By Sharon Gittleman
If you’re dreaming of an old-fashioned celebration next month, commemorating the season in time-honored style you might want to visit Isle of Avalon Books and Goods in Royal Oak. Isle of Avalon can help you learn everything you need to know to enjoy the ancient pagan festival of Yule.
From 7 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 12, Isle of Avalon will be hosting an autographing party for Dorothy Morrison, author of “Yule, a celebration of light and warmth.” In her book, Morrison explains the origins of the holiday; provides decorating, crafts, menu and party ideas and describes ways different cultures around the world have welcomed the winter solstice.
Yule is part of the “wheel of the year,” the joyful holidays that mark the passing seasons, said “V,” an employee of Isle of Avalon.
“It’s a celebration of the shortest day of the year,” he said.
Yule was once commemorated by the Druidic Celts, a pre-Christian religion in various parts of Europe, including the country now known as Great Britain, said V.
The holiday marks the death of the Holly King – the ruler of the last six months of the year and the rebirth of the Oak King, spring and summer’s monarch.
“It’s like old man New Year and the baby New Year,” he said.
With his red clothes and team of eight deer, the Holly King might bring to mind another popular figure of the season. So would many of the Druidic Celtic customs of the season, like gathering mistletoe, telling stories and enjoying a special feast.
“The number one thing is family get-togethers. We have some mead, a honey wine that is the oldest alcoholic drink, and we make special cakes,” he said. “When people celebrate Christmas, they celebrate in a pagan way.”
Another pagan custom is lighting the Yule log.
“The wood represents the warmth between family members. It’s inside waiting to be released,” he said.
Five candles are placed in holes dug in the decorated log.
“They represent the four seasons and the self,” he said. “As you light them, you visualize blessings on your friends and family.”
At Isle of Avalon, you’ll find Yule logs, books, fairy statues, traditional kilts, cauldrons, handmade jewelry, calendars, candles, teas and herbs you can use to celebrate the season or give as gifts.
You can also help make a child’s holiday a little brighter.
“We’re doing a toy drive,” V said. “When you bring in a new unwrapped toy, you’ll get ten percent off your purchase.”
The toys will be donated to Big Brother Big Sister of Southfield, he said.
At the store, you’ll discover more than the customs enjoyed by Druidic Celts.
“There are hundreds of pagan paths, including Egyptian, Native American, shamanic, Druidic and Wiccan,” he said. “What you are today many not be what you are tomorrow. I can learn what I need to from Celtic paganism and then move on.”
Paganism is very different than witchcraft, said V. Neither path has anything to do with devil worship or Satan.
“Witchcraft is working with herbs and oils. You’re a healer and an herbalist,” he said.
There are dozens of herbs and oils available at Isle of Avalon, including two potions familiar to wise men the world over.
“We do sell Frankincense and myrrh,” he said.