Sunday, December 1, 2013

Winter Solstice Circle

Since the Winter Solstice is coming up, I decided to jot down my notes and ideas about a Winter Solstice Circle.  We had a great time with this circle in 2012.  The intent was to have it outside with a fire, but it was way too windy, so we had it indoors and had a fire in the fireplace.  It was lovely and there was definitely a feeling of connection with my wonderful women friends.

The intent is to celebrate the Winter Solstice with a circle of friends.  It happened to be, for me, a circle of women friends but could easily include anyone you wish.  My circle of friends is so diverse that this celebration did not have any specific religious direction.

I did send out an e mail note in advance.  A friend was having a party on the night of the Winter Solstice and this was a perfect time to also have a Winter Solstice Circle, but I wanted everyone to know in advance in case they wanted to bring something for the circle.  It said something like this:

On December 21 I will be organizing a Winter Solstice Circle, all are invited to attend and encouraged to participate.  We will be creating a Yule Log, I will provide everything needed but if you would like to look in your own yard for dried flowers, holly, pine sprigs, dried grasses etc, to add to the Yule Log, please bring it all along to share!

We will also be creating prayer sticks for the upcoming year, I will be bringing everything you need for this, but if you have a particular stick in mind bring that with you, as well as anything special to decorate your prayer stick, markers, yarn, lace, leather, paint etc.

During the Circle there will be time for everyone to share,  if you have  special poem, prayer, letter, song, etc that you would like to share with the all of us, that would be a wonderful addition.  

Also, if you would like, bring a long something to add to our Winter Solstice Altar.  I will provide the foundation but let's make it special by adding personal touches, stones, jewelry, a feather, key ring candle etc.  These items will add to the altar, soak up all the wonderful positive energy of our friends and can return home with you, to bring you joy throughout the year!  

There will be a pot luck meal following so bring a dish to share and we can eat and chat into the night!

I wanted everyone to be able to participate and make this circle time special for all of us.  Plus I am NOT a public speaker so I did not want to do much "talking".  You could easily make it a more formal invitation, handwritten even, what a nice touch that would be.

Sage the Space

I started the evening by arriving just a bit early, and I saged the space.  I brought a sage bundle and burned that over a shell, to collect any embers or ashes that might fall, walked around the room clockwise and just said to myself "all negative energy is rid from this space, making room for all the light and love of our circle of women friends".  You could use loose sage burned in a dish or shell.  If you do not have any sage bundles in your home town you can easily get these online.  One resource is the Incense Warehouse.

Yule Log

After that I set up the yule log at one end of the table.  To make the base for a Yule Log I took an oak log section, about the size you would put on a fire, and wrapped twine around it.  Oak is a strong wood said to bring healing, strength and wisdom. Fastened the twine at one end then spiraled the twine down the Oak, wrapped it a couple of times at the opposite end and spiraled it back up the Oak log.  This created lots of places for everyone to stick leaves, flowers etc under the twine.  I also placed a basket by the Yule Log full or dried leaves, flowers, pine cones, grasses etc from my yard, for everyone to use as they wanted.  As people arrived this was a nice activity.  The women decorated the log chatted, and gathered.
Our 2013 Yule Log, I decided to make it early so I would have a picture for this post.

The Yule log symbolizes the end of the darkness, welcoming in the light, rebirth.

The 2012 Yule Log all decorated, just beautiful!

Prayer Stick

Then we moved into making prayer sticks.  I brought out all the items I had with me and we took our sticks and used paints or markers to write on the stick our prayers/wishes/desires for the upcoming year.  This could also be done after the Circle time as a conclusion.  I brought out beads, yarn, twine, fabric, leather, feathers etc for decorations.  Participants took the prayer stick home and "planted" it outside so that the feathers/yarn/fabric fly in the wind, as the wind blows it will take your prayers/wishes into the universe.

