Photo courtesy of 2016 participant Kris
We are a Circle
Within a Circle
With no beginning
And never ending…
by Deborah and Rick Hamouris
As you may know from my newsletter and various social media posts, it’s time once again to join together starting tonight, and then every Sunday evening through Yule (and/or Christmas) for our annual Solstice Sun Wheel Prayer Circle.
If you have been a regular reader of mine, you know that beginning in late November, I invite everyone, 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 NINETEENTH anniversary! The numbers joining us have doubled multiple times, making it now a huge, truly global 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 the late Waverly FitzGerald in her School for the Seasons.
For nineteen years now, I have been carrying the tradition forward, adding 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, which probably was the descendant of even more ancient, pre-Christian traditions, leading up to the still moment of Solstice.
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 starting next Sunday, Dec. 3, if you are counting to Christmas only), we will light one candle only.
The next 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 (Nov. 26) is the first candle lighting. Our fifth, final candle will be lit Thursday, Dec. 21 (Solstice Night).
For Christians who are counting down to Christmas ONLY, your first candle will be lit next Sunday, Dec. 3, and your fifth, final candle is lit on Christmas.
For families that wish to celebrate both, my suggestion is to start tonight. Then, next week’s 2nd candle can represent the second lighting for the non-Christmas countdown, and the first lighting for those counting down to Christmas.
Each participant in your family or group 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. Or whatever else you would like to set your intention towards.
We also honor the fertile, necessary endarkenment, while preparing for 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.
Yet 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.
There is tremendous power and solace in carving out a time of peace and sacred spaciousness in this often crazy, overwhelming holiday time.
But you will discover that the real enormity of this ritual lies in the visceral sense you will have, of all the many hundreds of others, up and down the face of the Earth as the shadow of night falls, who are joining in with you.
From every walk of life, all different ages, beliefs, languages and lands, you can feel the global wave of prayer and devotion you are joining and a part of. You will sense how, as your candle is extinguished, people to your west are just beginning to gather and light theirs, creating a wave of sparks and light that moves across the face of our Mother Earth.
Our Intention for 2023
You and your loved ones may come up with your own words and intention. Here is one suggestion:
From within the sacred dark, we shall arise with the returning Light.
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.
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. 26)
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. The suit of the Tarot it represents is (usually) the suit of Swords: words, perception, attitude, thought.
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, to the doubts and disputes being raised about whether there can even be any such thing as “facts,” and “truth,” 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.
We are being lied to and our information access is being manipulated by bad actors on a colossal scale not seen since the dark days of the Second World War.
If you are with your friends, family, or community, you might talk a while about these matters, and the chilling winds of subterfuge and ignorance now threatening free expression and the core values of our democracies.
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, perhaps, any 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 breath itself — this first, last, and most vital gift of life. Feel your inhale and exhale, your life-long companion, as it helps you relax, become alert, and aware. Let your breath sigh, or laugh, or sing, or pray. If you are with loved ones, you might tell stories, speak of what you give thanks for, give honor to those who are dear to you, and why.
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.
When you are at peace, and the time feels right, gently extinguish your candle.
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. Muslims may wish to have the candles signify the Five Pillars of Islam.
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.
Please, please — share this far and wide! The more, the mightier AND the merrier!