The Twelve Nights of Yule
Many modern scholars believe that a Mid-Winter or Winter Solstice celebration has been an important part of indigenous European traditions and culture since at least 2400 BC by one name or another.
Although we do not know exactly, there is much discussion among Historians and Archeologists about when the name Yule truly came to be a mainstay name. We do know that this time of the year has been commonly recognized as Yule since before 1000 AD at the latest.
The Name Yule is thought, by many scholars, to be an expression of the name Odin representing the eternal wheel and sometimes the sun.
As we begin the journey towards Yule we can bring into our celebrations the Ásatrú tradition of the 12 days/nights of Yule which begins on the Eve of the Winter Solstice. (That is the night before the winter solstice and begins at sunset)
There are a couple of different versions of the modern Ásatrú 12 Nights of Yule, but this is the version I’ve seen most often:
~The first night of Yule - Mother Night (Módraniht)
Sacred to Frigg, Freya, and the Disir
As the night before the Winter Solstice, this is the time when the New Year is born. We honour the beginning of the Sun's return and the breaking of Winter's spell.
Traditionally, this night belongs to Frigg, the mother Goddess and mistress of home and hearth. Celebrations center around the wife or mother of the family as she symbolically cleans the house in preparation of Yule festivities, invites both the living and the dead to join the party, and bestows blessings
~Second night of Yule - The Wild Hunt
Sacred to Odin, Ullr and Ancestors
~Third night of Yule
Sacred to Mani and Darkness
~Fourth night of Yule
Sacred to Aegir, Njord, and Freyr
~Fifth night of Yule
Sacred to Community
~Sixth night of Yule
Sacred to Eir and Healing
~Seventh night of Yule
Sacred to Thor and Children
~Eighth night of Yule
Sacred to Skadi and Ullr
~Ninth night of Yule
Sacred to Odin and Fathers
My name is not my own,
It is borrowed from my ancestors,
I must return it unstained.
My honour is not my own,
It is on loan from my descendants,
I must give it to them unbroken.
Our blood is not our own,
it is a gift to generations yet unborn,
We should carry it with responsibility.
~Tenth night of Yule
Sacred to Sunna and Light
~Eleventh night of Yule
Sacred to the Valkyries and Warriors
~Twelfth night of Yule - Wassail
Sacred to all Divine Friends
Other things that many Ásatrúar do to commemorate the 12 nights is to reflect on one of the months of the past year for each night, and meditate on one of the Nine Noble Virtues on the first nine nights of Yule.
If you follow the Wiccan Path you could substitute the Virtues for the Rede.
Also if you don’t follow a Germanic or Norse path you can look at the focus of that night to honour a Deity, Ancestor, Spirit that aligns with the theme to bring it into your life.
So for instance on the 4th night the theme is love. What type of love do you want more of in your life eg self love, soul love etc. Then what Deity, if you work with a Deity, will help you to bring that into your life.
In Iceland, Dec 24th is the yule book flood, where there is a modern tradition of curling up in bed to read. Turn one of the nights of yule into a night where Gods tied to poetry, stories and the spoken word are venerated: Odin, Freya, Bragi, Saga. And then grab a book and head to bed to read.
In Europe a new candle-lighting tradition has arisen among some modern day polytheists, that of Vantljusstaken, or Sun-Wait candles. The concept takes an advent calendar sort of approach as you count down towards yule, the candles usually connect to the first 6 runic letters of the futhark: fehu, uruz, thurisaz, ansuz, raido, kenaz. One rune a week as you approach the Winter Solstice.
I wish Prosperity, Wealth and good will for all of you.