It’s Christmas Eve, a connection to some of the most ancient of all known northern European shamanic traditions. Like people living in the north for millennia, we continue to embrace them with regional, national, and religious tweaks.
It occurs during the week of the shortest day and longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, when ancient holy men and women lit “yule logs” to push back the darkness and bring back the light of summer.
As Henry Bourne wrote in 1725:
“For as both December and January were called Guili or Yule, upon Account of the Sun’s Returning, and the Increase of the Days; so, I am apt to believe, the Log has had the Name of the Yule-Log, from its being burnt as an Emblem of the returning Sun, and the Increase of its Light and Heat.”
When Louise and I lived in Germany, Herr Mueller led us up a mountainside deep into the Franconian forest on this night where they had covered a pine tree with candles: we sang carols and he read aloud a bible verse. He later told me that in ancient times the shamans would set the tallest tree afire to re-ignite the sun and bring back longer days.