Family Yule Ritual
Excerpts from: A Wiccan Primer: Rituals for Children.
Copyright 1996 by Wind*Dancer.
This stuff is a combination of information gleaned from many sources. The
candle ritual is from Ceisiwr Serith’s The Pagan Family: Handing the Old Ways Down but I’ve been heavily influenced by Margie MCArthur’s Wiccacraft for Families and Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, too. (Just so you don’t think I came up with all this
The way we set up our Family Book of Shadows was to start each section with a picture that represents the Sabbat. For instance Yule could be a Christmas tree decorated with candles and fruits, a Yule log in a fireplace or kids out caroling. Since I have four kids and they’re still young we only have one common BOS. Those of you with only one or two children (especially older ones) might want to let them create their own books, with their own art work and stories etc.
Our actual book is a 9X7 three ring binder. It fits very easily at the dinner table and pages can be added and taken out as your ideas change and grow (I’ve rewritten our rituals many times over the years trying to find the way that works best). These little note books are inexpensive and come in many colors. The refill pages are easy to get, as well as those colored tabs which can be used to separate the book into sections like Sabbats, Esbat, Prayers, Stories etc. Some of you might be tempted to buy a fancy bound book to make it extra special for your child but from experience I’d try to steer you away from that. They’re expensive and once you make a mistake you either have to scratch it out or tear it out.
Something else you might want to consider is creating a "floppy disk of Shadows" as Scott Cunningham calls it. I type all our rituals on the computer (which I happen to think is one of the niftiest pieces of magic around!) so they can be printed out nice and neat and easy for young readers to read. Plus if you want to change anything (or share it with your friends ) you just copy and paste and voila! ("Daytimer" makes pre-punched plain sheets to fit this size book so you can print your rituals right from the computer)
So anyway our book starts with a picture on the first, left handed page, then the right handed page lists the Sabbat, some information about it and what you’re going to need for supplies. I have the different sections underlined or starred to make them very easy to follow, but that stuff, unfortunately, doesn’t carry over to e-mail. Just remember that this stuff is all going to be new to your kids and if you want them to like it it has to be easy to read, easy to follow, short and most importantly, fun.
Oh, one more thing. These rituals are written with different parts for mom and dad. That’s in no way written in stone, just the way we like to do it. You might have to do some reworking to make it right for your family.
Yule (About December 21st)-Special Notes: The Winter Solstice. Solstice means "sun stands still". On Yule the sun stops its decline and for a few days rises and sets in about the same place. This is the crucial time, the cusp between events. The sun stands still and everyone waits for the turning. It is a time of darkness. Yule is the longest night of the year, but it also marks the return of the sun.
- Seasonal decorations
- a bell
- a large Sun candle (we use a 9-inch yellow pillar candle)
- a small votive candle for each person at the table (it’s nice if your child can have their favorite color)
- matches. (Actually I refer to matches but we use one of those Aim-n-Flame plastic automatic lighter things because, no matter how careful you are, matches are just too dangerous with kids).
Begin by turning off all the lights all over the house, to simulate the dark of the year. Start upstairs, make sure you leave a light on so they can find their way back down safely! And be sure to explain to younger kids why you’re doing, before you start, so they don’t get scared. The house should be in total darkness now, except for one small candle to read by. Dad says quietly:
For half the year, day by day
Slowly the world has gone dark.
For half the year, night by night,
Slowly the dark has grown longer.
Making sure the matches are right at hand, Dad blows out the last candle, plunging the room into darkness. Keep the little ones close to mom or dad so they don’t get scared because the house will be very dark and very quiet. Wait a minute for effect and then dad says:
But the darkness was never complete.
A spark was always waiting…
Light the match and let the drama of the moment have its effect. Then end with:
And turn the dark to light once more.
Dad lights the Sun candle. Now Mom says:
Tonight the dark time ends.
It is Yule. The Solstice.
The Wheel has turned
Bringing our land back to the light.
And now the spark will grow
Greater and greater.
The light will come back,
The cold will go away
And soon we will celebrate Spring!
Dad lights his candle from the Sun candle and places it in the middle saying:
The wheel is turning
The light is returning!
Then each person at the table, starting with mom and proceeding to each child from the oldest, lights their candle from the sun candle and repeats:
The wheel is turning
The light is returning!
