Day 75: Yule Log

I’ve always wanted to incorporate a Yule log into my holiday celebrations, so I was happy to hear what Roderick had to say on the subject.

His research has revealed that the Yule log is something of a holdover from other fire festivals.  In those, whole trees would become part of the bonfire.  However, the Yule fire is a hearth fire, thus necessitating a log.  This log, however, was cut from the thickest parts of the tree.  The householder would drag it across his land for luck, and the family decorated it once it made its way to the hearth.  The master of the house would anoint it with oil, salt, and cider or wassail, then the long would be ceremoniously kindled and kept burning over the course of 12 nights.  Other accounts say that the log was to last for at least 12 hours.  At any rate, the family would preserve a piece of the log to act as kindling for the next one.

I think that there’s probably some forethought to be put into the Yule log if you want one.  It’s probably not a good idea to buy a log for this magical purpose (although, having purchased most of my magical tools, it’s a bit hypocritical for me to beat this drum now), so you’ll either have to cut a tree down, or keep a watch out for fallen trees.  If you harvest from a fresh log, you’ll also need to do so several months in advance in order for the log to cure.

But what if you’re like me and don’t exactly have ready access to a fireplace?  Roderick doesn’t give alternates.  I think what I would like to do is to find a log and talk to a carpenter.  I’d probably have one side of the log planed so that it could safely rest on a table, and I’d probably have a series of holes bored into the opposite side so that I could nestle some candles into the log.  Wood is flammable, so I’d probably find some glass votive holders and make sure the holes could accomodate them.  Then I’d decorate the log.  I could probably ritually burn the decorations later and preserve the log for following years.

But that’s not necessary for todays activity.

Exercise:

You don’t need a log for this activity–you could even use a branch or a twig.  Whatever you choose to use, though, sprinkle the wood with salt and vigorously rub it with olive oil.  Cut off one end of the branch and save it as kindling for your Yule log this winter.  Burn the rest of the log in order to release the wood’s magical virtues.  When you are finished, place the ash in a small bundle that you make from a red quare of cloth.  Tie the bundle with green thread and hang it near the heart to keep away unwanted forces.  Be sure to save this ash, as you will use it in future ritual work.

I did not choose any of the magical woods Roderick listed (aspen, birch, holly, oak, pine, or willow), but instead found a twig from my favorite tree in Eugene–the persimmon tree right outside my kitchen door.  I’m not sure what the wood may represent, but Cunningham’s herbal encyclopedia says that persimmons promote health and luck…and there’s even an old wives’ tale that says if a girl can eat nine unripe persimmons, she’ll turn into a boy!  (Of course, unripe persimmons are the most astringent fruit I can think of–if you can make it through nine, you’ll definitely put hair on your chest!)  Maybe health and luck and fortitude will follow me throughout the rest of the year?

I didn’t have any red cloth or green thread, so I saved the ash and the kindling fragment in a little tin.

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