Thursday, December 13, 2007

Winter Solstice (Yule) Ritual

In addition to your usual altar tools, you will need:
  • A Green Altar Cloth
  • A Cauldron w/Lid or Cover Plate
  • Holly Sprig Wreath
  • Mistletoe Sprig Wreath
  • 12 Low Vibration Stones (flat oval river rock work well)
  • 1 Black Votive Candle, 1 Green 12" Taper Candle, 1 White 12" Taper Candle, 1 Gold (12hr) Pillar Candle
  • Pine Incense
  • Bowl of Water w/ Pine Sprig in it
  • Plate of Sand
  • Athame
  • Other Personal Items of choice

This ritual showed be performed right after sunset. About an hour before, sweep area moving in a deosil manner. Yule symbols such as Poinsettias, Pine Cones, and even a decorated Yule Log nearby (if too big for altar) adds to the ambiance. Place the proper candles and symbols at the four cardinal directions. Place the gold God pillar candle at right top of altar. Place the white Goddess taper candle at the top left. Place your Pentacle (or a plate with a Pentagram drawn on it) in the center of the altar. Place your Cauldron to the right of the altar, with the black votive candle, Holly sprig wreath around it , inside. Cover cauldron with lid or cover plate. Place the green taper candle and mistletoe wreath where they will be behind you at the beginning of the ritual. Outline your circle perimeter with 11 of the low vibration stones (save 12th to close circle when you enter. Place the rest of your tools and props according to personal preference. Take a shower or bath for purity. Sit quietly for a period to ground and center. When ready put on some soothing music associated with the Sabbat and your ritual. Enter the standing stone circle and close with 12th stone.

Cast circle by envisioning flames of Yule colors red, green, and gold coming up between the stones. When all become a continuous line, step up to the altar and begin:

"From the darkness is born the light, From void, fulfillment emerges... The darkest night of the year's at the threshold, Open now the door, and honor the darkness."

Take the lid/plate off the cauldron and light the black votive candle inside. Step back from the cauldron and give silent honor to the Holly King, the ruler of the dark half of the year. Call quarters, start by lighting yellow candle in the East:

"Powers of Air, step forth from the darkness, Enter my circle , as dark gives 'way to light. Bring along with you the essence of pine trees, Remind me of Springtime As I face Solstice Night."

Light the pine incense and place on Pentacle/Center Plate. Light the red candle in the South:

"Powers of Fire, step forth from the darkness, Enter my circle, as dark gives 'way to light, Bring along with you the first glint of tomorrow, Remind me of Summer As I face Solstice Night."

Pick up the Athame and brandish it in the flame of the candle to reflect the light. Place on the Pentacle/Center Plate. Light the blue candle in the West:

"Powers of Water, step forth from the darkness, Enter my circle, as dark gives 'way to light, Bring along with you bittersweet memories Remind me of Autumn As I face Solstice Night."

Pick up the bowl of water, sprinkle water with pine sprig in Pentacle/Center Plate. Light brown candle in the North:

"Powers of Earth, step forth from the darkness, Enter my circle, as dark gives 'way to light, Bring along with you the land that now slumbers, Remind me of Winter And this cold Solstice Night."

Pick up the plate of sand, sprinkle sand in a line around the other symbols. Step back from the alter for a moment and contemplate the seasons of the past year, and how their lessons have brought you to where you are today. When ready, begin again:

"Dark my surroundings, and cold be this night But Thy labor, Blessed Mother Has reborn the Sacred Light... The Child Divine, The most honored Sun Shall return with the sunrise Again, Two will be One."

Remove the Holly wreath from around the black votive candle. With your right hand, present it to the four elements in a deosil manner. Finally, in a clockwise motion, place it behind you, to signify the death, "passing", of the Holly King. Turn back to the altar. Then with your left hand, reach behind you, and in a clockwise motion bring forward the Mistletoe wreath and the green candle. Present them to the elements, slide the wreath over the green candle and place the candle in its holder in the cauldron. Light the green candle with the black votive candle:

"Hark! Behold the Rebirth of the King of the Woodlands! Behold the Oak King, strong and vital he rises!" Snuff the black votive candle and with your right hand, place it behind you in a clockwise motion. Turn back to the cauldron, close your eyes, and silently honor the Oak King. Begin again: "Awake now Thy Mother, Thy Lover, Thy Lady - Awake now Thy Goddess of Life, Death, Rebirth."

