Several years ago I went through an initiation. The process was long, deep, intense, and life changing. During my initiation I had several mentors working to steward me through it. They would offer advice, suggestions, and challenges to guide me on my path. One of my amazing mentors challenged me to hibernate. Since that first year, I have done a Winter Solstice hibernation ritual every year.
In case, you weren’t sure, I’m not a bear. I’m a simple human. I can’t actually curl up in a cave and sleep for three months, as much as I might want to. I also can’t curl up in my blankets and rest for three months. I’ve got a job that demands a lot of my time and attention during the month of December. I’ve got kids, a spouse, and pets, that all need and want my attention. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t disappear at the Winter Solstice.
This ritual isn’t a full on bear hibernation. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that the Winter Solstice is a time to go within, to slow down (as much as you can), and give yourself space for some restoration. Before performing this ritual, know that by ritually committing to Winter Solstice hibernation, you will have to honor your side of the agreement. You may have to say no to a holiday party. You might have to make hard choices and not do all the things. Be ready for that before performing this Winter Solstice hibernation ritual.
Supplies: Bed with lots of pillows and blankets, cedar, fire safe container, a journal, a flashlight, and your favorite anointing oil.
Set Up: This ritual is best done at dusk. Before that time make up your bed with the blankets and pillow, like a fort, let your kid-self have some fun with it. Place your journal inside of the fort, consider if you might want a flashlight and put that with your journal.
Ritual: Step into the room where the ritual will take place. Burn the cedar and use the smoke to cleanse yourself. Using the anointing oil to bless your third eye.
When you feel ready, call on Bear as an ally to guide you through this process. Speak from your heart, invite Bear to help you navigate hibernation in a healthy way. Explain that it is time for you to go within and seek the wisdom of the winter. Ask Bear to watch over your ritual and act as your ally throughout the winter hibernation.
Crawl into your bed fort and snuggle up in the pillows and blankets. Give yourself some time to contemplate all that you have accomplished in the year leading up to this moment. Think about all of the things yet to be completed. If you feel so called write down what is coming up for you in your journal.
Let this time be restful and expansive. Feel warm, held, and comfortable. Notice how nice it is to be cozy and warm in your blankets with nothing to do. You may want to write more in your journal, you might doze, you might even feel called to sing a little bit. Let yourself rest in whatever way you feel called. During this time also make space to contemplate what you are ready to let go of, what you might want to call in, and what you’d like to awaken to in the spring. Let yourself meditate on these ideas. Again, you may find yourself falling asleep, that’s okay. At some point let yourself fall asleep for the night.
In the morning, plan ahead so you have plenty of time to start your day slowly. Before fully getting up take our your journal and write down any thoughts or ideas (maybe think of them as seeds) for what you might want to plant in the spring. Write down anything interesting or odd that may have come through during your meditation or in your dreams. Make no decisions, just let your mind wander with possibility. Set aside your journal and don’t look at your list until after the New Year.
For the rest of the year, be cautious on what you agree to do. Let yourself rest as much as possible. Do things that are restorative for your mind, body, and spirit. Don’t over commit. Go to bed early at night and eat meals that are healthy.
After New Years’ Day start to look at the list you created for your spring goals. Start to plan how you might accomplish these goals and what steps you might need to take first.
At Imbolc, set up your blanket fort again. Do this process early in the morning. Cleanse with cedar and anoint your third eye with oil. Crawl into your blankets and look back over everything you have written. Write down anything interesting or important that comes up for you during this review process. This time, notice how the blankets are a little too much, perhaps you are slightly uncomfortable. Cover your head with blankets and notice how hard it is to breathe.
When you are ready, take some deep breaths, and crawl out of your cave. Stretch your body, take long deep cleansing breaths, and start to move your body faster and faster until you feel fully awake.
Take a moment to thank Bear. Thank Bear for being your ally during your hibernation. Speak from your heart and release Bear, as the spring is coming and you are now ready to wake up and take action.
Between Imbolc and the Spring Equinox look over your action items and make a list of specific steps that you can take to move in the direction of your goals.