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21 Dec 2007

Yule/Winter Solstice News 2007




The similarities between the spectral riders of the night, St. Nicolas and Odin, are undeniable. These cloaked figures, whether traveling on an eight-legged steed or pulled by eight tiny reindeer, grant us hope during the dark months. Although many tales of The Wild Hunt (which ends on the last day of Yule) portray Odin’s procession as one to be expected with dread, beyond the propaganda of fear remains the insistence that this yearly occurrence bestows the gift of fertility to our fields.

Also related, the Yule Elf brings presents to the children of the North. He is usually jolly, but in the older folk tales could be quite grumpy especially to those rude or naughty. This recalls–before the proverbial lump of coal–there was Odin, playing tricks with the fate of men. But even more than Odin, this elf seems tied to Thor, as he’s often depicted riding the Yule Goat or Julbock. As myths fluctuate by region, then so does the Julbock himself at times become the bearer of gifts. He also was originally less than saintly, being an ugly creature that frightened children and demanded instead of delivered packages.

In addition to the fact that our folk prefer archetypes 3-dimensional, the consistently portrayed, darker side of our traditional gift-givers seem to relay the understanding that giving is an energy that needs to move both ways (as represented by the rune X- gebo.) ‘A gift begets a gift.’ If we do not see fit to honor the spirits with offerings and acknowledgments for all they bring to us, we will pay in other ways.

And doesn’t even St. Nicolas like his milk and cookies?

-A. von Rautmann

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This recipe is adapted from an old Finnish cookbook I found several years ago, and I have been making these cookies once or twice a year since then. Always a crowd pleaser, they are stunning and delicious. I had never had prunes before then and I consider them to be one of the earth’s finest gifts now.

3 c. flour (whole wheat pastry or spelt)
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. maple syrup or honey
dash vanilla
1 c. soft butter

2 c. pitted prunes chopped
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 c. honey or raw sugar

Mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whip the cream, syrup, and vanilla until thick (like whipped cream topping). Add cream to the flour and mix until little balls form. Then knead the butter in, with your hands, until it forms a smooth dough. Wrap in a bag and chill for one hour.

Put chopped prunes in pan with lemon juice and just enough water to keep it from burning, simmer on medium heat, adding water as needed, until it makes a thick jam, then add honey or sugar.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take 1/2 the dough and roll out on a floured board, fold into thirds and roll again into a 1/4″ thick rectangle. Cut edges into a straight line, then cut into squares 2-3 inches wide depending on how many you want. Make slits in the dough as shown in the diagram. Put a spoonful of prune jam in the center of each square. Then take one corner of a square and fold it to the center, following on all four sides so that it makes a pinwheel shape. This sounds harder than it is. Put the cookies on a lightly buttered cookie sheet. If desired, sprinkle a bit of raw sugar on the top of each. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until the tips are just browned, then cool. Enjoy!

~ Arrowyn Craban

cookie diagram

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“Isa is a necessarily antagonistic force whose controlling effect is essential in order to prevent evolution from running riot in unrestrained and random growth.”
- Freya Aswynn,
Leaves of Yggdrasil

There is a reason that our basic human instincts resist change. And a reason traditions are developed, observed, and respected. Of course, we do not want to stagnate, but where has our brave new world’s obsessive/compulsive urge to progress taken us? To live a sustainable life now seems almost an impossibility. Rarely found is a culture that has not been completely homogenized, or a sacred ancient holiday that hasn’t been co-opted–first by a foreign religion, then ultimately by capitalism.

Take this coldest point of the year to remember and honor the positive aspects of being still. Change with wisdom. Growth that chokes our roots, cutting us off from where we come from and who we are, is a cancer. The hardest wood, grows slow.

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For those of you who live in Portland, Oregon, or have the occasion of passing through, we’d like to direct you to the warm, cozy, and undeniably witchy Mademoiselle Noelle’s Fortune Tea House. Besides offering soup, pies, pastries, coffee and specially blended teas (medicinal and otherwise–check out the Sleepy Hollow with Mugwort–whoa!) there is always someone on hand to help you delve into your past, present, or future.

In addition, the proprietress is currently taking applications for her new school of traditional European-based magic called The White Owl School of Witchery, due to begin on January 6th of this coming year. The curriculum will focus on herbs, history, divination, ethics, psychology, defense, and energy work.

Visit the teashop at:
5713 NE Fremont street (on the corner past the graveyard) 503-998-6616
Tuesday-Friday 11am to 8pm, Saturday-Sunday 11am to 7pm.

Until Imbolc, may you and your
household be blessed and kept. Hail!

~HEX Magazine

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