This year of difficulty, loss, and challenge is drawing to an end at last, and it is certainly with weariness and mixed feelings that we have now entered the deepest dark of the year.
But that means that, as the longest night of the year approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time once more to join together every Sunday through Yule (and/or Christmas) for our annual Advent Sun Wreath 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.
How perfect that in such a troubling year for so many, we have arrived at our 13th year together.
Rather than being UN-lucky, as popular culture would have us believe, the number 13 has ancient roots in the old Goddess-revering religions. Perhaps that is precisely why we’ve been told the opposite. (For more lore about the number 13, you can read one of my Friday the 13th articles here).
So What Is This?
Ever since the beginning, I have found this annual ceremony to be a gentle, inclusive, yet very powerful tradition. 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 told me that it has become a very meaningful and beloved practice for them and their families, too. Some have also noted that it feels like we are doing “The Wave,” except we are offering joyful, globe-circling prayers.
It’s very simple. You only need a wreath and five candles. Starting on SUNDAY, Nov. 26, around dusk wherever you live, you’ll light one candle, spend time in quiet or prayerful observance, then extinguish the flame. The next week you will light the first candle, and then a second one.
And so on, each Sunday, until the final candle on Winter Solstice, Christmas, or both.
The real power, besides the vital importance of making quiet time for observance, is in the knowledge that across the globe, hundreds, possibly thousands, are doing the same thing with you.
And having come through a brutal cancer treatment last year, I can personally attest to its power to soothe, renew, and strengthen resilience, even in the worst of times.
This ritual may remind you of the Christian tradition of lighting candles around an Advent wreath. That practice is probably 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.
Finding the Good After a Hellish Year
This has been a year that has continued to demonstrate, as both astrology and other esoteric studies have long predicted, ominous, perhaps irreparable cracks in the very foundations of our cultural values and institutions.
We’ve seen unspeakable human and ecological loss from catastrophic weather, war, racially charged violence, mass shootings in the U.S. (as of this writing, Nov. 10, this is the second worst year in our history, with the total killed so far, at 208), the rise of hate crimes, and the grievous erosion of civil rights and democracy itself. There are even existential questions regarding whether facts and truth actually exist.
Yet even now, as we make this annual journey of the Wheel of the Year towards the still point of the deepest dark, we enter into a sacred time-out-of-time. As our most ancient ancestors knew, this is a magical moment between the inhale and the exhale, where all possibilities, dreams, and the eons themselves are stirring with rebirth.
Thus, although our hearts may be weighted by the darkest of shadows, we stand at a crossroads of infinite hope. Looking within and to one another, we have the option of seeing what is good, what is true, what is brave and right.
Together each week, then, in perfect faith and love, we will ignite the flames of rebirth.
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, or whatever you name as holy, we anchor our vision into manifestation.
By this candlelight, we stand for the Light that cannot die. With our prayers, we embrace the most ancient Divine One(s) whose name is Love. With our hands and hearts joined, now at this threshold of change, we invoke the irrepressible dawning of healing, grace, and rebirth.
With unfailing devotion, with all our courage, from within and without, for the Earth, Her resources, and all Her beings, so mote it be.
Thus, from within the sacred dark, we arise with the returning Light.
This year, with great attentiveness, let us begin by being still. Let us 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, frightened, artificially garish world.
Then, week by week, with each candle’s lighting, we know that the darkness is giving way. For even as dusk descends on our own homes, sunrise is blossoming elsewhere in the world.
Thus, we recognize that we, ourselves, hold the Flame which can never be extinguished.
With our words and every action, we share our sacred gifts of tender care for the unaware and lost. We reveal our brilliance to illuminate and destroy systems of fear, domination, hate, and deception.
And with our interconnected weaving in this prayer working, we assist in the Great Turning.
We aid and embody the shift of our human family to a more just, compassionate, and fruitful affinity with all the worlds, and the Divine Good.
Each week, I will post specific suggestions about that Sunday’s candle meanings, and offer a bit of lore for its traditions.
Alas, making it just a tiny bit complicated this year, there is a gap for people counting down to Winter Solstice only, and people counting down to Christmas only. For the former, we begin Sunday, Nov. 26.
For those celebrating Christmas advent only, your countdown does not start until Sunday, Dec. 3.
But for families that would like to celebrate both (or something else), no problem. Start on the 26th, and consider the extra lightings a bonus, igniting the final candle twice (once on Solstice, and once on Christmas Eve).
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?
For Our Friends in the Southern Hemisphere
I also want to once again make sure that all our friends south of the Equator, who are preparing to celebrate Summer Solstice, know they are needed.
As you get ready for your longest day of the year I urge you to join us in this rite, lending us your warmth, your brilliance, and helping us to keep our love fires blazing.
I invite you to light your Solstice candles (perhaps around 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 others’ traditions.
As mentioned, 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.
One possibility 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. 26), you will light one candle only, the one for East. The next Sunday, Dec. 3 we again light the East (first) Candle, plus add the South (second) candle, and so on.
By the way — even if you miss the beginning week(s), don’t worry. You can join in any time!
We Merry Meet, One and All
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 and Earth-based religions, 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.
Muslim participants could have the candles signify the Five Pillars of Islam.
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. One family I am very fond of has used the candles to represent the “Five Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The possibilities are limitless, and can be adapted to any spiritual or intellectual path.
Be aware that, based on the many, many emails I’ve gotten over the years, there are many 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 quiet act of both acknowledging the dark, and then energizing our power 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.
Please come back on Nov. 26, when I will post some suggestions for our first night.
And please share with everyone you know. There is great power in our numbers and the more, the merrier!