As we approach the longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is helpful to remember that we too are being called into our deepest dark. Down into the places we hide from view; where we store our grief, where we brace and hold, and where we may be unforgiving too.
When we speak of the ‘returning of the light’ it isn’t just the physical grace that this season provides, but a call to our own revealing. The Winter Solstice is a time to acknowledge our untruths, to surrender our silences, to dethrone our inner tyrants and bare our stories in the open. These are the acts which connect the fabric of our lives to each other, and to the whole of truthfulness.
Creating a Solstice Altar: Just the act of foraging and creating an altar which you can elaborate over the holy days is a potent act, helping to both acknowledge the dark, as well as call forward illumination.
1. Using any surface – from a mantlepiece to a small table – begin by laying a pretty scarf or fabric.
2. Then collect and arrange some winter greens (cedar, pine, fir) and colourful berries (holly, hawthorn, callicarpa) or pinecones; some bells, stars or hand-cut snowflakes to represent the clarity of this time; some antlers or images of deer to symbolise fertility at the heart of even the quietest quiet.
3. Then bring in some bright orange and yellow elements to represent the returning warmth; a beeswax pillar candle, some oranges, or gold, solar symbols, like this lovely, easy-to make garland I created with dehydrated orange slices and cedar boughs below. Or if you’d like something more challenging, check out my DIY Solstice Tree.
Solitary Solstice: If you’re feeling inward right now and you’d rather keep the power of this time close-in, you are in good company (so to speak!). Many witches prefer to attune themselves to the inward silence from which all wisdom springs. Consider preparing a ritual bath for yourself, with oils of rosemary, pine, and orange. As you light some candles, contemplate the lessons of stillness that the winter goddess embodies. This is not a time of outward growth. Instead, ask what needs to die so that new life can be born? Listen for the stirring seeds of your dreams, and if you feel moved, write down their songs in your journal.
Solstice Circling: Call a circle of your closest friends together for an intimate evening around a fire. If you don’t have a firepit or fireplace, just create a circle of candles at your center, one for each participant. Ask each person to bring a passage, prayer or song they’d like to share, then open the circle by acknowledging the fertility of this dark time. Like the plants tucked deep in the earth, we too are summoning our strength, gathering a plan, preparing for our emergence. Then pass the talking stick, asking what we need to let go of in order to be more fully ourselves. You may want to go around more than once if there’s lots to say. When it’s time to end, close the circle by asking everyone to blow out their candle and sit in the dark together for a few moments in silence. Then light a single candle in the center, signifying our unity. You may use this short prayer, or speak one of your own to close the circle:
By coming together in sacred ritual with our community, we are restoring our relationship to the Earth, our Mother. As we re-establish our belonging in one another’s hearts, we quell the “never-enoughness” that drives so many of us to accumulate, achieve and produce beyond our (and Her) means. We let ourselves rest in the kindness of our togethering.
When we share our stories and dreams, we are accepting help in the shouldering of responsibility and despair. By extension, our windfalls and triumphs belong to us all. In witnessing each other, we are cross-pollinating our wisdom and broadening our storylines, moving from competition to collaboration.
We begin to make decisions as an ecosystem would, from the appreciation of our indivisibility.
We trust that a way will be born in this dark, out of nothing, by our braving forward. And we are rewarded with the dignity of a life which emboldens the poetry trapped in the silence of others, and tenderises us for a more articulated quality of love.
A blessed Winter Solstice to you, beautiful Dreamer!
From my forthcoming book Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, a new excerpt from my chapter on False Belonging: those places that may feel like home for a while but which have silent contracts in place that require us to cut parts of ourselves off in order to fit in.
“Tucked inside the hills and valleys of that wooded fairytale island was a different way of life, and at night, the trees whispered words from the fairy godmothers, enticing me to stay.
Our journey brought me into dark spaces through the wilderness that surround me, but I was held and protected by the council of women I joined there. About 20 of us gathered at a beautiful farm, sharing food and dreams and the desire for connecting to something more meaningful than what most of us found at home in our busy lives. As powerful dream symbols reverberated among us throughout the weekend, I was reminded that our humanity is found in community, in reciprocity, and in remembering that we are not alone. The grief of our separateness was healed through our mutual witnessing, and in our willingness to receive as much as we tend to give.
My time away sung my soul back to life, and I was amazed with my changing reflection in the mirror each night. Stress, anxiety, and the need for constant doing melted away, leaving nothing but beauty in its place.
As I continue to integrate what was discovered on that island into my city life, I’m graced with the imprint that remains. Burning away the fallacy of not enoughness, distractions from my inner life, and inadequate substitutions for what is real and true, I discovered that my longing for connection will meet me every time, at the doorway of my willingness to hold another in return.” – by Kristen Roderick
We took a wonderful walk yesterday, around a conservancy project here on our island. It’s very quiet there, off the beaten track, a haven to a growing number of diverse species of animals and plants. Previously a golf course, this gorgeous land is now regrowing its wild self. It’s the result of a complete transformation that began five years ago.
