Last night a few friends gathered around Chris and my dining table for a comforting meal of white bean chili, garden salad and bread. We had just been hit with the first winter blizzard, so we were surrounded by a thick blanket of white snow outside—a stark contrast to the longest, darkest night of the year.
We gathered to bring special attention to the Winter Solstice. In Latin, solstice means “sun set still” and Winter Solstice provides a great opportunity for us to be still and reflective about the darkness we’ve been carrying in our lives.
This new tradition for my family compliments Advent and Christmas. For the Western Church, Advent is the 4-week season of preparation for the coming of the Divine Light—the incarnated Christ.
So, we solemnly gathered carrying secrets in our hearts. One of our friends couldn’t be with us, but he sent us two profound burdens he’d been carrying and asked us to the burn them.
After the meal, with pencil and slips of thin paper, we wrote down attitudes, fears, sins, unhealthy thought and behavior patterns—anything that had been draining the life out of us. Then we rolled up the paper into tiny bits and placed them in a 5×5” square of cotton cloth. To honor the earth that we come from and to which we will return, we sprinkled a few different dry herbs atop the symbolic darkness represented on slips of paper.
Remembering that everything belongs—to have light, there must be darkness—we honored the darkness by cradling it in its bundle, thanking it for the way it makes the light possible. We gathered the corners of the cloth and tied it off with natural twine.
And then we made procession outside to the fire pit. We prepared the fire to receive our burden bundles by tossing fragrant, dried lavender into the flames. And then one by one silently dropped our burden bundles into the fire, welcoming the light.
A special thanks to Native healer and sister, Pixie Campbell, who inspired me to adopt this practice. She remarks that this ceremony is a great way to make room for a visionary life. I couldn’t agree more. For more information on how to host a winter solstice ceremony visit Pixie’s blog post here.
(photo credit :: Stephanie Francois)