Yule, or The Winter Solstice, marks the death and rebirth of the Sun-god. It also marks the vanquishing of the Holly King, the god of the Waning Year, by the Oak King, the God of the Waxing Year. The Goddess, who was Death-in-Life at Midsummer, now shows her Life-in-Death aspect. Modern Christmas celebrations are full of pagan symbology. Santa Claus is the Holly King, the sleigh is the solar chariot, the eight reindeer are the eight Sabbats– their horns representing the Horned God– the North Pole symbolizes the Land of Shadows and the dying solar year, and the gifts are meant both to welcome the Oak King as the sun reborn and as a reminder of the gift of the Holly King, who must depart for the Oak King to rule.
There are several herbs that are used to decorate the Pagan household at this time of year. We adorn doorways and mantles with evergreen boughs and bunches of dried summer herbs. Our ancient ancestors brought an evergreen tree inside to ensure that there would be light all year round. The evergreen retains sunlight, staying green all year, and reminds us that life is forever present and renewable.
These Yule herbs and plants would make good names:
Oak — Symbolizes life, strength, wisdom, nobility, loyalty, longevity
Ivy — Symbolizes fidelity, protection, healing, marriage, victory, honor, good luck
Alcyone — al-KEE-oh-nee — the Kingfisher goddess. She nests every winter for two weeks, and while she does, the wild seas become calm and peaceful.
Baldur — Baldur is associated with the legend of the mistletoe. His mother, Frigga, honored Baldur and asked all of nature to promise not to harm him. Unfortunately, in her haste, Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant, so Loki took advantage of the opportunity and fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hod, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe. Baldur was later restored to life.
Demeter — Through her daughter, Persephone, Demeter is linked strongly to the changing of the seasons. When Persephone was abducted by Hades, Demeter‘s grief caused the earth to die for six months, until her daughter’s return.
Frau Holle — Frau Holle appears in many different forms in Scandinavian mythology and legend. She is associated with both the evergreen plants of the Yule season, and with snowfall, which is said to be Frau Holle shaking out her feathery mattresses.
Frigga — As seen above, Frigga honored her son, Baldur, by asking all of nature not to harm him, but in her haste overlooked the mistletoe plant. Loki fooled Baldur’s blind twin, Hod, into killing him with a spear made of mistletoe but Odin later restored him to life. As thanks, Frigga declared that mistletoe must be regarded as a plant of love, rather than death.
La Befana — This character from Italian Folklore is similar to St. Nicholas, in that she flies around delivering candy to well-behaved children in early January. She is depicted as an old woman on a broomstick, wearing a black shawl.
Mithras — Mithras was celebrated as part of a mystery religion in ancient Rome. He was a god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.
Odin — In some legends, Odin bestowed gifts at Yuletide upon his people, riding a magical flying horse across the sky. This legend may have combined with that of St. Nicholas to create the modern Santa Claus.
Saturn — Every December, the Romans threw a week-long celebration of debauchery and fun, called Saturnalia in honor of their agricultural god, Saturn. Roles were reversed, and slaves became the masters, at least temporarily.
I hope you were able to find a name that means something to you and that you might consider using. If not, I hope you had an interesting read and learned something. Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Saturnalia, Blessed Solstice, Happy Hanukka, Merry Kwanza and anything else I’m missing!
Angel Thomas, better known on Nameberry as Dantea, is a stay-at-home mom with a passion for onomastics who writes fantasy novels in her spare time. Her knowledge of Greek names stems from her ancestry and her religion.