Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ceremonies and Symbols of the Season

Luminarias in Albuquerque's Old Town
This week, I want to talk about Ceremonies, specifically a Rites of Passage Ceremony, and a Winter Solstice Ceremony, or Return of the Light. I thought I'd share some Winter Solstice Ceremony symbols with you too, that may help you to end this year and begin anew, using these symbols to boost the energies. And, of course, we have Mercury going Retrograde on the 19th, and it's already hindering my thoughts, so let's see where this takes us! (smile!)

One quick note on the current energies: We are in a time of transition, or transformation. Going back to the egg, caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly story, West/Autumn is the Cocoon stage. We are about to burst out of the Cocoon, and become the Butterfly, come Winter Solstice. Keep this in mind as you make your wishes for the New Year!


RITES OF PASSAGE

This Ceremony marks the ending of one phase of your life, and the beginning of another. It helps us to put paid to the past, and embrace who we are now. Traditionally, this Ceremony was done when a girl became a woman by beginning her first menstrual cycle, or when a boy becomes a man. It was celebrated when one became a Crone, or Elder. It can also be a birth Ceremony, and/or a death Ceremony. In our modern era, we've pretty much forgotten that we need to celebrate these rites of passage, and everything tends to just blur together, one day following the next. When we forget Ceremony, we forget to celebrate and rejoice in life itself and all that it brings to our lives.

I've recently been looking back on my life, and have noticed times when I began anew, stepping out of one world, into another that was quite different. I left the "working world" back in 2006, for the 2nd and final time, and that was a huge transition. It took me a long time to figure out what I was doing with my life, and my time each day. Perhaps, if I'd celebrated it, I may have moved on and embraced the new, but I didn't. And that's the thing, cutting the ties so that we CAN embrace the new, with joy! It was also a transition when I moved here to Albuquerque from Atlanta in 1990. Another was when I left my abusive husband... I spent years living in fear, instead of celebrating that it was over - finally. We don't tend to think of these types of situations as requiring a Rite of Passage Ceremony, but they really do, as that would give us the ending, or closure, that we need, so that we can move on.

Recently, I legally changed my name. This is a HUGE transition! One that I didn't realize would be so life changing. The Universe has been telling me to do a Rite of Passage Ceremony, due to this change, and this is what has brought this subject up. In sharing it with you, my hope is that you will look back over your own life, and see the transition points, and perhaps hold your own Rite of Passage Ceremony, if only to celebrate where you are now.

This is a good time to be doing this type of Ceremony, as we are approaching the end of the Solar Year. Out with the old! Maybe we even need to do one for us all, because we are about to embark on a whole new journey in this world, one where we stand up for what we believe in, where we MUST take action for the planet, and all of life. We are being recharged, fueled by recent events, to do the work that we came here to do, and to celebrate that is to accept it, to welcome it, and perhaps to even step off the edge into not knowing where we are going next, but welcoming it just the same.

You are loved and supported in all that you do, and the Universe is helping us to get to where we need to be. Trust and have faith...

For this Ceremony, I would recommend combining it with your Winter Solstice Ceremony. Take some time to write down everything that you are letting go of, and when the time comes, burn it in the fires of Solstice. Smudge, purify, clean house and smudge it too! You/we are cleansed of the old, and now ready to fully embrace the new that is coming!

Add your own rituals to this, something that symbolizes your own journey. I will most likely burn everything that has my old name on it! I may give away the clothes that represented the "old" me. I will do things differently, from the way that I decorate my home for the holidays (more simply now), and the way that I celebrate the holidays - people are more important than anything money can buy. Maybe this is a time that is meant for us to throw out the old, and everything that no longer resonates with who we are now, or works in our lives, for it is time for us to live more simply, and closer to the Earth, growing our own food, saving seeds... and thinking of these things as we make our holiday purchases. What can we plant now, how can we prepare now for the coming growing season? What do we need to survive the Winter storms that are coming? Stocking (ha! no pun intended!) up our pantries may be a good place to start. 

Winter is the season of Sacredness, of Spirituality, of Purity, and of giving thanks. May it teach us all to hold everything as sacred once more, including ourselves. What can you do to hold yourself sacred? To honor yourself and your journey? To let go of the old, and to prepare for the new? It's time to take that step!



WINTER SOLSTICE

The Wheel turns on December 21st, to the season of Winter, of Mother Earth, and the Direction of North. It is the time when Grandfather Sun reaches that standing still point, before beginning His journey back north once more. We gain another minute or so of daylight each day after this, and so it is the Return of the Light. Grandfather Sun then, begins Waxing once more, just as the Moon does every month, His journey takes a full year from waxing to waning to waxing once more. We will still have more dark hours than light hours, until Spring Equinox, therefore, we will still be in the Feminine Half of the Year. We enter the Direction of North, whose Element is Earth, or Mother Earth. The Totem Animal of the North is the White Buffalo, and it is in the Direction of North that White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman lives. She who teaches of the rainbow and unity, and of the sacredness of women. The creature-beings sleep, or pull their energy into their roots, and the Earth is covered with snow, which is composed of the energies of the Rainbow and of purity. We are purified.

These are just the energies of the North of which we speak. Now let's talk about the Ceremony.

