Yule History: Legend of the Wild Hunt to the Christmas of Today
The Connection of Yule to the Wild Hunt and Saturnalia
by Linda StCyr, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Yule or Yule-tide is a pagan festival that has been held through out the centuries. It is a winter festival that honors the divine mothers or female deities of the Germanic peoples where the festival originated. The night that this festival took place was originally on New Year’s night and was called Mōdraniht, old English for Mothers-Night. A sacrifice was made and then a feast was shared among the celebrants.
When the Germanic lunar calendar was changed and the Julian calendar adopted the date of the Yule festival changed to December 25. It has since been absorbed into the Christian holiday of Christmas. It is now celebrating among Wiccans, Pagans and Neopagans during the winter solstice on December 21st. It is believed that the pagan Yule festival was influenced by both the Wild Hunt and the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia.
Wild Hunt, Odin’s Hunt, Woden’s Hunt and the connection to Yule-
The Wild Hunt goes by many names including the ones mentioned above and others including Cain’s Hunt, Herod’s Hunt, Ghost Riders and Devil’s Dandy Dog’s. The latter names mentioned have origins in the original folk-myth/legend of Odin’s Hunt but are the Christianized versions. The legend is that a group of huntsmen with hounds and horses make a mad dash across the ground or through the sky in pursuit of something unknown. The huntsmen, depending on the folklore, are often undead, demon possessed clergy or fairies of the underworld. The legend goes on to warn mortals from viewing the hunt because if one sees it a catastrophic event such as plague, famine, or war could follow. Another warning in the legend against the viewing of the Wild Hunt is that the spirit or soul could be grabbed by the riders and taken to the underworld.
The vision of the Wild Hunt takes place during the year when the wind blows the strongest and storms begin to brew. The start of Odin’s Hunt begins on October 31 and ends on May Eve or April 30th. However, the height of the hunt takes place on Yule, the shortest day of the year. Yule fires are lit to keep the hunters at bay.
Saturnalia and its connection to Yule-
The Roman winter festival of Saturnalia was a festival honoring the dedication of the temple to the god, Saturn (Greek: Cronus). Originally the festival was celebrated on December 17th but grew in popularity and was extended to a week long event. During this week there would be feasts, trickery and tomfoolery. A common practice was for slaves to dress as masters and masters to dress as slaves.
Great feasts would take place during the week of Saturnalia after the religious rites were performed in the temples. Visits to family and friends would take place and the giving of gifts was a common practice. Common gifts included wax candles and lamps. It is believed that this was to light up the area and chase the spirits of the dark away.
Pagan Yule to Christian Christmas-
During Yule it is common practice to light Yule logs for Yule fires and to eat goat or boar and to fill the air with singing and merriment. During Christmas is it common to light a Yule log, celebrate the birth of Jesus through the Virgin Mary, feast with family and friends, give gifts and witness religious rites in church. The combining of these pagan festivals made it easier to convert the heathen pagans throughout history to Christianity.