Creating Sacred Space

Now we set up our altar, creating our sacred space.  Such a nice time to get everyone participating, I explained as I went, why we were putting certain things on the altar and where. I started out with a table big enough for everyone, or you could place the altar in the center of the floor, and sit on pillows.   I began with a nice piece of fabric.  Last year I brought a nice piece of black velvet I had on hand, and I brought a white scarf to place under the black fabric in the center.  I used these colors to represent the dark and light symbolic in so many solstice celebrations.  But you could easily use any colors you like that are symbolic of this season.  Use the cold colors of winter (white, silver, blue), add in colors that represent the sun (golds, reds, oranges), also you could try greens that represent the holly.  That is a great start.  Next I added in a black and white candle, to represent the dark/light, God/Goddess, the complementary energies that make up the universe, however you would like to see it, to the center of the altar.  And I also added a candle in the center to represent the celebration, so something in the colors of the season, maybe blue, red or green.  In 2012 I chose to use my Circle of Friends Candle, as the center candle, lore says that whenever friends gather around a fire their friendship will be strengthened, so I thought that was appropriate.

That formed the center of our circle.  I added a small dish holding salt,  which represented the element of the earth...stability, birth and wisdom.  This was placed to the west, on our alter.  I had a chalice or cup of water.....which welcomed cleansing,  and healing into the circle.  This was placed in the south.  In the north we had incense, which was lit, representing air, it welcomed intellect and intelligence into our circle.  And to the East we had a small candle for fire...change and transformation.  We were grateful for all the elements and welcomed them openly into our circle.

I added some holly branches, as holly rules the winter and brings protection, to our altar, and then invited everyone to add their own personal additions.  These can be stones, jewelry, a book, etc.  Anything that would add a touch of *you* to the circle.  These additions sat on our altar throughout the circle and absorbed all the positive energy and love of the night.  Then returned home with the owner so that they could, at any moment, bring themselves a piece of that love and light, when they needed or wanted it.

Part of the 2012 altar

As we were creating the circle I sort of talked my way through it so that everyone knew why I had chosen each item on the altar, they could help if they liked or just sit and watch.  I also passed around the sage bundle so everyone could sage themselves or each other.  Just releasing any negative energy so that only positive vibrations, love and light entered the circle.
Our family altar for Winter Solstice 2013, we have not yet added our personal items, but I wanted a picture.

The Celebration

I started by talking about the winter solstice, briefly.  That year I said "We are here tonight with our sister friends to observe the winter solstice.  A celebration to lure the sun back and welcome its return.  We honor the darkness and mystery of life from which new creation emerges.  And we say thank you to all stages and seasons of our lives." I also recited a poem about the winter solstice.  You can find lots of those with an Internet search on "Winter Solstice Poetry".  Here are a couple of nice sites:
1.  Winter Solstice Poetry and Celtic Mid-Winter Poetry
2.  A Collection of Yule Poetry

We then opened the circle for anyone else to share, some shared poetry, thoughts about the season, songs, chants etc.  Not everyone shared and that was OK.

We followed this by lighting candles.  I had a white taper candle for everyone.  (just remember safety with candles).  I lit my candle from the center candle on our altar and then the next person in the circle lit their candle from my flame, and the flame was passed around the circle from woman to woman until every one's candle was lit,  welcoming the light, and sharing it with each other.  We then shared one or two things we were grateful for, or blessed by from the year passing, and one or two things we were looking forward to with the coming year.  Again not everyone shared and that was OK.

Since we were indoors we then extinguished our candles, and I found a nice guided meditation to close our circle. I like ended with a meditation as it added a way to bring us back to all focusing on the same thing, and being still and quite as we end the evening circle.  You can do an internet search for Yule meditation and you will find a few.  Or search for a guided meditation and you will find many that will appropriate for your gathering.   The Chopra Center has some on audio you may like, and you would not have to do the talking. The Buddha Net site has some that are written out that you may enjoy.  Or you can make up your own.

Once we ended with meditation we put the Yule Log on the fire and had a nice pot luck supper chatting, watching the fire and enjoying the evening together.

The 2012 Yule Log burning

That is the synopsis of our winter solstice circle.  It was very nice, lasted probably 1 1/2 hours, followed by eating and chatting. Feel free to use any part of this that appeals to you, or none of it.   This was simple, easy to prepare for in advance, we shared a lot during the circle,  and made our connection stronger.  Enjoy.