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Honoring Winter Solstice – Dec 21

birch yule log

The Winter Solstice means “Re-Birth of the Sun” or “New Beginnings” and in the U.S., occurs on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. The winter solstice is celebrated not only as the year’s shortest day, but today’s start of winter also launches the sun’s steady climb towards the long, warm days of summer.

As the longest night or darkest day of the year, Winter Solstice is a powerful moment in the solar cycle where we are reminded that in the darkness we must connect to the light within us. This is more difficult to do when we don’t see light reflected back to us by the outside world. We have to find it inside ourselves at this time of year, and we can celebrate our capacity to do so by honoring this day.

The tradition of celebrating winter solstice is rich with symbolism. Historically, pagan religions celebrated on this darkest night well into the morning to welcome the new light of the next day, even when that light was just the tiniest sliver.

Celebrated in winter – a time of dormancy, darkness and cold, the knowledge that lighter days were coming after the winter solstice brought on a more festive mood. Traditionally, the coming return of the light was a reason to celebrate that nature’s cycle was continuing.

Many ancient cultures had similar spiritual meanings for Winter Solstice, and many seasonal symbols connected to Christmas have their roots in the solstice and pagan celebrations.  For example, the yule log came from a pagan ritual.   A birch yule log was lit on the eve of the solstice—to conquer the darkness, protect against evil spirits, and bring luck—and burned for 12 hours. A tree, adorned with burning candles, later replaced the log.  Holly, with its bright berries and rich foliage, was an important symbol because it could withstand the harshness of winter and maintain its color and life, as could mistletoe and evergreens.

Regardless of what religious beliefs one holds, we all experience the solstice.

Here’s a great way to bring in the winter solstice at home. You can do this alone, or with a group of friends:

1)   Create a list of all the things you want to let go of.    This list should ideally be about internal struggles; about the stories your mind tells you about yourself.

2)   In the evening, sit or lie in the dark for 10 minutes and think of all the things on your list that you are ready to let go of, and who you would be without those stories.

3)   After you have mentally run through your list, go back to the physical list and write “THE END” after each item.

4)   Crumple that piece of paper and burn it. If you are able to, light a fire. Fire brings the warmth and the light of the Sun.

5)   Next, clear the air – if you have a fireplace, add some sage to the fire, or, ideally, smudge your home.  (Click here to read our how-to Smudge article.)

6)   Sit back down and write down who you will be without all those limiting beliefs that you wiped out.  (Burned out!)

7)   Now that you have cleared all the negative from your thoughts and your home, take some time to write down your intentions for the beginning of a new year.

 

Note: December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly declination. In other words, it is when the North Pole is the most tilted away from the sun. (See diagram below.)   In the northern hemisphere, the Winter solstice is the day of the year (near December 22) when the Sun is farthest south. The winter solstice marks the first day of the season of winter and the declination of the Sun on the (northern) winter solstice is known as the tropic of Capricorn .

earths position in winter solstice

The Earth’s position in winter solstice.

 

 

 

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A Blessingway: Shower the Mother-To-Be with Actual Blessings

The world is buzzing with the excitement of Kate Middleton’s royal arrival.  Countless businesses await baby details as fashion lines, books, baby products and toys all plan to launch goods inspired by the royal romper.

Now, more than ever, pregnancy is viewed in a glamorous and glorified light (as it should be).  However, much of the baby mania revolves around fashion, the latest baby products and nursery design.  We gather for baby showers and open gift after gift, often letting the tradition blind us to the very reason we have gathered…to shower the mother and baby with enough love and support to carry them through their relationship together.

A Blessingway is a Navajo Ritual created to spiritually support and empower the new mother for her journey of birthing and motherhood. In recent times, this beautiful ritual has been adapted as an alternative to baby showers, where the focus tends to be more on the gifts and the baby, rather than on the mother and her experience.  Support doesn’t stop with the Blessingway — mothers frequently pray for the mom each day until the baby arrives… or even light a candle when they hear she’s in labor. This support can mean so much to a laboring woman.

Most of the time a Blessingway is specifically for women. You should consider your guest list carefully. Invite only those very close to the mother, or those older women that she looks up to. It may be best to work on the guest list with the mother.

Here are some ideas from Natural Birth and Baby Care on how to structure your own Blessingway ceremony:

  • Prayers, poems, and blessings: a traditional way to bless somebody is to say a prayer for them, to write and/or read a poem for them, or to say or find a special blessing for them. Something of this nature is ideal for a Blessingway. You can ask each participant to bring something they’ve found or written to bless the mother.  You can compile the prayers/poems/blessings into a small, beautiful journal or notebook for the mother. If some prayers are going to be created on the spot you could record with a small tape recorder and later transcribe them to be given to the mother.
  • Every guest is asked to bring a flower that reminds them of the Mother. These flowers are used to make a simple crown for the mamma which is then placed on her head at the beginning of the circle, while everyone is talking and getting acquainted. At a certain point everyone can say which flower they brought and why.
  • Guests are also asked to bring an offering from nature like a small crystal, a feather, or a rock. These are offered to the Mamma and placed in  a box or on a special altar plate that she can keep to remind her of everyone’s well wishes for her during the birth.
  • Beads: A favorite Blessingway tradition. It is so simple and anybody can do this, even if they cannot attend the Blessingway. Have each person invited bring or send a bead that they have picked for the mother. The bead should be something the guest has picked with the mother in mind.  At the Blessingway string all the beads onto a cord for the mother to wear during labor. Many mothers have said that these birth beads give them strength and focus during labor. It is a powerful and tangible way to show your love and the community support that surrounds the mother.
  • Belly Cast: A belly cast is a fun activity that can be done at the Blessingway. Many mothers enjoy having a belly cast done. It’s a slightly messy and light-hearted activity that will bring smiles to everyone. It also gives the mother a lovely keepsake of her body full of baby. Later the mom can decorate the belly cast however she likes, or she can leave it simple and untouched.
  • Belly Painting: Another fun activity is to paint the mother’s belly. You can use henna paints or any non-toxic (preferably natural) body paints. The mother may have a design she would like, something of special significance. You can talk it over with the mother beforehand and decide what she would like. Henna paint may work especially well because it could last until the birth, if the mother wants.
  • Lighting Candles: Lighting a candle at the Blessingway is a lovely way to bring a sacred feel to the atmosphere. Or you can ask each guest to bring a candle to light during their blessing for the mother. Afterwards each guest will take her candle home and light it when she hears the mother is in labor.
  • Washing Feet and Brushing Hair: Washing a mother’s feet in warm water gently scented by essential oils is a lovely way to show support for her. Many mothers also love to have their hair brushed. This feminine activity is very soothing and empowering to the mother.
  • Make “Help” Lists: Though not truly part of the ceremony, you should consider having each guest write down a meal that they are committed to bringing for the mother after her baby is born. Alternately each guest can bring a pre-made frozen meal, if the mother has space in her freezer. Each guest should also sign up for a period of housework in the days after the baby is born.  You will be amazed how much this simple gift of food and time will bless the mother and her child. It is a gift given with a servant’s heart, and it brings peace, love, and joy to the new family.
  • You or another guest take responsibility for organizing and overseeing the help. The mother shouldn’t have to do anything. At the Blessingway tell her of your plans and assure her you have it all taken care of.

Creating this sacred space of honor and blessings is something the child or mother will never outgrow. Create a meaningful passage for your next little soul.  Life is about supporting one another, and what better way to start than at the beginning.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like: “3 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Live Their Life Purpose”. 

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