The winter solstice has officially graced us with its chilly presence. Dec. 21 marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the Northern Hemisphere is the greatest distance from the sun in its yearly rotation. More specifically, the Earth is tilted on its axis, so the North Pole is the very furthest it can be from that glowing, life-giving orb. The winter solstice is thought to be a wonderful, powerful time to let go of the old, and make way for the new. This year, I marked this glorious occasion by doing a winter solstice meditation and intention-setting ritual of my very own.
After doing a little research on winter solstice rituals to influence my approach, I made a plan for about 45 minutes before, during, and after the exact moment of the day — 11:28 a.m. EST — at which the sun would be the furthest away. What better time to set intentions and get a little grounded with the Earth's rotation than the very minute at which the seasons literally change?
Believe it or not, many of the traditions associated with the winter solstice can be traced back thousands of years: There are Pagan rituals, like hanging fruit in the trees for the animals to honor nature and the hunt. Then there's lighting yule logs, or having bonfires. And no one took the solstice quite so seriously as the Mayans, who indeed worshipped the sun probably more than any of us ever will.
These days, the winter solstice celebrations continue. One of the liveliest modern day celebrations is a gathering at Stonehenge each year, where worshippers of nature sing, dance, cheer, and cast away that which no longer serves them at a location where the solstice has apparently been celebrated since ancient times.
As for my own winter solstice ritual, I took a few hints from different sources online, and the themes that continued to come up were reflection, appreciation, intention-setting, and renewal or rebirth. Setting intentions with candles, guided meditation, and cleansing were all suggested. Now, some of the rituals I read about were rather involved, so I decided to tailor mine to make it a little more manageable.
I found a nice spot a few blocks from my apartment in front of a church where I set up shop, and I waited for 11:28 a.m. EST to come so I could begin my meditation.
My plan was to do a guided solstice meditation, but the video wasn't loading (of course), so instead, I set the timer on my phone to 20 minutes, kept my eyes open to appreciate the lovely, bright sky before me, and I focused on my breathing. I meditated for a bit on some of the creative and personal intentions I wanted to set for the year ahead, smiling occasionally to myself at the possibilities that wait for me in 2018.
As I mentioned, another common winter solstice tradition is to both honor and make offerings to nature. One way of doing this is making a solstice tree, where traditionally, oranges or apples are hung and food is left out for the animals. Oranges are considered a symbol of the sun.
I couldn't help but notice how truly alive I felt after my meditation. And TBH, I wholeheartedly believe that animals can feel the winter solstice as well, because the amount of squirrels and pigeons that surrounded me as I walked home was borderline ridiculous. It felt like a freakin' Disney movie! I've never see so many of these little guys!
If you didn't get a chance to celebrate the winter solstice at exactly 11:28 a.m., fret not. Tonight is still an excellent opportunity for some meditation, candle-lighting, and if you're really onboard, saying some winter solstice blessings. Here's a rather lovely one from witchesandpagans.com:
May you have a warm heart, open hands, a creative mind. May you experience inspiration and brilliance, clarity, and focus. May you laugh richly and deeply. May you circle and celebrate, may you change and grow. May that which is waiting to be unlocked be freed. And may you soar with the knowing that you are carried by a great wind across the sky.
Here's to a bountiful 2018, everyone! Happy winter solstice!