©Jane A. Simington, PhD. 2018
After weeks of ever increasing hours of darkness, the Winter Solstice marks the turning point when the sun begins to journey back into the North. The return of the Light is celebrated in many homes in similar fashion as were those enacted by our ancestors. In my home, as in the homes of many families that originated from Northern Europe, the creation and lighting of the Yule Log announces the beginning of the 12 days of the Yule Season; which according to Norse tradition from which the Yule Log ceremonies originate, begins on the eve of the Winter Solstice.
The type of wood used in the creation of the Yule Log is significant; for in many traditions, trees are associated with various spiritual properties. Aspen, for example is considered the wood of choice to enhance spiritual understanding; while oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. For my home, I prefer a log of white birch, for in Ancient Siberia the Birch Tree was hailed as the sacred ladder that spanned the gap between Heaven and Earth; and in Celtic Tradition the Birch whispers of renewal, transformation and fertile growth. This symbolism springs from the awareness of the millions of seeds the Birch Tree sheds annually. A burning Birch Yule Log reminds those who view it to focus on their potential for change and on their direction for the year ahead. Birch wood is also believed to ward off evil, banish fears and build courage. In this tradition, the homemaker is encouraged to use a birch broom on the Winter Solstice morning to brush out the energy of the old year in readiness for newness.
In Norse and Celtic traditions, the glowing light from a burning Yule Log represented the banishing of darkness and the rebirth of the sun; both within the Cosmos and within one’s own life. While the symbolism of the Yule Season marking the return of the “Sun,” has since Christian times been overshadowed by Christmas and the birth of a Divine “Son,” the theme known to have been preceded by many older religions and often having to do with the Winter Solstice, continues to call us to recognize that the celebrations of Light that take place at this time of year are celebrations of the rebirth of the Divine Sun within each of us.
Oh, holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our Soul’s rebirth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices
Oh, night divine, oh, night, when Light is born
Oh, night divine, oh, night divine.