December 2013 Ritual: Winter Solstice By Diann L. Neu

By Diann L. Neu

Sun Winter Solstice Ritual 2013Celebrating the Winter Solstice

December 21, the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, is the longest night and shortest day of the year. Darkness and light realign to call the sun from the womb of night.

The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol meaning “sun” and statum meaning “to stand still.” It reflects what we see at dawn on the first days of winter when the sun seems to pause for several minutes in its passage across the sky.

Virtually all cultures have their own ways of marking the Winter Solstice using the imagery of light: lighting candles on a menorah, placing candles or lights on a Christmas tree, burning a Yule log, decorating houses with extra lights. Each effort beseeches the sun to return again.

This is a time to honor the sweet darkness, to praise the new light, and to gaze at the full moon. It is a season to see the stark trees and barren lands, to hear the quiet and silence, to feel fires that comfort us, to feel the blustery wind, enjoy the snow, and drink hot cider to warm us inside. This is a time to lie fallow and discover the mysteries that lie in darkness, including our own.

Winter invites a long journey inward to draw on natural resources and strengths. The starkness of the environment can bring inner clarity. The structure of the tree and the shape of the land are revealed as they are freed from vegetation. So too, we see our souls in stark outline.

We participate with Earth in this sacred cycle: death preparing for rebirth, emptying to make space for the new, light receding and returning. We rest and hibernate. We ponder and dream as darkness turns into new life.

Savor darkness for a few minutes. Turn out the lights. Sit in the quiet of darkness, and listen reflectively for two minutes.

Lighting Winter Solstice Candles

Light four candles to welcome women’s light into the world.

Light the first candle to honor young women who challenge us to new awarenesses.

Light the second candle in solidarity with middle-aged friends who work for peace and justice, especially gender equality.

Light the third candle to remember the elders who share their joy and pass on their resources.

Light the fourth candle for those who have died this year.

Inviting Our Light to Shine

When you celebrate the winter solstice,
May your light shine.
When you share love,
May your light shine.
When you work for peace,
May your light shine.
When you teach a child about justice,
May your light shine.
When you comfort someone who is ill,
May your light shine.
When you grieve the loss of a loved one,
May your light shine.
When you are challenged to change,
May your light shine.
When you (add your own intention here),
May your light shine.
Bless yourself with the light.
Your light will shine.

Taking Action
. Honor the solstice with an hour of intentional silence.

. Offer seeds to winter birds.

. Watch the sunrise or sunset and give thanks for the darkness and the light.

. Bring back the light by volunteering in your community.

. Read a book you have set aside, or see a film you missed when it first came out.
. Donate to a charity to help others find the light.

. Share something from your closet with those who need it.

. Add a place at your table and invite a friend to join you for a festive meal.

Sharing the Light

The light always returns. Of this we can be sure.
Happy Winter Solstice!

© Diann L. Neu, co-founder and co-directior of WATER,dneu@hers.com

Winter Solstice Ritual 2013