Brightener of Darkness, hail!
Keeper of Clearness, Opener of the Depths.
Gifts of plenty are arising,
Winter wonders, white snows’ fall.
Joyful be the heart within us,
Open wide the guesting door,
Wisdom waken in abundance,
Warm our beings to the core.
~ Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews
Ring the bells of joy and blessings! Throw open the Gates of Dawn ~ the Light is born!
Let us gather as our ancestors of old did, to celebrate one of the happiest days in the Pagan calendar!
We stand in the doorway of new beginnings, the moment of Promise, fulfilled.
Winter Solstice, which is also known as Yule, Yule Night or Julblot, Winter Rite, Midwinter, and the Druids’ Alban Arthan, marks the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, after which time the days will begin to grow longer and the hours of darkness decrease.
The precise moment of the 2014 Solstice arrives today, December 21 at 6:03 pm, Eastern Standard Time.
On this day, the Sun enters Capricorn and Winter begins as the Sun reaches the 270° point on the zodiac wheel, and begins the return towards the 0° point, which will be reached at Spring Equinox.
Meantime, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are today celebrating their Summer Solstice, which opens their days of Summertime. After today, the daylight below the equator begins to diminish.
We are all getting a double-dose of intensity, as it is also New Moon, and Uranus stations direct. My friend Lynn Hayes has lots of wisdom about this very magical Solstice New Moon.
Most Ancient of Holy Days
This is possibly the most universal and oldest known holy day of all humanity, based on written records of 4,000 year old Mesopotamian rites performed to celebrate the end of the darkening. There are many ancient structures around the world that were designed to mark the Sun’s placement on this day.
For instance, Newgrange, a beautiful Neolithic site in Ireland, is a huge circular stone structure, estimated to be 5,200 years old. It is centuries older than Stonehenge, and older than the Egyptian pyramids.
It was built to receive a shaft of sunlight deep into its central chamber at dawn on Winter Solstice. Around 235,000 people visit Newgrange and its neighboring passage graves at Knowth and Dowth each year.
Hundreds of other prehistoric structures throughout the world are oriented to the solstices and the equinoxes. The field of archaeoastronomy studies such sacred sites in the Americas, Asia, Indonesia, and the Middle East.
Recent research into the medieval Great Zimbabwe in sub-Saharan Africa (also known as the “African Stonehenge”) indicates a similar purpose. In North America, one of the most famous such sites is the Sun Dagger of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, built a thousand years ago by the Chacoans, ancestors of the Pueblo people.
Some even speculate that Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, was also originally a Solstice festival. Yule (which means “wheel”) and the Roman Saturnalia definitely were. And Christmas still is!
The Winter Solstice Sabbat is joyfully celebrated by Pagans and Witches throughout the world, as well as rural and indigenous peoples who pay attention to the rhythms of the seasons. On this longest night of the year, we celebrate the rebirth of the divine Sun Child, the Oak King, the Giver of Life.
Starting today, the Yule season begins, and for the next 12 (or so) days, all are called to shift from the mundane world, and move into a time of soul-deep joy: giving, kindness, and wonder.
Tonight, we complete our advent magical working, unless you are also counting down to Christmas.
If you are including Solstice and Christmas together, you will light the fifth candle tonight, then again on Christmas Eve (or Christmas morning, if you’d rather).
If you are counting down to Christmas only, this is the night of your fourth candle lighting, which in many traditions represents the Angel Candle, or else may simply be for Love. You’ll light the final, fifth candle, which many consider the Christ Candle, on Christmas.
The Solstice Fifth Candle
Since Solstice this year falls conveniently on a Sunday and at 6:03pm (Eastern time), the ideal time for your fifth candle lighting is, as usual, sunset.
Gather, with love, all who are near you, embodied, or perhaps not, for this is a magical time when the veil between the worlds is very thin. Sense the gathering, too, of all who are participating tonight, from every continent (except Antarctica).
Call once more to the Guardians and Elements of East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, and North/Earth. Or if you have assigned other meanings for the four peripheral candles, of course, invoke those energies as you light them.
As the shadow of twilight falls across the turning Earth, see in your heart how our wreath candles come twinkling alive. From the Southern Hemisphere, where our companions are welcoming Summer, to the coldest edges of the North lands, know and feel how, one flame at a time, each woman, man, and family — each and every heart — is blazing up with our light and love.
And by the way —
I want to particularly thank the many souls in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and other South American countries who have notified me that you, too, have been joining our spell-prayer. You have been lighting candles each week on your Summer Solstice wreaths. I love how you have held the kindling spark of Summer’s promise for us. A thousand thank yous!
Finally, the time has come to light the center candle, which would be for Spirit, the Aether, the Cauldron, or Mystery. Or you may wish it to simply represent Rebirth, Joy, or Hope.
Kindle the Center’s flame and call upon all your Divine Ones, the most holy Ones to whom you are devoted. Speak of your heart’s greatest wish and know that at this magical time, it is done.
As our Solstice Sun Wheel intention has said, we are the bright beacons of grace and radiance so needed in this world. We are the gift and the givers, offering tender care for the unaware and lost.
See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Sing. Pour libations. Chant. Dance. Ring Bells. Feast. Make merry and rejoice!
We have united together across the worlds, with one another, and with Love Herself.
Thank you to one and all who have shared your magic, good energy, and loving prayers to our rite this year, our tenth anniversary, and the biggest year yet.
When you are ready to release your sacred Circle of light, do so.
Brothers, sisters, come and sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Gardens peaceful, forests wild
Celebrate the Winter Child!
Now the time of growing starts!
Joyful hands and joyful hearts!
Cheer the Yule log as it burns!
Once again, the Sun returns.
This threshold pause as the Sun comes to a stop is such a holy time of power. This is the emptiness, the space between breaths, where Magic happens.
Enter this dark Mystery with your shining hearts. No matter what this Winter and the future may hold in store, the promise of rebirth is fulfilled. Our flame shall burn brightly and hope is reborn. The Divine Birth has come.
May the Lord and the Lady bring you brightest blessings.