Happy Perchta’s Day, Everyone. If you haven’t already read it, head on over to Masks and Monsters to read Dver’s account of her Perchtenlauf. They tramped through their town in Oregon and even invaded a hotel in full mumming garb and it was wonderful. Rites like this, whether small or large, restore the wyrd, cleansing it and driving out malefica and evil. They open and close the doorways into powerful ritual times, and they spread just a touch of the holy, of the numen of the Gods, the holy terror They carry, and the magic of this dark and powerful time to all who see or participate. This is a good thing, a blessing thing.
As I sit writing this now, we have concluded our Yuletime just within the last hour. We’d intended to use our firepit and have a bonfire, but I was not feeling particularly well today (migraine – it’s going to snow tomorrow, and I’m excited about that but oooh my body is complaining!) so instead, we built our fire in a large cauldron that I have at the front of the house. It’s easier to control and maintain the fire there than in a large firepit and when I do firework of any sort, I put safety first. I was worried that the rite would be disjointed because of the last-minute change of venue, so to speak, but it wasn’t. The moment we called Perchta we palpably felt Her presence, and felt Her clean and reset our land, home, and space.
First, we garbed and masked ourselves. One traditionally masks one’s face for these rites. Tove (pictured below after the ritual with her drum) painted her face instead. It counts as a mask. We took up our drums and headed outside with offerings and fuel for the fire. I called to Thor to protect and ward our space and then to Heimdallr to consecrate it. Then, I quickly kindled the fire in the cauldron (it’s about two feet in diameter, so a goodly but portable size and cast iron). We honored the fire and called Perchta and Her retinue and passed a horn of Lithuanian mead. We drummed, calling the spirits, calling to our Gods, asking Their blessings on our land, our home, our work, our House, our family. We felt the way Perchta effortlessly banishes darkness. We gave thanks to Her and Her retinue, to the House of Mundilfari, to Odin, Frey, Thor, Freya, Frigga, to the Bacchic hoarde and all the Gods and spirits we love and venerate. We danced and in the dark of the night one of our neighbors walked by and tentatively peeked over our fence—he thought we didn’t see him lol– and the hemlock trees we have planted there, curious as to what the bear-masked shaman and her painted, garbed, and reveling colleagues were doing. May his glimpse of this sacred rite bring him luck and plenty in the year to come.
We concluded with thanks to all our Gods and spirits and then made sure the fire was completely out. That was that. For the first time, in the entire time I’ve been Heathen (nearly thirty years), my House has kept the entire Yule liturgical cycle, starting with Sunwait, through Oski’s Day, Lussanatre, Modranacht, Yule proper, and now Perchta’s Day. It’s been a wild ride but well worth it. I wish all of you, my readers, a happy and healthy 2022.
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.
My husband sent me this song by the group Wolcensmen. It makes for a beautiful holiday song. I could totally see incorporating it into Sunwait.
Do any of you have particular songs that you like to play or sing for Yule? (Technically Yule goes through the New Year).
I know this is a little belated, Sunwait having ended last week, but I just realized I’d forgotten to post this. This is the prayer we offered to invoke Sunna in our ritual last Friday.
Prayer to Sunna in Kenaz by G. Krasskova Tonight, on the last night of Sunwait, Mani gleams brightly in the sky, Luminous and bright. The air is chill, portending the coming of winter. The world glistens adorned with lights and greenery, a reminder Of the blessings of yule to come. Tonight we hail Sunna. She comes awash in beauty, powerful, radiant. She comes with open hands showering Her blessings On every heart willing to receive them. She comes, generous and proud, joyous and fiery Filled with the wisdom of a Goddess Who has seen The worlds themselves created. Kenaz crowns Her, weaving itself through Her light, Opening the way to knowledge, wisdom, and well-being, Strengthening our hearts with courage, Our minds and souls with devotion. Sunna is our guide and kenaz the fire She bears. It is illumination, sacral understanding, And the capacity to carry Mystery into the world. It is our light through the darkness, the dark night of the soul, The darkness of our world. May we tend it well and joyously Knowing that no matter how grim the night Sunna and Her retinue will always come And Her presence alone, drives back darkness. Hail to You, Gladness of the Heavens. Hail to You, Oh Sunna, on this, The sixth week of Sunwait.
