by Jenni Muscat
Was Hael to all you Pagans out there! I trust that this last Yule was memorable and that a great time was had by all. This article is about the inaugural Norse Yule rite that I held at my place on the South Coast of NSW on 5th July. Yes, technically, Yule was on 21st June, but since I had commitments that filled my calendar for the two weeks prior, the 5th was the best day all round.
The lead up to the event was about doing the usual -- inviting the cast of thousands, taking the time out available to tune into the Gods and Deities who I would invoke on this night, shopping for food, cleaning the house and backyard etc.
I was a tad concerned about the weather the day before, as it had begun to rain. You can't have Yule without at least one bonfire -- it just wouldn't be Yule now, would it? The rain settled in, but despite this, I was putting it to the Gods that I would rather it be an outdoor event, it's a better way to honour you all, blah blah blah. It seems that the message reached them, because by the following morning, there was no further sign of rain at all. The bonfire could go ahead! Yay!
Another item on the agenda for Yule happened to be firewood. Fortunately, I live in an area where wood is plentiful from the bush, so my oldest son, a close friend of his and I took the car and loaded the boot up. Two boot loads later, the firewood was brought home in readiness.
I wasn't quite sure how we were going to burn the fire safely -- short of a drum perhaps, and a brazier that Samantha and Trevor kindly lent us. Then my boys came up with a brilliant idea. We had leftover pavers and the kids (along with my daughter) simply laid out the pavers in a large square, where we could lay the wood on top.
I bought a rather large pork that was roasting nicely in the oven at lunchtime -- I ensured that it was cooked right through so nobody felt sick afterwards! The boys tidied up the yard some more, and started laying the bonfire onto the square. There were one or two last minute phone cancellations, and I thought "Oh no, who else won't be able to show?" You know how it is, the last minute jitters.
I wrote up a bardic tale that I was reciting, grabbed a shower and the visitors started to arrive slightly before the ETA, while I was still in the shower. Never fails, does it? No problem, my kids (teenagers who already know who my friends are) simply let them in, the food was offloaded in the kitchen and Yule was about to begin. Sam and Trev set up the brazier around the back yard and eventually we all headed out.
What I'm about to narrate next is not recommended for reasons of safety, especially without close supervision! My son's friend, upon realising that the bonfire had not enough paper to allow for burning, wanted to pour petrol over it. I initially said no, he'd blow the place up. We reached a compromise, I allowed a very small amount on the top of the bonfire, just enough to get started. My son lit the fire with a barbecue lighter, and what happened next was rather bizarre.
I was close to the fire, my son lit it. I heard the noise of petrol igniting, saw a naked blue flame and my life flash before my eyes. It was like being in the centre of the flame. This all happened in the split second of ignition. Everyone present was gobsmacked. It was no small miracle that nobody got hurt. I honestly thought that I would've been singed, if not burned -- but I wasn't. My son should've copped the most, if anybody. There is every possibility that the fire was meant to be lit the way it was, and we were looked after. Frey would've been most impressed. Loki could've been lurking somewhere in the background, having a good old cackle. This would've been right up his alley! My son told me afterwards that he felt something similar happen with him. By comparison, the brazier fire was an anti-climax, but already smouldering nicely.
Eventually, the rite was performed. I was the Valkyrie/horn bearer, passing the mead around, in honour of Thor for hallowing the circle, the Norns for weaving the well of Wyrd, and for Frey the fertility God. I had no structured ritual as such, adlibbing as I went along, but it was all good. I recited my tale about the death of Baldur, the binding of Loki and Ragnarok -- doom of the Gods. The rite ended and the feasting began.
Everybody brought a plate of delicious food, as is the custom. Janine brought along the most delicious mulled wine I ever tasted -- see the June 2008 edition of Axis Mundi for recipe -- needless to say that didn't last very long! The pork and crackling had cooked very well indeed, along with the baked potatoes. I had compiled a mix of music to play and we were all sitting outside enjoying the warmth of the fire, along with the good companionship that close friends provide. The sky was clear and the stars were out in all their magnificent glory. The one ironic aspect to the evening were the kids being inside (playing Xbox etc) while us oldies were outside.
Eventually, we all sat around the big bonfire, passing around the drinks, enjoying some light-hearted conversation and good natured banter. Not bad for my first Yule rite if I say so myself. It could be an annual event, with perhaps some safer planning in regards to the bonfire, but at least the pavers are a permanent addition.
My thanks to those who attended, sorry to those who couldn't -- I'm sure you were there in spirit. Thanks also to the Gods and ancestors who also attended, for without you, it wouldn't be Yule as we know it to be.
Till I churn out the next article, fare thee well.
Jenni Muscat is a practising Heathen of the Celtic and Norse pantheons. She has also studied Astrology through the Sirius School of Astrology.