Family Winter Solstice Ritual Outline

IMG_0545“Only in the deepest silence of night
the stars smile and whisper among themselves.”
–Rabindranath Tagore

(quoted in Dear Heart, Come Home page 52)

As I prepare our family’s winter solstice ritual for this Sunday evening, I feel moved to share our family’s tradition and ritual process. I’d love to hear from readers in the comments with their own family traditions! We have celebrated the winter solstice together as our primary family ritual for the last eleven years. There are several elements that remain constant from year to year and other elements that vary based on new ideas or projects that we decide to incorporate for that year.

The following is a brief explanation of three of our core traditions, which is then followed by a full ritual outline for this year’s ceremony! Make sure to read through to the end of my ritual outline for links to even more posts with further ideas and information.

Bell-ringing ceremony: it is common to use bells to ring out the old year and ring in the new. We gather together outside at dusk, each holding our bell. We turn to each direction and ring the bells together to honor the connection to each sacred quarter. Then, we ring them up to the sky, down to the earth, and at chest level for our hearts (or the divine within). We then each speak a one or two word wish for the Earth in the coming year and all ring the bells together to affirm each wish.

Goals review: Each year during our family winter solstice ritual we review our lives from the past year—things we’re proud of, things we’d like to let go of—and then set new intentions for the coming year. We write these down on pieces of paper that I then roll up together and put in a box. The following year, we each open our papers and read what we wrote the year before and see how/if these intentions manifested over the year. It is very interesting to see how we rarely remember exactly what we wrote and yet, how often those things have come to pass. After this goals review process, we all get our candles and walk the solstice spiral in turn to symbolize the setting forth of our new intentions and the goals we would like to carry forth into the light of the new year to come.

Solstice spiral: the highlight of our ceremony is a walk through the solstice spiral. It is based on the Waldorf tradition of an “advent spiral,” which is often made outdoors using evergreen branches. During the first year we tried the spiral, I did decorate the outside of our spiral with evergreen branches, but since then I’ve simply opted to lay out a spiral shape on the floor using silver and gold tinsel garlands. It is simple, but once ringed with candles and the household lights turned out, it becomes magical!

Ritual Outline:

  • Group hum–in my community, we have a tradition of casting our opening circle in a very simple manner: we stand together in a circle and place our hands on each other’s backs. Then, we hum in unison at least three times to pull our personal vibrations and rhythms into a sense of physical and literal harmony. I do not find it necessary to symbolically draw the circle with any kind of object. I have a very body-based personal practice and find that our bodies and voices very effectively cast a circle without any need for additional objects.
  • While drumming a basic rhythm, sing Circle Casting Song together (by Reclaiming)
  • Introduction: We are here to celebrate our connection to each other, to recognize our accomplishments of the past year, to welcome the coming year ahead, to bless our paths in life, our chance to grow and learn, the sacred cycles, our loved ones, our health, our creations, our home, where we live, what we have, and who we are.
  • Go outside for bell ringing ceremony (see above).
  • Returning indoors, shut off all lights and take a minute to sit together in a dark room to think about past year. Then simple toast and candle-lighting.

The winter solstice happens in nature around us.  But it also happens inside of us, in our souls.  It can happen inside of us is summer or winter, spring or fall.   In the dark place of our soul, we carry secret wishes, pains, frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, worries.  Darkness is not something to be afraid of.  Sometimes we go to the dark place of our soul, where we can find safety and comfort.  In the dark place in our soul we can find rest and rejuvenation.  In the dark place of our soul we can find balance.  And when we have rested, and been comforted, and restored, we can return from the dark place in our soul to the world of light and new possibilities.

–John Halstead, Family Winter Solstice Ritual

  • Year review and new intentions.
  • Make manifestation ornaments together: rosemary (for protection in the new year), sage (for cleansing) and cinnamon sticks (for activation). Put new year’s goals inside.
  • Solstice spiral—read following as we each enter with our ornaments and unlit candles.

Surrender to the Dark and Nurture your Dreams …

The dark season challenges us to surrender to our dreaming, to trust that the strength of the earth will support our weight as we sleep.

It is out of the darkness that flowers eventually emerge, babies are born, and inspiration for poetry and ideas are nurtured toward the page and through our voices.

In the deep, dark places in ourselves, we find the inner truth about ourselves. In this winter season of so many people prematurely rushing toward the light, remember to slow down and do Winter’s inner work.

Celebrate the dark, where the inner life is honored and nurtured. One is made confident that the seed of light, sown in the womb of the dark, will grow, and in its appropriate season, bloom.

via Global Goddess | Goddess Women Helping Women

  • Sing We Are Circling (see: http://ourchants.org/songs/we-are-circling) while we each walk spiral with candle and light from center candle. Upon return to outside the spiral get animal oracle card (or other guidance/divination card) and a small gift (pocket totem, stone, charm, etc.)
  • Stand together and do responsive reading:

Inviting Our Light to Shine (responsive reading. Modified from: John Halstead, Family Winter Solstice Ritual)

When you celebrate the winter solstice,
            May your light shine. Solstice spiral. We shut the lights out and walk it with candles.
When you share love,
            May your light shine.
When you work for peace,
            May your light shine.
When you teach someone,
            May your light shine.
When you comfort someone,
            May your light shine.
When you create works of beauty and love,
            May your light shine.
When you laugh together.
            May your light shine.
When you grieve a loss,
            May your light shine.
When you are challenged to change,
            May your light shine.
When you (add your own intention here), December 2013 042
           May your light shine.
Bless yourself with the light.
            Your light will shine.

  • Take candles to Yule log:

Upon this Solstice season night
I burn these candles strong & bright.

Abundance and blessings grow and flow,
As comes the light, it is so!

via The Nine Nights of the Winter Solstice Hallowing.

  • Any other words or blessings participants have to offer…
  • Closing reading

A Solstice Blessing
(written by Shiloh Sophia)

Blessings upon your hope for your today.
Blessings upon your healing of your yesterdays.
Blessings upon your continued dreams for your future.
Blessings upon the Loved ones you have today.
Blessings upon your ancestors who made the way.
Blessings upon you and yours for the next seven generations.
So that your light continues to shine in the darkness.
So that you may show us the beauty within your soul.
So that our world might be made brighter because you are.
May you be kept warm in the arms of Love.
May your harvest grant you a season of rest and renewal.
May the return of the light remind you of the goodness
that is waiting within to be born

  • Make large Sun Wheel decoration together (see link below)
  • Drumming & divination.

Additional links:

Information about solstice spiral: Teaching Handwork: understanding the spiral walk for advent.

Information about bell-ringing ceremony: Winter Solstice: Ritual, Ideas & Celebrations

Sun wheel project: Let’s Weave a Giant Sun!

Manifestation ornaments: Yule Prosperity Ornament

More celebration ideas: Winter Solstice Ritual Ideas

Crossposted from my SageWoman blog.

Categories: family, holidays, liturgy, parenting, priestess, readings, resources, ritual, spirituality | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Family Winter Solstice Ritual Outline

  1. Pingback: Priestess Year in Review (2014) | WoodsPriestess

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