Crafts for the 12 Days of Yule

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On the 1st Day of Yule, Modranicht, make Yule Hearts in honor of the Mothers.

On the 2nd Day of Yule, the Night of the Wild Hunt, make a craft stick model of Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse.

On the 3rd Day of Yule, the High Feast of Yule, make paper cornucopias to fill with treats and hang on your Yule tree.

On the 4th Day of Yule, sacred to Ægir, Njörðr, and Freya, make a Vanir treasure box.

On the 5th Day of Yule, sacred to community, make a community wreath.

On the 6th Day of Yule, sacred to the goddess Eir and Healing, make healing bath crystals.

On the 7th Day of Yule, Sacred to Thor, make a craft-stick Mjölnir to hang on your Yule tree.

On the 8th Day of Yule, Sacred to Skadi & Ullr, make Skaði and Ullr figurines.

On the 9th Day of Yule, Sacred to Odin, make an Odin the Wanderer craft.

On the 10th Day of Yule, sacred to Sunna & the Ancestors, make paper sun crafts and ancestor yarn dolls.

On the 11th Day of Yule, sacred to the Goddesses & Valkyrie, make paper valkyrie & goddess ornaments.

On the 12th Day of Yule, Oath Night, make marzipan pigs for good luck in the new year.

*For most Heathens, the 12 days of Yule starts on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The date of the Solstice changes from year to year, but usually falls somewhere between the 20th and 22nd of December.
However, at my house we start our 12 day celebration on the 20th every year– even when it doesn’t fall on the eve of the Solstice. This is because when one is celebrating Yuletide as a 12 night event, starting on the 20th means the last night of the celebration ends up being on our modern culture’s New Year’s Eve. This holds special significance because the 12th night is Oath Night.

12 days of Yule crafts

12 Nights of Yule — Dough Ornaments

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Simple symbols crafted in dough is a classic craft to help kids celebrate the 12 Nights.

Salt dough can last a long time if stored well. You can add cinnamon for color and scent. Apple cinnamon dough is another alternative with a darker color and stronger scent. Besides the dough ingredients, you’ll need a flat working surface, rolling pin, cookie and biscuit cutters, a butter knife, toothpick (and/or any clay tools you might like to use), a straw (for making a hole for hanging), and wax paper on a tray or piece of cardboard (for drying). After the ornaments dry, you’ll need string or ribbon for hanging.

Some of the symbols are pretty straight-forward cookie cut-outs, for others, there’s a little bit of method involved. Evenly roll out your dough to a medium thickness; too thin and it will break easily, too thick and it will weigh too much to hang on your Yule tree. Remember to lightly dampen dough with water when joining pieces or adhering to a base layer.

For the 1st Night of Yule, sacred to Frigga and the Dísir (ancestral guardian mothers), make a Three Matronae ornament. Roll out your dough and cut out a circle using a medium lid as a template. Cut out three triangles and attach to the circle side by side. Cut out three circles with a small circle cutter or bottle cap, and attach to base above triangles to represent hair or halos. Roll out smaller circles for their heads and flatten just above triangles. Roll out little coils of dough for their arms. Make little half circle bowls for one or more of them to hold. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

three mothers ornament

For the 2nd Night of Yule, the night of the Wild Hunt, simply roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to cut out an animal shape that represents the Hunt. A horse is a good one, and so is a hound. It is easy to find deer cookie cutters and this would work nicely as well. Use tools to etch in details and texture, if you like. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

For the 3rd Night, the High Feast of Yule, make a cornucopia. Roll out your dough and cut out a large circle shape, using a biscuit cutter or lid. Use a small biscuit cutter (about 1/2 the size of the big one) to cut away a piece from the edge of your dough circle to where you have a fat crescent. Place a biscuit cutter over one of the crescent ends. Press down on one side only to round out and trim away the end. Roll out a dough coil and form into a circle to place on the rounded end of the dough circle. Use your thumb to indent dough inside coiled ring. Add little dough balls to represent fruit. (You can press in whole cloves for fruit stems.) Use the handle of a butter knife to press ridges into the cornucopia. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

cornucopia ornament

The 4th Night of Yule is sacred to Freya, Njörd, and Ægir, but we like to honor the whole of the Vanir gods as well. The wagon wheel is a symbol of the Vanir, and the heart is a symbol for Freya. To make this wagon wheel ornament, roll out your dough and use a lid or biscuit cutter to cut out a circle. Using a small heart cutter, cut our four hearts around the center, with points toward the center. This establishes a four spoke wheel. Take the hearts that were cut out and attach around the edges between the cut out hearts.

vanir wheel

For the 5th Night of Yule, the night of community, use a cookie cutter to cut out a house shape, and a small cutter to cut out a window. Alternatively, you could cut out out several people with cookie cutters and join their hands together. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

