First of all, I want to waste no time in saying I loved Have a Cool Yule: How-To Survive (and Enjoy) the Mid-Winter Festival by Mélusine Draco. It combines sound scholarship with practical advice for modern pagans all in a delightfully warm and friendly voice. This book is not heavy on ritual, rather it is for the pagan who may have a group of pagan friends, but not necessarily a formal, structured coven or circle (though many of the practices can be easily incorporated into a more formal ritual setting). It is, rather a lovely book with myriad suggestions of how to celebrate the Yuletide season in a comfortable, spiritual, and jolly way.
Have a Cool Yule is written for a U.K. audience, though if you’re like me, this makes the book even more enjoyable. I love reading about traditional British and Anglo-Saxon folk practices in particular. In fact, the past several years I have roasted a goose for Christmas (which is not a common practice of any of my Southern Californian neighbors), so the traditions and recipes make the book even more endearing to me.
Much of the book seems to be spent making an argument as to why we pagans should indeed celebrate the mid-winter festival rather than throw our arms up in the air and have nothing to do with it at all. I confess, I do not have the same experience with pagan winter solstice nay-sayers that the author seems to have, so I did find the constant harping on the whys of celebration a bit wearying, but other than that, I truly enjoyed her many examples of tradition and suggestions for celebration.
Have a Cool Yule has five chapters, the first of which consists of a brief discussion of pagan (and Christian) Yuletide traditions. This is where much of Draco’s scholarly emphasis shines through.
The second chapter includes a day by day calendar of events which can be done to commemorate each day of the Yule season. It includes folklore and traditions of the ancient past and a practical way to celebrate and spiritually acknowledge each day. Draco calls them “The 32 Days of Yuletide” and they begin December 17, the first day of Saturnalia and end January 17, or Old Twelfth Night. She explains throughout why some holidays were (and sometimes continue to be) celebrated on various dates due to the changing from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendar. I found this particularly helpful because I have often been confused about some variations of dates.
The third and fourth chapters have some wonderful recipes and advice for entertaining, but also contain lovely ways in which to spiritually internalize and commune with the season and the turning of The Wheel. One suggestion that Draco makes I found to be extremely poignant. She says that though many pagans may take issue with this, that a great place for quiet contemplation for the urban pagan is a local church. She points out that many early churches were built on places sacred to our ancient forebears and that one should, “be conscious of the tranquility and history of the building and not the division between beliefs”. I find that sentiment to be refreshing and the advice sound. Though I personally eschew the practice of Christianity, I have found a sense of peace in a quiet church or ancient cathedral.
Chapter five rounds out the book with more great advice, fun suggestions for entertainment, and a final argument for celebrating the season.
Overall, this was a wonderful read and gave many fine suggestions that I indeed will be incorporating into my own practice and hopefully introducing to my coven. It is a great addition to any pagan library and can stand alone if you do not have a plethora of pagan Yuletide themed books. I highly recommend this for the new and seasoned pagan. The advice will add joy and serenity to even the most cynical pagan curmudgeon’s mid-winter festival.
[Reviewed by Chelsea Arrington.]