Dec 9, 2012

Sol Invictus, Yule and magick

This post I dedicate to my dear, supportive friend Pagan Star :)
Many Blessings my dear
The period between Samhain and Yule  was often referred by Pagans as “death period” or “dead time”.  Not an unjustified statement If You ask me, considering people had seen Samhain as “the end of the year” even   prior to Pagan religions, and also  they had been observing Winter Solstice  as the start of the New Year. Period in between was undefined, dark, often ( weather related ) cruel , with no  celebrations or festivities.  In occultism, that would make it an ideal time for learning from mistakes, cleansing of sin, and all the bad emotion n s, confronting our “inner demons”. Not an easy task, at all, but a needed one, for cleansed , be it “with fire”, through this period, would left human  relatively pure, and thus properly prepared for the Solstice and the period  when the Sun was believed to be “reborn” .

Cleansed like that,  repented and renewed, human being would be ready  to “take on some new resolutions”  , which  being  a mundane “ritual” taken too lightly and superficially sometimes.   And the Winter Solstice, Yule , Sol Invictus part of Saturnalia, call it whatever, is certainly, from an occult perspective best time for resolutions, amendment and gift giving and receiving .   Catholic Christians and Orthodox Christians that follow younger ( Julian ) Calendar also commemorate this day  , as the day when the our Lord Christ, savior of all human had been born. For Christians, Christmas and Easter  are the most  joyful holidays of all.

Time when the Sun regains dominion and the time of madness in Rome

Roman festivity of Saturnalia evolved from a single to few  days lasing  celebrations , to almost a week session   of celebration.  The 17th of December , had  however been reserved  to  be the main,  public merriment,   that  served to release Roman people of all their inhibitions, laws and constraints,  and allow situations and events that otherwise would never take place in Ancien t Rome, of If they would have, they’d been severely punished.  All the stigmas , taboos,  could be discarded on that day, and people could do what they  felt like. Even gamble! 

See playing what we nowadays popularly  known as “crap-games”  or  “dicing” ,   were extremely tabooed or at very least seen  as reason for social excommunication , of those that would  have take n participation in such.  Stakes could have been anything from nuts and coins, to vows and promises . On Saturnalia even the slaves could play!  And that is not all slaves could do on such day. They were permitted to talk back, disobey the masters,    and in some cases slaves would have also assume  the role of the master!  They were allowed to sit at the table with their masters, and enjoy the rare privilege of feasting with them. What more they were often  served by  slave owners  themselves, albeit the food would have still been  cooked by slaves. These, home-held festivities, could have been “prolonged” and would be done on 18th and 19th  ( latter also known as Opalia, devoted to Saturn’s consort Opa )   of December   ,  which were  days for domestic celebrations of Saturnalia.

After the central religious celebrations  of Saturnalia ( such as Ritus  Graecu s ) public celebrations would occur. Mostly in form of public banquets , the so called “convivum publicum”. Anyone could have attended, more so because Saturnalia was free labor day, no one  had to work.  Not even in courts justice had been administrated, and no war declaration/s could have been made on Saturnalia.  Public merriment included lots of food, drink, music , dancing, sometimes  costuming and pranks. The king of Saturnalia  had also been appointed, so called   Saturnalis Princeps,  who would rule on guided  by silly ideas , whims  , and  making people do  simple or stupid and ridiculous tasks.   Being chosen, and “crowned” by mass, it’s safe to assume that it had been some popular person in  question, and  suffices to illustrate with the example that ( at that point  ) future King Nero “held the title” on one occasion . People would go following King on streets, yelling : “Io Saturnalia”  a traditional greeting of the holiday , would dance, drink,  and according to few historians (  those considered “not so politically correct  ) orgies and promiscuous behavior were a common sight.  Even among same gender people. These were held traditionally after 3rd day of Saturnalia , and were associated with Bacchus ( Dionisian cult )  and modeled after their bacchanalias.

