Ritual and the Winter Solstice by Willow Herzog


As the shortest day of light and longest time of night grows near we know Solstice is upon us. The latin roots of the word solstice means “Sun standing still.” A day sometimes called Yule or midwinter, this time of year marks a place of rebirth, celebration, gathering and ritual as we mark the gradual return of light.  The meaning of winter solstice operates at a variety of levels and can be seen as the birth of the son (Jesus) or sun (Physical element) out of darkness. The sun being birthed, emerging from darkness is symbolic of renewal and rebirth. The ancient Egyptians saw the connection of the sun and winter solstice, dedicating to their God Amun the Karnak Temple complex which was aligned with the winter solstice sunrise. This temple complex was continually worked on often in accordance with the Fibonacci sequence and never finished as an example of the continually expanding and unfolding nature of rebirth and creation. The connection of importance with this time of year and birth of light can be seen in the Christian Christmas and birth of Jesus, the ancient Romans and the week long feast of Saturnalia honouring Saturn the God of the Sun and within the tradition of Ancient Scandinavians and the elfin sun goddess who rebirths herself from the darkness of the wolf's belly. These traditions are just a few of the many through human evolution that connect this time of year with a sense of rebirth and light from darkness.

Rituals for Winter Solstice

This time of year can bring about a sense of renewal through resolutions, realized potential waiting to be activated and the reflective time to look at one's own internal light within the darkness. I would like to offer a reflection on the importance of ritual for this transformative occasion and two rituals for harnessing the magical powers of this time of alchemical light and darkness.

Ritual is a way to offer a reminder to your consciousness of the wisdom that resides inside each of us and through giving it a physical act that allows it to come into form through human life. Rituals can take on a variety of forms but what should be clear behind the ritual is your intention, even if that intention is to find your intention and remain open. A positive intention for this time of year can be strengthening your inner light, finding what you would like to renew within yourself or letting go of what you would like to clear.

In relation to Winter Solstice and ritual there are many out there, and what is important is finding something resonant with you and something that feels potent yet honest - ultimately, something you connect to authentically in your heart. I would like to offer two that I have found to be beautiful.

Wreath Ritual

The first is to decorate and create an evergreen wreath using holiday herbs and white, green and red decorations. The wreath when mounted on your front door or wall celebrates the continuity of life, that cycle of rebirth. When choosing what you place on your wreath intuitively picking out as well as consciously researching and implementing from traditions seem to be a nice balanced creation point. Holly, mistletoe and blue spruce are a few plants that could be added for protection, goodwill, love, luck and generosity. When creating your wreath focusing on your energetic intention of rebirth and focusing on the energy you would like to call into your life can be a nice way to interact with the space of creating. Instead of focusing on just getting the wreath done allow it to be meditative, process oriented, intentional and enjoyable. Adding items to the wreath that have significance to your intention are also key when creating.

Candle Ritual

The second ritual I would like to offer is a short ceremony that incorporates the use of four candles: green, yellow, red and blue. The candles each represent an element and direction; Green being Earth and North, Yellow being Air and East, Red being Fire and South and Blue being Water and West. (This ritual can also be used for a Winter’s Full moon manifestation).

You start off by placing the candles facing each of the directions and setting an altar space where the candles will be placed. When creating the altar you can set the space by adding a few intentional items such as seasonal herbs, crystals, feathers, special items of energetic meaning for you. This ritual can be done by yourself, with a loved one or in a group of up to four. So deciding who will light each candle and recite which part are also considerations to be made.

To begin the ritual take a deep clearing and cleansing breath in and out. You can close your eyes and imagine a beautiful golden sun emerging from the darkness and radiating soft golden light down and onto you.

Once you feel calm and ready, open your eyes.  Begin by lighting the green candle and saying...

“We call upon the powers of Earth and welcome you to this circle.

You hold the seeds within you warm and deep.

Waiting for the return of daylight, keep the roots of life sacred within your womb, until it is time for growth to begin once more."

Now lighting the Yellow Candle...

“ We call upon the powers of Air and welcome you to this circle.

The whirling winds of winter bring snow and cold to our hearths and homes.

They also bring with them change and opportunity as they blow.”

Now lighting the Red Candle...

“We call upon the powers of Fire and welcome you to this circle.

May you keep us safe and warm our homes with the spirit of the sun.”

Now lighting the Blue Candle

“We call upon the powers of the water and welcome you to this circle.

Snow and ice, sleet and rain wash away that which we no longer need”

Now that the candles are on the altar reciting the final part of the ritual

“ We gather tonight to rejoice by the light of the moon. We celebrate the season of darkness knowing that the next turn of the wheel will bring light.

We use this darkness for thought, introspection and growth.

As the Moon above, so the Earth below.” 

Then once again closing your eyes and imagining that beautiful bright golden sun and imagining a plan for change, implementing your intention and focusing your concentrated attention towards that change, that renewal.

It can be nice to share the plan for change with the group if this ritual is done in a group fashion and close with a sharing circle. If done alone closing the ritual in a way that feels intuitive to you is lovely. I enjoy using ting shas or a bell to clear the vibration and transition the space. Blowing out the candles to close the space is also an intuitive choice depending on when you feel called to do so. If you are unsure, after the ritual is done and the intention is set is also a good time to do this.

Whatever you choose to do on solstice, may it be one of these rituals or one of your own, remember to do it from your heart. Even a small simple act with great intention can create transformative effects.

Blessings to all as we find our own unique expressions that honour the changing flow of life and season.

Thank-you for reading!

Willow Herzog (also known as Rebecca Reid) is a Calgary based artist, intuitive, tarot reader and teacher of various forms. She feels at home within the occult and supernatural. Continually searching for truth through experience she hopes to offer guidance and clarity through written word and conversation. 

Image: Solstice Queen by Opal Retzer (for more of her gorgeous works and contact info see here)