Celebrating the Light

A ritual for Solstice in the Celtic tradition.

BY: Mara Freeman

 
Mara Freeman, M.A., British author, lecturer, and storyteller, is an ArchDruidess in the Druid Clan of Dana, and the author of 'Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illumine Your Life Throughout the Seasons' (HarperSanFrancisco, Dec. 2000). Visit her website.

Winter Solstice

The seed of light is born in the dark womb of Midwinter, the time we know as the Winter Solstice, a word which means "the sun stands still." Every year from Midsummer (June 21st) onward in the Northern Hemisphere, daylight hours become shorter and shorter until around December 21st the sun appears to rise and set in the same place for a few days. Then, barely noticeable at first, the sun begins its long journey towards the south, and all of creation starts to exhale. The wheel turns, a cycle of new life begins once more.

Celebrate the Green World

  • Decorate your house with traditional evergreens. They remind us that the green world cannot be conquered by winter.
  • Gather branches that have scarlet berries, symbolizing the red blood of life. Choose from holly, yew, or mountain ash and mingle with ivy, bay, and fragrant bunches of rosemary.
  • Add sprigs of hazel to keep mischievous fairies away.
  • Mistletoe is known as The Druids' Herb, and it has always been highly prized as a powerful healing plant in Celtic countries. Hang a mistletoe bough just inside your front door. Leave it up during the coming year to protect the house.
  • Light a Solstice candle. In Ireland, this was either white or red. The family might have one huge individual candle or a number of smaller size: one for each member of the family, and little colored ones for the children. Sow seeds of light for the coming cycle with a simple ritual that can be equally effective alone or with a large family group.
  • Seeds of Light

    1. Place a large candle unlit in the center of the table or floor.


    2. Sit in front of it, or if doing this in a group, have everyone sit in a circle around it. Everyone present should have their own small candle.


    3. Turn all lights out. Experience the feeling of sitting in utter darkness--the silence, the stillness, the inwardness. If children are present, have them say out loud what it feels like (soft, scary, cold). Ask them to imagine what life would be like without the sun, and share their answers aloud.


    4. Now consider all the gifts the sun brings us. Again, if children are present, have them call out what comes to mind.


    5. Contemplate how the seed of light is even now being born within the womb of darkness. (An adult can explain to children how the wheel of the year is now turning towards the light.) Light the central candle with a taper.


    6. Now each person in turn lights their taper from the Sun candle and wishes out loud for three things they would like to have happen in the coming year: make a wish for yourself, a wish for someone you know, and a wish for the planet.


    7. Now the room is filled with light and warmth. Finish the celebration with seasonal song, circle dance, or food.


    8. At the end of the gathering, individual candles can be snuffed out with the reminder that the flame continues to burn brightly within our hearts. If possible, let the central candle stay alight throughout the night (with obvious safety precautions!) to welcome back the Sun.


    May peace and plenty be the first to lift the latch on your door and happiness be guided to your home by the candle of Christmas.
    - Irish Blessing
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