Winter Solstice is a sacred time of year, so much so that it is thought of by some as the true ending of the year and beginning of a new year. Just as the new moon is the darkest time in our monthly cycle to let go and create new intentions for the month ahead, winter solstice is the darkest time of the yearly cycle and therefore a powerful time to let go and create new intentions for the year ahead.
We are currently entering the darkest time of year and this time is traditionally celebrated by the emergence, disappearance and reemergence of the constellation known as Pleiades. It is known as Peleiades in Greek meaning ‘a flock of doves’ ; Subaru in Japanese meaning ‘gathering together’ ; Matariki in Maori meaning ‘the many little eyes of god’. It is a sign that we have entered into the darkest time of year and are about to begin a new cycle of increasing sunlight. Matariki is the time of year, around the end of June, when the people of Aotearoa gather together to honour our ancestors, release those that have past in the year prior, and celebrate renewed life for the year ahead. This is a traditional Maori custom that has become a sacred ceremonial time for all people to participate, communally grieve and communally celebrate. Matariki enriches our lives with purpose and meaning in the darkest time of year, as we gather together to support each other and ignite hope for our collective future.
If you find yourself feeling alone or are affected by the lack of sunlight in your life at this time of year then this is a message for you to reach out, ask for help and source whatever it is that you need. For many of us this is a daunting thing to do because we have been raised to assume that we are independent, that we are ultimately alone and that we can live self-sufficiently on our own. We have been conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. The truth is that we are not meant to live alone, independently inside our own private world, we are meant to live collectively. We are meant to share our talents and gifts with our wider community and in turn we are supported by everyone else’s gifts.
The gift of Matariki is more than the opportunity to gather and share in our collective abundance, it is also the stellar medicine that infuses us with sacred knowledge about the nature of our being. The knowledge is that although we are indeed glowing and unique stars unto ourselves we are also much more powerful at radiating light when we live together in constellations. Like constellations of stars we shine brighter when we are a part of something larger than the world we limit ourselves to in our minds. When we open up to, reach out and connect with others we are allowing them to shed light on our lives, which has an on-flow affect when we too are feeling bright we can shed light on others. If you would like to read more about Matariki I recommend Rangi Matamua’s book – Matariki: The Star of the Year. Here is an expression of lament shared in this book…
Tirohia atu nei nga whetu,
Me ko Matariki e arau ana;
He hōmai tau i nga mahara
E kohi nei, whakarerea atu
Nā te roimata ka hua riringi
Taheke ware kai aku kamo.
I gaze up at the stars,
And the Pleiades are gathered together;
Which gives rise to many thoughts
That well up within, and freely
Do the tears pour forth
And flow shamelessly from mine eyes.
A very practical way to gather together this Matariki is to join in on the winter solstice events that are happening around the city of Wellington. The Lōemis festival has been created and sustained by wonderful people that wish to shed light on everyone in this dark time of year. You can choose what form of inspiration suits you, from music, feasts and cocktails, to theatre, art and literature, light shows and rituals. There is a time and place where people are gathering to honour and celebrate this magic time of year, all you need to do is say ‘Yes’. Check out the Lōemis website for more details on their events… https://www.loemis.nz/about
From an earth-wisdom perspective this is a time of gentle and slow letting go. For that thing in your life that has been dragging you down or blocking your path for way too long, it is time to acknowledge that perhaps it once had a purpose but now it no longer serves you and it is time to let it go. Letting go of something that may be so ingrained in the fabric of our lives can be a daunting task, only you will know whether you need to rip it off like a band-aid or little by little undo the knots that have been tied over time. The purpose of the following ritual is to begin the process whether it be fast or slow, it must begin with an intention of liberation and a deep sense of trust in your heart.
C E L E S T I A L C E R E M O N Y
Fire is the most potent element of transformation, it also imbues warmth and light making it the perfect element to work with in the darkest, coldest time of year. This winter solstice you may wish to try this simple celestial ceremony to sacrifice something old into a fire, symbolically transforming yourself from old to new, and igniting your inner fire…
- Set the scene… Light the fire or a candle. Burn some incense. Make yourself a cup of your favourite warming herbal tea. Do it slow, do it with your full attention.
- Collect some paper and a pencil, sit comfortably near the flame.
- Close your eyes, bring your left hand to your heart and your right hand to your belly. Breath deeply. With each exhalation let go of your day, your week, your year thus far.
- Bring your awareness to your hand on your heart and allow your whole being to relax, trusting that you are safe and are exactly where you need to be at this time in your life.
- Let your mind to sink below the hypnotic pull of your surface thoughts and bring your awareness to your hand on your belly.
- Allow your mind to come to anything that feels uncomfortable or has been niggling away in the back of your mind for some time.
- Formulate this feeling or situation into words and write it down on a piece of paper. Take your time, write as much or as little as you need. Allow any emotions to rise and continue to focus on breathing deeply, trusting that you are in the process of transformation.
- When you are ready take your piece of paper and burn it in the fire with the intention of letting all of your inner tension go. (Remember to be safe, keep a glass of water near if you need to extinguish the flame from your piece of paper).
- If you choose you may chant one of your favourite mantras to enhance this process of transformation. The simple yet powerful ‘AUM’ is associated with the first creations of new life and the elephant-headed deity Ganesha who removes obstacles that might impede the flow of life. Chant it three times.
- Keep your eyes on the flame of the fire or candle. Imagine that the old has burned away and has left a space for something new to be created.
- Imagine the space in your core, between your belly and your heart has been ignited with a new-found life force energy. Imagine this energy as a glowing golden orb radiating out from the center of your being, warming you from the inside-out.
- Imagine its warmth and light radiating out through your skin and filling the entire room that you are in…
- Imagine the warmth and light radiating out from your core and filling the entire area that you live in…
- Imagine the warmth and light radiating out from your core and filling the entire landscape of Aotearoa (or whatever land you are living in)…
- You notice that the more you extend your warmth and light, instead of being depleted, the more warmth and light glows from the core of your golden orb.
- Now, imagine the warmth and light radiating out from your core and filling the entire world, the whole of our earth. Trusting the reciprocal nature that the whole earth supports and nourishes you.
- Bring your awareness back into your body and imagine that something light is beginning to glow in the space where you were once holding darkness. Perhaps you feel lighter and yet more full.
- Rub your palms together vigorously for a few moments then cover your eyes with your palms. Open your eyes under your palms and slowly lower your hands.
- Take a few sips of your nourishing herbal tea and stay still for a few moments keeping your gaze on the flame, allowing this ritual to integrate into the fullness of your being. Offer your gratitude to the fire and to anyone in your life who supports your evolution.
- If you get a feeling or a thought of something that has been awaiting this time and space in order to come into your life, such as a new perception, perhaps an epiphany, then take the time now to write it down in your journal. And simply enjoy the rest of your evening soaking up the afterglow of this winter solstice celestial ceremony.
Ceremony offers a glimpse of a sacred destination, the destination of:
Every act a ceremony.
Every word a prayer.
Every walk a pilgrimage.
Every place a shrine.
A ceremony, then, is a special kind of ritual. It is a ritual done in the knowledge that one is in the presence of the sacred, that holy beings are watching you, or that God is your witness… Ceremony is not an escape from the messy world of matter into a hocus-pocus realm of spirituality. It is a fuller embrace of the material… it is not that a ceremony will “make” different things happen in the world; it is that it tugs and molds reality into a form where different things happen.
~ Charles Eisenstein
May we all feel the warmth radiating out from our own internal star this winter, may we honour the sacredness of our lives through small humble ceremony, and may we be reminded of our inner light every time we look towards the starry sky.