Tag Archives: altars

The 9th Night of Yule

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The ninth night of Yule is sacred to Odin. A good way to commemorate the day is by reading and contemplating the Hávamál. Children can learn about the Allfather through books like D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths or Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology by Brian Branston. One of the names of Odin is Jólfaðr – “Yule Father”. Many people believe that Odin was the prototype for the modern Santa.

Our small ritual feast includes Rinderrouladen and other favorites. Toasts and libations are made, poems read, and songs played. A great resource for the poems and songs, of course, is the Odin’s Gift website, but for just listening, or Odin’s night “ambiance”, there’s music by Hymir’s Kettle, Carved in Stone, and Wadruna.

Odin's Night

This is an excellent night for studying the runes and divining omens for the year ahead. There’s a nice introduction to the runes for kids in How to Be a Viking by Ari Berk.

9th night of Yule

The 8th Night of Yule

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The eighth night of Yule is sacred to Skaði and Ullr. Skaði is a jötunn goddess associated with winter, skiing, bow hunting, and mountains. Likewise, Ullr is a god of archery, hunting, and winter.

8th Night of Yule

Now, if you’ve ever been to the Ozarks, you will have noticed that we don’t have much of a winter most years, so you may wonder why someone in this part of the world would want to honor these particular gods. Well, we do live in the mountains, which would put us under Skaði’s domain, and in recent years we have had a few fierce ice storms sneak up on us.

And let us not forget the hunting aspect of their powers; if you have any hunters or archers in the family, this may be a good time for them to do a blessing for their hunting equipment and/or archery gear. If you live on of near a mountain, that would be an ideal place to leave offerings and libations.

Quite a number of poems and invocations for Skaði and Ullr on the Odin’s Gift website. Choose your favorites to use in a simple blót or ritual dinner. For the kids, the night can take on a snow theme; have them make paper snowflakes to decorate the home and altar. If you do have enough snow outside, consider making some snow ice-cream. Our meal for the night is Hunter’s Stew, Pan Rolls, Snow Ice-Cream or Snowball Cookies.

8th night of Yule

The 7th Night of Yule

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The seventh night of Yule is sacred to Thor. We have a simple ritual feast in his honor and thank him for protecting us all year long. Prayers, readings or toasts my be spoken in his honor and libations made. I find my inspiration for this from the Odin’s Gift website, which has many songs about him as well.

Thor's Night

Later, we may read stories about Thor from The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God by Lise Lunge-Larsen, and perhaps make a craft stick Mjölnir or try making a straw Yule goat, symbolic of the goats that pull Thor’s chariot.

This is the ideal time to bless a ceremonial hammer, if you have one, or bless family members’ Mjölnir pendants. Acorns are given to each family member to carry in their pockets for luck, for the mighty oak is Thor’s sacred tree. An acorn necklace makes an inconspicuous and inexpensive devotional pendant for a child to wear any time.

7th night of Yule

The 6th Night of Yule

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The sixth night of Yule is sacred to Eir and Healing. For those of us who start our 12 night celebration on the 20th, this night falls on the 25th. In an alternative 12 Days of Yule I have come across, this day was called “Children’s Day”– I suspect to allow for the gift-giving customs and other merriment associated with Christmas. While we do observe these customs, they are mainly on the morning of the 25th. By the time evening arrives, the calming energy if Eir is a welcome respite.

The Pagan Book of Hours website has a beautiful Eir blót to use at this time. We place herbs and medicines on the altar for blessing, and our feast in Eir’s honor is Baked Chicken with Apricot Wild Rice. The leftover bones are saved for making healing chicken broth base for soups.

6th night of Yule

The 5th Night of Yule

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The fifth night of Yule is sacred to community. If you have a Pagan group you gather with, you may want to organize a potluck, wassail, or other such get together and (even better) make it open to the public. (Community is not just your Pagan group.)

Hail, ye Givers! a guest is come;
say! where shall he sit within?
Much pressed is he who fain on the hearth
would seek for warmth and weal.
-Hávamál

If, however, you start your 12 Yule nights on the twentieth every year (like we do), the fifth night of Yule always falls on the 24th of December. Most Pagans I know still observe the customs of Christmas Eve with their extended families and may not be available for such a get-together.

