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!