Today is Yule, the second day of the 12 days of Yule. Darkness has dropped its hold and light returns, one sliver at a time. Tonight is the Wild Hunt, where Father Odin and Frau Holle (sometimes called Berchta, Perchten or Bertha) lead their raucous company of the dead and the forgotten spirits through the sky. Goddess help you if you should witness them! you may very well hear them howling outside through this night.
Yesterday was Mother Night in the Heathen tradition and I was busy making preparations for the longest night of the year.
Mother Night or Mōdraniht was recorded by Bede as a heathen feast corresponding with the 12 days of Christmas, and of course this celebration is much older than this record. Traditionally this night is celebrated the night before the Winter Solstice and honours female ancestors and spirits of the land.
We traveled to Nattie Fonten, the sacred well in the North York Moors. I was heartened to see someone before us had cleaned the well, but was discouraged to see myriad plastic twine “offerings” on the branches of the guardian tree there. Rag Wells, or sacred “wishing” wells are often honoured in this way- a small cloth or item of clothing is left as a gift to the well, usually in exchange for healing. Whoever left the rope obviously didn’t understand the tradition, and it felt to me to be a desecration of the site. If the plastic ropes are still there on my next visit I will take them down. I cleared away an empty local honey jar and left my own gifts before filling my flasks with the holy wild water for my work that evening.
I have written about Nattie Fonten on the blog before:
According to Whelan and Taylor, there is historical evidence that Wade’s Causeway, the old Roman road on the moors, ran by this spring. Wade’s Causeway is one of my favourite places on the moor, and perhaps the earth. Some say this road is not Roman at all but prehistoric, or perhaps Medieval, and that it has also been called the Old Wife’s Way. The giant Wade had a wife named Bell, and he built the road for her so she could go milk her giant cow in Pickering, or so the legend goes. So maybe she is the old wife and this is her well. And maybe she is many other things, as the old wife is always the ancient Pagan Earth mother, but I digress.
Last night we burnt the old mistletoe posy that has guarded us since Yule of last year and laid out all my crystals, not only my personal ones but many that will be made into jewellery and tucked into parcels in the coming year. They were smudged with herb smoke and bathed in the water of Nattie Fonten and left for the bright waxing moon to bless.
Now Yule has come, most of my orders have been sent out, things are slowing down and we get to enjoy the season with twelve days of rest, as our ancestors have done. What will you be doing in the long nights of Yule?