Take the green candle out of the cauldron and light the white Goddess candle on the altar. Replace the green candle in the cauldron. Take the white Goddess candle with both hands and hold out at arm's length over the cauldron:

"Awaken, my Lady, look upon Thyne Divine Child, His rebirth while You slumbered Was subtle and silent. The Stag King, the Green Man, Lord of Fertility, He awaits Thy wakening Gentle and benevolent"

Place the white Goddess candle back in its holder at the left top of altar. Step back and assume the Goddess position. In a bold voice:

"All hail the Oak King, His rebirth; a promise All hail the Divine Child, Giver of Life All hail the Blessed Sun, reborn to the Mother For he retakes His throne at the end of Solstice Night!"

Now is the time for meditation and any spellworkings. Spellworkings associated with Yule include those for peace, harmony, love, and happiness. Next celebrate with the Cakes and Ale (Fruitcake* and Spiced Cider *) ceremony, saving some for the wee Folkes, outside. Thank the Goddess and snuff Her candle. Thank and release the elements:

"Carry sweet tidings, 'round the world and beyond, I charge thee as messengers Earth, Water, Fire, and Air Let all rejoice loudly in the Oak King's return Teach all that you meet, with the glad tidings you bear."

Snuff each Quarter candle in a widdershins manner. Step back and face the cauldron and the green candle still burning bright.

"Before my circle, tonight, I close Blessings I ask for this house and my kin Tomorrow at daybreak, when I arise A special flame I will carry, within... And a gold candle upon my altar I'll light Adding my will to the Sun King's intent To climb aloft in the vaulted skies And for strength back to me; three times, strength I've sent."

Snuff the green candle. Take the Mistletoe wreath and place it on the other symbols on the Pentacle/Center Plate. Release the circle. Clean up, leaving the gold God pillar candle in center front to light upon rising in the morning. You are done. --Adapted by Akasha Ap Emrys to share with all her friends and those of like mind--

the birth of the sun, battle between Oak and Holly Kings, longest night of the year

Sacred To:
Sun God/desses, Holly & Oak Kings, the sacred son in any form

Key Activities:
* Make the circle with evergreen boughs;
outdoors, sweep the snow out to the edges
and lay the brooms on the circular snowbank.
* Burn the Yule Log
* Make tree ornaments: animals, plants,
moons, sun, stars (children can make 'snow
flakes' and decorate with glitter)
* Decorate a "World Tree" indoors, or a living
one outdoors
* Perform a mystery play about the birth of the
Sun. Sing pagan carols.
* Exchange blessing gifts
* Enjoy a visit from Mother Berchta with her
bag of gifts (see below)
* Tell the story of Stonehenge as an
astronomical observatory.
* Enact the battle between the Oak & Holly
Kings (Oak wins)
* Play Find the Sun game (people seated in a circle pass a foil 'sun' ball, trying to hide it from a sole person outside the circle; when he spies it he trades places with the one holding it)
* Appoint (or draw lots) a "Lord of Misrule" to
preside over the festivities.

*Ritual Craft by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K

Berchta, Mistress of Destiny

Submitted by: swampy

"Hallowed Woman of the Earth
We give this gift to you
Frau Holda, riding forth this night,
Look kindly on our work,
Berchta, beldame of the wheel,
Spin us good wyrd tonight
O Mighty Mother of us all
Pray, fill our house with joy!"

Berchta (also called Perchta) is a Teutonic Goddess whose worship originated in the southern part of Germany in what is now the German state of Bavaria. Berchta has been called by names in other parts of Europe (some scholars feel that these are Berchta herself, others feel that they are similar goddesses that are at least are closely related to Berchta): Holde (`merciful'), Holla, Holda, Huldra, Frau Holle, Mother Holle, Perht, Berta (`Bright'), Queen of the Estantigua (Spain), and Frau Freke (a name connected to Frig). Berchta's name is connected with words meaning "bright, luminous or glorious."

