Historic Heathen Yule
Updated: Aug 26
It is not déjà vu. It really is Yule!
There is a lot of talk in the heathen and pagan communities about why so many people believe the original date for Yule is December 21st every year. This research-based article will give you the facts within three minutes.
(If you want to learn more about the variants and evolution of the holiday, click HERE)
Yule: This midwinter celebration goes way back. Back to (as early as) the 4th century. The Germanic-Saxons called it Jólaboði (Jól), and the Scandinavians called it Jul. Both translate to the English word 'Yule.'
Most of our traditions were taken from the Medieval Scandinavian Era: The Viking Age (793 AD – 1066). During this time, people relied on Norse mythology as a basis of culture.
Historians have deciphered that Yule starts during the longest and coldest time of the year. After this, days begin to get longer again. The ancient ancestors would celebrate Yule because the sun starts making the days last longer. This meant the earth is preparing to become fertile again, fields will soon be ready to sow, and Earth and its creations are ready for rebirth. Historic Heathen Yule does not have a set date. It relies on the moon phase because the calendar (as we know it) did not exist.
Yule would occur during the months of Jolmanuðr. Every month was structured around lunar phases, making it impossible to give a set date and month for each historically attested holiday. To help explain, I have created a depiction of what the calendar would look like based on studies done by Andreas Nordberg, Ph.D.:
Typically the original date of Yule would have been somewhere between mid-December and mid-January. This is because the historic Heathen calendar was made up of the lunar calendar, where each new moon was a new month. The Old Norse ancestors would have celebrated Yule three full moons between the summer moon (Sigurblot) and winter moon (Winter Nights). This celebration would last three days and nights. As time and moon go on, you can expect Yule to occur between mid-January and mid-February.
The secret to defining the date? Specifically, Yule takes place on the first full moon after the new moon of the Winter Solstice. This Yule begins on January 16 2023, and will last three nights.
Yule Celebrations from the Viking Age
We have records indicating the Old Norse pagans celebrated using four traditions:
A Sacrifice (blót) - The pagans would sacrifice farm animals and display them in front of their homes, so people knew what animals were being sacrificed for the gods. The blood of the animals would be sprinkled on altars, walls and participants using magical twigs. The sacrifice would be cooked over the Hearth fire and served to the hall.
Feasting - There would be celebratory drinking of mead and feasting of the sacrificed animals. Cups would be raised in honour of gods and ancestors: Óðinn for victory and power, Njördr and Freya for peace and a good season, and for departed friends and family buried in mounds.
Yule Oaths - Oaths sworn on this day were unbreakable by pagan law. You could promise anything you wanted, but there were heavy consequences if you broke it. In some cases breaking the ultimate oath could result in death.
Yule Gifts - Not much is said about what was gifted back in the historical heathen days, but we have evidence of people offering Yule gifts to merchants and friends from the sagas.
If you are interested in learning why there are many variations of Yule, or you want to read more through my sources, check out my original research article this information was taken from: https://www.pagankids.org/post/historyofyule