The Talking Forest Runes
The Yuletide Tree
Fieldnotes for December – January 2023
by Kay Broome
Every winter from mid to late December, millions of
evergreen trees are destroyed in order that people may enjoy an indoor
Christmas/Yuletide tree for a week or two. Most of these trees were grown on Christmas tree farms for this sole purpose,
thus saving the conifer wilderness. However, this land could have been used for food growing, reforestation, or wilderness purposes. But for those of us with young children, it is hard to turn down eager
entreaties for a traditional Christmas tree. So if you want a real tree, a conifer
from a tree farm is your best bet.
The tradition of the bedecked tree we are so familiar with, was brought to North America in the 1700's by German settlers. It in turn, had grown out of the ancient Pagan custom of hanging dried fruits on various types of trees or branches. These rites were common occurrences throughout Europe, including the Mediterranean, Germanic and Slavic countries.
Making a Yule Wreath
For those of us without children, who are constrained
for space or who simply want to allow a conifer to live out its life cycle, the
indoor tree may not be an option. In this case, why not celebrate Yule by making a wreath? You can start by purchasing a willow stem
or grapevine wreath frame from any hobby store or flower shop. Here too, you can obtain the evergreen boughs traditional to Yule and Christmas: spruce, pine, juniper, mistletoe and of
course, holly. My favorite is balsam
fir. The boughs can be tied onto the wreath
in a deosil or clockwise pattern using coloured ribbons of your choice. For Yule, I use dark green, scarlet
and white. Feel free to add various seasonal ornaments such as sun and
moon symbols or reindeer, Santa and Mrs. Claus – all very pagan symbols! Our modern Christmas ornaments are actually substitutes for the dried fruits that were originally placed on the holiday tree. If you want to go all out traditional, feel free to place walnut shells or strings of
cranberries and popcorn on your wreath.
I use the same wreath frame for all my eight sabbats, embellishing
as appropriate for the season – for
example, autumn leaves for the Samhain wreath, daffodils for Beltane and so on. As I have not yet got my Yule wreath available for this year, the above is a stock photo. However, it makes a perfect example of a traditional seasonal midwinter wreath. The orange wheels are solar symbols to welcome the return of longer days; the pine cones are sacred to deities such as Cybele, the Phrygian Mother goddess, and Pan, the Greek god of flocks and shepherds. The cranberries pictured above recall the traditional holly berries. Both fruit persist throughout the winter and are thus uplifting to the soul. But unlike holly, cranberries are edible and a great source of Vitamin C. Cinnamon sticks hearken to the traditional use of spices to preserve food and render it more flavourful during the long winter months. The green leaves pictured in the wreath are perhaps some type of ivy. With that in mind, we remember the famous carol "The Holly and the Ivy", which may refer to an earlier tradition in which these two plants represented the pairing of the Holly King with an Ivy Goddess. Finally, spruce or fir boughs make the perfect backdrop for the wreath, just as the conifer forest represents the peace and tranquility of winter.
Fir (Abies) Spruce (Picea)
Spruce and fir are the most prized species for Christmas trees. Balsam fir, with its symmetricality
and its clean winter forest scent is the most highly prized, but Fraser fir and
others are also used. Spruces such as
white, Norway, or Colorado blue spruce, although not as fragrant as fir, are more
common in North America. Throughout many cultures, these conifers have
come to represent hope through dark times, as well as resurrection after death. This is due no doubt to their stalwart vitality in the coldest season, when broad-leaved trees are barren of leaves
and stand silent in winter sleep.
While fir and spruce are dark and brooding during the rest of the year, in the
snows of winter, they convey a calming, protective element.
The Talking Forest Evergreen rune is the second of four compound runes within the set. The left side of the sigil represents the fir tree and the right side the spruce. As both trees are so similar in their appearance, biology and spiritual aura, I chose to include them in a single rune, even though they are in fact two different species. The Talking Forest Evergreen rune stands for peace,
tranquility and sleep.
Talking Forest Evergreen Rune
You can learn more about Evergreen and other Talking Forest runes by purchasing my book, available internationally in print or ebook on Amazon.