Explore the weird, winding, and wonderful ways in which we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives.
The Season of Light
It’s December first…. The symbolic beginning of the winter season, at least in terms of our modern calendar. It is, above all else, the beginning of a season of light.
But why light, we may ask? Why thoughts of light right now, when the days are so short and the nights long and cold? Why thoughts of light at a time of year when the land is muddy and skeletal, when cold rains fall and winds gust and one must bundle against the ice and snow?
Imagine yourself as a Stone Age person living more than two millennia ago. You would have spent your life living subsistence fashion, and when winter came, you and the tribe would have taken to a nearby cave to huddle against the cold, working by firelight and living off the provisions you’d managed to gather and store during the kinder summer months. You’d nourish yourself with soups and teas, sharing stories around the fire at night as way to gather your courage against the dark and cold, even as storms wailed outside. You’d do your best to be brave, ignoring the wee inner voice that wondered if the winter might never end.
And then, one day, the Solstice arrived. And with it came hope—for the tide had turned, and with it, light and life would return to the land once again, and your own life would continue as well.
We feel these same tides today in modern times. The height of summer finds me, living very near the 45th parallel, with a day that’s almost fifteen hours long, while at the winter Solstice that same day shrinks to nine and a half hours. We humans can’t help but fall in line with this sort of rhythmic synchrony, the annual spiraling of time and temperature and light and dark.
December is a season of light because so many religious traditions and spiritual paths celebrate the return of the light in some way. This year’s winter Solstice takes place on Friday, Dec. 21, and I’d like to offer you a candle ritual to help celebrate the Solstice countdown.
You’ll need 21 tealight or small pillar candles and a good-sized mirror of the kind you can lay flat on a table. The mirror should be big enough to hold all of the candles, allowing a bit of space between them. If you don’t have a mirror, cover a board or a piece of heavy cardboard with aluminum foil.
Begin tonight. Set the candles on your mirror and then turn out all the lights. Be present in the darkness, reaching inward to feel the ways your senses respond. Visualize life as a stone age person, huddled in a dark cave as a storm raged outside. Imagine the angst created by the dark and cold as you wonder if the light is gone for good. Now…. Light one of the candles. As you light it, you might offer a wish, a petition, or a prayer. Then, sit quietly, becoming aware of how much that one small light—kindled in the darkness—has changed everything. Experience the warmth of its glow, and feel the hope it creates. Meditate on this and allow yourself to experience joy. Sit quietly for several minutes, and then turn the lights back on and extinguish the candle.
Each night, light another candle and repeat the experience, i.e., on Dec. 2 you will light two candles, three on Dec. 3, etc. By the time the Solstice arrives, your fully lit group of candles should fill the room with brilliant possibility! What better way to experience and celebrate the meaning of this season of light!
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