It’s hard to believe, but it’s already time once more to join together every Sunday through Yule (or Christmas) for our annual Advent Sun Circle, (or Yule Prayer-Spell, if you prefer).
If you have been a regular visitor here, you know that starting in late November, I invite all my visitors, regardless of their spiritual path, to join together in a virtual prayer circle, or spell weaving.
This was originally inspired by Beltane Papers founder, the late Helen Farias, and adapted by Waverly FitzGerald.
Celebrating Ten Years
Ever since the beginning, I have found this to be a gentle, inclusive, yet very powerful ceremony. I began sharing it on my first website back in 2004 and have celebrated it ever since, with an exponentially growing number of participants around the world.
Over the years, my readers have agreed that it has become a deeply meaningful ceremony for them as well. Some have also noted that it feels like we are doing “The Wave,” except we are offering joyful, globe-circling prayers.
NOTE: Even though we’ve already started the countdown, you can join ANY time, right up to the final lighting!
It’s very simple. You only need a wreath and five candles. Starting with the first week, around dusk wherever you live, you’ll light one candle, meditate a bit, then extinguish the flame. The next week you light the first candle, and then a second one. And so on, until the final candle on Winter Solstice, Christmas, or both.
This ritual may remind you of the Christian tradition of lighting candles around an Advent wreath. That practice is descended from older Pagan observances that marked the advent of the Winter Solstice. (Advent simply means “the coming of”).
You can easily adapt this to be in harmony with your own dreams, desires, and beliefs. I encourage you to join the countless families and individuals throughout the world, Christians and non- , and to share it with your friends and beloveds.
An Age of Change
Since I began this ten years ago, we have seen changes of unprecedented scope.
- We have hit several ecological milestones, from climate change to massive extinctions, and from which, we are warned, there may be no turning back.
- Since 2004, over 6,300 American troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- We have seen the birth of social media, rogue terrorists, Google, the specter of an Ebola pandemic, the growing support for same-sex marriage, the widespread acceptance of formerly alternative medicine, cell phones, deadly tsunamis, and constant digital connectivity.
- And we have seen the steady rise of ignorance and extremism, as old racial, territorial, sexist, and religious bigotries flare up and are fed.
Good things and not so good ones.
But there are also many, many hopeful signs, too. One of the best is that YOU are here, bringing your love and service to the world in the thousands of way that you do, each and every day.
For this year’s intention, given this window of time-out-of-time, this magical moment between the inhale and the exhale, where all possibilities, dreams, and the eons themselves are stirring with rebirth, we have an enormous opportunity to join forces for transformation.
Let us therefore weave our prayers in a global Circle, with our wreath honoring the great Circle that is the Divine One. Lighting our weekly candles with our awareness on the four quarter points, we anchor our vision into manifestation:
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.
First, you’ll make an Advent wreath, or call it a Solstice Sun Wheel, or whatever is appropriate to your beliefs. You’ll be lighting one candle on each Sun Day prior to the Solstice. We started Sun Day Nov. 23.
Dates for Solstice and/or Christmas Lightings
This year there is an extra Sunday between Solstice and Christmas. So households counting down to Solstice only can simply begin Nov. 23 and end at Winter Solstice, Dec. 21.
But the official Christian countdown began Sunday, Nov. 30 (because of the additional Sunday before the Big Day). So I suggest that where both traditions are joining together, have an extra lighting of the fifth candle on Christmas to accommodate everyone.
For Our Friends in the Southern Hemisphere
I also want to include all our friends south of the Equator, who are preparing to celebrate Summer Solstice, their longest day of the year. You, too, are warmly invited to join us in this rite, lending us your brilliance, helping us to keep our love fires blazing.
I invite you 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 living proof of Summer’s promise.
Thus we enact our support and respect for each anothers’ traditions.
Your Sun Wheel is simply a small wreath, the sacred Circle of the Divine Feminine (or the One(s) to whom you are devoted). It can be laid horizontally upon a table, altar, or other special place.
Evergreens are a nice touch, but it can be of holly berries, or grapevine, or whatever materials you have on hand. The wreath should have four candles around its periphery, and a fifth candle in the Center.
The colors and type of candles are up to you. The Christian Advent wreath traditionally is made with three candles of violet, and a fourth, which is lit the last Sunday before Christmas, of rose pink. In some churches, the pink candle is the third one, and some also add a center pillar candle of white, which is lit on Christmas or Christmas Eve.
To be in harmony with other family members that are not Christian, or who belong to different denominations, I suggest you agree on using five candles, and the colors can be your choice.
My suggestion for non-Christians is to use five simple white candles (tea candles perhaps), or a yellow candle for East (Air), a red candle for South (Fire), a blue candle for West (Water), and a green candle for North (Earth) with a fifth candle in the center for Spirit (Mystery). A black, white or purple candle would be a good choice, but let your heart be your guide.
The idea is that each Sunday before Solstice, ideally on the threshold between day and night, at sunset wherever you live, you have a quiet ceremony to light a new candle. The first Sunday (Nov. 23), you will light one candle only, the one for East. The next Sunday, Nov. 30 we again light the East (first) Candle, plus add the South (second) candle. (Unless you are celebrating Christian only, in which case Nov. 3o is your first lighting).
And so on, until you have lit the final candle, either Solstice night, Dec. 21, or Christmas, or both, depending on your preferences.
By the way — even if you miss the beginning week(s), don’t worry. You can join in any time!
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.
Each week, I’ll post details about that Sunday’s candle meanings, and offer a bit of lore for its traditions.
As you light your wreath’s candles, I invite you to also consider all the meanings that they may have for you – in your own personal life, for the good of our community and our planet as well. What is your deepest wish and will for the coming year? What might your family members also like to talk about and share?
Be aware that, based on the many, many emails I’ve gotten over the years, there are hundreds of other people, in different time zones around the world, who are participating in this with you. As the shadow of night rolls across the face of our globe, they gather in harmony with you and your family.
All of our hearts are joined in this act of both acknowledging the dark, and then energizing our empowerment as we light a candle of hope and renewal.
As you focus your will, remember that we are not fighting, fearing, or trying to defeat the dark. Darkness is necessary; without the dark, there are no dreams, no healing sleep, no deep growth that is necessary to thrive. So this year, we very intentionally honor the dark, as well. And then, having done so, we assist with the dawning.
Gaze a while upon the dancing flame and call upon the powers of the week’s Element or Gift of Spirit, to bless and protect the coming Sun Child, and the renewal of Life. When you are at peace, and the time feels right, gently extinguish your candle.