“You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world,
for the fire makes a circle
so that no one sees you anymore.
But darkness holds it all:
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight —
and it is possible: its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night’.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…
– T.S Elliot
In this third chapter, we honour our roots, and invite emptiness & mystery, as we surrender ourselves to the magic of darkness and its teachings. We invoke our ancestors and the spirit how they might have experienced this time, celebrating the thinning of the veil between worlds.
Image of a family tree
No journalling questions this week – instead some enquiries to take with you into meditation and the day…
How does attuning to where we are in this larger cycle, help me attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in myself?
When I attune to where I am in this point in the cycle, what kinds of action (or restraint of action) are appropriate?
Can I connect with my gratitude and honouring of my ancestors?
There is no correct and incorrect way to create a ritual to honour the Solstice and sometimes our limitations (no access to a fire pit or lockdowns preventing gatherings) simply mean we have to get creative.
Whether you feel drawn to focusing on what it is you wish to let go of and welcome in, the return of the light, or simply to appreciate your connection to earth and her cycles, trust in your own ability to create magic & meaning…
Creating a power object
Go on a ‘medicine walk’ & intuitively see if a stick says hello and it feels like it wants to support you!
You can then charge the stick with an intenion – for example as you spend time decorating your stick (with biodegradable, non-toxic matertials or paint), feel yourself channeling the energies of that which you wish to let go of, or are grateful for or want to welcome in, into the stick, which can then be burned during a fire ritual (see below), or buried into the ground.
A fire is beautiful way to honour the longest, darkest night of the year & combining it with ritual, a potent way to transition into a new cycle.
As an element, fire can support release, cleansing & transformation.
The ritual itself can be very easy & simple: it is the preparation itself that takes the most time. The journalling questions of last week and the making of the power object below, can be part of your preparation.
The art of creating ceremonial fires takes skill and practice, and medicine men and women take many years to prepare, and yet it is said that the world is in such peril, that anyone who feels called to should feel invited and empowered to create a fire ritual!
Here are some suggestions of how to create a fire ritual:
Bring presence into every step of the way! From the gathering of the wood and preparing of the space, to the lighting of the fire until the very end.
Therefore, before you begin: make sure you are grounded & focused! If you just got out of work: what do you need, in order to prepare yourself?
Pause before you light the fire and welcome it’s spirit and thank it for it’s sacred function. You can also sing a song to welcome it. Treat the fire as though it were a being.
Traditionally, the spirits of the four directions & elements are invited into a ritual space, along with any other supportive spirits, including your ancestors. Consider offering a prayer that this ritual be for the benefit of all living beings or offering a herb or a little oil into the fire as a gesture of gratitude.
Offer your power object to the fire (see below), or paper with your intentions on it, journal pages and or a burrable object from this past cycle you wish to release. Dance. Sing. Speak to the Fire,. Use herbs as an offering to the fire.
Make sure you close by thanking the fire & the supportive spirits & elements. Ideally the fire is allowed to burn to embers.
Dr.Alberto Villoldo says “There is a two-week period following a fire ceremony in which “instances of opportunity” appear. These “instances” provide the opportunity to translate your intent for healing, into reality. You are advised to think of the fire ceremony not as an instantaneous magical change, but rather, an opening to heal and shift distinctive habits and patterns – to manifest a different dream. Remember to recognize this “opening” and seize the opportunity to create change – then let the universe take care of the details.”
If you are unable to make a fire, you could make a smaller ceremony & burn paper which has written on it, that which you wish to release or your prayers.
Creating earth mandalas
Creating a simple earth mandala offers a moment to pause from the regular flurry of life, connect with the elements and their beauty, and offer our gratitude towards life.
Perhaps as you tune in, a certain intention arises. Go with it! Rather than having a concrete idea of what it will look like, allow nature to guide you, and consider asking permission for everything you pick.
Once you’ve created your mandala, you can sit and meditate with it and let it speak to you. You can also light candles, call in the four directions and create a little ritual with it.
Consider asking it whether it would like to be left as it is, or remind you of the impermanence of life, as you remove it and bring the elements back to where you found them.
In the Celt tradition, the “Raunächte” around the Winter Solstice were thought of as the days inbetween time, the void and empty space between ending and beginning.
Some schools of thought believe that the etymology of this word comes from the same word as to smudge (“räuchern”), and indeed this is a practice that was often used during this time, to cleanse, protect and bless spaces, in preparation for a new cycle.
Although much of our understanding of smudging and the plants that are currently used are adopted from native American culture, there are plants that can be used on every continent.
It is also a lovely tradition to pick something on the summer solstice, to then use on the winter solstice.
Once picked, the herbs are dried and then can be burned as a smudge stick or loose in a bowl on charcoal, and carried around the house.
Blow the smoke in every single corner, asking the spirit of the plant to support the cleansing process. You can also smudge your altar.
You can also combine this process with using instruments like singing bowls, rattles and bells, to use sound to cleanse the space.
Smudging is not just cleansing for the space we are in, but has an impact on us, when we breathe in the smoke and the medicinal componants enter our bloodstream. It also activates our limbic system, which connects us to an older part of our brain, connected to instinct and emotions.
An additional part of the “Raunächte” in the Winter Solstice in Europe as well as smudging was cleaning and tidying the home, and sorting out any loose ends, such as paying back debt.
Use this time to de-clutter your house, and discern what you don’t need anymore, donate things to charity, clean windows and get rid of cob webs! Cleaning is also a symbolic way of sweeping stagnant energy out of your home.
Enjoy the sense of clarity and new beginnings this can support!
In Japan, it is common practice to take a yuzu bath on the Winter Solstice, which is a citrus fruit that’s added to your bath. It is thought to support the purifying of oneself and attract good fortune for the forthcoming cycle.
While you might not be able to find yuzu, you could still enjoy a ritualised bathing session, adding herbs, essential oils or salt (which soothes the muscles, hydrates the skin, detoxifies the body, and relieves internal inflammation – Himalayan crystal salt is especially yummy), lighting candles and using it as a possibility to meditate, cleanse and transition into a new cycle.
I have chosen music for this playlist that is designed for inward travelling and healing through sound. Create a little sacred cocoon for yourself, smudge and enjoy!
Yoga Nidra can both relax and replenish. Its a potent medicine practice not just for relaxation, but for receiving guidance and healing. And for “waking-up” paradoxically – to experientially touch upon the essential truth of who we really are. It welcomes us home to ourselves.
Get yourself really comfortable lying down and enjoy Liina’s solstice Yoga Nidra
Winter Solstice – the death and rebirth of the Sun, the darkest longest night giving way to the light returning. A realm of Water as per Chinese medicine as we enter the season of Winter – the hibernation time, dreamtime, the journey into the unknown, a becoming, a right of passage, the merging of the opposites, the returning to the source, the liminal space of in between, moving from the personal to transpersonal, opening to the possibility of something greater than us supporting, guiding, resourcing us.
PROPS (for the restorative pose):
* A chair/ sofa / bed – to rest your lower legs on
* Cushion/blanket – to support the head
* Blanket – to cover yourself
* Eyepillow/shawl – to shield off the light
(as I say in the intro, you could set yourself in any shape that feel really comfortable, I’m demonstrating here simply one of my favorites)
You can follow the whole practice or pick the part that resonates.
INTRO: The session has a lengthy introduction, so if you choose to skip that go to minute 9:30
Orienting practice: 9:30 – 15:30
very simple yet useful practice for the nervous system to orient for safety.
Somatic meditation for grounding with gentle somatic movement 16:00 – 29:50
Setting up for a restorative pose and guided relaxation: 29:50 – …