Berchta, is the "White Lady" who spins destiny. In the Teutonic rendering of what is considered to be 'Norse' mythology, Berchta is usually said to be the wife of the god Woden (also known as Wodan, Wotan, Oden, or Odin). The name 'Woden' means 'Fury' or 'Frenzy' and He is associated with otherworldly beings and flying at night with horned animals. Woden is considered to be the Master of the Wild Hunt and Berchta is its mistress. The Wild Hunt, full of ghosts, trolls, and other outdwellers, occurs during the days immediately following the Winter Solstice. In some of the Old Germanic sagas, Berchta is seen in the forests and winter snow with 24 spotted hounds, and She leads the 'Wights' (Spirits) through the winter time season back unto the resting places in the spring.

Berchta is described as an old woman with long teeth and tangled hair (and sometimes depicted with a long iron nose and one large foot), and other times she is described as a beautiful dark haired woman dressed and crowned in white! Berchta is shown travelling either in a wagon or bearing a plough and attended by the spirits of unborn children. Sometimes She is shown flying through the air accompanied by a goose, which always flies in front of Her (making Berchta the original Mother Goose). Berchta is mainly associated with the winter season and She is also believed to be the cause of many natural phenomena. Snow is caused by Her shaking Her feather bed, and fog was the smoke from Her fire.

Berchta is a Mother Goddess and a fertility goddess who rewards the good, but also punishes the lazy and cruel. Many tales are told of Berchta to frighten children into behaving when they are unmanageable. Berchta is said to come at night and drag the child off in a sack or stamp on it with Her foot. If the child is especially naughty She might cut open its stomach and fill it with chopped straw and dirt. Berchta's dark side is evident in Her role in the witches' ride, an equivalent of the Wild Hunt.

'Mothers Night' is a festival held the night before the Solstice (ca. Dec. 20) that is sacred to Berchta and other Mother Goddesses. Lore says that on this night no spinning is to be done, for this activity is holy to Berchta. In fact, Berchta often comes to inspect the spindles. She rewards diligent spinners by making their work easier; She punishes lazy spinners by soiling or fraying their yarn. It is traditional to eat a simple meal of fish and porridge on Mothers Night, for these foods are holy to the Mother Goddesses.

Berchta descends on the nights between December 22 and January 6 and travels the countryside in Her wagon, unrecognized, bestowing gifts to those who have been generous and punishing those who have been greedy or lazy. Variations have Her flying on Her broom accompanied by the spirits of dead children, elves and faeries. But in all the tales She goes up and down chimney's to bring gifts to the children in Her worshipped households.

The tradition of honoring Berchta may be the clearest survival of a cult connected to a Teutonic deity. While the worship of other gods has been suppressed into silence for so many centuries Berchta's legends have adapted from age to age. Christianity left its mark on Berchta's image, in many post-Christian tales Berchta is no longer a Goddess but rather an ugly old woman and patron of witches. This is in keeping with the concept that as a heathen goddess Berchta is a demon and the transformation from goddess into demon witch wife is clear. As the 'witch queen' of the time after Christianity, it was said that Berchta claims the souls of unbaptised children for the old gods, plus it was said that Berchta also punishes women who work over the Christmas period, on Sundays or on saints' days in a like manner. This gives us the rather ironic picture of a Pagan goddess protecting a Christian tradition, but it clearly shows how old legends can adapt to new ideas if given the chance.

Berchta's sacred color is black; Her herbs are Storax and Myrrh; Her animals are the wolf, the goose and the bear; Her stones are onyx, jet, obsidian, black agate, and lead; Her trees are beech, elm, ivy, linden, juniper, mullein, blackthorn, willow, yew, and elder; Her day of the week is Saturday; and her runes are isa, hagalaz, and ehwo

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