Winter is coming…but really. Even though it may start to feel nippy out, the season doesn’t officially commence until the Winter Solstice, the day that marks the transition from the warmer days of autumn into full-on darkness. Okay, so maybe it’s not that serious, but the Winter Solstice does mark the longest night of the year — and mythologically, it’s a time when we learn about our darkness as we stumble across the path that leads to our inner world and shadows. This year’s Winter Solstice falls on December 21st, marking the beginning of winter and symbolizing an invitation to sit with the parts of ourselves that don’t always get fed the most love or light.
Six months ago, we celebrated the Summer Solstice, which marked the energetic climax of the year. The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is the antithesis of this. If we go outward with force, passion, and purpose on the Summer Solstice (aka the longest day of the year), then on the Winter Solstice we have the opportunity to go inward with introspection and intention, as we honor the longest night of the year.
We tend to hear “love and light” being said in spiritual circles and in the wellness community as a remedy to all sorts of ailments. But saying everything is love and light is missing a crucial point: darkness and shadows exist, too, and they most certainly exist within us. To ignore this side of the coin is to ignore human nature, to ignore our inner world, and to ignore an important truth: darkness doesn’t equate to evil. Just like there’s a summer, there’s also a winter. For every light, there’s also a darkness. The Winter Solstice reminds us of this.
The Winter Solstice marks a time of reflection, which makes sense if you think about it. How many of us become homebodies when it’s colder out, opting for a movie night with our best friends rather than going out and braving the cold just to get a drink? We embody the energy of the Hermit tarot card, retreating into our own space, finding solace in solitude while we honor the quiet. The Winter Solstice is when we sit with ourselves in ritual, when we gaze at the flames of a fire, when we shed the baggage that’s no longer serving us, and most importantly, when we allow our darkness to speak up.
A ritual to ignite the way into the darkness:
It’s an understatement to say I’m a fan of burning rituals. There’s something so comforting about alchemizing experiences through fire. By releasing what no longer serves us, we not only lighten the load we carry into the winter, but we light up the path we’ll be setting forth on as well.
You’ll need: a pen, paper, a lighter, and a fireproof dish. You can also use herbs like rosemary, rue, sage, and mint (all protective herbs) to add to the fire.
Before you begin, make sure you’re in a place where you can perform your ritual without being interrupted, where you can also burn something safely. Turn your phone on airplane mode, put some music on (I love Chelsea Wolfe or ambient music like “Wood” by Yuval Ron), and let your roomies or family know you’ll be busy. You can cleanse your space using sacred smoke from herbs like sage or palo santo, or you can sprinkle salt in the corners. Once your space is all set, you can begin your ritual!
The first step is feeling the energy of the earth and feeling the energy of your body. Take a seat, close your eyes, and start to breathe. Feel the earth supporting you completely and breathe into this feeling, melting and surrendering to the earth’s support. You can imagine a golden cord extending from the base of your spine into the core of the earth, connecting you with her energy, which moves up your spine and into every inch of your body. The important thing is that you continue to breathe while connecting to your body and the ground beneath you.
Once you’re done grounding, you can open your eyes and grab a pen and paper. Take a second to reflect on the past year. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What have you been holding onto — emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally — that’s holding you back from your goals? This ritual is meant to release anything that’s not serving you, so think! But please, beloved, don’t get angry at yourself for not being perfect. That’s not the point of this! Once you come up with what you want to let go of, write “I release” on your piece of paper with whatever it is you want to release. Then, read this to the universe, feel it in your heart that it’s being released, and light it on fire to let that baby burn.
If you have more than one thing to release, you can either burn each individual item, or write them all on one piece of paper, tear this paper up, and then burn it. You can also add in any herbs you want as the paper is burning. Once this is all burned up, take a moment to breathe, and embrace the intention of releasing. Thank the universe for her support, and then you can flush the ash down the toilet, throw it out, or scatter it to the wind.
Ground your energy by imagining any excess energy moving from that golden cord in your spine back into the earth, and then picture this cord moving back into your body. You can also do this by pressing your forehead into the earth, imagining any excess energy making its way back to the earth.
Creating an altar for the Winter Solstice:
If you’re looking for another tangible way to work with the energy of the Winter Solstice, then you can try setting up an altar that includes tarot cards and crystals. An altar is a space that’s created to honor or pay tribute to something or someone. Think of crystals, candles, talismans, photos, and offerings living on an altar.
You can create an altar on an empty space like a bookshelf, small table, windowsill, on the top of a dresser, or even in a wooden box if you want something that’s not permanent. The altar is an energetic focal point, and can serve as a reminder of the winter season’s energy. You can include any or all of the following, and anything that you feel called to, on your altar.
Tarot cards: The World and The Hermit.
The Hermit is the emblem of the winter season, and its energy is all about turning inward while finding solitude. Thankfully, we don’t actually need to be hermits to embrace this energy. The Hermit reminds us that introspection and exploring our own depths are vital when it comes to knowing our truest selves. Thankfully, there’s no better time to begin this journey than during the winter.
The energy of the Winter Solstice also couples perfectly with that of The World. The last card in the tarot deck, The World represents the end of a journey (much like the end of a year), and all the good times and accomplishments that have come with it. Plus, the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia was a festival of light which led to the Winter Solstice and honored the god Saturn, the planet that just so happens to rule over The World card. You can try meditating with these cards, writing poetry, journaling about them, or simply try gazing at them to further work with their energy.
Crystals: Bloodstone, Garnet, and Citrine.
Bloodstone helps open the heart, and helps bring the heart into balance during new ventures. It also helps us overcome obstacles, and brings vitality during long ventures, so it can help you feel nurtured, cared for, and balanced as you embark upon a new season. Garnet is also a stone of the heart, which brings the heart into alignment. Garnet helps us to discard old models of doing and thinking, paving the way for abundance, which can assist you in the ritual described above and into the new season. Another promising Winter Solstice stone is citrine, which is a crystal that can assist in bringing one warmth and vibrance. It helps to restore balance to the body while also attracting abundance and assisting in mental clarity. You can meditate with these stones by placing them around you or holding one in your non-dominant hand.
You can use decorations like pine cones and pine needles on your altar, and you can have herbs or incense like myrrh, cedar, cinnamon, and copal on it as decoration (and for ritual burning as well). You can also use red, white, silver, or green candles in addition to anything else that gets you in the solstice mood.
No matter how you celebrate, we hope this season is filled with some much-needed rest, self-love, and introspection.