Winter Solstice also known as Yule is the day with the shortest amount of daylight and the longest amount of night. Symbolically it marks the death and rebirth of the sun and it falls between Samhain and the Spring Equinox and due to this manifests as the darkest period of the year yet is also a turning point where the days become longer. It symbolises the darkest time of year and marks the returning of the light due to its time of seasonal transition. The winter solstice marks the sun as its lowest elevation in the sky and the reason it contains the longest night of the year. This year in the Southern Hemisphere calendar it falls on Monday the 21st of June at 1.32pm. Gods such as Hekate, Persephone, Demeter, Dionysus, Helios, Poseidon, Zeus, Hera, Hathor, Sekhmet, Osiris, Horus, Neith, Nephthys, Spider Woman, Ameratasu, Saturn, Odin, Bona Dea, Mithras, Holy King, Hod, Frigga, Frau Holle, Cailleach and Baldurcan all be honoured during this time of year.
I have celebrated Yule with groups of people in a magickal setting such as a working lodge, coven and magickal order. The one thing which I found which linked them all together was the coming together to celebrate the light and the darkness whilst sharing food and gifts.
One of the fondest memories I have during this time of year is celebrating the winter solstice through creating handmade gifts. I spend considerable time planning on what to make and then following through by crafting gifts which are unique and special. The first thing I ever recall making was for my first coven where I sculpted and fired a set of runes and hand sewed an accompanying bag to contain them in. This took a significant amount of energy and effort and was placed in a sack of gifts to be randomly selected by one coven member in the middle of our coven’s winter solstice ritual. Imagine my surprise when one of my coven members whom I was closest to (and who has become a lifelong friend) chose it at random and had been wanting a set of runes which turned out to feature her favourite colour (they were coloured green and purple).
I personally like to hand make gifts during this time of year usually involving items which feature divination, light, purification, seeds, woods and herbs harvested and collected. I also love to cook, bake and prepare food which is consumed, shared or given to loved ones including the following: citrus preserves such as salt preserved lemons and Cointreau marmalade, soup (lentil/beans/barley and root vegetable, Greek chicken soup), stew (barley, beans, lentil, cholent andcoq au vin), bread (Greek sweetbread, olive loaf and garlic and feta loaf), gingerbread (especially witches houses/cottages), shortbread (various Greek ones), lamb or beef roast, dumplings and baked spiced rice stuffed into vegetables.
Since this time tends to fall on my personal anniversary (we got together on the winter solstice) for me it also involves going out for an intimate meal with my partner and exchanging thoughtful gifts.
I feel that Hekate resonates with this time of the year for various reasons. One being that this is a liminal time where she has dominion between the darkness and the light. In this time she encourages and enables us to turn our attention to the presence of the promise of new things to come. As the time of growth and movement is before us Hekate beckons us to straddle the in-between time and to use this time for the power it contains.
I personally like to honour Hekate during this time and make offerings of apples, pomegranates, garlic, onions, mead, beer, wine, bread, barley, nuts, lilies, pine, mistletoe, juniper, holly, frankincense, myrrh, cedar, bay, chamomile and roots from dandelions.
I also like to make items for Hekate which resonate with the season mostly wands collected from wood during the summer, candle anointing oil blends, herb pouches for dreaming, health and wealth, candles which illuminate, soap which cleanses, incense using dried herbs from the summer, book and journal covers with locally sourced materials or upcycled materials, various art pieces with paints, ink, photography and/or several thread types (in recent years its been all about the land, sea and sky) and beaded jewellery such as ethically sourced crystal necklaces which can also be used as meditation or manifestation beads.
In the garden now is the time to plant:
Vegetables such as artichoke, asparagus, beans, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chillies, corn, cucumber, endive, kale, leek, lettuce, melons, okra, onion, parsnip, peas, pumpkins, radish, rhubarb, shallots, silver beet, snow peas, spinach, tomatoes, turnip and zucchinis
Herbs such as garlic, basil, chives, cress, curry, dill, mint, parsley, sage and thyme.
Flowers such as aquilegia, calendula, cineraria, cyclamen, delphinium, foxglove, nemesia, pansy, primula, polyanthus poppy and viola.
Some things you can do to honour and mark the winter solstice in your personal practice (or with a group of likeminded individuals) can be:
- Hold a ritual signifying the balance of darkness and light and/or liminality.
- Work spells and magick which involve igniting a flame, balance or brining the light into a situation, .
- Create and light a bonfire or light a special candle carved with symbols which signify the time of year.
- Inscribe and light a Yule log in a firepit or fireplace.
- Take a walk at dusk holding a lantern.
- Bake a seasonal pie, cook a roast and make mulled wine or any other food or drink which to you symbolises the winter solstice .
- In the evening go out star gazing and seek out your local constellations.
- Honour the Gods which signify this time of year by creating a shrine or altar in their name or tending to an existing one and make offerings to them.
- Create an ice wreath in the freezer filled with flowers and herbs of the season (use a bunt cake tin) and once set place a candle in the middle of the wreath and light it to signify the winter moving out and the spring coming in.
- Use this time to cleanse your magickal tools and spaces such as shrines and altars.
- Rituals and spells involving transitions and movement.
- Reflect on your inner world and take some time to just be with yourself and listen to your inner self such as meditation, yoga, going for a walk in nature or just sitting in a space which is sacred to you and just being present.
- Use this time to recharge yourself through honouring yourself and do what you need to, to enable that reset.
- Host a feast with family or friends which can include music and dancing.
- Light black and white candles to signify the diminishing darkness and the increasing light.
- Decorate a tree (such as a xmas tree) with decorations which signify the winter solstice.
- Exchange gifts with loved ones.
- Donate to charities involving the displaced such as the homeless and refugees.
- Do something kind for someone who is alone, in pain or suffering.
- Volunteer for a charity which assists the natural world or the less fortunate.
- Divination such as rune, tarot, dice, candle wax, crystal, magick mirror or ink scrying.
So work your magick this midwinter, honour the light and the darkness within you and all around you and contemplate and manifest balance in your life.
(c) T. Georgitsis 2021