Winter time is the time when the earth rests, preparing itself for new spring growth. This makes it an ideal time for people to take time for themselves to renew and refresh for the year ahead. During the winter solstice, it is a good idea to perform rituals to help yourself connect with this energy of rest and renewal.
Setting up a solstice altar
Altars are the focal point of many rituals, both simple and complex. They are also often very beautiful, and setting one up is an excellent way to attune yourself to the season and decorate your home. Place a small table in the northern part of your room or home, and add objects that represent all of the elements. These can be:
• Earth: Quartz crystals, a dish of salt, a small potted seasonal plant, or Cedar Chips (cedar is ruled by earth).
• Air: Mistletoe Leaves (mistletoe is ruled by air), a Cedar Smudge Stick, or incense.
• Fire: A red, white, or green candle anointed with Mistletoe or Pine Essential Oil.
• Water: A small dish or bottle of Holy Water, or even a bowl of fresh snow.
Cover the table with a cloth in red, white, or green. If you like, pine boughs or garlands make for excellent, natural altar decorations. On the left side of your altar, place an Altar Bell. Ringing a bell helps signify the beginning of a ritual. The clear, sweet tones are excellent for dispelling old, stagnant energy to make room for new.
A Winter Solstice cleansing ritual
Before renewal can begin, it is important to rid yourself of old thoughts or patterns that no longer help you. A cleansing ritual can help clear you and your surroundings of negative energy that is dragging you down and keeping you from achieving your true potential.
• Before beginning, physically clean your house. Remove clutter, and donate old clothes and furniture you no longer use. Once the clutter is gone, sweep or vacuum thoroughly, and clean your entire house with Uncrossing Floor Wash, moving from the back toward the door.
• With the physical clutter gone, light some Holymen Incense or Virgin Mary Incense at the center of your home (or kitchen, if this is not possible). Carry it clockwise through each room of the house, saying,
"May this place be cleared and cleansed of all unwanted energies."
• When the house is cleansed, it is time to work on yourself. Take a cleansing bath with lots of sea salt, a little Peppermint or Lemon Essential Oil, and some Florida Water soap. When you are finished, allow your skin to air-dry.
• Kneel or sit by the altar. Ring the altar bell. Light the candle and smudge stick or incense. Light a yellow or gold candle and place it in the center of the altar. Say,
"At the darkest time of year, I welcome back the light of life and growth."
• Sit and meditate for as long as you need. Feel the warmth of the candles. Picture all of the ways you wish to grow as a person in the coming year. If it feels appropriate, make a short list of negative attributes or bad habits you wish to be rid of. Fold the list up, light it with the yellow or gold candle, and let it burn to ash in a fireproof bowl.
• When you feel relaxed and renewed, snuff the candles and tamp out the incense or smudge. The ritual is complete.
The winter solstice is the darkest, gloomiest time of year, but for a good reason. Take time this winter to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor from the rest of the year, and plan how to make the next year even better. Cleanse yourself and your home, and enter the new year rested, renewed, and ready to take on anything.