Winter Solstice Ritual

Liz Benjamin
On altar or table at front of sanctuary: red cloth, pine and holly, four red candles, pine cone, conch, feather. Also needed: drum, rattles, (or toilet paper tubes with beans inside, wrapped in festive paper), bowl of water with gold sprinkles added to it. Lights should be relatively low, but they must be bright enough for reading. You will need at least four readers, and can use as many as 20.
  1. Tape: The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun

  2. Welcome: Define solstice (the sun stands still) and Yule (wheel). At this time of year in the far north, the sun never rises above the horizon. People used to be afraid that the sun would never come back to the sky. Solstice rituals were developed to help the sun come back to us.

  3. Song: Deck the Halls (Before singing point out that this Christmas song mentions all of the Solstice elements (holly, Yule log, music, gifts, singing, dancing) and that other Christmas customs are also Yule customs (wreaths, lights, trees).

  4. Reading:
    For a few months, the days have been growing shorter, and the nights longer. After (Thursday), little by little, the hours of light will increase. The days will grow longer until once again it is summer. We celebrate now the time of midwinter, which is called Yule. It marks the birth of the sun.

  5. Cast the Circle: (Move clockwise, starting with the east.) Light the four candles for the four directions.

    Reader 1: East - Air Winter is the time for cold winds and freezing breezes. Spirits of the air, be with us today.

    Reader 2: South - Fire Winter is the time for sitting in front of roaring fires for warmth, and blazing candles for light. Spirits of fire, be with us today.

    Reader 3: West - Water Winter is the time of snow, of water turning to ice, and Jack Frost nipping at us. Spirits of the water, be with us today.

    Reader 4: North - Earth Winter is the time when the earth is bare, and most trees have no leaves. No food is growing now. Spirits of the earth, be with us today.

  6. Litany: (Depending on the number of readers available, you may have children or youth read a line each, or you may use fewer readers with each one reading two or more lines.) The response to each line is "The light is reborn.

    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
    When the leaves are gone
    When the river is frozen
    When the ground is hard
    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
    Green will come again
    Life will continue

  7. Raising the cone of power: Explain that we are sending energy to the earth to help it get through the winter. We will move around the circle shaking rattles or shakers, gradually getting louder until a signal from the drum. Then we will stop and ground ourselves. Chant: "The light is reborn."

  8. Pass around bowl of water with gold sprinkles. Each person is to dip a hand in the bowl and sprinkle a few drops of water on their heads.

  9. Sing: "The seasons turn, we bring the light, we raise the sun from dark of night." Close the circle, (move clockwise, starting with the east) extinguish the candles as four readers read: "Spirits of (air, earth, water, fire) we thank you for being with us and we bid you farewell."

  10. Closing words: "Our ritual is ended. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again."

  11. Food: Clementines and gingersnaps to symbolize the sun.

  12. Craft: decorate baked playdough objects (sun, tree, star, holly leaf) with markers. Hang with pieces of yarn.