I know it’s late, but the winter solstice is on the 22nd, not the 21st, this year, so I thought I’d post this Order of Celebration in case anyone was casting around for one. This would have to be adapted to your own situation, of course, because this particular ceremony was designed for a particular setting; it shouldn’t require too much tweaking. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then you can just honor the darkest day from the warmth of your living room.
Just a note to those who have called me their favorite pagan. I appreciate it, actually, glad to be a favorite anything. But here’s the difference, and I think it’s important enough to make note. Paganism is – in one way or another – worship. For the record, I do not worship the earth, or the waters, or the universe. I celebrate it.
Anyway, I love the darkest day of the year. I love it for the dark, and I love it for the light to come. It doesn’t get any better than that.
(As people arrive, we will gather around the outdoor fire.)
Long ago, people in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice, a time when the days grew short and the sun was at its lowest point in the sky. Many people dreaded the cold, dark days of winter. So when the sun seemed to change its course and grow in strength again, they rejoiced.
Acknowledging the Four Directions
(We turn to the East, ringing our bells.)
I am the East, the place of dawn, influenced by the element of Air. I am the breath of life, of speech, and of song. I am the season of Spring, the season of birth and new creation. In my season, the Earth warms and leans towards the Sun.
(We ring our bells, as we turn to the South.)
I am the South, the place of mid-day, influenced by the element of Fire. I am the passion and laughter of life. I am the season of Summer ~ keeper of the Earth’s abundance; I am the blessing of children, the keeper of truth and innocence.
(We ring our bells, as we turn to the West)
I am the West, place of dusk, influenced by the element of Water. I am the guardian of life’s water ~ from the oceans’ depths to the waters of the womb that rocked you before your birth. I am the sweet rain satisfying the thirsty Earth. I am the season of Fall.
(We ring our bells, as we turn to the North)
I am the North, the place of midnight, influenced by the element of Earth. I am the place of the ancestors and ancient wisdom, of all who have walked through the years and who know the way. I am the season of Winter.
(From the campfire, we walk in silence to the bridge, each of us carrying a sunflower seed bag. When we have reached the bridge, we’ll remain in silence for a minute or two.)
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
~ Being outdoors in the winter at this time of Solstice
~ Being part of the fabric of the natural world
~ Appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of the natural world
~ Focus on our relationships with other life forms
~ These seeds as symbols of life and messengers of goodwill
(Each person offers her seeds in turn, by placing them on a spot of his/her own choosing, speaking an appreciation of the natural world. When everyone has placed his/her seeds, the group walks in silence back to the house.)
Ceremony of Light
(The people gather around the table covered with pine boughs, berries, and candles. One candle, that which represents the year that has ended, remains burning.)
If there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in communities.
If there is to be peace in communities,
there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors.
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
The old year has ended, its light diminished, but not yet gone. While this light of the year passing still burns, we have to remember the hurts, sorrows, disappointments, and damage we have done to the earth, water, and air, and all creatures, human and non-human. We have to remember them before we can confess, them, release them, and chart a new course.
(A few moments of silence, as we remember)
Peace in the heart begins with letting go. The days and nights may be at their darkest, but we trust in the birth of the new light which lies on the other side of release. That very hope that we carry in our hearts, minds, and hands, chart the course for our journey.