Amongst the Sami, midwinter was an occasion for honoring the goddess Beiwe, who was associated with the sun, fertility and sanity. She reportedly traversed the sky in a craft made of reindeer bones accompanied by her daughter, Beiwe-Neia. Beiwe’s followers sacrificed white female animals and smeared their doorposts with butter for Beiwe to munch on during her journey.
Amongst the Germanic peoples to their south, Juletid referred to their take on midwinter festivities. By the late Viking Age the word “Yule” had come to refer to a pan-European bricolage of midwinter observances.
Real Vikings don’t use horns (on their helmets)
Yule logs were lit to honor Thor. The feasting would continue until the fires had burned out. Although in 960, Norwegian King Håkon signed into law that Jul (Yule) was to be moved from the solstice to December 25, to align it with Jesus’ birthday party; Icelanders continued to keep it real until the Reformation reached them and ended the fun.
Icelandic sagas frequently mention Yule but rarely specifics beyond the feasting aspect. Adam of Bremen wrote that the Swedish kings sacrificed male slaves every ninth Yule at the Temple of Uppsala. A boar was also traditionally slaughtered in honor of Freyr.
Yule leftovers. The Buche de Noel… …and the Christmas Ham
Freyr – God of rain, sunshine, produce and fertility Thor – God of thunder
Odin, Thor & Freyr Father Christmas riding a Yule goat
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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