However, depending on where you live, you may find some kind of liberal/interdenominational community celebration going on, similar to those ideas mentioned above… it doesn’t matter that you’re not celebrating the same thing. The point is reconnecting with community, whoever/wherever your larger community is.

Where we live, the town square is lit up and filled with people all December long, so this is a great night to go out in the center of the community and see the lights, listen to the live music, and get a hot chocolate and some kettle corn from the street vendors. It’s our go-to option for getting out into the community if we have no other plans.

5th Night

Back home, we make gingerbread people and/or gingerbread houses. Our story for the kids is Some Friends to Feed: The Story of Stone Soup by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs.(A song is part of the story, and a CD is included in the back of the book.)

Our simple blessing:
May the Æsir and Vanir watch over this community.
May peace come to all who live here.

Our playlist:
Turn the World Around by Belafonte
I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing by The New Seekers
Everyday People by Sly & The Family Stone
Joy To The World by Three Dog Night
All Together Now by The Farm

5th night of Yule

The 4th Night of Yule

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The fourth night of Yule is sacred to Ægir, Njörð & Freya. It would logically follow that this holiday would have an ocean theme, since both Ægir and Njörð are ocean gods. However, since we don’t live near the ocean, we’ve chosen this night to honor the Vanir race of gods in general, with an emphasis on those ones better known to us. A lovely Vanir blót found on Jordsvin’s Norse Heathen Pages that was written for the Equinox, can be adapted to the season of Yule.

Beautiful songs for Frey and Freya can be found on the Heathen Songbook Online. Also, an album that seems to capture the spirit of the Vanir for me, is Songs for the Strengthening Sun by Sharon Knight and T Thorn Coyle. Although it was clearly not made with this season in mind, I play selections from it anyway.

Vanir Night

Wagons and wheels are closely associated with the Vanir gods and goddesses, as their images were carted around in wagons in special ceremonies and to bless the land. One way to celebrate them this night may be to decorate a straw wheel, tie in ribbons and prayer slips, and then burn it as an offering (or just light candles on it).

After a blót or simple hails and libations, our feast for this night is Barley Soup with Bacon  and sourdough bread.

We read about the Vanir gods in D’aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths and in How to Be a Viking by Ari Berk by the glow of our Frey and Freya nightlight.

4th night of Yule

The 3rd Night of Yule

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The third night of our 12 night celebrations is the High Feast of Yule! This occasion is in honor of the gods Thor and Frey. Stories are told of them from either D’aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, or Brian Branston’s Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology. Beautiful poetry and songs for Lords Frey and Thor can be found on The Heathen Songbook Online.

For gods of power and fertility, it is fitting to serve foods both hearty and sumptuous. So for this feast, it is our custom to have Spiced Roast with Rutabagas and Carrots, Rotkohl, Solstice buns, and Black Forest Cake. We read about Viking feasts in the book How to Be a Viking by Ari Berk.

High Feast

The night’s rite need not be a formal and defined ceremony (see my “No-ritual” plan). Feasting, toasting, offering, and libating are the central activities on this night of Yule. Later, little paper cornucopias full of goodies are exchanged.

3rd night of Yule

The 2nd Night of Yule

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The second night of Yule is the Night of the Wild Hunt. It is best to stay indoors on this night to avoid the Wild Host, lest one be swept up by it! It is a good time to re-affirm protective wards made on one’s home and do an Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.

Night of the Wild Hunt

We pour libations for Odin as we ask for his continued protection, and read Wild Hunt poetry. Then, as Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album plays in the background, we have a hearty feast of blood red borscht.

We read “Odin’s Eight-legged Steed” from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths to the kiddos, then settle in for a night of dark and spooky Yule movies like Hogfather, or The Nightmare Before Christmas.

2nd night of Yule

The 1st Night of Yule

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The first night of Yule, Mothers Night (Modranecht), is one of my most cherished rites of the year. It is not only a time that I honor my patron goddess Frigga, but also the ancestral mothers and female guardians of my family, my Dísir. Earlier in the day we set up and decorate a Modranecht altar, in their honor.
(We start our 12 nights of Yule on a set date, Dec. 20th, regardless of the date of the Solstice.)
For our commemoration of the first night of Yule, we use a simple blót format such as “A Heathen Kitchen Witch’s Blót“.

