A Reader Question about Yule

Today I was asked how long Yule lasts. This is…a tough question. My understanding not only of the nature of this holy tide, but of its length has certainly changed over the last decade and I suspect that there were strong regional differences to how Yule was celebrated across the Heathen world. That’s important to keep in mind. 

So, instead, I’ll tell you how we’ve started celebrating, again with the caveat that I didn’t always do these things. My practice and that of my household has evolved as my understanding of yule and its importance has likewise evolved. Sometimes, I’ll sit on something I learn for a year or so, in order to ponder and better understand it, and then incorporate it at a later date. That happened with both Sunwait and Lussanatr. My understanding of this, one of our key holy times, is ever evolving. 

Firstly, we’re still technically in Yule. By most reckonings that I’ve seen, at the very least, Yule lasts from Mothernight (Dec. 20th) through to the New Year. 

In our house and tradition, we start celebrating six weeks before Yule, in a preparatory period called Sunwait. Every Friday night, we hold a small ritual to Sunna and meditate or galdr a particular rune. The first six runes of the elder futhark are used in order. Some Heathens will celebrate Sunwait on Thursdays instead. Sunday would be the logical day for it, being literally Sunna’s Day, but curiously I’ve not seen any report of Heathens holding their Sunwait rites on that day. I suspect this has to do with wanting to avoid any conflation of Sunwait with Advent. 

After that, there is Dec. 6, which some of us have repurposed as Oski’s Day. We exchange gifts and enjoy certain foods and usually give offerings to Odin as Oski. This year, this was our major gift giving day. 

Next, there is Lussa’s Day (Lussanatre) on the evening of Dec. 12. This opens the door to the Wild Hunt and really begins Yule proper. 

This year we had an initiation on Dec. 19th and then the 20th was Modranacht (Mothernight). We kept Yule itself on Dec. 21. I had cut my hand rather badly so we didn’t do any bonfire – usually we would have one in our firepit out back—but we plan to remedy that before Yule is over as my hand is already almost fully healed. We keep Dec. 22 free for a ritual honoring the House of Mundilfari, but this is optional for us and this year we did not do it, as we’d given copious offerings to Them earlier and two of us were traveling unexpectedly on that day. 

On New Year’s Eve, because we are a blended household, we do a Roman rite to Cardea and Her court to bring blessings for the New Year. New Year’s Day is a time for personal offerings for us, visiting friends, and cleaning and renewing the shrines. Finally on Dec. 6 we have our Perchta’s Day – this is the first year I’m formally incorporating this, so I’m excited about it. A colleague inspired me to get off my butt and do something. We might even mask and do a procession for Her. 

After that, we get a breather until Charming of the Plough in late February/early March with the exception of a feast day for my adopted mom, who is honored as a saint in our tradition (and several others) on Feb. 3. Right now, as I write this, we’re preparing for our New Year’s Eve rite. 

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About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on December 29, 2021, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. That is a tough question because it seems every heathen, hearth, and tribe has its own answer lol. Our hearth celebrates from Mother’s Night through Jan 6th. Not nonstop but most days during this time have special significance and so I consider it all part of Yuletide.

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  2. this sounds good & very dedicated. I think it is best up to kindred & house as you said as there are now some that are screaming their way is the only way of which path they have walked a shorter time than the use of the clothes I have on right now. I like the 20th to the 6th well. I also will be setting up my dead altar including Fuensanta for the first time this year to honor her on that date & will include something I made just for her that she might have loved but never would have worn. Oddly, we were at deaths door here at the same time in 2010 & lucky to make it through with help

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  3. It’s a tough question, because there were so many different calendar methodologies among the various Germanic tribes. lunisolar, some areas we know at least were tied to moon phases (dark or full), other places they had intercalary calendars (basically with leap month, weeks, days as needed), misseri calendars, then syncretized to the influence of Rome adopting the Julian calendar, and later on the Gregorian calendar. Iceland also because of the weather had a hard time tracking by astronomical observation, so they instead formalized the calendar as a point of business at the althing. Iceland decided every month should start on a Friday regardless of the fact that the last day of the month previous wasn’t a Thursday. So there were missing weekdays.

    Plus syncretization of Christian celebrations with the older Roman holy days, which were then syncretized again as Christianity spread into Northern Europe with various local leaders proclaiming different festivities at different times. For Christians in 567 AD the Council of Tours would officially proclaim that the 12 Days were to be celebrated from Christmas Day through to the Epiphany. It was King Hakon of Norway, who as a Christian passed a law that the Christian Christmas Day (which was already a weird bastardization of the Christian story of the Nativity with some of the traditions tied to Saturnalia/Mithraic customs) AND the pagan yuletide celebrations were to henceforth be celebrated at the same time. While this only specifically impacted Norway (and its territories), it illustrates an intentional combining of the holy-days into one celebration.

    We do know that the celebration of Yule wasn’t always twelve days long. In the Norse text Heimskringla: The Saga of Hakon the Good talks about it once lasting for three days, or as long as the ale lasted.

    We talk of 12 days today (but the 12 days of heathendom may not match with the 12 days of Catholicism), but then we have the other yule related festivities we see in the region. Oski’s (Krampus Night / Saint Nick), Lussi’s (sankta Lucia), Sunwait… , the Perchtenlaufen, and so much more.

    Some run night of Dec 20, through morning of January `1. Some at the night of the first full moon after the winter solstice as the start of the 12 days.

    I suspect the “12days” came abut because of all the calendar changes plus syncretizations we had festival blurring

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  4. Abut.

    That typo makes me sound Canadian, eh.

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  5. What you’ve said here about slowly evolving these practices year by year is excellent advice. It certainly applies to my own practice.

    In my own practice, I have various celebrations in the run-up to Yule, and consider the festival proper to be the 12 nights/days from Mothers’ Night through New Year’s Day. I’ve slowly expanded the repertoire for those 12 nights, and for the festivals that precede and follow, as I begin to understand them better each year. This is really one of the places where I feel the limits of our *traditions* in the strict sense (as things “handed on,” Latin tradere): in more fully-elaborated and well-established traditions, it’s much easier to celebrate first, and then proceed to understand through doing! Yet even without all those helps, it’s still true that “the work will teach you how to do it.”

    Quick note: you have a small typo in the next-to-last paragraph: I’m pretty sure you meant Perchta’s Day on *Jan* 6th, not Dec.

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