For the 6th Night of Yule, sacred to Eir, goddess of healing, make a mortar and pestle. Roll out dough and use a large biscuit cutter to cut out a circle. Use the same biscuit cutter to trim pieces out of both sides to resemble a mortar. Use a butter knife to cut a straight bottom. Attach a coil shape to the top (at a sideways slant) and a flatten a ball shape to the top of the coil. Make dough coils for the top and bottom rims of the mortar and attach. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

mortar and pestle

For the 7th Night of Yule, sacred to Thor, make Thor’s goat. Roll out you dough and use a goat cookie cutter to cut out the shape. If you don’t have a goat cookie cutter, use a deer cookie cutter instead; after you have cut out the shape, trim away the antlers and replace with little coils of dough to resemble goat horns. Use a fork to scrape in fur texture, or press some dough through a garlic press and attach to goat. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

For the 8th Night of Yule, sacred to Skaði and Ullr, make a snowflake. If you don’t have a snowflake cookie cutter, you can use a star cookie cutter. Roll out your dough and use the pointy end of a small heart cookie cutter to cut two notches out of the sides of each star point. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

snowflake ornament

For the 9th Night of Yule, sacred to Odin, make a Yule Father ornament. Roll our your dough and use a Santa cookie cutter to press out your shape. You can make the ornament look more like Odin by pinching the top of the hat to make it pointy (instead of pom-pom topped), and pinching up a hat brim. You can also make him an eye patch. Press in face details with a toothpick or other tool. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

Odin ornament

For the 10th Night of Yule, sacred to Sunna and the Ancestors, make a sun ornament. If you don’t have a sun cookie cutter, use a flower cookie cutter instead. See my sun plaque article for tips on making a sun face. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

For the 11th Night of Yule, sacred to all of the goddesses and the Valkyrie, make a goddess/Valkyrie ornament. Roll out your dough and cut out a triangle shape. Cut out and attach two teardrop shapes to the triangle sides. Attach a cut out of an upside down heart over the top of the triangle, and a flattened dough ball above this. Use the handle of a butter knife to press in skirt folds. Use coiled dough to make the arms and hair. (Alternatively, you could use an angel cookie cutter to make this ornament.) Use toothpick or other tools to add details, if you like. Poke holes in the top of each wing for hanging and set aside to dry.

goddess ornament

For the 12th Night of Yule, Oath Night, sacred to all the gods, make either an Oath Night pig, or a bell to ring in the New Year. Roll out your dough and use your choice of cookie cutter to cut out your shape. Use tools to add details, if you like. Poke a hole in the top for hanging and set aside to dry.

When your ornaments are dry, you can paint them. If you added cinnamon to your dough (or used apple cinnamon dough), you will want to let the dough show instead of painting over it. But you may want to use a little bit of white puff paint on dark dough for accents and contrast. When paint is dry, lace a string or ribbon through the hole for hanging.

Parents, you can use the ornaments to help your child commemorate each Night of Yule… have each of them put away in their own individual drawstring bags (or drawers in a box), and have your child take out each ornament on it’s specified day and hang on your Yule tree.

12 Nights of Yule Dough Ornaments

salt-dough hog’s head

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Long ago, people made their First Night oaths while placing a hand over a hog’s head at the last of the Yule feasts of the year. Modern Asatrúar usually use a ceremonial ring or hammer these days. However, I thought it would be fun to sculpt a hog’s head from salt dough to use in such a way, or at least use as an altar piece or table setting to remind us of our ancestors. Here is how I made it:

salt dough hog's head

1. First, I mixed up a batch of salt dough. To make the dough go further, and dry faster, I wadded up a piece of aluminum foil to go in the middle and wrapped the dough around it.

2. To the ball shape, I added a snout.

3. I used my thumb to indent eyes on either side of the head, and inserted blue marbles for eyes.

4. The end of a fork made a nice tool for creating a bit of fur texture.

5. I used a butter knife to create ridges on top of the snout.

6. The butter knife was just the right size for making the nostrils as well.

7. For the tusks, I made little indentions in the sides with the end of a wooden spoon and attached little tapered coils of dough. (Remember to lightly wet dough when joining pieces.) I used the same method to make the ears.

8. To add more dimension to the fur texture, I snipped lightly into the dough all over, from front to back, with scissors.

Later, I cut a slit in the mouth and inserted a ball of dough to resemble an apple. When the project was completely dry, I painted it with water-based antiquing medium, and painted the apple barn red.

Hog's Head

Our Little Thanksgiving

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A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about my family’s emerging Thanksgiving traditions. In my opinion, it was golden. There are few things I would change today.

A couple of my kids have grown up and gone their own way and don’t always come to my house for this holiday, so we’ve scaled down food-wise… we make fewer starchy dishes, and just add dried cranberries to the dressing, instead of making the fresh uncooked cranberry sauce. Also, we make Turkey Breast of Wonder in the crockpot. Its so delicious, much less fuss, and frees up the oven for other baking.

We still use our Thanksgiving playlist, and the fourth season Thanksgiving episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still optimal viewing. Later, per my youngest daughter’s request, we go see the lights on the town square. I hate the cold, but its worth it to get to the square for kettle corn and hot chocolate.

We try to remember to make toasts. If I can remember to buy cider (Angry Orchard hard cider for this mamma), and get out the goblets, then I can usually remember to initiate making toasts. I hope you and yours are having a lovely holiday. Here is my favorite toast…

Hail the Gods, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits!
From the Kindreds, we receive
and to the Kindreds, we give.
Together we share,
and from this we live.

thanksgiving toast

early group struggles and finding self confidence

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A few years ago I started an ADF study and discussion group. We were just three ADF members getting together in a coffee shop. Membership and attendance remained small, but we kept on meeting, taking a small break in the winter for bad weather. After a while we became a Protogrove, and I volunteered to be the Grove Organizer because no one else was volunteering for the position. There was one other member farther along in the study programs than me, and who took a leadership role in meetings, but due to a chronic illness, he would not take the position. So I became the organizer, but all of us really looked to him as our leader. We carried on as we were for a while, having coffee shop meetings, and a few others joining us as time went by. Sometimes we’d talk about having a ritual for this or that High Day, but it would always get canceled a few days before the date due to fore mentioned person’s illness. We were essentially a discussion group, and I was fine with that.

Then suddenly, this person I mentioned stopped showing up. I was a nervous wreck. I am a lifelong shy introvert and suddenly it was all on me. Attendance dropped down to just three; myself and a married couple I’ll call Sue and Sam. Sue and Sam were not ADF members and seemed not too interested in ADF. I believe they attended because they couldn’t find an open Wiccan group. Sue was a real talker. So there were no awkward silences. There was also no structure to the conversations. Sometimes I would try to interject something Druid-y into the random conversation, but most of the time I would get interrupted so many times that I would forget what I was going to say. Since there was consistently only three of us at these meetings for months, and I was the only ADF member there, I became very discouraged. Sometimes a new person would come to a meeting, not say much, and then not come back. At the time I wished that I had that option, but I knew that my role was all too official for me to give up, and I couldn’t think of a way out of it.

Then a new person came to a meeting. I’ll call him Andy. Andy was already a member, and committed to ADF. He told us all about himself, was witty and interesting, and became a regular attendee and member of the Protogrove. I tell you, he was the Protogrove’s saving grace. So then it was four of us; me, Andy, and Sue & Sam. For some reason, Sue didn’t seem to like Andy all that much, and when we started talking about having one of our twice monthly meetings in a neighboring town, Sue and Sam left the group. That’s when more members gradually started trickling in. Before I knew it, we had seven active members, and several non-member attendees. We outgrew our location and starting meeting at a park and having rituals there too. Conversations at meetings were not difficult anymore. I didn’t need to steer the conversation toward Druidism because, with that many ADF members, it naturally went in that direction.

As for rituals, I was really nervous at first. Historically, when I have to speak in front of a group, I would get a feeling of dread for days, then when it came time to speak, my voice would shake. That’s how it was leading these rituals at first. Then people started volunteering to take on talking parts or even lead a ritual themselves. I grew really at ease with the group. We had great conversations. I stopped being nervous about meetings. Then, one day, I stopped being nervous about rituals as well. My voice evened out. The dread and worry disappeared. I started enjoying speaking in ritual, and if you know me in person, you know that’s really saying something.

So how did this change in confidence happen? I think a lot of it had to do with my getting to know the group through our discussion meetings. I gradually became at ease with talking to them. I also changed the conversation with myself in my head. The last time I got nervous before a ritual, I was able to stop feelings of nervousness and dread by reminding myself that they’re all my friends. I told myself “This is just like when we have discussion meetings. I’m talking with my friends in the park. Its going to be fun, as usual.” Those words were like magic, and have lasting power! (Also, it didn’t hurt that I asked Odin for good speech, and Thor for strength.)

So if you’re wanting to start an ADF or other Pagan group, and think you are too shy and/or introverted, think again. Finding self confidence is more about practicing social skills and getting comfortable with other people than about trying to impress. If you are struggling with a small group with poor dynamics, hang in there! Sometimes you have to face what you dread, and wait out the bad times, to get the community you want.

If you are thinking about attending a local Pagan group, but are having second thoughts or thinking that it wouldn’t matter if you show up or not– just show up! You might be some group’s saving grace, or at least play a very important part of the dynamic. Do not under-estimate the value of belonging to a spiritual community.

explaining polytheism to kids

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In this world dominated by monotheism, it can be difficult raising children in a polytheistic faith. Although you don’t want to dictate what your kids believe, it is reasonable to give polytheism a fair and equal representation so that your children can make a informed decision on what to believe.

