Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan Wheel of the Year. The author varies by the Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Yule: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for the Winter Solstice was penned by Susan Pesznecker and is one of the best books in the Sabbat Essentials series.
The standard sections in the Sabbat Essentials books are: Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, Correspondences, and Further Reading. There is also a Series Introduction that is the same in all eight books, so I won’t review it aside from saying that it is worth reading over annually. It also has two really beautiful Wheel of the Year illustrations, one for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere, which is worth copying into your book of shadows immediately.
The Old Ways section is extremely interesting and has a lot of helpful information. The section covers the origin of December as a month, the Yule log, traditional festivals, the gift giving tradition, the solar new year, as much more. The New Ways section discusses basic activities, different traditions in their modern form, and details important correspondences and activities. This section also addresses the living vs. artificial tree debate that seems to be an inevitable part of the pagan household, as well as what to do when only one half of a couple is pagan. Happily enough, so many ‘Christmas’ traditions are actually pagan in origin that you can openly celebrate Yule and still stay in the ‘broom closet’ without a lot of effort.
The Spells and Divination section has several helpful spells, including a winter house blessing, a dream pillow, and a yule log talisman. I really enjoyed the divination part of this chapter; the suggested ‘tree’ tarot spread and the New Year’s divination party were both ideas that I’d like to try myself. There are a lot of good ideas in addition to the ones that I listed, though the ones I noted here are my particular favorites; there’s enough here that I’m sure something will spark inspiration.
There are some good recipes in the Recipes and Crafts section, but note that many of them do use meat. The non-meat recipes seem to be mostly for sweets and beverages, though I used the wassail recipe in this book last year, and really enjoyed it. There is a sub-section that includes ‘recipes’ for gift items, which I absolutely loved. There weren’t many crafts or recipes listed that were distinctly for a pagan Yule, or even non-Christmas. That’s just kind of how Yule is, and the pagan information for traditions like garlands, trees, and lights is all provided.
The Prayers and Invocations section was quite short, but has a couple of good guided meditations, and how to have a winter retreat, another idea that I’d like to try. There is also a guide to writing your own prayers, which I thought was very helpful and appreciated. The Rituals of Celebration section has ideas for a solitary, pair, and group. I used sections of all three to write my coven’s Yule ritual, so I cannot recommend it highly enough. When I want to refresh the ritual year after year, this is a section I will turn to each time for inspiration. The Correspondences section is at the very end and deserves a mention as it is a very helpful reference and source of quick information that I use every year.
I highly recommend this book, and I am especially pleased with the Rituals section, which is extremely helpful. This book is a wonderful addition to your pagan library, and even if you don’t pick up the whole Sabbat Essentials series, this volume deserves a space on your magickal bookshelf. Blessed be, friends.