Tonight was our Modranacht rite and it was beautiful. Every time we step into sacred space, every time we enter ritual we renew our commitment to restore the sacred covenants between us and the Holy Powers. Modranacht honors our Mother Goddesses, like Frigga, Sigyn, Sif, Freya, Hela (Mother of all the dead), Loki (Mother of Sleipnir), and many, many more. We also honor the Matronae, and our female ancestors and Disir. I wish the rite tonight had gone on forever. It was just beautiful.
Here is a picture of our altar to the night (it’s not complete — I took this as we were setting up. Our sacred images of Hela and Sif still need to be added. We did that shortly after I took this shot).
Here is a close up of one of my Frigga statues. It just arrived today (a good omen, I think, that it arrived on Mother-night). It’s not usually how I see Her, but represents Frigga as magician, as a shaman, in the process of shapeshifting.
For those of you who keep this holy night, I would love to hear how your rites and rituals went. Feel free t post in the comments.
I realized today that I had forgotten to post about week five of Sunwait. It’s gone quickly this year — I can hardly believe we’re less than two weeks away from Modranacht. So, before I let this go any longer, here is the prayer we used in Friday night’s ritual. We spent a great deal of time sitting in the ritual space during this rite, sharing a horn, and praising our Gods and ancestors and reaped the fruit of that, I think, in the beautiful Lussanatr rite in which we participated last night. Truly our Gods are so incredibly good to us and never cease bestowing Their blessings.
Prayer to Sunna coming in Raido (By G. Krasskova) Hail to You, Glorious Goddess of the Sun, Coming with fiery momentum, Driving back darkness Driving back entropy Driving back fear. We praise You, And Your shining retinue. Hail to You, Sunna, A mighty force, Against which no malefic power may stand. You are our pace setter, And under Your guidance, we shall not falter. You sustain us, Great One, When all hope seems lost. You open the way for us, When we cannot move forward. In love and praise we bow our heads before You, For You sustained our people age after age. May Your blessings fall upon all right minded people, Blessings of protection, ferocious love, abundance, and health. May we never doubt that we live nestled in Your protection, For Your skills are mighty, and the equal of many a battle god. Hail to Sunna, riding and unstoppable, in raido. Hai Goddess of the Sun.
We celebrated the beginning of Yule tonight as we honored Lussa.
Prayer to Lussa (by G. Krasskova) Hail to Lussa, on this, Your sacred night. Mighty is Sunna’s retinue. Hail to You, oh Goddess, Herald of Jul, Who opens the door so the Wild Hunt may ride. Hail to You, Mighty One, called Lutzelfraa, Who demands the protocols of this holy time are met, Who punishes the slovenly, the lazy, and the evildoer. Hail to You, Divine Shamaness, Who furiously rides with the Hunt, Gambols with ferocious glee, dark and terrifying, taking up omens, Smiting the wicked, driving them back from the people. Hail to You, Huntress of Souls, Who dances through darkness bringing light, revealing knowledge, making the darkest of times rich and fruitful. Hail to You, Oh Lussa, Who grants us light and joy and sweetness, as the most potent days of Jul approach, Who guides us through times of uncertainty and fear, the warmth of Whose light, lifts us up and fills our souls with courage. Hail to Lussa, Who wears a crown of fire, Who protects our home, our land, and all Who dwell within. Hail to Lussa, Who wards our boundaries, marking their perimeter With the purifying power of Her flame, so that all evil spirits who roam the world with intent to do us harm, Might know Her mark, Her protection, and might rightly fear. Hail to you, Lussa, gracious Goddess, tonight on Your night And every night thereafter.
