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The Tradition
of the Yule Log

elizabethan yule log

The Christmas tradition of lighting the Yule Log is seldom observed in our postmodern culture of heat pumps and gas log fireplaces. Indeed, the pecan log, jelly roll, or a chocolate-filled sponge cake log have replaced the traditional long-burning Yule log if the tradition is even thought of as being necessary. Nevertheless, the old custom of lighting and burning the Yule Log bears examination because it is fraught with ritual and meaning that is still relevant.

The custom originated with the pagan Norsemen who brought the Yule Log south to France during their invasions, and it eventually came to England via the Normans in 1066. Both the Scandinavian Norse and their Christian descendants believed the Yule Log brought luck—the Norse believed it honored Thor, the Yule (Sun) Father, and used the log in celebration of the Winter Solstice, and the Norman Christians burned the log on Christmas Eve. Even earlier, Pope Julius the I had decreed that the ritual burning of the Yule Log would symbolize the light of the Savior (Son) rather than the Sun, and ultimately, the seasonal burning took place as far south as Greece, as far west as Ireland, and as far north as Siberia.

It is considered bad luck for the Yule Log to be purchased. Instead, it should be cut from one’s own land or the land of a neighbor. In former times, the large log was dragged through the streets to the home, (which in feudal times was the manor house, and all the people of the town would be invited to the Yuletide party.) By custom, it is always lit by a person with clean hands using a scrap of wood from the previous year’s log (kept for luck and to protect the house from lightening, fire, hail, and theft throughout the year), and then guests are invited to drop sprigs of holly onto the burning fire to burn up mistakes, faults, and poor choices from the previous year and thus start the new year with a clean slate.

Guests typically celebrate the lighting of the Yule Log with food and drink – a feast that includes gingerbread men (which traditionally symbolized Christ), cakes and pastries, and hot cider or wassail. Then they sing and dance or tell ghost stories and tales from the past. If the Yule Log casts a headless shadow on the wall, our ancestors would have taken it for a sign that the person whose shadow it was would die during the next year.

Traditionally, it is considered bad luck for the Yule fire to go out before the Christmas Eve night is over as this is an omen that tragedy will strike the family. (In England in the nineteenth century, it was expected to burn the entire twelve days of Christmas, lasting until Epiphany.) In Appalachia, the celebration of family and friends lasts as long as the Yule Log burns. When it goes out, the party’s over.

Whether your faith tradition sees the Yule Log as an honoring of the earth and her cycles, a prayer for the fertility of the land and an end of hunger, a symbol of the light of Christ in each of our hearts, or the holy act of opening our homes and hearts to friends and family in celebration of the season, it is our hope that you will create your own version of the ritual of the Yule Log.

Creating Your Own Yule Log Ritual

To keep the tradition of the Yule Log in the postmodern world, you’ll need a long burning candle. You can often find these in the supermarket or in gift and specialty shops. Some burn up to seven days. It is best if someone gives it to you since traditionally, the Yule Log was not to be purchased. Maybe you and a friend can buy one for each other. I use mine as the center candle of my Advent wreath and light it at midnight on Christmas Eve, saying a prayer for peace on earth as I do.

I particularly like the idea of burning the year's mistake. Since my fire is candle sized, I write all my regrets on a single paper and then light the paper and burn it in an ashtray or abalone shell. I've also burned them outside in a fireproof container so that the smoke doesn't set off the fire detector alarm. Just remember to wash your hands and use the flame from your Yule candle to light the fire. What a symbolic way to let go of old pain and attitudes and welcome in the possibilities of the new year's energies.

Finally, share the ritual burning of the candle with loved ones. Tell stories and make new memories. Have a cup of wassail and maybe even eat a slice of buche de noel, the traditional French version of the Yule Log. Most of all, give yourself a special gift and enjoy the celebration for what it is in the moment.

Have a Joyful Holy-day.