Three Wise Men , following star that lead the to
the birthplace of the Lord Christ
As we can see, all these “customs” have   been adopted even nowadays ( even the promiscuous behavior part lol ) , most of them more than likely being adopted from Ancient Greeks,  anyhow.  Which means, Christians did not “stole” any  part of Pagan tradition ( note that most people claiming this are New-Age oriented Pagan and Wiccans , with minor exceptions ) for these are part of “mundane” not religious or spiritual celebration of Equinox. Another thing Pagans of any kind certainly did not “invent” Equinox and Solstices celebrations, for those predate  vastly all known Pagan religions, and were commemorated in some form   along with the appearance of animism and totemism, If not sooner, in primordial human society.  The messeage I tried to send with those is simple, New Agers , try not to give a bad name to proper Pagans. I know quite a few, they are great friends of mine, and I am a Christian. I enjoy their mythos and  lore, and we do not fight over “copyrights” on spiritual practice. Now    that my little rant us done  proceeding with,  Siggilaria,  and Sol Invictus or the very Winter Equinox celebration in  ancient Rome:

Siggilaria,  day for sharing and gifts

Siggilaria  was a  ancient Roman,  holiday befalling on  23rd of the December and  it’s one of the models for New Age ( among people of Catholic folk also Christmas  )  tradition of gift  exchange.   High value ( priced, expensive ) gifts were acceptable, but the best gifts were considered to be pottery or wax figurines called Siggilaria, that were inexpensive, but depicted well the spirit of  mentioned traditions.  Pieces of clothes, spoons, knives, forks, knucklebones ( for making dices, as these  were considered lucky, much like in Hoodoo, today )  and other alike items were good examples of gifts. Bosses would  help,  with money their  “less ( well ) situated” workers and  customers. Another tradition that continues today,  or at least it   should.  

Although traditionally set on Sigillaria, gift giving and exchange tradition, was sometimes, moved to aftermath of the feast slaves could participate in ( feast meal for slaves, mentioned prior in text ) , and sometimes handing the gifts was followed by recitation of the poem, or the poem would  be written and attached to the  gift in some  appropriate way. This could have  been somewhat a precursor      for gift card tradition, nowadays also a comercionalist’s   favorite  custom ;) 

Sol  Invictus  and Yule

Sol invictus  , was in most  parts of the Roman empire celebrated on 25th of December,   what was considered to be Winter Solstice , and was thus a holiday dedicated to Sun , and it’s light.  Also a date sacred to Roman deity Saturn , all of his aspects (  Benevolent and malevolent  ) , and his consort/s such as Opa, Lua and his associates such as Dis Pater ( Roman version of Pluto, Underworld ruler ) and so on. Mithraists   thought it’s a holiday associated with “freeing of souls into immortality”, the belif probably being influenced   by Porphyry’s  ( Neoplationian philosopher )  writings

Sol invictus was associated with Sun, and idea of Sun being monotheistic in a way ( so called solar “monotheism” ) , universal  in most , if not all pagan religions, not officially recognized as deity on itself,  but in  a way worshiped nevertheless. On this day, Sun was starting to “grow once again, bringing victory over dark, cruel and cold part of the year, period of  darkness and death. Hence why the candles were / are often lit on this day, to help Sun become stronger again , beacon the Sun or Simply  greet it.  Mythraic mysteries  saw it as the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti  which would freely translate “Birthday of the invincible Sun” , and   that  according to some scholars and  common people speculations,   influenced Christian’s Christmas tradition. Once again, I respectfully disagree, because   most of the celebrations adopted are not part of Christian teachings, despite the fact Christians people may adopt and practice them.  The fact that Christmas or Nativity falls on the 25th December is indeed  an intentional act of Christian Church,  which serves to prevent Christian  folk from “overdoing” with what were Pagan customs, however that does not have anything to do with Non Christian population.  Furthermore according to that very same logic,  Pagans stole and corrupted original Equinox  commemorations which  have been  very spiritual yet atheistic originally. With which I would disagree, personally, as I believe that nature oriented  occurrences, such as  Solstices and Equinoxes, are if anything  spiritually universal and predating any sort of organized religion, than theistic.

