As nights continue to lengthen, and the time of the winter solstice draws near in the northern hemisphere, we prepare for the start of something new. Winter solstice is a time for welcoming back the light that slowly disappeared from our daily waking lives over a period of months in minute segments. For our fellows in the southern hemisphere, it is a time to welcome and embrace the light that permeates body and soul. Regardless of where we are on the planet geographically, the mark of solstice signifies both the end of a time of preparation and the start of a new phase in our lives.
On Your Mark
In the midst of the annual bombardment of advertising for every possible item one might desire, it can be difficult to see the starting line. While the winter solstice marks the official start of increasing light, we are challenged to find a quiet moment to prepare ourselves for this new beginning. In a race, when someone says “on your mark,” runners know to find their starting point, both physically and mentally. Finding our mark before the start of solstice is a reminder to begin the inward preparations as we leave behind the dark half to embrace the return of the light.
It is no accident that advertised delights can distract us from enjoying the final quiet days before the start of the new solstice season. The starting point of any new venture needs to be clearly marked; moreover, we need to be certain where we are actually starting.
During the solstices, my home tradition uses a jar spell. With a jar spell, what is being worked on or desired is written on a piece a paper during a ritual designed specifically for the purpose of the spell. The paper is sealed in the jar and not opened for the duration of the spell time. Keeping the jar on one’s altar is a visual reminder of the goals and desires held within. The jars are then opened and revealed as we turn to the light half of the year.
As we find our new solstice starting point, we celebrate our overall progress in life. More specifically, we embrace mental and emotional changes as well as outward physical changes. We begin the light half of the year with reflection on what we have accomplished and what we are leaving behind from the period between summer solstice and the time when the light is at its lowest point. If choosing to take risks has been a challenge and we take more risks between the summer solstice and the winter solstice, then we can move forward into the light half of the year with a feeling of internal accomplishment.
This preparation period, where we are getting ready and finding our mark, is a great time to ask where we want go. The energy surrounding this time of year when the world around us can appear to speed up. We notice it most with the non-stop encouragement to shop and spend on items that we may not otherwise need.
Yet if we think of a mark as a symbol of achievement or a distinguishing characteristic, then this time become easier. It is less about how much money one has to spend as a sign of achievement and more about who we are as individuals. By preparing to find our starting point, we help to ensure a successful solstice period. The spells are a good way to maintain balance.
Getting set before solstice means more than just taking a position. During this period, we are not just thinking about what solstice means to us and the newness of the returning light, but we are preparing our environment. Spring cleaning is noted for helping to refresh the home after a long winter where we may spend a great deal of time indoors.
One way to welcome the solstice is by preparing our homes for the holidays. For Pagans, Heathens, and Polytheists, this is one of the best times of the year to celebrate through home decorations. A fresh green wreath on the front door is a visual and aromatic reminder of the coming celebration.
Another way to prepare for solstice is to renew one’s home through cleaning, preparing food, and entertaining others. In removing what we no longer need, spiritually and physically, we are preparing ourselves for newer items, people, and ideas that better suit us for our journey to come. One trick that realtors use to help sell houses, especially in winter, is to bake something before the open house. The smell of freshly made cookies or cakes permeates the space, makes prospective homeowners feel welcome, and subliminally encourages an offer to buy. Finally, as we feel comfortable it is only natural to invite others to come and share in our space, our home.
Getting set allows us to prepare internally for the moment of solstice where we will break free. It is during this period that the answer to the question of where to go is more important even if we are still in flux.
On the day and night of the solstice, we begin the new cycle of light in feasting, celebration, and merriment. There is a reason why so many religions have some type of festivals around this time of the year. Going from a time when days are short to knowing that they will begin to get longer is a psychological boost that celebrates life, renewal, and all the possibilities that lay before us. We open our hearts to the future, our new goals, our new paths, and our new desires.
In my home tradition, we celebrate the new year at the time of solstice during the season of Saturnalia. During this time, relaxation, celebration of home and family, and having fun take precedence. Each year, the celebration of the season of Saturnalia gives a bit more oomph to the overall time. Whether sitting around indoors with friends by a fireplace or taking a long walk outdoors after a fresh snowfall, the spirit of restoration, regeneration, revival, and replenishment make this the best time of the year.
During the ritual marking solstice, we open jars, celebrate our successes, and make our wishes and goals for the new year. As the light grows, we open our hearts to healing and renewal. We use the energy of the coming months to continue our journey, our race until the next solstice. If things have not been great, the solstice is a chance to start in a different direction. In the end, it is all about where we want to go.