Winter Solstice – A Solitary Ritual

Winter Solstice – A Solitary Ritual December 9, 2014

Holidays and holy days are better with friends and family. But many Pagans maintain solitary practices. Even if you work with a group, sometimes you can’t be with them for one reason or another. And sometimes your group meets on a convenient day but you feel the need to celebrate on the exact day. Whatever the reason, many Pagans will be celebrating the Winter Solstice by themselves.

Here’s a ritual that will help you experience the mystery and wonder of the Winter Solstice in a solitary setting.

This ritual invites and honors Danu in Her role as Mother Goddess.  You are free to invite another deity instead, but if you do, please give some thought to Who and why.

Setup

This ritual should be done at night.  It can be done outdoors if you prefer, but it is best done where you can experience near-total darkness, and for most of us that means indoors with the curtains drawn.  If background noise is a problem, play music just loud enough to cover it. I prefer classical music for this purpose, but any instrumental music will do.

Set an altar in the center of your space with five candles.  Set four in a row, then a fifth in front.  The four candles can be whatever colors seem right to you, but the fifth should be gold, or if gold isn’t available, white.  You’ll need four more candles for the quarters.

You’ll also need matches or a lighter, a bell, incense, a small bowl of salt water, bread, wine or other drink, and an offering bowl.

You’ll be sitting quietly for part of the ritual – if you can’t sit comfortably on the floor or ground, place a chair in front of and facing the altar.

Preparation

Do whatever gets you in a ritual frame of mind. Take a bath, listen to music, wash your hands, change your clothes. I rarely “robe up” for solitary ritual, but I do like to wear some of my Pagan jewelry.

Light the incense and do a final check to make sure everything is in place.  Then light the four candles in the row on the altar.

winter solstice altar 2014Opening

Approach the altar and pause for a moment of silent meditation. Ground and center using whatever method you find most effective. Then ring the bell three times.

Say “On this, the longest night, I come to celebrate the Winter Solstice.”

Pick up the bowl of salt water.  Move to the East, pause, then slowly move around the room clockwise, sprinkling the water as you go, cleansing the space.  A sprig of rosemary makes an excellent aspersing branch, but your fingers will do just fine.  Make a complete circle, then set the bowl back on the altar.

Pick up the incense.  Move to the East, pause, then slowly move around the room clockwise, wafting the incense as you go, blessing the space.  A large feather make a nice fan, but again your fingers will do just fine.  Make a complete circle, then set the incense back on the altar.

Return to the East and light the quarter candle. Say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you.  Join this celebration, I ask, and share your wisdom. On this long Solstice night, welcome Air!

Move clockwise to the South. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your inspiration. On this long Solstice night, welcome Fire!

Move clockwise to the West. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your love. On this long Solstice night, welcome Water!

Move clockwise to the North. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your stability. On this long Solstice night, welcome Earth!

Move clockwise back to the East, then return to the main altar.

Invocations

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you to join this celebration of the Solstice.  Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

Land spirits – hail and welcome!

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, because of you I have life. You whose lives were marked by the dying and reborn Sun, join me in this celebration of the Solstice.  Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!

Say “Danu, Mother Goddess, Lady of the Waters, I ask You to join this celebration and bless me with Your presence.  Giver of Life, be welcome here.  At this, the dying and rebirth of the Sun, I would join in Your Great Work of creating and nurturing life and love.  Mother of Gods, please join me in this celebration of the Solstice.  Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”

Raise the bread and wine in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the wine into the offering bowl.

Danu – hail and welcome!

Main Working

Stand in front of the altar.  If you cannot stand, move your chair directly in front of the altar.

Look intensely at the first candle.  Say “I remember the Sun at Summer Solstice, at the height of your power, when days are at their longest.  You rise high on the northern horizon and your rays are at their strongest.  You bring the Summer’s warmth and make the crops grow tall and full.  Yet, having reached your zenith, you begin your journey southward, and the days begin to grow shorter.”

Extinguish the first candle.  Remember the warm weather, the fresh berries and melons, and the long days of Summer.

Look intensely at the second candle.  Say “I remember the Sun at Lughnasadh, the First Harvest, when the days are still long.  You rise on the northeastern horizon, and your strong rays ripen the grains in the fields.  But the August heat is oppressive, and if you did not relinquish your hold the Earth would burn dry.  So you continue your journey southward, and the days grow shorter still.”

Extinguish the second candle.  Remember the hot days when the joy of Summer had turned into hopes for Fall.

Look intensely at the third candle.  Say “I remember the Sun at the Autumn Equinox, when day and night are equal.  You rise from due east, and your rays ripen the fruits on the trees.  The heat has subsided now, and the leaves begin to turn.  You continue your journey of decline, rising lower on the horizon with each passing day.”

Extinguish the third candle.  Remember the cool days of Fall, the fresh apples, the return to school and all things our mainstream world begins in September.

Look intensely at the fourth candle.  Say “I remember the Sun at Samhain, the Final Harvest.  You rise low on the southeastern horizon, and the night has overtaken the day.  The crops are in and the air grows cold.  Your rays grow weaker, and soon the end shall come, even as it comes for all.”

Make sure you have the lighter or matches in your hand, or where you can find them by touch, then extinguish the fourth candle.  Remember Halloween and Thanksgiving, colder days and longer nights.  Remember that the coldest days are yet to come.

Return to your seat.  Sit quietly in the darkness.  Contemplate the year that has been.  What went well?  Name it, and give thanks.  What went poorly?  Acknowledge it.  What do you want to do differently in the coming year?  Think carefully, then say what you will do.  Remember the land spirits, your ancestors, and the Goddess Danu are your witnesses – do not promise what you will not do.

Listen.  Sit quietly.

When the time feels right, return to the altar and light the gold candle.  Say “This is the Sun at the Winter Solstice.  You rise on the southern horizon, low and faint, but bringing with you the promise of Spring and rebirth.  You will grow strong and bright and the days will lengthen once again.  As the Sun is reborn, so too are my hopes and dreams.  Blessed be the Sun – blessed be the Solstice!

Take a bite of the bread and a sip of the wine.

Look intensely at the gold candle and feel it filling you with its warmth and light.

Farewells

Say “Danu, Mother Goddess, Lady of the Waters, I thank You for your presence and Your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Closing

Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East, Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”

Ring the bell three times.

Say “This celebration of the Winter Solstice is complete. Hail and farewell.”

Afterward

Take a breath. Turn on some music, or if you were playing background music, change to something lively and vocal. Drink some water. Turn on the lights. Do something to reorient yourself in the ordinary world.

Extinguish the candles and the incense, then begin to pick up and put away.

Dispose of the offerings in an appropriate manner. I prefer to deposit them outdoors in an inconspicuous place where they’ll be eaten by wild creatures. Depending on where you are, you may need to do something else.

You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong. Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience. You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.

May you have a bright and happy Solstice, and may your Winter and your coming year be blessed by the strengthening Sun!


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