Furthermore, according to Talmund, it was Adam ( among the humans ) to first notice  the shortening of the days, prior to the Winter Solstice.  And being afriad that is might be punishment for his sins, he  sat  and feasted 8 days prior to the  Solstice, and when after the Solstice day  started lengthening , he  would celebrate for another 8 days. This would make the first period an “atonement period”   and the latter “celebration period”, and would illustrate brilliantly  the concept I spoke of  at the beginning of this post. To properly greet the New Yearn, Nativity, Christmas, Saturnalia, Yule or simply Winter Solstice , we are to purge  ourselves of sins and sorrows , prior to it, face our inner demons and hence cleanse. This is  one of the reasons why Christians fast  40 prior to the Nativity. 

Yule , is sacred to chief Pagan male deity, being the Solar  deity, pagan god, who was believed to be reborn on this very day, prior to which the Sun would  hang on Eastern Cross , or ladders from sky, for three days. Yule is day for resolution, celebration and worship of their sun god, born form the womb of their goddess.  It’s a holiday associated with  greeting the Sun ,  making and lighting the candles , once waxen today bayberry  being more popular material.  Some  aspects of the holiday may differ  in different parts of the world. So in Italy, despite being a solar god related holiday, a mythological figure of good witch called “Befanna” plays important role, carrying gifts to good  kiddies just like St Nicholas, or  Father Christmas ( Santa Claus, Babo Natale in Italian )  does. Universally Yule is associated with new begging/s , mysteries,    all sort of resolutions, mysteries, new life , Inner renewal and  alike. Northern people ( Northern Europe ) have a legend according to which this is the time, when Oak ( summer king ) and Holly ( winter king  ) fight for the dominion over nature. A time when “green men” becomes stronger. Candles are light, amendments made, payers are offered for the world’s peace.  Misteltoe branches are hung, and people kiss beneath such ( another popular custom ),  and  of course the apple wassail which  is akin to modern day caroling, only that participants may  visit orchards rather than actual houses, performing rites  associate with gratitude and abundance,  while singing   specific, traditional,  verses and poems.  Lyrics  would differ from specific region to  region, for example the following one:

Stand fast root, bear well top
Pray the God send us a howling good crop.
Every twig, apples big.
Every bough, apples now.

I personally   liked, is a XIX  century  rhyme from Sussex [1]   The rhyme mentions “howling” ,  which is another ( rarely used ) name for the  given tradition.

This particular ritual illustrates finely  the concept of abundance, associated with the period, which may encompass,     and If so , also transcend  wealth and profusion  in simple material sense. It’s about providing, creation, production that arrives with the rising Sun, rather than simple  greed inspired  desires of   the ego.

Bonfires mostly build from Oak trees were made on these days to empower and beacon the Sun, and torches were hung from trees, while  homes were decorated with evergreen plants and branches, all to entice the Sun and Nature to  return [2]  And like in the aforementioned Hebrew  tale about Adam, this was done out  of the  fear that one would experience seeing the day getting shorter, lesser amount of insolation, as well as plants seemingly withering and animals resorting to  their caves and secluded lair s. Traditional colors associated with the season were White, Dark red, Light green and Gold, and such associations   were transferred to candles    which were lit on Yule.

