Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Season´s reading: After Samhain, comes Yule

To begin, let us look at the actual reason this holiday exists: for Yule and Christmas are not so very different, underneath it all; both celebrate the arrival of the sun/son; or, if you like, the light of the world...Ronald Hutton, in his excellent book The Stations of the Sun, has this to say about the story of the Nativity: It "makes sense on a mythological level--an archetypal representation of the birth of a hero at the junction of many worlds, (who is) engendered partly of humans and partly of the divine, born in a location that is neither indoors nor in the open air, belonging partly to humans and partly to animals, and adored by those on the margins of society."
At yule, some traditions perform the play of the Oak King and the Holly King, just as it is done at Midsummer, to mark the change of the seasons as one of them reigns over the other. It is also generally accepted that the date of Christmas is an arbitrary one; that it was chosen to coincide with the pagan solstice celebration, as a way of "converting" the "heathens" (or country folk, heath-dwellers) to the Christian way of life.The first written record of the reason for this holiday's occurrence on December 25th was in 354 AD, in Rome, when one scholar wrote: "It was customary for pagans to celebrate the birth of the sun...when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day."However, the tradition of celebrating the solstice on this day is not much older, at least according to extant records: it was officially decreed in the year 274 by the emperor Aurelian. A century later, the archbishop of Constantinople observed that fixing the date of the "Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness" was necessary because "while the heathens were busied with their profane rites, the Christians might perform their holy ones without disturbance." Saint Augustine encouraged Christians to honor "He who made the sun, not the sun itself."
The word "Yule" is believed to derive from a colloquial Scandinavian term meaning "wheel." There is also some speculation it is derived from the Old English word for "jolly." But its exact etymology is still debated. The concept of the wheel seems to make more sense , since this date marks the definitive point in the Wheel of the Year, and for many cultures and calendars it is the start of the new year.
We know that the observance of the winter solstice was very significant in ancient times. Since this date represented the moment when the days would again become longer, when light would return to the land, the rural folk who faced lean times in winter had reason to be thankful. The use of candles as decorations and ritual objects, dating from ancient times, indicates the importance of honoring the deities of light. The sun's return meant spring was on its way,and with it, the birth of new animals to the flock, and the softening of the soil tilled by our ancestors who lived as animal herders and farmers. Their celebration of this date as a holy day, when they worshipped and honored the sun as a deity, was an affirmation of their survival of the cold months of winter. They subsisted on the dried meats of the animals they slaughtered at Samhain, and what little produce they could preserve from the final harvest.

1. Explain the meaning of the words in orange.
2. What is Yule?
3.Why is it similar to Christmas?
4.Where does the word Yule come from?
5.Why were people so thankful at Yule, in ancient times?

You can PRINT this and stick it on your notebook