Happy Yule – Turns Out Jesus Isn’t the Reason For the Season

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.

Quit fighting, you! At least you’ll be out of this blasted cold soon! Plus, I’ve still got to smear some butter.

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 AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos 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 FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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