There, we have discussed various traditions and how they’ve come to affect modern day celebrations associated with Yule, Christmas and New  Year.  I shall try and post in Jaunuary on folk magick and traditions associated with Christmas in January,  for as an  ( Eastern ) Orthodox Christian , we  celebrate the Christmas   on 7th    of January. And now, on the more practical suggestions and tips, for as I  state occasionaly,  this blog is about practical magick


Strictly technically speaking, 25th of December is not a day for spellwork for traditionalists, but for ecclectic and all those willing  to use spiritual energies of the day, here are few  tips:

Blessing ritual for the home

To be performed on 21st of December . I imagined this as an eclectic rituals, devoted to natural principles everyone can tap in.  Considering the aim and power source/s , this ritual may be brilliant for Candlemass  ( Imboloc )  as well and  Osthara ( Spring Equinox ).

You will need:

·         A white, yellow or gold candle

·         Sunstone ( or in lack of thereof , Citrine, or Quartz  crystal, or any associated planetary to the Sun )

·         A jar with spring water

As the sun rises on the East , light the candle and holding lit candle in one, and Sun stone in other hand, facing the east say: 

“Rise Sun, Rise, and hurry my way,
Bring me light and blessing on this day,
Bring thy light, bring thy warmth,  defeat the cold,
Cleanse the iniquity,  restore tranquility,
I greet You, I salute You and take joy in Your  empowerment
Sun bring us health, and abundance,
Joy, luck and intelligence.
Were You rays dwell, no evil may remain.
This is my will
So mote it be! “

 Carry the candle and the stone throughout every room, as You speak positive affirmations or simply visualize rooms being  infused and bathed by light of Sun , Your family happy and home filled with wealth. 

Now place the Sunstone along in the jar with the Spring water and leave it exposed to Sun light  for until the Midday has passed. Then use the water to sprinkle some throughout Your house, and water Your plants. To even  further enhance the ritual effect You can use Rosemary  twig as an aspergent,  and saying some soothing  words of power.

 Yule Incenses

Combine the following ingredients:

·         Bay Laurel  leaf, dry   
      ·         Rosemary
      ·         Cedar wood chips or powder
      ·         Pine needles
      ·         Rue  , dry  grinded
      ·         Cinnamon, powder
      ·         OPTIONAL: Pinch of  Saffron

Can also be burned for exorcism and spirit work. 

Also try this formula:

·         Acacia resin
      ·         Frankincense  tears
      ·         OPTIONAL: Benzoin resin

You can use the this one to cleanse or bless any object, as devotion style ( Winter Solstice  ) incense,  to   fumigate the house. Add Bay Laurel  and/or Allspice  to make it a very  good Success incense,  or add Bay Laurel, and Rosemary to accent more the uncrossing and exorcism note of the incense.

 Candle dedication ritual

As simple as:

Write and/or  state Your petitions regarding Blessings ( for others as well, whole world population ) , Peace and Wellbeing. If You have written those down on a piece of paper fold thrice  to ( towards oneself )  and place under the white candle and light it.

Write and/or sate Your petitions regarding health , well being, strength and love. If You have written those down on a piece of paper fold thrice  to ( towards oneself )  and place under the  dark red candle and light it.

Write and/or state Your petitions for  abundance, fertility, growth and economical stability. If You have written those down on a piece of paper fold thrice  to ( towards oneself )  and place under the  light green candle and light it.

Write and/or state Your petitions for success ( in business , school etc or simply in general )  , wisdom,  defeating diseases, luck   and steady  income. . If You have written those down on a piece of paper fold thrice  to ( towards oneself )  and place under the  light  yellow of gold candle and light it.

Let the candles burn all the way down , and collect the remaining wax, paper, and bury them in Your own yard or in pot with some long living plant.
NOTES: This article was written and composed by myself, therfore should You desire to  use any part of it elswhere feel free but add credits  Shadow of shadows magick place, or a direct link to this post.
[2] paraphrased from  “Encyclopedia of Ancient magic and wisdom” by Cassandra Eason
References:  “Golden Bough” Sir James A. Frazer
                     “Life, myth and art in Ancient Rome” Tony Allan
             IMAGE CREDITS: Both images   used here  are  for illustrative and explanatory purposes only without any ill will, and are from sources :

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