December 21, 2014 will mark the day of the Winter Solstice. There is a special silence to winter, the few birds still left are too busy trying to stay alive than to grace the air with much song, and a muffle of snow hushes everything. It is good to feel natures power now, despite all of our technology, when a big snow storm hits , we are immobilized forced to stop and wait. Winter makes a stillness in us that echoes the season.
Winter solstice marks the onset of winter and the darkest day of the year. With the darkest day of the year, however, we have the cycle turning over to move back toward the light. Its a reminder that as soon as we hit our darkest point, there is a light on the other side. It is no coincidence that this time of year marks the celebration of light through different religious traditions. These traditions on so many levels are celebrating the sun and calling it back through symbolism like candles, lights, fires and lanterns. The imagery of our cultural winter holiday is straight from the Pagan past, there was no snow in Bethlehem, and certainly no Christmas trees. But our very bones remember the celebration of the living green when all else is bare and bleak. The imagery of the Madonna and child so clearly echo the ancient-goddess worshiping celebration of Yule as the birth of the Sun Child out of the womb of the longest night.
When we look to the symbolism of this season, it is a time of new beginnings and the formulation of new intentions. For as dark as it is, it is a time of rebirth. It represents the time of the first planted seed, that with the gift of the returning sun, will begin to grow. Its also no coincidence that New Year's holiday, so close to the Winter Solstice, marks the time of the new year and a time of setting intentions.
If you are looking to embrace the energy of the Winter Solstice Try this short practice at home:
On the evening of the winter solstice after the sun has set, turn off all the lights and meditate in a dark room. In your meditation explore the darkness: How does it feel? What does it represent for you? What are your associations with darkness in your life? Spend some time here and notice what unfolds with your attention. Then, light a single candle and meditate on the light. This is a yogic meditation practice called trataka. Let your gaze be soft, your lids heavy, and focus your eyes on the light of the candle. Again, notice what your experience is and how you feel. Once you have finished this practice, take out your journal and write your intentions for the coming year. You might even set intentions for the following time frames: 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months. These times marks the equinoxes and the solstices of the coming year and on these special days give you the opportunity to check back in with your intentions and explore how your journey has unfolded thus far.
Oils, Stones, and incense:
Traditionally, gemstones for this sabbat are Bloodstone, Garnet, and Ruby. Sabbat gemstones can be worn as jewelry or the stone may be placed on your altar. Also, clear quartz (amplifier), Jet, citrine, green tourmaline, blue topaz, obsidian, pearl.
Carnation, cedar, spruce, pine, rose, cinnamon, bayberry
PREPARING YOUR ALTAR:
Candles: red, green, white, gold, silver
Incense: bayberry, pine, cedar, cinnamon
Decorate circle with holly, mistletoe, ivy, pine, pine cones, a Yule Log, and place ash twigs in the cauldron (to burn for prosperity).