Historic Heathen Yule
Updated: Feb 1
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 Scandinavian's 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 start to get longer again. The ancient ancestors would celebrate Yule because the sun was going to start making the days last longer. This meant Earth was preparing to become fertile again, fields would soon be ready to sow, and Earth and its creations will soon be reborn. Historic Heathen Yule does not have a set date. It relies on the moon phase, which makes sense 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, so it is impossible to give a set date and month of each historically attested holiday. To help explain, I have created my own depiction of what the calendar would look like based on studies done by Andreas Nordberg, PhD:
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 when on, you can expect Yule to take place somewhere between mid-January to 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 year Yule begins on January 28, 2021.
Yule Celebrations from the Viking Age
We have records indicating the Old Norse pagans celebrated with four traditions:
A Sacrifice (blot) - 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 alters, walls and participants using magical twigs. Following this the sacrifice would be cooked over the Hearth's 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 honor of gods and ancestors: Odin for victory and power, Niord and Freyja for peace and 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 want, 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 from the sagas we have evidence of people offering Yule gifts to merchants and friends.
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