It wasn’t as simple as leaving it alone. Pipes have been removed from deep in the earth, hundreds of native species have been replanted, nurselogs have been introduced. And, most importantly, a fence is surrounding it so it will be protected, left to become the thriving wetland it once once.
Rewilding the psyche is like this. We must look at the ways in which our unconscious has been harnessed, and narrowly directed, removing those limitations so it can flow freely. Dreamwork is a powerful way to do this, because we are shown in every dream what unconscious patterns we might be stuck in, but we’re also given wildly creative solutions to our questions.
Then we must plant new seeds of inspiration, from books and other mentors who reflect our native self back to us, and introduce any other good habits which return us to our souls. But then we must build an unimpeachable boundary around our lives in order to protect the gradual process of remediation.
For many, this boundary is primarily to keep the needs and demands of others at bay. But often we also need a more intimate form of remediation. The fence which protects and values our spiritual and creative life above all else. We are so used to giving this time up first, as if it were expendable. But at a certain point everyone comes to realise that the quality of what they are giving is only so rich as the soil from which it’s been harvested.
So like the golf-course-come-wild-habitat, a complete reversal of our priorities is necessary. Instead of overploughing our creativity, we need to invest in its protection. While it may seem like the boundaries you are creating are selfish, they are actually improving the conditions for your generosity.While it may seem like the boundaries you are creating are selfish, they are actually improving the conditions for your generosity.Click To Tweet
The fear of criticism is legitimate. Many empowerment gurus will tell you to “Just do it!” and “Don’t let fear hold you back!” But the truth is, as soon as you brave your gifts into the world, it’s very likely that the wolves will appear to say you aren’t doing it well enough. So the question shouldn’t be if you will be criticised, but whether or not you’re willing to take the hit.
Before you make your decision, it’s important to know that there are two major consequences to your shrinking back: The first is the truncation of your soul’s purpose. Ouch, right? Well, something inclined you to create in the first place and, as most creative folks know, the creative cycle can’t complete itself until your gifts are received — for better or worse. Also, that urge to create? It’s not going away. The second consequence is the loss felt by everyone who will never receive the unique medicine you are meant to bring.
So ultimately you have to decide; are you willing to take the hit on behalf of all those who need exactly what you’re bringing? Or will you let them take the hit, by your remaining quiet?So the question shouldn't be if you will be criticised, but whether or not you're willing to take the hit.Click To Tweet
Criticism is essential to our being shaped as individuals, as well as creatives. Given respectfully, criticism can be one of the most precious gifts in the world. But of course there are those critics who take cheap shots just be contrary, or to parade their own virtue.
Learning to differentiate between cheap and meaningful criticism is a huge part of becoming resilient. You can tell the difference between a critic who is an ally, and one who is a frustrated creative themselves, by how kindly (and privately) they deliver their reflections. An ally-critic will take as much care in offering you their reflections as you did in creating your offering.
If what they say resonates for you, even in an uncomfortable way, it’s meaningful criticism. Criticism like this will help shape you into a better writer, a better artist, a better person. But if it’s delivered with poison or shame, and doesn’t connect with some part of you that feels the same way, then it isn’t worth giving any energy to it.
Easier said than done, hey? How do you not let a cheap criticism get under your skin? In a way, you don’t have to. Even cheap criticism can serve you in that it forces you to articulate, even for yourself, what you stand for.
But just because the voice of your critics is loud, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Once you’ve figured out where you stand, it’s important to listen to the other voices, which are likely far more numerous, letting praise or gratitude really penetrate you. If you have trouble receiving encouragement, I recommend buying a special journal in which to collect positive feedback about your work. You can also chronicle the moments you feel in alignment and well-being in your creative process.
Resilience is also trusting in the goodness of your intention. There is a vibratory signature on everything we create, whether we intend it or not, and this signature will be recognized by anyone who is on the same wavelength as you.
None of us are perfect, even though we feel enormous pressure to be, say, and do everything right. But if you are trying your best and putting your imperfect thing into the world, you are already defying the odds.
So be willing to be seen, that others who need what you’re bringing will also be emboldened to give their gifts. You won’t die from criticism. Either it will shape you into a better version of yourself, or give you an opportunity to pivot towards what you really value.
I have been making some new videos for you about how to work with your dreams! Subscribe to my YouTube channel and I’ll notify you when a new installment gets uploaded! Here’s my #1 Tip for Working with Nightmares:
“The Summer Solstice is not a time for modesty. The wild world is not shy about its beauty and gifts. Plants and creatures are engaged in a no-holds-barred life-fest of blossoming and flourishing, each according to its unique essence, place, and purpose in this glorious weaving of Mother Earth.” – The Path of She, by Karen Clark
There is a wildness in each of us. A way of walking, a set of spots, an inclination, a blinking impulse towards which we are silently drawn. Like an elephant finding water in a desert it’s never traveled, or a bird coming to fly with brand new wings, we all have this instinctual capacity. It is the animal in us, which knows what it knows, and is the origin from which all creativity is expressed.