When kids are young, they are more likely to believe what we believe, but soon mainstream school mates and playmates challenge those beliefs. So it becomes necessary to provide some logic and reasons for our ways. Here are some basic ideas that can uphold polytheistic belief:

nature is complex and diverse
Nature, life, the universe… is so amazing, intricate, and complex, it makes more sense that its creation was a team effort, rather than the masterpiece of one divine being. Metaphors and examples of the many creating something big and complex can be found in nature, as well as in humankind’s advances.

absolute power doesn’t exist
Monotheists commonly claim that their deity is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and all-good (omnibenevolent). However, if this were true, there would be no evil in the world, because such a god would not have allowed it. It wakes more sense that there is a group of deities that share power, and are not omni- anything, but are helpers to nature and humankind. Such deities may have different strengths, interests, and areas of influence.

many spirits, many gods
If one believes that the soul (and personality) survives the death of the body, then logic dictates the existence of spirits in some sort of spirit world (or transition state before reincarnating). If a multitude of spirits exists, why shouldn’t a multitude of deities exist as well? Perhaps some of the gods are old and wise ancestral spirits who have evolved over time.

Some of these ideas are simplistic, I admit, and not without fault. But they are compelling on certain levels, and meaningful to contemplate. Older children and teens may want more thorough arguments and would benefit from reading “A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism” by John Michael Greer.

One great tool from Greer’s book mentioned above is the “cat analogy”. From age four, most children can understand the use of metaphor in a story, so the cat analogy can be very useful in explaining the logic of polytheism compared to other types of belief. To summarize the story, there was once a village with five houses. A researcher decided to go door to door and ask the villagers about their beliefs…

At the first house, the villager believed in one great Cat (which he had seen once), and left kibble out for him. He believed that other households left out kibble for a “false cat” that didn’t exist and that hobos probably ate that kibble. (This villager was a “mono-felist”.)

At the second house, the villager believed in one Cat (which he had also seen once, but looked different from what the other villager described), and believed that other people were not only worshiping false cats that didn’t exist, but inadvertently worshiping lesser evil creatures… and that evil sewer rats probably ate that kibble. (This villager was a “mono-felist” as well, but with a more sinister view of other beliefs.)

At the third house, the villager believed in one great Cat as well, but believed that Cat may look different to different people (mainly because they didn’t get a good look at Cat). This villager also claimed to know how Cat really looks, and what kind of kibble he prefers. (This villager was an inclusive “mono-felist”.)

At the fourth house, the villager believed that all the other villagers were delusional, that there were no cats, but only figments of their imagination. (This villager was an “a-felist”.)

At the fifth house, out on the edge of the village, the villager acknowledged that there are many cats. She had seen them on many occasions. (This villager was a “poly-felist”.)

village

There is much more detail of the story in Greer’s book, plus much discussion of it. Some points you might like to discuss after telling the story: On what do the villagers base their beliefs? Which one is based most on observation and experience? Do any of the villagers’ views involve special pleading?

Some other ways to reinforce a Pagan mindset (if not the logic) in young children are:
~to read mythology (see my recommendations for Norse and Celtic mythology for children),
~to talk about your own relationship with the gods and spirits,
~point out the gods’ influence in nature and in our lives and give thanks,
~teach prayers, blessings, and devotionals, and
~sing songs from The Heathen Songbook Online. I especially like “My Gods, Your Love” and “All the Gods Are Here With Us”.

explaining polytheism to kids

flying devil oil

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Now that we are well into the dark half of the year, my thoughts turn to workings of decrease and defensive magic. One of the best items to have in your magical supply cabinet is flying devil oil. This fast acting oil is reputed to be the best for all kinds of defensive magic. Use it for banishing evil or negativity, or to reverse a malevolent spell or curse. But do not wear it one your skin, it may burn!

Making flying devil oil is simple. Do so with reverence and intent. Select a small bottle (you may want to sanitize it with boiling water to keep the oil from going rancid) and add red pepper flakes, ground red pepper, then olive oil. Give it a good shake.

Use flying devil oil to anoint your entryways and windows for house protection rituals. You can use it on ritual tools, sachets, poppets, petition papers, and talismans (that aren’t worn against the skin). You can use it to anoint uncrossing candles. You can even use it in and of itself as a spell bottle… When you feel negative vibes, or have negative thoughts, just go get your flying devil oil off the shelf and give it a good shake. Watch the pepper flakes fly around in the oil and visualize them burning through negativity. You can add a spoken spell like “Harm and hurt has no hold on me.”

flying devil oil