My Yuletide ritual this year began on the winter solstice and will culminate with the dawn of the sun on New Year’s day. This ritual has evolved over several years of trial and error and I have worked to integrate the Neo-Pagan winter solstice, Christian Christmas, and secular New Year celebration. (And it will do doubt continue to evolve.) Most of the words used in the ritual are drawn from sources that are not traditionally “pagan” — a folk song, a fantasy novel, a famous poem, the Bible, a Gnostic text — they are numinous words that resonated with me when I first read or heard them. This is my private ritual. I also do a winter solstice celebration with my wife and kids that you can find here.
Modranacht (Mother Night)
The first stage is the kenosis or “emptying”. On the winter solstice, I clean off altar, removing all the statues and images of deities and all the other sacred foci.
I then place one black candle in the center of the empty space on the altar.
Every night until the New Year’s Eve, I perform this meditation on the darkness, preferably at midnight (but sometimes just before retiring):
I light the black candle. I rest my hands, palms up, on the altar and recite:
You weary nations,
I am like some new being you’ve never encountered before.
Yet there is nothing about me you can’t recognize.
I live in the place where you perceive nothing.
I then extinguish the black candle and recite:
There is warmth … in the darkness.
There is unity … in the darkness.
There is wholeness … in the darkness.
There is silence … in the darkness.
There is peace … in the darkness.
There is rest … in the darkness.
May the darkness embrace me.
I repeat this last line three times. I then recite:
The end of all my exploring will be to arrive where I started
And know the pace for the first time.
In the womb of the world,
Life and death are one.
I repeat the last two lines three times. I then recite:
And all will come right, I swear it.
We will meet where the forest is deepest,
where the night is blank and there are no stars,
for I am your annihilation come to make peace.
I repeat the last line three times.
Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun)
On the eve of the New Year, I will keep vigil until dawn.
At dawn, I will greet the rising sun, standing with my arms outstretched facing east, with these words:
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven:
A woman clothed with the Sun
And the moon under her feet,
And upon her head was a crown of twelve stars,
And she, being with child, travailed in birth.
The daughter of heaven descended
Carrying the oil of labor.
She touched the oil to the head of the laboring woman:
“I anoint your head — the holy self.”
I pour a libation of olive oil on the earth.
She touched the oil to the belly of the laboring woman:
“I anoint your belly — the holy tabernacle.”
I pour a second libation of olive oil on the earth.
She touched the oil to the vulva of the laboring woman:
“I anoint your vulva — the holy portal.”
I pour a third libation of olive oil on the earth.
“Come through the oiled gates, child,
And be anointed like the kings of long ago.”
I then anoint the crown of my head with the remaining olive oil:
Crops rushing forth from the deep;
A babe rushing forth from the womb.
And all the goddesses raised a cry:
This last part I shout. I then recite:
I saw the sun shining at midnight.
Gods of above and gods of below
I saw face to face.
I approached the frontiers of death,
And having walked on the threshold of Proserpine,
I then return to my altar and replace the statues and other sacred foci on my altar.