It is getting closer and closer to Yule, guys! I know that back in October, the retail chains were getting their Christmas stuff ready to go. All is well -- they can do what they want. I was rather fond of the Halloween decorations, so I hardly paid any attention at all. But now that it seems to be the proper month for my brain to notice cool wintery-yule-ish things, I want to talk about my ideas for a neat little altar.
I'm not going to be home for Yule this year. I will be in Maine, and so all of my witchy stuff will not be with me. Maybe just my amethyst and citrine points for good measure. I don't usually find altar tools themselves to be all that important in my practices. We add importance to them by how we visualize our rituals working. Sure I have a tile, chalice, wand and athame, but do I use them? Hardly. I like them, and have had them for a while, but as I grew in my own understanding of my own path, I prefer other things. For me, a simple altar is just fine. Perfect, even.
So, some might even argue that we don't even need altars, and that the material aspect is not beneficial at all. I would agree to a point, but there are certain things that I believe carry the energy that is good for a ritual. You are able to charge things that are yours with your intent -- with your energy. To bring these personal objects into ritual can be another way of making it a little more personal. It doesn't always have to be things that are "witchy," either -- like gems, or herbs or what would otherwise be considered ritual tools... I bring the book that I am writing my novel in to Esbats sometimes. Why? Because it is full of the creative energy I have transferred to it with normal use that I wish to make known and/or use during the celebration/circle/working/ritual.
For an example of how I see things, my Yule altar would be something as pictured -- and I could even do without the candle holder pentagram. I would carve the pentagram, triquetra, runes...ect into the piece of wood -- which I would collect respectfully from a branch or tree that had already fallen. The pine cone and bit of branch with needles on it would also be taken from what the tree already discarded -- no use in making a new cut for no reason. This would just symbolize the season -- Yule...these things exist already amongst the snow, and so to use them would be an homage. I like candles -- and during school while I live in this dormitory, I can't have candles or incense. So, all symbolism aside that others can add to the candle, I'd have one because I like them. Isn't that how it should be?
In terms of actually getting symbols together for Yule, I think they should be personal, too. Some of the colors are just the same as "Christmas" colors -- gold, white, red and green. But also blue and silver work too. You can have a sprig of holly and an oak leaf or silk plants with either design to represent the struggle between the Holly King and Oak King. (Totally look up that story, guys. It's too cool.) You can have the traditional gold and silver candles, representing the God and Goddess respectively -- of course, only if that's your thing. What about your traditional decorated tree and yule log? You could do something with that too. I think it would be different for everyone -- a wise person told me once there are as many paths as there are Pagans. There's really no one true way to celebrate. If you are part of a group that traditionally celebrates a specific way, by all means. They aren't wrong, either.
For me, the simple things are perfect. I celebrate among loved ones -- be they friends, family, or spirits. There are a few candles burning, some wintery-yule-ish decorations, the scent of pine and/or cinnamon, a good glass of mulled wine or mead. Usually stories and/or legends are told, and dinner is eaten and offered to the deities and spirits. Afterwards, the offerings are left outside next to the blackberry bush on the lawn for the spirits to consume as they wish. It is about togetherness as much as it is about the sun's return. This year, personally, I want to set out something to represent Sunne -- in years past, it was always ambiguous for me -- no specific deity was named. My style of ritual isn't the Norse style, but still I'll do what I must.
That's the point. Do what works for you, and don't worry so much. Another really wise person told me that something is always to mess up in ritual -- we are only human and nothing is actually perfect. So do what you have to do in order to celebrate. And don't worry. Just enjoy the season. Simple.