Author Archives: ladyoftheabyss
Happy Winter Solstice….
to all of us from one of my good friends, Alice Ditts.
(check out more about Alice at her Facebook page)
A Family Yule Ritual
A nice, simple family ritual written by Ceisiwr Serith and is featured in his book The Pagan Family.
After decorating the tree, but before lighting it (except for a quick check of the lights), eat your evening meal. Use your best dishes and have appropriate foods. These could be the foods listed above or culturally traditional Midwinter and festival foods.
After your meal, clear the table. Wash and dry the dishes and put them away. Then take every candle you own and put it in some kind of holder. Use saucers and bowls if you run out of candlesticks. Melt some wax onto the dish and stick the candle in it before the wax hardens. You might want to do this earlier in the day as it can take some time. Put all these candles on the table, with your Sun candle in the middle. Turn off every light in the house. When everyone is seated and the house is dark, an adult says:
For half the year, day by day,
slowly the world has grown darker.
For half the year, night by night,
slowly the dark has grown longer.
Tonight that ends and the wheel turns.
Our land turns back to the light.
Light the sun candle, and continue:
The darkness was never complete
A spark was always waiting,
to return and turn again.
And now it will grow greater and greater.
The light will come back.
The cold will go away.
And once more we will dance in the warmth
until the wheel turns again.
It has always been this way,
The wheel turning from darkness to light and back again
and our people have always known this and have turned with it.
All: The wheel is turning and light’s returning.
An adult starts a litany. The response to each line is:
Light is reborn.
With each answer another candle is lit, until they are all burning. The lines of the litany can go like this:
In the greatest darkness
Out of Winter’s cold
From our deepest fears
When we most despair
When all seems lost
When the earth lies waste
When animals hide
From fallen leaves
When the ground is hard
From the midst of the wasteland
When hope is gone
Out from the hard times.
Continue in this way until half the candles are lit. Then change the emphasis of the litany
Shadows are fleeing
Light is returning
Warmth will come again
Summer will be here once more
Plants will grow again
Animals will be seen once more
Life will continue
Green will come again
Death will not be forever.
Continue until all the candles are lit. When they are, take a deep breath, bask in the candlelight for just a second, and then run through the house (carry small children) and turn on every light you have. Running is important to add a touch of festivity and abandon. Don’t forget closets, attics, stoves, and even flashlights. If you have lights for decorations on a Yule tree or outside, turn them on as well. You will find that children are quite good at finding lights you have forgotten.
When all the lights are on, return to the table. Sit in the glow for a while, eating, drinking, and talking. This is one of my favorite moments of the year; I can feel the light throbbing through the walls. For a family in which turning off unneeded lights is an obsession, this is a special moment indeed. The feeling stays with me for days.
Bring out the cookies and eggnog and have some fun. Then slowly go through the house again, turning the lights back off. Blow out the candles. Leave the Sun candle burning until you have to go to bed. Light it first thing in the morning and leave it burning all day if you can. Burn it each day as long as the tree is up.
You may wish instead to celebrate at dawn. If you have adopted the Christian custom of presents under the tree, there is a good chance your children will be getting up at dawn anyway. Light the candles and house lights as soon as you see the sun (alternatively, you can start at false dawn, the period of growing light before the sun actually rises.) Because you will be present at the actual rebirth of the sun, dispense with the words for the lighting, or limit them to a simple:
The Sun is back
He is born again.
Then, with the lights still burning, you can open presents and eat breakfast.
Yule Group Ritual
This lovely, yet simple ritual is from The Real Witches’ Coven by Kate West
In advance of this Ritual you will need to prepare a Yule Log, or get someone in the Coven to do it for you. Find a log which rests firmly on a flat surface; you may need to get someone to saw off the lower surface to ensure this. Then either drill a number of holes, large enough to each take a small candle, in the top, or hammer in a number of nails in a pattern which allows candles to be wedged between them. The log will need to be large enough to accommodate sufficient candles for everyone attending the Ritual to have one. If you have space the log is best placed on its own small table, or stand, in the center of the Circle, otherwise place it at the center front of the Altar.
After the Sabbat Explanation everyone joins hands and walks Deosil around the Circle, chanting verses to honor the season. When the chants are finished the High Priestess stands before the Altar facing the group, and says:
“Here in the darkest part of the year we are in the midst of winters, but even in the depths of darkness there is the promise of light to come. At Yule the spark of light is born, and from that spark the Sun will grow in strength and beauty through the seasons. Blessed Be.”
She then lights a taper from the Altar candle and holds it up before the rest of the group, before lighting the first candle on the Yule Log and speaking of her hopes. When she has finished, she passes the candle on to the person on her left who then lights a candle and speaks of their hopes. This goes on all around the Circle until everyone has had their turn. (Note: When lighting a series of candles it is best to start at the back of the clusters, so that following Coveners do not have to try and reach over the flames to light their candles.)