Today is Oski’s Day — the way we Heathens reclaim St. Nicholas Day ;). It is one of the small days of delight and gifting that precede the intensity and sacral power of Yule. It’s not a difficult day to keep: my family exchanges small gifts, pours out libations to Odin as Oski, and indulges in certain foods that are traditional at this time. I’ve written about that latter here and my friend Wyrd Dottir has written in much more detail about Oski’s Day and Krampusnacht here (I snagged this image below from her site too). It’s small days like this that help us rebuild and reclaim our traditions fully…through the medium of hearth cultus, household rites, and attention to the smaller aspects of devotion, the celebrations and practices that fell through the cracks or maybe even were worked into the fabric of the folk Christianity that followed conversion. My research on that latter continues but in the meantime, I wish you all a very happy Oski’s Day! If you too keep this little holy day, feel free to post what you do and how you do it in the comments.
We had a lovely Sunwait rite tonight. I can already feel the momentum building as we move one week closer to Yule and it evokes such anticipation in me to submit myself to the dark and velvety magic of my God, the feel of His presence and those other Holy Powers we will invoke that I can barely hold it in. I want to garb myself in bells and a savage mask and run riot through the all too civilized and calm streets of my town, beating on doors and whirling as I chase the dark fire of my God. Instead, I’m here, writing this, holding these things in my heart, and contemplating the Yule cycle.
This year, we are adding Lussinatt to our Yule celebrations. Christians may hold this night sacred to St. Lucy, and that’s cool, but it’s also an older holiday, honoring a much older Power. Incorporating this into our preparations for Yule is one more way of restoring and reclaiming our ritual cycle. I have promised myself (and my Vanic oriented assistant) that I will spend the winter hunting up hints at smaller holy days between the spring equinox and summer solstice so that we might balance our rites to the Gods of the holy days of winter, with equal attention given to those in summer. Back to tonight’s Sunwait though.
We did a very simple symbel, passing the horn in rounds: the first honoring our Gods, the second, our ancestors, and the third an open round (we mostly honored other spirits, like the house and land vaettir that we regularly include in our venerations). Ansuz was galdred, Sunna was hailed (not in that order!) and it was a quiet and lovely ritual.
Here is a close up of our altar. This Sunna statue was a gift from my husband last year. I absolutely love it.
Here’s along view of the altar – my ancestor room is our ritual room, so that’s a line of ancestors and other ancestral spirits that we honor (the two main ancestor shrines are on other side of the table that you see here with the Sunwait altar). The cloth is one that I made just for this Sunwait (I still have to put edging on one side – the lace I wanted to use was late coming in!).
This is the prayer we offered tonight:
Sunwait Prayer to Sunna in Ansuz Hail to the glorious warrior Who rushes across the sky, magnificent, fierce, unstoppable in Her joy. Hail to She Who restores, Whose very presence Banishes evil and malignancy. Hail to the Goddess Who emblazons the night, Filling the worlds with color and life. Hail to the Felicitous One, Who elevates our souls, freeing us from the fetters of our enemies. Hail to the Companion of Mani, Beloved of Glenr, She Who stands as a shield against turpitude. Hail to the Fiery Grace-Giver, She Who ever upholds the Worlds. Hail to the Laughing Brightness of the Heavens, Who with a gesture frees us from duress. Hail to Sol, Gleaming Splendor, opening the way between the worlds. Hail to Sunna, ever triumphant, Ever generous with Her blessings. Hail to You Sunna as you ride in ansuz, Hail to You, on this fourth week of Sunwait. (by Galina Krasskova)
And finally, here’s another close up.
(Sannion wrote about tonight’s right over at House of Vines).
The photo is of our shrine, the three small glasses are for our ancestors.
This is the prayer we used in our rite:
Hail to Sunna rising mighty in the rune Thurisaz. Hail to this Goddess Who wards off evil, Who banishes wickedness, Who purifies with light and fire and the resonance of Her glory. Hail to Sunna, heaven's warrior blazing across the sky banishing the ichor of the outer darkness, of ignorance, of fear- raising us up by Her very brightness. There is no foe we need fear, oh Goddess, With Your shield and sword at our backs. You, blazing daughter of Mundilfari, are the best protection against peril and we bow our heads before You, Glorious One. Hail to You, oh Goddess Sunna, on this third week of Sunwait, and hail the rune thurisaz.