Our Call:
“Hail mother Frigga, beloved Great Mother of hearth and home.
May you keep our household whole and safe.
May our family receive prosperity in the coming year.
To our family’s Mothers, our Dísir, going back in a line to the beginning,
You who have watched over us and loved us always. Bless us in the coming year!
We remember you with love and honor you this night.”

Blessings, toasts, and libations are made. Then we extinguish all other lights and light the candles on the Yule log. We have a simple meal of Golden Cream Soup in honor of the Mothers and the reborn sun.

modranechtOur song list for the night (from Michaela Macha’s Heathen Songbook) is:
Song for Mothers´ Night
Hymn to Holla
The Mothers´ Night of Yule
The Holly and the Ivy: Song for Mothernight
Merry Yule and Mothers’ Night
and Merry Yuletide.

Later, we enjoy individual little round Yule cakes (Julekage) and read “Frigg and the Goddesses” from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths, and “Grandmother Winter” by Phyllis Root.

1st Night of Yule

magical decorating on the cheap

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A person’s home (or apartment) is an extension of ones-self, and if you’re Pagan, you may want your home to subtly reflect that aspect of your personality. When first starting out on your own, you may lament your bare walls and long for a non-existent decorating budget. It’s been many years, but I’ve been there. Through necessity I learned the beauty of simplicity and developed a love for junk chic. So if you’re just starting out and are dirt poor, embrace the eclectic look.

furniture
You will be surprised at what you can find for free if you know the right time and place. Go dumpster diving when school lets out in a college town. (Okay, you don’t have to actually “dive in”, most folks put their unwanted furniture on the pavement outside the dumpster.) Rich college kids don’t want to bring their furniture home with them for the summer. Keep an open mind. Found an otherwise perfectly good dresser, but it has a missing drawer? Use a large basket in place of the drawer, or put a board in the bottom of the empty drawer space and use it as a bookshelf. Old entertainment centers can be converted to bookshelves as well. Check for sturdiness, that’s what counts, then paint or sand to get the look you want, if necessary. But remember- rustic goes along nicely with a Pagan-ish theme. Find a nice strong table and miss-matched chairs if you have a dining area. Find what you can for free first, then look in thrift stores and yard sales for everything else. Or if you’re handy with tools, and have access to free or cheap pallets, make pallet furniture. The more items you can make or find with built-in storage, the better, especially if you’re living in a small space. Don’t over do it with the furniture, though. Make sure you pick things that suit the size of your space.

Some things you probably don’t need…
If your only computer is a laptop, you probably don’t need a desk. Use the kitchen counter or table for such things as paperwork and put it all away in a storage box or shelf when finished. You may not need a coffee table unless you think it would be handy for storage, and in that case, consider using a storage trunk for a coffee table. If you watch movies and shows on your computer, or other device, you don’t need a TV. That will free up space on your wall for other things, such as…

DIY faux fireplace
True, you don’t need a fireplace, but they are so classic and appealing, and you’ve made room by not getting a desk or TV, so why not? If you can’t have the real thing, at least you can have some of the beauty of one. Making your own fake fireplace can be a simple or elaborate project. One way to make one is to fit a smaller wooden box into a larger wooden box, cut a sheet of plywood to cover the space between, attach it, add molding, then paint the entire thing and tile the inside. Another way would be to take all the shelves out of an large heavy bookshelf and attach a board or wide molding to the front just under the top, and on the front sides. Still another method could be to attach a heavy shelf or mantle to the wall, and place thick boards under it on either side to help support it. In the center, place a cluster of flame-less candles, logs wrapped in string lights, or other decorative items. Use the top mantle-shelf as your household altar/shrine. The good thing about this kind of “fireplace”, is that you can take it with you when you move, or even move it when you rearrange furniture.