When everyone has finished the High Priestess turns to the group and says:
“Behold the candles burn brightly, just as the Sun will burn brighter and brighter in the coming days. May the Sun God bring life and vitality to the land. May the Goddess and the God bring fertility and prosperity to the land and to each and every one of us. Blessed Be”
If you wish you can have more chanting and dancing here, but make sure that the dance do not either extinguish the flames, or set fire to their hair or robes as they pass! The Rite of Wine and Cakes is then performed.
Some other ideas to further adapt and personalize your Yule rituals are:
Rise to greet the reborn Sun. Some groups will rise before dawn and go out to a high point where they can wait to see the Sun rise. Before Sunrise they will sing, dance and drum to ‘call the Sun up’. During the Sunrise they will express hopes and wishes for the Season. Afterwards there will be more chanting and drumming to welcome the newly reborn Sun. This is not as arduous as it first appears as Sunrise at Yule, in the UK at least, does not take place until around 8 am. However it is worth mentioning that you need to find a fairly isolated spot, as your neighbors may not take kindly to the noise at that time of day! It is also worth taking the time to practice the drumming.
The part of the year where the days decrease in length (from Litha to Yule) is presided over by the Holly King. The other half is presided over by the Oak King. These two brothers who are but different aspects of the whole, fight at Yule and at Litha for dominion over the forthcoming half-year. Some Covens enact this fight, having two combatants taking the roles of Holly and Oak King. If you plan to do this, it is a good idea to ensure that the two ‘Kings’ rehearse well, not only so that the ‘right’ King wins, but also so that they do not do any real injury to one another.
Solitary Yule Ritual
This ritual came from Patricia Telesco’s book, The Wiccan Book of Ceremonies and Rituals. I love this book, it has so many great ritual ideas and scripts.
If it’s physically feasible, fast and pray for three days beforehand. This allows you to enter the New Year’s cycle purified in body and spirit. Also consider a ritual bath with cinnamon, mint and rose petals to improve psychic awareness.
Decorate the sacred space with gold and silver spheres to represent the returning sun, and wreaths to symbolize the turning Wheel. Have oak shavings ready as a base for your incense. Add any other personally meaningful herbs to this mixture and start burning it before the invocation to help prepare the sacred space. Finally, put your sun candle from earlier in the year at the southern point of the circle.
Cover the altar with a pale green cloth – the color of early sprouts, which represents continuance. Add red berries for life’s blood; holly; ivy; and pine branches as a symbol of longevity. The pine also welcomes sylvan spirits to your circle.
Have a Yule log at the center point, placing there your God and Goddess candles. Always keep a part of the candles or the log itself for future years; this brings good luck, life, health and providence.
Cast the Circle
Take up the Athamé and Cast the Circle starting in the West, the region where several cultures believe the afterlife resides, the direction of the Dying Sun.
Take a moment to center yourself and begin to cast the Circle. Visualize a white light coming from the tip of the athamé and with arms straight out, turn the blade point out, slowly turning clockwise the light following you.
When you return to the West bring the athamé back to you and say:
“As above, so below.”
As you say this, visualize the light going above you and below you forming a perfect sphere.
Light the Goddess candle in the Yule log, then move to the Northern point in your Circle. This is the quarter traditionally ascribed to the season of winter.
“Ancient Mother, I look for your opulence,
but tonight naught but barren trees decorate the land.
In this restful moment, let my spirit find healing.”
“Ancient Brother, I listen for your winds,
but tonight they are still.
In this quiet darkness, help me find inspiration.”
“Ancient Father, I look for your fires,
but tonight the embers only begin to glow more brightly.
May this gentle warmth temper my spirit.”
“Ancient Sister, I seek your glistening tears,
but tonight they are frozen.
Beneath this cool blanket, let my emotions find stability.”
“Ancient Ones, I seek Your face,
but tonight darkness surrounds.
Help me find Your spark within to guide my path.
Turn toward the northern part of your circle. Think of things that you want to banish, such as bad habits. Say:
“I call to the darkness. Come embrace my __________ (fill in with your negative characteristics). Take them to yourself. I release them. As the sun climbs in the sky, take these things with you in retreat, never to return to me again.”
Turn to the south of the circle, light the sun candle, and repeat this chant. Let it naturally grow to fill the entire space with positive vibrations:
“Strong sun, returning sun; the light burns as the Wheel turns. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows fade; my magic bade. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows flee, the magic is free!”
Return to the altar now and light the God candle, using the Goddess candle as a fire source (symbolic of the womb).
