The darkest days of the year are upon us, and we are eagerly awaiting the return of the light. Time then, for a reflection of what that light means for us.
Why do we fear the darkness? Is it that we are afraid to be alone with our thoughts? Or is it that we fear the monsters lurking in the shadows? The cold days certainly force us inside, invite us to spend time in seclusion and contemplation.
At the same time, we could also see this time as a time of opportunity: as we gather around our hearth-fire, this could be a time to be closer to our family and to spend time with our friends. A time to find a different kind of warmth, to remember that we are not alone.
Since the beginning of time, light has played an important role in the imagination of mankind. Somehow, it connects us to our source, and we feel lost in its absence. In winter there is the artificial replacement of man-made light, but it is not really an adequate replacement for the light of the sun.
Could that be because winter makes us feel vulnerable? Despite all the layers of clothing which we put on, we are confronted with a power greater than our own, one which all our technological advances cannot protect us from: the wild that is lurking outside our windows. A whispering that begs us to remember who we really are: creatures from this planet. An insistent howling of spirit, shattering our soul with the words
‘You are not separate from us’.
Let us then not forget this thought when we will soon celebrate the return of the light, and we begin to contemplate the time when we will be able to return outside. For we should not allow the light to obscure that which was made so visible by the darkness: that hidden wildness that we refuse to see all too often.
And so I would invite you to join me in the following simple Mid-Winter ritual: On the evening of midwinter, under the light of the full moon, let us light a candle together. You can either do this before your altar (in a darkened room), or outdoors.
Before you light the candle, say the following simple prayer:
Spirits of the Wild,
Tonight, I hear You,
Tonight, I see You,
Tonight, we form one community, one planet.
Take a moment to sense how you are no longer alone, but standing at the center of a circle, surrounded by your local spirit-community.
Light the fire. See how it creates a circle of golden light. Its rays cast a circle of peace, a place where the separation between the human and non-human world ceases to exist. Sit here for a while, simply taking in the light, leaving aside your everyday human worries.
Listen, be open to any message from the wild.
Finally, make an offering to the world. While looking at the candle, visualize a light emanating from your heart, and state aloud how you will contribute in the coming year to making this world a better place. For we are the world, and the sun is reborn each year within each of us.
Name one concrete action, and make a vow to the spirit-community gathered around you that you will follow up on your promise before the end of January.
Together, let us rebirth the sun. (And remember that it shines for more than just the human population of this planet.)
Finish by blowing out the candle and speaking this modified version of the traditional ending of a druid ritual:
As the fire dies down, may it be relit in the world.
May the fire of hope be reborn tonight.
See how the light spreads out around you, and how the seeds of a new year have been planted. Give thanks to the spirits for accompanying you tonight.