cinder blocks and boards
Did you use your only bookshelf to make a faux fireplace? Don’t worry, cinder blocks and boards make cheap, versatile shelving. (Just make sure your floor is sturdy and level.) You can vary the length of your boards to any size shelving system you need, and use for not only books, but for shoe racks, pantry shelving, and other kinds of storage. Cinder blocks come in a variety of styles now (and you can paint them, if you like). If you place the blocks with the holes facing out, you can place holiday string lights inside the hole in the block, or little nature collections.
If you later decide you don’t need the shelves, use the boards and blocks to make patio furniture; stack the blocks upright, and lay one down over the top of them both (with holes facing to the sides), then repeat with another set of blocks at the other end of what will be a bench. Thread 4X4s through the top holes. Cinder blocks also make nice planters, raised bed gardens, and fire pit/grill bases.

small shrines
In addition to (or instead of) using shelves or a faux fireplace for altars or shrines, you could use small hanging shelves or boxes for shrines to your deities, house spirit, or hearth spirit. Just attach a small crate to the wall, and fill it with devotional objects. You can wrap string lights around it, or seasonal greenery. You can also use a cardboard school box or cigar box for a portable shrine. Keep you ritual supplies inside and paint or decoupage your deity imagery (or tree hallow) on the inside of the lid and just open it up to have your ritual or devotions. You can make several for different purposes.

getting crafty with nature
If you have access to the gifts of Mother Nature, and I hope you do, bring a little of the outdoors inside. Bend an old wire hanger into a circle shape and tie greenery to it in layers, working your way around the circle. Another way to make a wreath is to trim some excess honeysuckle or grape vines and shape it into a circle, twisting and weaving until you get the thickness you want. Change decorations on it with the seasons and hang on your front door. If you really liked making that, make some for inside too. Make garlands by layering and tying greenery in layers to a vine, rope or heavy string. Hang your garland from your mantlepiece or shelf. Arrange nature collections in clusters or small baskets.

more crafts
Though a not so permanent decoration (they will deteriorate if the weather is too humid for too long), salt dough sculptures can add life and dimension to your walls and shelves, and are very inexpensive to make. Check out some of my past salt dough projects for inspiration.

You’ll not find a decorative art cheaper than toilet paper roll crafts, which can range from looking very natural and rustic to looking like wrought iron.

If you have old Pagan magazines or calendars, cut out your favorite pictures and decoupage them to wood scraps or nice sturdy cardboard, using thin layers of modge podge. Prop them up on a shelf and change them out seasonally. Try decoupaging pictures onto blank seven day candles for use in magic and devotion. Decoupage works best with small pictures.

Check out some of my suggested kids’ crafts for the holidays, even if you don’t have kids. You’re never too old for such things, and the beauty of simple crafts can add a lot of warmth to a home.

kitchen
If you have a small kitchen, you’ll need to go vertical with storage. Hang your cooking utensils above the stove, and install a peg rack or cuphooks near the sink for coffee cups. Use raised thumbtacks for hanging light items like strainers and flat graters. (In fact, I use raised thumbtacks for hanging pictures all throughout the house. You only need a nail or screw if the object is heavy.) You can even use tacks to hang herbs for drying, and for garlic ropes. Keep the grain dolly you made in the fall, hanging in your kitchen.

window sills
Save your glass bottles, especially blue ones. To make your own blue bottles, mix together some white glue and blue food coloring and paint the bottles with this mixture. Set the bottles in the windowsills of your front-facing windows. Not only are they pretty, but haint blue is traditionally known to ward off evil spirits. Also, keep crystals or a jar of salt in your windowsill for the same purpose. If you break a mirror, put the shards in a jar and put that in your windowsill as well. All these things make an interesting and shiny arrangement but also serve a magical purpose.

mirrors
Strategically place small inexpensive mirrors in the dark corners of your home to dissipate any stagnant or negative energy that may collect there. You can buy tiny mirrors by the package-full at craft stores. Glue them back to back on filament string interspersed with beads and hang as mobiles. Glue tiny mirrors to vases, planters, or small boxes, as you would for making a tiled surface.

thrift store finds and finishing touches
Over time, you will find items to fill your walls at thrift stores and yard sales. You’ll find nice frames to fill with pictures of friends and family. You can update just about anything with a little paint, and sand it down a little for a vintage look. Don’t forget to look for a horseshoe to go over your front door.

magical decorating