[Place compost at the base of the tree. Light candle.]
Fire, the suns light shall glow.
[Walk the candle around the tree clock-wise. And place on your altar or hearth.]
“The oak King is born! The sun is returning! *spoken*
*sung* Joy to the world!
The Lord has again come!
Let Earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room!
Heaven and nature sing!
Heaven and nature sing!
Heaven, heaven and nature sing!”
You could now dress and decorate the tree. Eat sweet treats and maybe even sup a glass of spicy mulled wine! Eat! Drink! Be merry and bright! With all of my bad witch heart bright blessings and seasons greetings!