But in my practice I work with many medicine people who have sent their gifts for dreaming, seeing, and creativity into exile. These gifts, often forged in the belly of trauma, are sent into hiding because the world feels too hostile to use them in the open.
Many take the path well-worn instead, because it guarantees safety. The way has been mapped and we know were it leads. But the price we pay is the life half-lived. To those willing to brave the dark thicket of fear and grief for the chance of an encounter with the true self, there is a promise, a remembering, a returning to love, magic, and purpose.
There is a wildness under our skin which wants nothing more than to dance until our feet are sore, sing our beautiful grief into the rafters, and offer our bottomless cup of creativity as a way of life. Originality is really the practice of unhindering what’s already there. By originality, I mean that Grandmother Well, from which every human being drinks. That which is dreaming us. You might call it god, nature, source, instinct, but whatever word you use, it is the great unfolding through us.
This is not a time for modesty. Take a page from the book of Nature, which is blooming and buzzing and proliferating with abandon. Let yourself be expressed as the earth is, with a generosity that comes from encountering your own plenty.Solstice is not a time for modesty. Let yourself be expressed as Nature; with abandon.Click To Tweet
Know that unhindering yourself is essential to belonging because your creative offering is like a holy signal to those who carry a similar vibratory signature. In hearing or seeing what you’ve created, they will find a sense of belonging with you and, in being found, so will you with them.
Speaking of which! You should really think about joining us for our annual Women’s Dreaming Retreat, here on our island paradise! We have about 5 spots left and the earlybird registration snuck up on us, ending in just a month, on July 20th!
This text has been adapted from my forthcoming book Belonging, due for release in early autumn! If you’d like to read more about this, sign up for my free mailing list here.
Without the guidance of our elders, and the wisdom found in stories, myth and dreaming, we in modern culture are mirroring an increasingly distorted image of the externalised life. Take for example ‘Reality Television’ which portrays human nature as competitive, jealous, violent and shallow. These are the stories of our time, and by paying them with our attention we further emphasise those cultural qualities.
Like a question that goes unanswered, we recreate conflict and violence for entertainment, as if on an endless loop. While it may feel entertaining to watch such unconscious images, they are lacking in real nutrition and take an enormous psychic toll. The reinforcement of those values narrows the band of our mythic imagination.
People praise this kind of anti-storytelling because, “it’s more like real life.” But I believe it’s a mistake to think of stories with a redemptive quality as unrealistic, because their function is not to reflect ‘real life,’ but rather to rescue the events of our lives from randomness, restoring them to meaning.The function of stories is not to reflect real life, but to rescue it from randomness.Click To Tweet
Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” 2017 © Toko-pa Turner: To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL
Try as we might, there is no inoculation against shadow. No matter how dedicated we are to piety, good health or selfless service, we cannot distance ourselves from the grit and grime of being alive. The shadow will always find a way to enter our lives, but the artfulness is in how we dance with it, the degree to which we follow its lead.
There is a powerful groupmind so pervasive that it is almost undetectable, which advocates for mass inoculation against shadow. It offers myriad activities and substances to keep us from depression, rebellion, anxiety and restlessness. It may even talk about shadow in a homeopathic way, offering us small, safe doses of theory and jargon, instilling the false confidence that we have any reign over chaos. But until we become truly intimate with darkness, which is to say, respectful of that dangerous and powerful Mother, reverent of her compulsory initiations by wrath and grief, we are only making ourselves more susceptible to her possession.
What is it to refuse inoculation? It is to aspire to our own humanity. Stepping away from the protective, controlled, masked persona to let ourselves be seen as we are.
Just as fire can transform food from its raw form into something digestible, our darknesses are radical transformers. Instead of airbrushing our personalities, we should practice at exaggerating our blemishes, leaning into our stagnancy, wounding and discomforts. If we really want to evolve, all we have to do is be more expressly where we are.
As an Ambassadress of the Darkness, my message to embrace these darker emotions is sometimes misinterpreted as an invitation to wallow in, or let your base impulses run wild. But what I’m really talking about is getting out from under spiritual override long enough to acknowledge the validity of your feelings. Instead of affirming whatever emotion is arising, override is when we put up resistance to conflictual feelings by telling ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, we don’t want that pain, we should be more evolved, less emotional, stronger, etc. To inhabit our feelings is another way of saying belonging to the true breadth of our experience. Yessing your conflict doesn’t mean staying in it. It means making a compassionate encounter with your difficult feelings, until they reveal their hidden intelligence.
Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” 2017 © Toko-pa Turner (To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL )