Spiritual Coach & Ritual Researcher
Barbara Biziou is a spiritual life coach and two-time author of The Joy of Ritual and The Joy of Family Rituals. She holds bachelor’s degrees in both Art History and Psychology from NYU, and has been featured in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Oprah.com.
December 20, 2021 — 19:03 PM
Take a deep breath as we enter this time of the winter solstice on December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. Think of it as a sacred gateway: an ending and a new beginning. With all the noise of 2021, it is time for some much-needed quiet and inner nourishment. Mother Nature is asking us to reflect, recalibrate, and strengthen our ability to shine in the world.
The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. At this time, many cultures believe that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to a sun child (the Egyptian deity Isis gave birth to sun god Horus; the Greek Leto gave birth to a shining Apollo.) This is a moment to hold the light for yourself and others. Here are eight rituals to help you do so:
1. Turn off the lights.
On the night of the solstice, unplug your phone, TV, and tablets. Instead of turning on electric lights, eat dinner by candlelight and experience the world without artificial lights. If you have a fireplace or outdoor fire pit, this is the time to bathe in the warmth of nature.
Forget Alexa for an evening and sing the songs that come from your heart. If you have an instrument, express yourself and have fun.
2. Release and let go.
Cultures around the world end the year by purifying with water, fire, air, and earth. This solstice, try working with these elements yourself.
On a piece of paper, take the time to write down your feelings of anger, disappointment, fear, and frustration. Then burn, baby, burn! Safely throw those papers in a fire to let them go–physically and emotionally.
You can also take a purifying bath in sea salt, bury a symbol of what you want to release in the earth, or shout out your feelings in a song or chant.
3. Ask the oracles.
Set yourself up for success with a good night’s sleep.*
The solstice is the perfect time to check in on where you are and what possibilities lie in store for you in the future. To do so, sit quietly, light some dried herbs, or sprinkle lemon water around your space to purify it. Then, from your heart ask, “What is the most important thing for me to know right now?” Pull a tarot card for guidance, or simply write down or draw what comes to you in your journal.
4. Purify your space.
Open your windows and walk around your home, ringing a bell to break up any stuck energy. Then light a smudge bundle (cedar and sage) or some copal incense and walk around a second time for further purifying. You may want to use a feather to spread the sacred smoke into every corner of your home. Don’t forget to cleanse the front door.
If you’d rather not use sage or smoke, you can use lemon water, aromatherapy sprays, or sea salt in a container of water for clearing. Just sprinkle the liquid around your entire space and then wipe dry.
5. Create a solstice altar.
Set the stage for your altar using a white cloth, or a gold one for sparkle if you can find it. Fill your altar with evergreens–cedar, spruce, juniper, and pine–to express the season. Holly and mistletoe are great additions but be aware that they may be poisonous to small children or animals. I also like to include apples and nuts, cinnamon sticks, and a small bowl of local honey for sweetness. Add candles to represent the return of the light.
Write prayers for peace, prosperity, and health on small pieces of paper (I like to use circles of gold paper) and keep them on the altar until the beginning of the new year.
6. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle.
Dip your hand in the water and sprinkle the glitter “sunshine” on your hair or anoint your hands or face. If you are with others, let each person do this to one another. You might also want to play a song that brings in the spirit of light like “I Am Light” by India Arie or the classic “This Little Light of Mine”and celebrate your sparkle.
7. Set an intention to spread light.
Take a candle and carve or write the word unity on it. Sit for a moment and think of what this word means to you. Can you imagine a world where caring for each other was the norm? What would it be like if each person’s main job was simply to share his/her/their unique gifts and talents?
Light the candle and imagine this light going out into the world. Commit to being a conduit for it in your day-to-day life this season.
8. Mix up a solstice (Yule) drink.
This traditional warming drink is perfect for sipping during a solstice celebration (and it makes the house smell incredible). Combine 2 quarts of apple cider, 1 1/2 cups orange juice, 3/4 cup pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 cinnamon sticks, a dash of ground cinnamon, and a dash of ground cloves and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your personal taste. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.
Discard the cinnamon sticks, pour into mugs, and serve. And for the grown-ups, feel free to add a splash of rum, vodka, or whisky.
The bottom line.
The winter solstice–the darkest day of the year–is an opportunity to connect to your light and share it with others. May you hold tight to your light throughout the season. The world needs you!