In my spiritual tradition, the Tradition of Ara, we are getting ready to celebrate the Winter Solstice holiday, a night when, it is said, the Goddess gives birth to the God. On this night, our indigenous European ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King ~ the Giver of Life that warms the frozen Earth. From here on in, the days will become longer as the God grows into his full strength.
Winter Solstice In Nature
As the Wheel of the Year turns, we mark the distance we’ve come since the autumn equinox, where day initially equals night but quickly gives way to more darkness. Winter Solstice marks a crucial part of the natural cycle, where the night is longest, darkness is at its maximum ~ but there is hope as the light gradually increases. In a real sense, the sun begins its journey toward longer days, heralding the promise of new growth and renewal.
Winter solstice has been celebrated for so long in so many different parts of the world, not only because it’s a time of optimism for the coming spring, but because the physical sun symbolizes the spiritual sun. This is the time of spiritual rebirth, a reminder that an old path has come to an end, and a new one emerges.
Spiritual meanings of the Winter Solstice
For those of us who recognize the natural cycles of life and the year, indigenous European holidays, such as the Winter Solstice (also known as Yule in some traditions), are like rest stops that allow us, as travelers in time, to pause and reflect upon particularly auspicious moments on our journey. We can become quiet enough to see the design of our lives and begin to see the cycles of our life as part of a whole, part of a larger pattern. We can slow down for a moment and stop to get our bearings, to make sure we are moving forward, in a spiral motion, and not just going in an endless loop.
The holidays mark an opportune time to ask ourselves some important questions, such as: ~ Where have we been? ~ Where are we now? ~ And toward what are we moving? Are we stuck in an endless circle and not moving forward or are we moving in a spiral? Is the path one of conscious movement or of unconscious patterns?
A ritual to celebrate the Return of the Sun
Even though darkness now prevails, we know that this is the dreamtime, the time for germination. Just because we may not be aware of movement, that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. The structure of the next cycle of life, of our lives, is being formed.
Now is our opportunity to make this moment a ritual of conscious co-creation, to help us remember who we are, and why we are here.
What you’ll need:
- Lots and lots of candles, designating a large gold candle as the Sun Candle. The candles do not have to match.
- A cloth to cover your table or altar.
- Any other Winter Solstice inspired decorations if you’d like.
- Holiday cookies :)
1. Cover your table or altar with candles. Keep them unlit.
2. In the center, place a sun candle on a riser, so it's above the rest.
3. Turn off all the other lights, and face your altar. You can cast your circle now, if you’d like.
4. Face the candles, and say a prayer of recognition, or chant, regarding the retreat of the darkness and the return of the sun. One of my favorites is to sing Here Comes the Sun King by the Beatles. : )
5. Light the sun candle.
6. Beginning with the candles closest to the sun candle, and working your way outward, light each of the other candles. As you light each one, say: As the wheel turns, light returns.
7. Repeat this until all the candles are lit. Take a moment to think about what the return of the sun means to you. Take a moment to answer these questions: ~ Where have you been? ~ Where are you now? ~ And toward what are you moving? Are you stuck in an endless circle and not moving forward or are you moving in a spiral? Is the path one of conscious movement or of unconscious patterns?
8. Take the time to bask in the light of your candles, and in the awareness of your path, and eat some treats. When you're done, extinguish the candles from the outside of the altar working towards the center, leaving the sun candle for last.
** I posted this ritual to the Temple of Ara's page on Facebook, in case you would like to join others who are of like minds in this celebration. www.facebook.com/templeofara