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christmas food

Photo: Purchased from Dreamstime


My Life as a Fat Child

(Editor's note: The holiday season presents even the most dedicated dieter with challenges and choices. The following article by a registered dietician who is also a gifted healer offers a personal story about how food and overeating can mask the True Self. It is the first of a two-part series.)

I was born into a family that had one top priority – FOOD! Both of my parents were overweight. How do you trim down in the midst of a family whose home is stocked with every kind of exotic food just waiting to be eaten? I can never remember a time during childhood when I didn’t feel fat. At the age of 5, I watched a home movie of myself and my brother and saw myself as an “ugly fat girl” in the movie.

My most traumatic memory of being fat came at age 6. Tom, a nine year old boy was teaching me and my new friend Sue, to bat. “Step up to the plate Fatso” he said to me. I was so embarrassed in front of Sue that I said nothing and hoped it would go away. Then, to make things worse, Sue said “Don’t call her Fatso, that’s not her name.” I wanted to disappear when Tom replied: “That’s what you’re supposed to call fat people.”

From that day on I knew I was fat. I cried myself to sleep the next few nights and that memory stayed with me through adult hood. Of course when I went to college I majored in food, seeking to find something familiar away from home. As an adult, I intentionally began to lose the fat. My new trim body brought on a whole new life and (because I could no longer hide behind the fat) new adjustments. Interestingly enough, Tom became my first true love. Years later when I mentioned the Fatso incident, he had no memory of it and apologized profusely.

It is well know that our weight is linked to our emotions. Most of my clients come to me to lose weight and they leave beginning to realize their true identity. When we make the decision to take responsibility for our health and bodies, we are also saying “I’m ready to get to know myself.” A successful weight management program addresses emotional, mental and spiritual health in addition to the physical. In my case, when I lost the weight in early adulthood, I was forced to face myself and my emotions. At that time, I had very little outside support. It is my hope that when you decide to make the move to a slim lifestyle, you will have the support you need. I offer you that support. In the next issue, I’ll review the tools that I and my clients use for successful weight management.

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mary regina asrielMary Regina is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Nutritionist, Certified Hypnotherapist and Registered Karuna Reiki Master/teacher in Asheville , North Carolina . She holds a B.S. degree in Nutrition and Food Science and a M.S. in Clinical Nutrition. She provides group and individual nutritional counseling and support on site and by telephone. www.asrielhealing.com


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Clearing the Clutter, Pt. II

With the holidays approaching, more and more people find that they are scurrying to tidy up and get their homes presentable for the many guests and visitors the seasons brings. Sooner or later, most guests will find their way to the kitchen and the bathroom.

If you are like me and hate scrubbing the gunk that moisture and heat combine to produce, maybe these suggestions about cleaning these two important rooms will motivate you.

Let's start with the bathroom, the room that has the potential to impress or embarrass on any given day.

The Bathroom supports the modern rites of purification and preparation. In ancient times, these rites would have been performed at the temple, and you would have offered a sacred blessing during your ablutions. In modern times, it supports the temple of your body, which must be reverenced and cleansed of the remains of the day.

Keep the energy of the bathroom moving by keeping things in their places. Put toiletries in a place where they are easily found and not crowded. Throw away old hair and skincare products you haven't used in a while (that horrible strawberry lotion that makes you smell like a shortcake, for example). Put toilet paper and cleaners in a cabinet or lidded-basket, and keep dirty clothes and towels in the hamper.

bathroom
Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Put things in the bathroom that stimulate the five senses: a candle, incense, rocks or shells, plants, fabrics like soft towels and a silky robe, bath salts or shower gels, etc. During the holidays, you can add fresh pine boughs or scented pine cones to keep it fresh. The bathroom is an excellent location for a diffuser to scent the air with essential oils. To keep the light soft, add a night light.

Most people say the kitchen is the most hospitable room of their homes. The Kitchen symbolizes nurturing and is the modern-day hearth around which family gathers. With food, family, and friendship, the kitchen nurtures us physically, emotionally, and communally.

chinese bowl and egg
Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, it is easy for chi to get blocked in kitchen because of overcrowding on shelves and cabinets and messy sinks and floors. I find this to be especially true during the holidays when I am cooking more and stacking things that I plan to get to later on the table. Be aware that these are energy traps and plan for more frequent cleanups and clear-outs.

According to Kathryn L Robyn, in Spiritual Housecleaning, “Cleaning the kitchen is a sacred practice that frees up the metaphysical sources for nurturance in your life. This activity builds or reactivates those neural pathways in your brain that track when it’s time to receive proper care and balanced nourishment…If your environment is not satisfying, you will stuff yourself with fluff and lies, and remain malnourished into oblivion. You will not recognize nourishment when it is staring you in the face.”

My mother, who grew up during the Depression, tended to hoard food. I often find myself hoarding as well as much both because I live alone and don't always eat the entire package and because of her early influence. It is a real challenge to me to find the balance between the plenty that feng shui experts say symbolizes health and wealth and the stockpiling that symbolizes lack and fear of deprivation.

This article was taken from a retreat centered around "Finding Our Home" given by Suzanne Eller in 2004. If you would like Suzanne to do a retreat for your group, please call 828-324-8620 or email suzanne@tapestryliferesources.com.

Next Month: The hall and living room.




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Dec. 2004

In this issue:


christmas wine

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Holiday Wassail

8 cups apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks
1 t. whole allspice
1 t. whole cloves
2 sliced lemons
8 cups orange-pineapple juice
1 cup sugar
8 C. red wine (dry)

Place cider, spices, and lemon slices in a large pot and heat over medium -high heat for 20 minutes. Add orange-pineapple juice, sugar and red wine and heat thoroughly. Remove lemon slices and spices before serving. Garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick. Serve warm.
Note: Some people prefer to use cranberry juice rather than orange-pineapple juice.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, Jan.  16
Enneagram Cafe
5:30-7:00 pm

The Episcopal Church of Ascension in Hickory , NC , hosts the third meeting of the Enneagram Cafe. This month's topic is Love, Romance, the Family, and the Enneagram Types. Participants will look at this most important aspect of relating to others in light of their type and the types of those closest to them. Call 828-328-5393 for more information.

Saturday, Jan. 22 & Jan.29
An Enneagram Journey
Time TBA

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Newton, NC, hosts this introduction to the nine personality types of the Enneagram. We will look at the Basic Fears and Basic Desires of each type and discover how these cause us to act in patterns that we can break through to get into close touch with our True Selves and Essence.


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Copyright 2004
Suzanne H. Eller

Quotes of the Season

Christmas Gift Suggestions:

To your enemy,
   forgiveness.
To an opponent,
   tolerance.
To a friend,
   your heart.
To a customer,
   service.
To all,
   charity.
To every child,
   a good example.
To yourself, respect.

~Oren Arnold

victorian children in cart

People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December.
~Ogden Nash

purple spiral

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
~Norman Vincent Peale

purple spiral

I hear that in many places something has happened to Christmas; that it is changing from a time of merriment and carefree gaiety to a holiday which is filled with tedium; that many people dread the day and the obligation to give Christmas presents is a nightmare to weary, bored souls; that the children of enlightened parents no longer believe in Santa Claus; that all in all, the effort to be happy and have pleasure makes many honest hearts grow dark with despair instead of beaming with good will and cheerfulness.
~Julia Peterkin, A Plantation Christmas, 1934

purple spiral

The soul, like the moon, is new, and always new again.

And I have seen the ocean continuously creating.

Since I scoured my mind and my body,
I too, Lalla, am new, each moment new.

My teacher told me one thing,
Live in the soul.

When that was so,
I began to go naked, and dance.

~Lalla (Lad Ded),
Kashmiri (14th Cent.) Translated by Coleman Barks