Most people today in America are familiar with the Twelve Days of Christmas carol, detailing twelve days of increasingly elaborate gifts, much to the delight of modern retail to encourage us to shop more for the holiday. It is an English folk song and possibly there is a correlation between each of the twelve days, and the upcoming twelve months, but if there was any deeper insight, or folk custom coded into the song, it appears to be lost or garbled to us today. The overall concept of the song, if not the direct inspiration, is based upon the twelve days of Yule.
The Yuletide season went beyond a simple one or two day celebration, and lasted for twelve days and thirteen nights in the Germanic, Norse, and English traditions, though at times the season could have lasted a month or even two. In terms of magickal currents, we can even see the season starting as early as Hallows, or our sabbat of Samhain. The familiar customs of Yule, such as evergreen trees, holly and mistletoe, were absorbed and adapted into Christian celebrations when the birth of Christ was shifted to fit the holidays of a more Pagan calendar. Christian celebrations usually start with Christmas, with the twelfth night then being January 5th. Others in more Pagan traditions start counting at the Winter Solstice, or the eve of the Winter Solstice.
Modern day Heathens put into practice the twelve days of Yule, with various associations since there is no clear cut historic or folkloric information for all twelve days. Often included in the practice are Mother’s Night, and Giving Day or Gifting Day, and concluding with Wassail on the twelfth night. On Mother’s night, the disir, or distaff ancestors, the mothers and matrons, are honored. Modern practitioners often unite Giving Day with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as most everyone else is giving gifts that day and its an easy way to integrate your own customs with your non-Pagan family. Magickal workings during the twelve days could be on the Wild Hunt and the Gods of Winter. Wassail is a celebration of drink, song, and food, where we get the idea of wassailing, as found in some Christmas carols and more mainstream holiday lore. Heathens have even associated their virtues with the Mother’s Night usually starting on the Winter Solstice or the eve of the Solstice. If started on December 20th that makes twelfth night our modern day New Year’s Eve. If started on the Solstice itself, then our last night is usually New Year’s Day.
Inspired by some of the 2012 solstice rituals presented in the book Secrets of a Faery Landscape: new light on the Glastonbury Zodiac by Coleston Brown (Author) and Jessie Skillen (Illustrator) and my own meditations, I was guided by my inner world allies to present a thirteen-day ritual aligned with the solstice, and with the twelve god-forms we work with in the Temple of Witchcraft. These visionary rituals are recorded and available for those who would like to use them, one per day for thirteen days, starting with the solstice.
The Temple’s structure and ministry is based upon the theme of twelve, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and our ministry is divided into twelve basic areas. Each is ruled not only by the sign, but an archetypal function. While the Temple works with spirits who have made themselves known to fulfill these functions, in the public sphere we simply refer to them by their function and title. This allows individual Witches to work with their own spirits and deities who fulfill these roles in their practice when doing individual work, and grants the flexibility of putting the techniques to good use, but not having to ascribe to any particular pantheon to partake in the magickal work.
The ritual revealed to me is a vision work on the twelve godforms, and each vision helps us process the energy of the coming year. Working much like the theory of progressed astrology charts where each day from birth equal a year in the life of the person, each day in this ritual will equate with one zodiac month in our tropical zodiac calendar. While at Samhain we often divine with the ancestors, asking questions about our future, this is less of a question and answer session, and more of a big picture of the spiritual themes in our life as the year unfolds. We start with the Mother on Mother’s Night, whether you choose to start the work on the eve before or on solstice day, and continues the pattern for twelve days.
You can use each of the godforms and zodiac correspondences – Tarot Cards, Gems, Incense, if you so desire, to help facilitate a connection. While we are separating these inner world experiences over thirteen workings, each one builds upon the other, so it’s important to not skip any, nor rush through them. It can also be helpful to have a divination device handy, such as a set of runes or tarot cards, to pull one omen at the end of each working, to help you understand it better, and set the stage of understanding the spiritual lessons for the unfolding year.
The theme of these thirteen visions takes the same motif found in our public Yule ritual for 2013, and expands and deepens it beyond a community and personal celebration, to the realm of deeper inner work, mediating the forces of the heavens with the gods and humanity.
The Thirteen Days of Yule
(Plus all thirteen days as a single 195 MB ZIP archive)
For each of these visions, start by facing the North, for the North is the direction of the Winter Solstice. We align with the magnetic powers of the the planet itself, as well as the Mysteries of the North Star Road where the sacred center guides us.
Enter into a meditative state for each, relaxing the body and counting down to a meditative state visualizing the numbers 12 to 1, and then simply counting back from 13 to 1, for the twelve suns of the year and the thirteen moons of the year. Fill the sphere of your aura with light to create your sacred space, honoring the nine directions of north, south, east, west, above, below, left, right and center. Begin the working.
Each of these workings can occur on the personal, interpersonal and transpersonal levels of mediation. We are witnessing, embodying and mediating these forces for human and planetary consciousness. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to experience them, as each mystic will bring something unique to the working. When done, count yourself back up and ground yourself as needed.