For a Feminist Winter Solstice

I love and abhor these dark days of winter.  I love lighting candles, using my Himalayan salt crystal lamp, and snuggling up under blankets with cats and husband.  I abhor the 4:20pm sunset, driving in the dark, and I long for sunlit evenings on the back porch to return.  Years ago, a yoga teacher used the opportunity of the winter solstice to encourage us to do more sun salutations, because, as she said, the sun is still out there.  We just can’t see it.  The movements also served to heat up the heart/sun/energy force and I liked that too.

Diann Neu has shared this ritual for celebrating the winter solstice at WATER, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, noting that:

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.

And so Neu invites us in to this ritual:

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.

And it continues with lighting 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.

Then, she offers this blessing that invites all lights 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.

Bless yourself with the light.
Your light will shine.

The ritual concludes by inviting action, like:

. 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.

The ritual is a combination of turning inward with self-care, and turning outward to connect with others.  Much like the season of darkness, these twin obligations can help bring harmony to out out-of-balance lives.


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