Yule and the Wild Hunt

Odin’s Wild Hunt by PN Arbo 1872

Yule is one of the most important celebrations in the Heathen calendar and is usually celebrated on or around the 21st of December. The date of Yule/Winter Solstice can vary by a day or so each year, this year the Solstice actually falls on Tuesday, 21st December at 11.38pm.

For this month’s article, I’ve invited Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson, the Godi/spiritual leader of Rheinwood Hearth Kindred, to give his comments on Yule and the Wild Hunt.

Thoughts on Yule
By Vaygar Yngvi Elmersson

The concept of Christmas has often been a source of disappointment for me even after a life-long experience in Christianity. Coming into Heathenry twelve years ago, it was such an easy and enjoyable transition to observe Yule instead of the Christ-mass. Yule is possibly a Heathen’s most highly celebrated holiday. As a matter of fact, many of the traditions used in Christmas have their origin in the pre-Christian expression of Yule; the most immediately notable is that of the bringing of a tree inside the home and decorating it. So the idea of honestly celebrating something more aligned to my Germanic heritage excited me beyond measure, minus any guilt that might be levied against me via the Church hierarchy.

Heathen Yule actually has two stories prevailing within it. My initial exposure to Yule was that which surrounds the Winter Solstice. The second story is that of The Wild Hunt.

The Wild Hunt is a story involving Odin and his cohorts riding through the skies during the dark nights of Winter snatching up souls who venture outside their homes. As horrid as this spectacle might seem, to me, it makes perfect sense considering the land and the origin of this Myth. Coming from the Northern European Tradition such as this story does, in my opinion, it has been told, retold and embellished in an effort to discourage anyone from leaving the confines of their home during the dark and snowy nights of winter. Realistically speaking, it was simply dangerous to go outside one’s home for anything after dark for fear of getting lost or misguided in the night. It was easier for adults to tell children horror stories to scare them into submission rather than fill their heads with fanciful ideas. Connected to the Wild Hunt are even more realistically scary ideas of Berserkers and wild animals. Superstitions can play a vital role in controlling group behavior. I can see those of the Warrior/Viking aspects of Heathenry preferring to adhere to the stories of the Wild Hunt as it makes for much better story telling around the hearth-fire through Winter. This continues to be played out in today’s society with Heathen groups focused more on masculine deities like Odin, Thor and Tyr.

The Yuletide Celebration that I encourage with Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is that which surrounds the more agrarian nature of the Winter Solstice; that being, the shortest day and the longest night of the year with the encouraging of the return of the sun and warmth to the land. I have replaced “The Twelve Traits to Remember” previously offered by Swain Wodening; often connected to the Twelve Days of Yule (predecessor to the Twelve Days of Christmas), with our commonly held Nine Noble Virtues plus three very important dates of Mother‘s Night, the Winter Solstice and 12th Night which in my opinion were overlooked by Swain‘s effort. Rheinwood’s Twelve Days of Yule, starting roughly around December 20th, are patterned thus:

1st day of Yule – Mother’s Night-honoring the feminine
2nd Day of Yule – The Winter Solstice-encouraging the return of the sun
3rd Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Courage
4th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Truth
5th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Honor
6th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Fidelity
7th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Hospitality
8th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Discipline
9th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Industriousness
10th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Self-Reliance
11th Day of Yule – Remembering the Noble Virtue of Perseverance
12th night-oaths, boasts and toasts

Any time during these Twelve Days of Yule, Rheinwood Hearth Kindred can meet for feasting and celebration! We also don period garb in an effort to connect with our culture, ancestors and gods. We celebrate our relationships with each other as Kindred by speaking words and sharing mead over our Kindred drinking horn.

The Rheinwood Hearth Kindred is located in Wichita, Kansas. We invite you to check us out.

For many Heathens the Wild Hunt is a strong tradition, which they still uphold even in this modern age. If you would like to find out more about the Wild Hunt, please go to each of the following links as they all have different points of view:

The Wild Hunt – Wikipedia page

The Wild Hunt – Orkneyjar page

The Wild Hunt – Hlidskjalf page

However you celebrate Yule, whether it’s by raising a horn to the ancestors or quietly sharing time with your loved ones, I wish you and yours a very Happy Solstice.

Blessings to your Hearth,

Edain Duguay.com
Paranormal/Fantasy Novelist, Best Selling eBook Author and Award Winning Blog Writer.

Author of the blogs:
English, Pagan and in Canada
Gramarye, The Magical Homestead

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Wedding Vows

One of the big differences between a Pagan handfasting and either a civil or Christian wedding in the UK, is the vows. Pagans make their own (not legally binding) pledges to each other, defining their relationship in whatever way makes sense to them. So we might well pledge to stay together for as long as love lasts, not until death do us part, which is a lot more realistic, and makes it easier to walk away with honour if the relationship doesn’t work out. We commit based on our own natures, so whether we accept and offer monogamy is a matter of choice. And at the other extreme, Pagans can and do pledge to love each other not only for this lifetime, but for always. I love the flexibility and the scope for honouring the relationships we have rather than trying to shoehorn them into pre-determined shapes.

I was caught up in a debate online somewhere about why women stay with abusers. There are lots of reasons, but it started me thinking about the vows I made, some 9 years ago. “For better or worse.” That’s such an ambiguous thing to promise. You could interpret that as meaning you were signing up to being treated in whatever way it turned out your partner found acceptable. I’m good with ‘For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health’ that’s simply a commitment to stand by your partner in hard times. But ‘for better or worse’ suggests a responsibility to stay even when things are awful. Now, standing by someone through hard times not of your making, is a good and honourable thing to do. But standing by a person who makes life hard for you, is a whole different issue.

Marriage is a contract. The regular vows are a set of commitments to stick with a person, treat them with care and respect. Honour and cherish them. I am increasingly inclined to feel that the contractual nature of this agreement should be made a lot clearer. The whole not committing adultery aspect is made very clear in marriage services, but the importance of honouring, caring and treating with respect are so critical. If a person doesn’t do that, if they are persistently cruel, careless, irresponsible or otherwise not keeping to their side of the deal, no one should feel obliged to stick that out ‘for better or worse.’

Christian and conservative values are all about upholding marriage as the best thing for everyone. Anything that makes it easier to get out isn’t popular. But there are many people who do need out, and many good reasons for enabling it. Making people promise to stay together for life is, I feel, wrong. Fine if a person wants to make that commitment, but that shouldn’t be the only option. I’d much rather, especially in civil services, that people promised to love, cherish and honour, and to stay with that person for as long as they both held that marriage in its proper state – which doesn’t preclude lifelong marriage. In an ideal world, I’d like it even more if everyone could make their own vows and terms, pagan style, and people were, as with handfastings, able to divorce on the simple grounds of not wanting to be married to each other anymore. One day…