When everyone has had their turn, bask in the glow of the candle light. Now send the kids hurrying through the house turning on all the lights. Every light in every room (try to forget your electric bill ) should be turned on to drive away all the darkness and shadows. When everyone is back at the table mom says:
Winter is a time of darkness. We all have moments like that, When you feel lost or scared or unsure. The Earth understands us because it is alive, too. That is why the Earth teaches us that no matter how dark it gets the light always returns. The night will always end And a new day begin.
Now you can serve supper, leaving the candles burning. (We leave candles in the center of the table so little hands are tempted to play with them). While you eat, discuss the celebration of Solstice around the world. Midwinter is celebrated in remarkably similar ways in very different cultures. The most important part of the celebration is light. The Pagan Yule log, Christian Advent candles, Hebrew Menorah and African-American Kwanza candles all celebrate the light. (If you’re looking for a neat Christmas video pick up The Puzzle Place Christmas tape. It doesn’t actually say "pagan" but it handles the whole light thing very nicely) Its meaning varies from culture to culture, and even person to person. It can be magic to help the sun return, a sign of hope in the dark and cold, a symbol of the Unconquerable Sun to cheer us or an xaggeration of the light needed in this dark time. But the common denominator is light.
Bring in the Pagan background of Yule by explaining that the Yule Log is an indoor bon- fire. All the same virtues were ascribed to it: fertility, purification, continuation of life, protection from evil and such. Much ritual and ceremony surrounded the bringing in of the Yule log. It was usually oak, ash or fruitwood, and it had to be cut from one’s own property, because purchasing it was considered bad luck. The Yule log was always kindled with a piece of last year’s Yule log, which was kept for just that purpose. Once lit, it was essential it burn steadily until it was time to extinguish it. Some customs say let it burn for 12 hours, others say for the full 12 days of Christmas. In any case The Yule Log was never allowed to burn completely away, that would forecast bad luck for the coming year. The leftover log was saved to kindle next year’s Yule fire.
The Christian celebration of Christmas mimics many of the Pagan traditions, oo. Explain how the new religion built their story of Jesus’ birth onto the Old Religion’s beliefs, to make it more acceptable to the Pagans. Gently point out the Sun/Son theme. (Be careful not to let any negative feelings you might have about Christianity creep into your words. Children are an open book and they’ll learn what you teach them, so be positive and loving.) You can tell them how Jesus was actually believed to have been born in the spring, when the sheep would have been out in the fields, like it says in all the songs. But the church decided to set his birth date to coincide with the ancient celebration of Winter Solstice, so the "birth" of the Son would match the ancient Pagan festival celebrating the rebirth of the Sun.
Talk about what other religions do at this time of year. Let them tell you what they know about Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanza. And if they don’t know the stories, fill them in! Remember, this is a time of great celebration. The Goddess has given us a sign that it is the beginning of the end of the long, cold winter. The change won’t come over night of course, but the Wheel has turned and spring is on the way. Remember, Yule might be the longest night of the year, but it marks the return of the Sun. So celebrate!
When dinner is over make a show of putting out the Yule candles. Mom goes first and says:
May the light of the Yule candles
Burn in our hearts
All throughout the coming year.
Blessing of the Season on you all.
As each person extinguishes their candle (we made a long-handled candle snuffer for safe extinguishing) they can say:
Blessings of the season on you all.
The candle ritual might seem short. It was actually longer but we had to cut it down because the kids need things short and sweet to keep their attention. (The TV generation) The best part about this ritual though, is that the kids have such fun doing it. Now when we talk about getting ready for Yule they automatically know what it is, "Oh, goody! We get to turn off all the lights!" And although it’s all a game for them, they’re actually remembering that Yule is The Winter Solstice and what that means. And it’s establishing a family tradition I hope they’ll carry on with their own kids.
I know this ritual is heavily Pagan and you might want a more Wiccan influence for your rituals, but again, I thought this might give you a good jumping off point. In passing I have rituals on disk for all 8 Sabbats as well as Esbats (Full Moon anyway, we don’t do New Moon yet). Our rituals all center around mealtime (which is the easiest time to get everybody together in one place) and we do a simple Circle Casting that involves calling the quarters but we don’t seal the Circle since 1) we’re not raising energy for spell work and 2) mom and dad have to keep coming and going from the table to serve.
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