“Sun Father, Your journey has left you weary. May this light give you strength to reach toward the heavens again with warmth and brilliance.”
After saying so, go through your home and light all its candles, lamps, flashlights, or decorative lights to represent the sun’s return.
Closing the Circle
“Spirit of the West, thank you for cleansing body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise purify Earth.”
“Spirit of the South, thank you for this warmth of body, mind and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise generate love on Earth.”
“Spirit of the East, thank you for this stillness of body, mind and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise bring peace to Earth.”
“Spirit of the North, thank you for healing me in body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise heal Earth.”
“Ancient Ones, thank you for turning the Wheel that enlightens body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise edify Earth.”
Release the Circle
Release the Circle in whatever manner is most familiar to you.
Go with your traditional holiday foods, which for me include many that have solar symbolism. Cookies are round like the sun, eggnog is golden and fertile, gingerbread is hot and spicy, and fruitcake bears red and orange highlights. As a side, try a little flaming brandy to warm you up!
“The Yule Log”
A Yule log is also a significant part of the tradition, and even if you do not have a fireplace, or an outside option to burn you can adapt the tradition to a Yule candle. The Yule log that you make and decorate each year is then put away and kept safe to be burned the following year. Knowing that even on the darkest day of the next winter, you will have a log to burn to encourage the sun.
When you are decorating the Yule log you want to keep some things in mind. First you want to use the main colors of the holiday and you also want to be clear that you use only materials that will be safe to burn. Pine cones are a wonderful addition to any Yule log decoration. One of the things I like to do is to take the pine cones and dip them into wax, or drip wax onto them. This serves two purposes. The first is decoration, and you can get wax in many colors or even just use white. Think of it like snow or ornaments that you are dripping onto your little pine cone tree. Also when you dip them in you get more of a “dipped chocolate” look or fully covered with snow. The second reason this works so well is that next year when you are going to burn your Yule log the wax will help the fire burn nice and bright. Wax can really help a fire take start and in fact is used in fire starters.
Just an additional hint here, that can also serve as a gift for friends or family is to make little wax cones and give them as fire starters to be used through out the year in the fireplace or backyard fire pit.
After you have completed the log and enjoyed it you will want to wrap it safely and tuck it away. I like to use tissue paper, wrap it up and set it into a large Rubbermaid ® plastic container with other decorations that I get out for the Winter Solstice.
For those of you that want to adapt the tradition to a candle you will want to find the biggest red candle you can and then decorate it. You will use the same ideas as you did for the Yule log, however, sometimes it is easier to make a base that is around the candle instead of attaching things directly to the candle.
Of course you will need to be safe and smart using even more common sense and candle caution when you burn it. Remember that the things you decorate with may be flammable and when you are burning the candle it could ignite more than the wick. Have a safe surface, monitor the candle and have a plan to put out the fire “just in case” the need arises.
Celebrating Winter Solstice
Gifts of Yule
Father Winter is an ancient tradition; on the Winter Solstice he would bring gifts to the children. You see this repeated in the Christian tradition of Santa Clause. Solstice is a time when the clans and tribes would exchange gifts of plants, herbs and fruits with each other. Many times they would also come together as a community to share a meal and the abundance and warmth, knowing that the sun was indeed going to start coming back, and as the wheel of the year continued the spring holidays would soon be upon them.
Many people that celebrate Yule follow the old tradition of giving to those that have less, the poor and downtrodden. You see that many use the holiday as a time to make and share gifts with The Salvation Army, or a Crisis Center or Foster Program, Children’s Hospital and such. Those that practice the Solstice as a holiday tend to be more focused on the seasons changing, the sense of family, the community and less on the commercial aspect of having the “toy or gift of the year”.
Celebrating Winter Solstice
Foods of Yule
Herbs play an important role at this holiday, and help us to remember the abundance of the summer garden and the fall harvest. At this time when we are striving to keep our bodies healthy and in balance they also serve as good nutrition that tastes wonderful. It is common to have meals that include a rich and hearty stew, filled with root vegetables that are being stored from the harvest and seasoned with herbs that were dried for the occasion.
Another standard at the holiday are biscuits and herb butter. Herb butter is very easy to make just follow this simple recipe.
Take 4 Tablespoons of softened butter and add in 2 Tablespoons of very finely chopped fresh herbs, or 1 Tablespoon of dried herbs. You can use just one or you can combine a couple of different herbs for a more enhanced flavor. You can also add a little sea salt if you prefer. Once you have all of the ingredients in your bowl, simply take a fork and mix it together.
You can serve your herb butter with your meal. This simple recipe is something you can do year round and it also makes a nice rub for fish or veggies before you cook them. For those of you that are a little more blessed in the kitchen you can even add herbs into the biscuits you make.
Celebrating Winter Solstice