The end of the Gregorian calendar year coincides with the depths of winter in the northern hemisphere where I have lived most of my life.
In the earth-based traditions of my indigenous European ancestors, the winter solstice - which we will honor in this land on Wednesday coming – welcomed the rebirth of the sun and honored the darkest days of the wheel of the year, the time when the earth where one sat was farthest from the suns presence and influence.
Solstice, through this lens, is a time of reflection on the cycle past, letting the self go dormant and into the dreamtime of the year and the body so that clarity could be gained for that which must needs nurturing through the winter and is to be planted or born in the spring to come after the many moons that the earth lays fallow and lets death prepare the ground for the next cycle of life.
Of course, here in the USA and in many other western societies, this time of year has been chucked in patriarchal industrial capitalisms mad blender and super-charged with stress and dis-regulating external activity by commercializing the window between Thanksgiving and Christmas into a time of frenzied activity full of constant gathering, the compulsive expenditure of every kind of energy including money and time, complicated travel, preparing and sharing huge meals, and finally capping it all off with a raging party of some kind to inebriate, carouse, and celebrate the turning of the calendrical page before then being expected to activate the "new years resolutions" on the morning after these two+ months of bingeing on over-stimulation the morning after the party.
If ever there was a clear indication of the deranged psycho-pathology of the western world, “The Holidays” is it.
Being a naturally hermetic and earth-oriented person, even in urban environments, if winters wings are spread across the land, I am drawing into my den and wrapping my tail around my face at this time of year. I am going close to Gaia’s heart and the quiet breathing of the mystery to listen with the whole of my heart and soul for that which is mine to carry through the dark times. There is a kind of luscious melancholy that naturally arises in this space. There is also the grief that the death season holds, which can become holy and generative if we are brave enough to be with it, sat by a candle in the dark night, letting the slow eros of life soak into our bones.
This is the only way for me to have the territory of the year to range through with an inquisitive curiosity, availing myself of new perspectives on the paths travelled, truly beholding the scope of the journey from the last solstice to this one, deeply hearing and seeing what is there to be witnessed, honored, and considered so that I can move well through times continued unfolding.
This dark quiet is a precious and holy gift, an offering from nature and the cosmos to sink down into soul for a whole season of nourishing and restorative rest.
But if we are in the northern hemisphere and western society, we have to choose that, and we have to protect that choice over and over again, for the very act of frenetic and fragmenting activity that society encourages us into pushes this quiet invitation away, disperses the subtle magic of it, and wastes the opportunity of the moment.
So how will you turn towards and tend your hearth in this time, beloved?
Here I will offer you a simple ritual, which you can do alone or with other people:
On Wednesday night, the 21st of December, turn all the lights off, draw all the blinds, and silence all your devices. Let there be one candle burning, and nothing more. Make a quiet seat for yourself, and sit with that candle for a while, letting your imaginal self roam through the country of the wheel of the year past. Remember the significant things and honor them accordingly. Send quiet prayers of praise or apology or whatever else is needed out to wherever they are needed. Journal or share if you’re inspired to.
When it feels as though the year has been “reviewed,” blow the candle out and sit quietly in the darkness for at least half and hour.
Rest into your breath. Rest into the stillness. Give yourself to the quiet.
Feel everything that’s there to feel without attaching to it in any way. Let the darkness enfold you, and let it work its old, wild magic on and through you. Listen for the whisperings of the mystery about the time that is and the time to come. Let the dream seeds that will be yours to carry forward reveal themselves, and welcome them to your breast if you feel ready to steward them towards the life that will come in the spring. Honor the darkness, the slowness, the stillness. Give it space to breathe through your being. Feel the nourishment and restoration of it. Feel the presence of the spirits and the more-than-human world in its own deep dreaming.
When you are ready to emerge (please don’t rush), connect with the sun energetically. Feel how you and the sun are currently as far apart physically as it is possible to be, and feel how the spot where you sit on the earth is beginning to turn back towards it in her slow-dreaming way, beginning to carry you back towards that life-coaxing light and warmth, back towards the spring that will come in not too long.
Relight your candle. Give thanks to the spirits who journeyed with you, sing some songs, dance a bit, and let yourself be saturated with all that you were given in this ritual. Stay in the softness of that sacred space. Don’t rush or chat or move to fast. Don’t turn all the lights back on. Stay close to the darkness and close to the warm reassurance of the flame. It may be best to let it all marinate for a while before you share about it, but journal if that feels alive for you.
This simple ritual helps you to rest into the natural character of the moment. It brings you close to that nourishing respite and wraps a cloak of remembrance around your ancient shoulders so that you can hear the guidance and wisdom of the soul that is offering its medicine to you always.
It just may make the biggest difference of all this “holiday season”.
Try it out and let me know how it goes for you.
All the love