Celebrating both the Dark AND the Light on the Winter Solstice

Are the days short enough for you yet? Could it possibly feel any darker?

Beginning with the summer solstice, the sun rises and sets farther and farther south every day. Finally, thankfully, it stops its descent on Midwinter’s Eve, commonly known as the Winter Solstice, which falls on December 21 this year.

In ancient times, people found it imperative to create rites and celebrations to coax back the sun. Even today, the season brings with it an abundance of light — in the menorahs of Chanukah, the kinaras of Kwanzaa, Yule fires, the profusion of Christmas lights on houses and trees, and candles, candles everywhere. All are modern day acts of sympathetic magic to lure back the waning sun.

Another name for the Winter Solstice is Yule which means “wheel,” with the wreath being the most obvious wheel symbol of this season. The Scandinavians hung them at this time to commemorate the new beginning of the ever-moving cycle of life, adorning them with pinecones (representing male fertility) and fruit (symbol of the Goddess)… together, a perfect representation of rebirth in the Wheel of the year.

So how can you draw on these powerful symbols to coax back the light of the Sun and your own inner light as well?

Honoring the deep stillness of winter as well as the return of the Sun

First, I’d invite you to take a look at my Summer Solstice blog here at the Wellness Universe. The Sun was at its height at that point (vs. its nadir as it is right now), so our ritual was focused on keeping your inner light glowing as the days began to shorten, heading towards Fall. Now, of course, the Sun is headed the other direction.

However, the dominant theme for both Solstices is still honoring the LIGHT — notice all the aforementioned candles around us this month!

But for me, the Winter Solstice is also a time to honor the gifts of this dark, sacred time to bring more depth and meaning to our lives and relationships. Because yes, even though the Winter Solstice marks the return of the sun, it certainly won’t feel like it for another month or so — if you’re a sun-worshipper, things are feeling pretty hopeless right now. At least you can find plenty of distractions since we’re in the midst of the most commercialized extended shopping spree and party-time of the year, too.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re able to actually enjoy the beauty and spirit of the season? Because underneath the frenzy, buried in the deepest dark, lies a core of stillness, a resonance with the holy, a place of sanctuary. And I would venture to say that there is no better time in the Wheel of the Year to tap into that sacred space than during these winter months, which “officially” begin on the upcoming Solstice.

Creating a sense of sanctuary in your life

What does it mean to create “sanctuary”? Drawing on its Latin roots, from the word sanctus, a sanctuary is simply a sacred, holy place – a church, temple, or mosque, but also very specifically the space within those structures where sacred objects are kept. In a broader context, it is a shelter, a place of refuge and protection.

Where do you find sanctuary in your life? Perhaps you have your own private room, or a corner of your home that you’ve filled with special objects or pictures. My home-office is adorned with the things that mean the most to me… family photos, Goddess statues, special keepsakes from countless rituals I’ve created over the years, a little altar with symbols of the four elements, representing mind (air), body (earth), heart (water) and spirit (fire).

When I enter it each morning, I sit on my meditation pillow in front of the window, light a candle, spray myself with an aromatherapy mist, and sing a favorite chant. (Check out my #InnerGoddessTeam videos if you want to learn some!) It’s my own little temple and while it sustains me year-round, I especially love hibernating there in the winter.

A simple Winter Solstice ritual in your own sanctuary

So, for a sweet, simple Winter Solstice ritual, I invite you first to carve out – or reacquaint yourself with — your own sanctuary space. Fill it with special symbols and objects to comfort you during the next few months until you can feel the Sun’s light truly starting to return.

The next step is to a create sacred space within that sanctuary, in a similar way to what I described in my Summer Solstice blog – with lots of candles and an elemental (fire, water, air, earth) altar. Creating some “candle magic” is always a perfect Solstice practice to set your intentions for the next few months.

And to embrace that uniquely Winter Yule/wheel symbolism, make your own version of a wreath and imbue it with words, images, and colors to represent what you want to rebirth, or bring into the light as we move into the new year. That could be simply drawing a picture of a wreath, or if you’re feeling creative, weaving together greens to make an actual wreath, adorning it with symbols of the dreams and wishes you want to manifest. It’s what I call “magical arts and crafts”!

Then hang it somewhere to lift your spirits if the post-holiday blues strike in January. Symbols are the language of the unconscious, so even if you don’t remember exactly what those wishes and intentions were, they’re being held in that deep, dark, holy place within and will be triggered every time you look at your Yule wreath.

And if all else fails, just remember that the light of this winter solstice sun will only continue to grow over the coming months, and you’ll be complaining about how hot it is in no time!

Connect with Deborah on The Wellness Universe.


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