Winter Solstice 2012—it’s here! Tonight is Solstice Eve, and I’ll be dancing around a bonfire at the beach, then keeping an all night vigil at home, then singing the sun up tomorrow at dawn. The old candlewax is scraped out of the candleholders, and the yeast and flour are ready for our midnight bread-baking.
This Solstice seems especially portentous. It’s the ending of the Mayan Calendar, a 30,000 year cycle—though not the end of the world! Yet this year has felt apocalyptic, with floods and drought, mega-storms and horrific massacres—the ones the media pays attention to and the ongoing violence of drones and wars and Occupation that go ignored. We know the climate is changing, we sense great forces contesting for the future. Either we make the deep shifts in our ways of living and working, succeed in what Johanna Macy calls The Great Turning, or we confirm our long, slow, deadly decline.
Solstice represents hope and regeneration. Out of the longest night, a new day is born. The deepest darkness gives birth to light. Tonight, we can draw on that tide of energy and weave some magic for the transformation.
Some of you may already be on your way to join in ceremonies at Mayan temples or jungle retreats. Others may be dusting off your altars, or looking for a ritual to join.
But maybe some of you don’t have a spiritual community. Perhaps you are feeling that you want to do something, and yet don’t know what it might be. Here’s some ideas, and any time over the next few days, between the 20th and 23rd, is a good time to do them.
Solstice can be a time for personal work, for letting go of inner pain, regrets, mistakes, blocks. Fire and water can both be good tools for doing this. Stir some salt into a bowl of water. Sit with it, and let the painful feeling arise, and as they do, breathe them into the water, stirring counterclockwise. When you feel the wave of emotion has passed, sit for a moment and allow yourself to believe that change is possible. Imagine it as a spark of light, that begins to grow as you stir clockwise. You can sing or chant or breathe to raise the energy. When you feel the bowl is glowing, take a small sip and consciously take back the transformed energy. Look back at some of the situations that have been painful and imagine how you might do them differently.
If you have a fireplace or woodstove or a way to make a fire outside, you can do a similar cleansing with fire. Sit by the unlit fire, draw or write your regrets on paper, then light the fire and let them burn up in the flames.
Solstice is also a time to honor the cycles, the seasons and the elements. You don’t have to be at an ancient pyramid to watch the sunset or to gather with friends at dawn and sing up the morning sun.
And Solstice is a time for connection, with friends, family, children and community. Gather with friends and create a feast, and take time for each person to name their hopes for the new era as you raise a glass or pour a libation, and to commit to something they will do to help midwife it into birth. At my house, we like to bake bread, kneading in our dreams and visions. The rising dough is like the swelling belly of the Great Mother, pregnant with the New Year Child. At dawn, the bread is ready, and we bring it up to the hill, still warm, to eat as the sun rises.
And Solstice is a time for magic—for linking our intentions with symbols and images that channel energy to bring them about. Symbolically, the Great Mother goes into labor tonight, to bring forth the Child of Light, the new sun, the new era, the new day. We support her efforts with our gatherings, our chants, our songs, our ceremonies, and the real work we each do, our own labors toward the Great Turning. Change always requires sacrifice—letting go of something, if only our old, destructive ways of being. But every loss, every emptiness, opens the way for something new to be born. In darkness, the seed takes root and the new sprout pushes toward the light. In the dark of the womb, the spark of life is kindled. Out of the longest night, the new day is born.
So let this Solstice be a time when we all put our intention toward the change, and draw forth the strength, the courage and the determination to bring that new world into being. A world where we know that we are not separate, but connected, not the masters of the world, but nature’s children, her partners and healers, where the currency we strive for is not money or power, but love. We are creative, magical, radiant beings, and when we link our hearts, our vision and our actions together, as the Wheel of the Year turns, we can indeed turn the world around.
A blessed Solstice to you all!
Reclaiming is the Pagan/Wiccan tradition I work with, to find out if there is a Reclaiming ritual near you, go here:
More information on magic, ritual and Solstice celebrations can be found in my many books, especially:
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess
And Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Tradition, with Anne Hill and Diane Baker.
Find them here or ask your local bookstore to order them, or order them from any online bookseller.
Also check out the audiobook Earth Magic, available on Itunes.