We are a Circle
Within a Circle
With no beginning
And never ending…
~ by Deborah and Rick Hamouris
As I posted last week, it’s time once again to join together every Sunday evening through Yule (or Christmas) for our annual Solstice Sun Wheel Prayer Circle.
If you have been a regular reader of mine, you know that starting in late November, I invite all my visitors, regardless of your spiritual path, to join together in a virtual Advent prayer circle (or spell weaving, if you’d prefer to think of it like that).
This is our TENTH anniversary! The numbers joining us have doubled multiple times, making it now a huge, truly world-wide event.
So please join us each week, and please tell your friends and loved ones. The underlying energy of this practice is, by its very nature, inclusive and welcoming to all beliefs, traditions, and philosophies.
You can’t do it wrong and you can start ANY time. So if you have to miss it this week, you can still start with us next week, or any time until it’s over.
The Basic Idea
The original source for this particular adaptation was the late Helen Farias, founder of The Beltane Papers magazine, and then it was continued by Waverly FitzGerald in her School for the Seasons. I am now carrying the tradition forward, and have added a few of my own embellishments.
This ceremony is simply an adaptation of the more familiar Christian practice of lighting candles on an Advent wreath.
All you need is a wreath, five candles, and a peaceful time-out each Sunday evening from now until Winter Solstice, and/or Christmas, depending on your preferred climax of the celebration.
Each Sunday, you will light a candle that is symbolic of some attribute, element, or vision, as we go into the deepest darkness of the year, and prepare for the birth of the Child of Promise, the standing still moment of Solstice, the reawakening of the Light.
The first week (today, if you are counting down to Solstice, or next Sunday, Nov. 30 if you are counting to Christmas only), it will be one candle only. The second week you will light first the candle from Week 1, then the second candle. And so on, until Solstice night, or Christmas Eve, when you light the fifth, final candle, depending on your preference.
The Extra Lighting
This year’s countdown is complicated by the fact that there is an extra Sunday between Solstice and Christmas. So for those who are counting down to Winter Solstice, tonight is the first candle lighting. The fifth, final candle will be lit Sunday, Dec. 21 (Solstice Night).
For Christians who are counting down to Christmas ONLY, your first candle will be lit next Sunday, Nov. 30, and your fifth, final candle is lit on Christmas.
For families that wish to celebrate both, my suggestion is to start tonight, with candle 2 next week representing the second lighting for the non-Christians, and the first lighting for those counting down to Christmas. Each participant can send out their prayers and envision the candle’s symbolism in any way they are moved to.
At Solstice, you’ll light the fifth candle, and then at Christmas, simply re-light it.
In the lighting ceremony, the candle can represent whatever quality you wish, so the tandem lighting really should not be a problem.
Why Are We Doing This?
This is the season of Advent, which is not a strictly Christian term, although it is the name given to this very important season of the church. Advent simply means “to come,” so it can apply to the coming of the Christ child, or the coming of the year’s longest night and the assured revitalizing of the Light.
We are honoring the fertile, necessary endarkenment, and preparing for the renewal and enlightenment.
For many of us, our faith — in life, or the Divine, or each other — is being tested like never before.
As we make our way to the end of the calendar year, the deepest dark of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are also preparing for that moment of stillness, when the Sun halts its descent, the Wheel of Time turns, and rebirth comes.
Even in the heart of the darkness, the light is never extinguished. The Child of Promise, the Gift of Love, the blessed renewal of life and hope returns.
Our Intention for 2014
From within the sacred dark, we arise with the returning Light.
This year, with great attentiveness, let us begin by being still. Let us deeply honor the ebbing of the light. On each night of our ceremony, we shall together descend into the beautiful and needful dark. May it feed our roots, inspire our dreams, cradle our weariness, and know our sorrows.
May it offer us profound respite, so we may savor this time for reflection, peace, and potential — so needed in this shrill, artificially garish world.
Then, with each candle’s light, may the darkness give way to our own illumination.
We so will it that we, ourselves, are bright beacons of grace and radiance, offering tender care for the unaware and lost.
And with our interconnected weaving in this prayer working, we do aid in the Great Turning — the shift of civilization itself to a more just, kindly, and prosperous affinity with the all the worlds, and the Divine Good.
For Our Friends in the Southern Hemisphere
I invite you, also, to light your Solstice candles (perhaps on a Summer wreath of herbs and flowers), and shine your dazzling hearts upon this work with us. For you, too, are the light-keepers and an integral part of this weaving.
You are the stewards of the Light’s climax now, as it shines and warms, and you will be guiding it back to those of us in colder climes soon.
Tonight’s First Lighting (Nov. 23)
Gather with your loved ones, or alone, tonight around sunset. Ground and center yourself, or create sacred space in whatever way is right for your practice.
The first candle may represent the Element of Air: knowledge, information, understanding, communication. It is important to acknowledge the dissonance and worry currently affecting this element.
From pollution in the air we breathe, to the spying and manipulation of global communications, think about how fear distorts what we see, what we believe, how we make choices. We pass judgments, we are told and sometimes share hurtful stories about one another. If you are with others, you might talk a while about these fears.
Then, allow some silence. With your breath, inhaling and exhaling, begin to see, know, and forgive the ways those types of fear exist.
With clarity and compassion, consider how your own prejudices may have wounded you, like the ways that you have spoken untruths or unkindness. And then, still using your breath as a magical tool, let those fears and hurts be dispelled as you light your candle.
When it is lit, breathe into a profound awareness and gratitude for this first, last, and most vital gift of life. Feel your breath, your life-long companion, as it helps you relax, become alert, and aware. Let your breath sigh, or laugh, or sing, or pray.
All Hearts Are Welcome
This ceremony is possibly the most familiar to Christians, since many denominations practice Advent ceremonies for Christmas, both in the home, and at church.
But it works beautifully for Pagans, too, counting down to Solstice by calling in the four Elements, or Directions. It can work, too, for Buddhists, who might wish to light a candle each week to honor the The Five Skandhas, or perhaps the Four Noble Truths, plus the final candle representing liberation. Hindus might wish to choose sacred elements of the Vedanta for each candle.
Jews can imbue each candle to represent the five books of the Torah — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Non-religious attributions can center on what you may feel are the five most important qualities for a worthwhile life, or your favorite philosophical values. The possibilities are limitless, and can be adapted to any spiritual or intellectual path.
As you do this, send your energy and intentions for empowering and welcoming the birth of the Light. Consider all the meanings that “Light” has for you – in your own personal life, for the good of our community and our planet as well.
Be aware that, based on the many, many emails I’ve gotten over the years, there are certainly hundreds, possibly thousands of other people, in many different time zones, around the world, who are participating in this with you. (Some have called it a prayer version of “The Wave”).
All of our hearts are joined in this act of acknowledging the dark. We gaze with unflinching hearts at our fears; we bless the fertile, necessary night; we accept the shadowy, silent Mystery of the unknown.
Acknowledging this, we are in unity as we light our candles.
Gaze a while upon the dancing flame and call upon the powers of the week’s Element or Gift of Spirit, to heal and bless. We look forward to the coming Sun Child, the renewal of Life, the attainment, for all humanity, of Awareness.
When you are at peace, and the time feels right, gently extinguish your candle.