For our magical working (see yesterday’s post), you will need a wreath and five candles. You may be familiar with the Christian tradition of lighting candles on an Advent wreath. Our spell will be a reclaiming of that practice, since the Christians adopted it from the Pagans in the first place!
However, the beauty of this rite is that it is in harmony with many paths, traditions and spiritual practices. Whether your path is Hindu or Hellenic, Asatru or Alexandrian, Shinto or Strega, Mandean or Methodist, this is something that all people of faith and wisdom can do, calling to their most loved Gods or Goddesses.
The ritual will begin this coming Sunday, and basically consists of lighting one candle each Sunday prior to the Winter Solstice (or Christmas if that is your preference). This year, because of the fortuitous timing, I am recommending that the fourth candle be lit on actual Solstice (December 22), and the fifth candle be lit the following day, which happens to be Full Moon. Or if you prefer, you can follow the Christian tradition more closely by lighting the fourth candle on Sunday Dec. 23, and then light the final candle on Christmas Day.
Let’s begin by understanding more about the elements that comprise this magic. First you will need a wreath. A wreath is essentially a garland with both ends joined. It is a sacred Circle, representing the Divine Feminine, eternity, the Wheel of the Year, the Circle of Life, and immortality.
As our ancestors observed, all things in nature are cyclical — night becomes day, day becomes night, and then day returns again. The Moon waxes and wanes then waxes again. There is Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and then Spring returns. Death follows life and life follows death. Such is the nature of the great dance of life.
A circle can be the symbol of the Sun, or the Earth, or the Universe. It is also the ring, the hoop, the mandala, and is an ancient and universal symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity, the Goddess, and female power. To earth-centered religions throughout history as well as to many contemporary Pagans, it represents the feminine spirit or force, the cosmos or our Mother Earth, and sacred space.
Gnostic traditions link the unbroken circle to the “world serpent” which forms a circle as it eats its own tail.
Other variations include a circle with a dot in the center. This is the asrtrological symbol for the Sun. In Hinduism and Buddhism, this dot is the bindu and it represents the male force that is the spark of life within the womb.
And there is the circle which is quartered by holding a cross of four equal lines. They point from the center to the spirits of the north, east, south, and west — or to the basic elements of Earth, Water, Air (or wind), and Fire. In many Native American traditions, this forms the basic pattern of the medicine wheel, and plays a vital part in major spiritual rituals.
Many Pagans and Witches also consider it a container that concentrates and protects the transmission of energy. Christianity adopted the cross-quartered Circle, using a Celtic variation that has come to symbolize Christ’s crucifixion. But the Celtic Cross, in fact, far predates the new religion’s meaning.
Tomorrow, I’ll share a little magical lore about wreaths.