Romjul and intercalation

The business of calculating years and dates is complicated, since calendars need to reconcile solar and lunar cycles. Different calendrical systems use different methods of reconciling the two cycles, inserting a day (February 29th in the Gregorian calendar), a week, or even a month in some calendars. This practice is called intercalation. It has also been suggested that the time between Yule and New Year is an intercalation.

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Reflections on Yule

Yule is a turning point in the year. In a way, this is true of every festival in the Pagan wheel of the year, but it is said that the word Yule means a turning point.

There are many facets of Yule. There is the anarchic element of mumming, Saturnalia, the bean king, boy bishops, the lord of misrule, the inversion of the usual order of things. This aspect seems to be inspired by the concept of turning, and of liminality: being on the threshold, being neither one thing nor the other.

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Anarchic Yule

Yule is a distinct festival, often overshadowed by its younger sibling, Christmas. If you’re a Pagan or have Pagan leanings, the chances are that everything you love about Christmas is actually because it’s a Yule thing. If you love the tree, the holly, the greenery being brought into the house, the feasting, and the reciprocity of thoughtful gift giving (as opposed to obligatory gift giving dictated by social norms), then you love Yule. Yule is not “Christmas with the serial numbers filed off”, and Christmas isn’t “Yule with added Baby Jesus”, Yule is far more exciting and wild and numinous than that.

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Autumn Equinox

There are three harvest festivals in the Pagan Wheel of the Year. The first is Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh) which is the grain harvest (wheat and barley). The second is Autumn Equinox, which is the fruit harvest (particularly relevant in southern Ontario with the huge fruit-growing region of Niagara). It is also the time when day and night are of equal length, but the nights are going to get longer until the Winter Solstice. The third harvest is Halloween (known in Scots Gaelic as Samhain, in Irish as Samhuinn, and in Manx as Sauin), which is when farmers would traditionally slaughter any animals they could not feed during the winter, and salt down their meat for food supplies over the lean cold months. 

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