At Stonehenge, many will gather to celebrate the return of the light, by waiting for Grandfather Sun to rise on the morning of the 21st, and will welcome the light. This means that we have put paid to the past, and are welcoming the new into our lives. For this reason, you should do any releasing work prior to the return of the light. The night before is the longest night of the year, and if we have done our work, we can spend it in contemplation, or in the dreamtime, seeking dreams of the new year and what it will bring.

A fire is lit at sunset the night before Solstice, to hold the light until Grandfather Sun's return. It is in this fire that you can burn the symbols of your old life. Tend the fire overnight, feeding it your wishes for the new year, and to hold the energy of the light on this long night. When Grandfather Sun rises, it is time to celebrate!

Creating a Vision Board can be a helpful tool at this time. We've discussed this in the past 2 blog posts, so I won't go into it here. Just get it done before Solstice morn, so that you can tell Grandfather Sun of your wishes for the coming year.

Roots are gathered the night before Solstice, so that they have the most energy in them, for use as Medicine or in spellworkings for the coming year. Hopefully, you have already noted their locations!

Giving thanks to Grandfather Sun for the return of the light, is called for at this time, and we step into the season of Winter and the Direction of North, we give thanks to Mother Earth and to all of the Creature-beings that nourish and sustain us all.

We also give thanks to the season that we are leaving, Autumn, the Direction of West, and the Element of Water. We've had a lot of teachings and awareness around Water during this season, and we pray that She is protected and preserved for many generations to come. We honor the teachings that this Direction has brought to our lives, by incorporating them into who we are, and how we live.

Every tradition has their own ritual at this time, be it called Christmas or Yule, or something else entirely. I personally celebrate it as Winter Solstice, and the beginning of the solar year, although I also celebrate New Years, and Chinese New Year, as further opportunities to welcome the new into my life. Tis the season, after all!

We'll talk more about Winter symbolism, including snow, Stone People, White Buffalo Woman, and more, as the season progresses. For now, let's look at the symbolism of Winter Solstice, for some tools that you can use to enhance the energies of the season in your life.



WINTER SOLSTICE SYMBOLS

Winter Solstice: the day of chaos, the crack between the worlds, before the Sun is reborn the next morning (due to sun standing still for Solstice). A Threshold Day.

Herbs:
Bayberry, Blessed Thistle, Evergreens of any type, Frankincense, Holly, Laurel, Mistletoe, Oak, Pine, Cedar, red berries (represent blood and sacrifice or blood and light of Sun God), White Sage.

The Yule Log or a Yule Log with 3 candles in it, is a specially selected log burnt on a hearth as a tradition in a number of countries in Europe. It may be a log cut from the previous year's Yule tree, that is preserved throughout the year, to bring good luck to the household, and is burned on the following Yule to symbolize an end to the old year, and the return of the Light. The Yule log could also be a tree that was harvested from your land, or was gifted - it was never purchased. Ash was the traditional tree used, as Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.

Evergreen trees, boughs, and wreaths, represent prosperity, money, and abundance, as they remain green the whole year through. This gives them great magical power that they can withstand Winter's death. They also symbolize life, rebirth and renewal. They also hold back death and destruction. Because of their strength and tenacity, they were also believed to encourage the Sun’s return. It is especially propitious to use greenery on one's altar for this holiday.

Gold candles, ribbons, coins, and any other gold items can also be used to bring in money and wealth in the coming year. Candles represent the eternal flame.

Clove studded fruit, cider, cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger or spiced tea, are all foods that are symbols of the season.

Nuts symbolize wisdom.

Cloves attract good luck and prosperity, to keep good friends close, and to help stop malicious gossip. Burn to prevent people from spreading rumors about you or push the cloves into a red candle and burn that. They are also an aphrodisiac.

Holly: magically a masculine tree of warrior magic and spiritual strength. It is also an evergreen, representing continuing life though it is thorny and difficult. A tree of the Winter Solstice. The berries represent the blood and sacrifice of the God. Because of its prickliness it was thought to capture or ward off evil spirits before they could enter a home and cause harm. The holly leaves, symbolic of the Holly King, represent hope, and the red berries represent potency.

Mistletoe: most important power plant of the Winter Solstice. Sacred herb of the Druids, because it does not grow from the Earth, but from a "place between places". Especially sacred when it grows on the Oak. At MidWinter, berries take on a golden tint and become the "golden bough". Cut for Winter Solstice with a golden sickle and caught on a white cloth before it can touch the earth, which grounds its power. then distributed as a cure all. Berries represent semen, so are a fertility charm. Symbolizes life thru death.

Pinecones: represent fertility, and hold a Sacred Geometry Phi Spiral pattern, representing the Spiral of Life, and life moving forever forward.

Antlers and Horns represent fertility, regeneration, and the Horned God. They are also symbolic of the creature-beings that all live in the Direction of North and the season of Winter, helping to bring these energies into your life.

Bonfires hold the energy of the Sun during the night before Solstice morn, and symbolize the return of the Light.

Poinsettas: Originate from Mexico, where they were considered by the ancient Aztecs to be symbols of purity. A Mexican legend tells about a child, with no means for a grander gift, gathered humble weeds from the side of the road to place at the church altar on Christmas Eve. As the congregation witnessed a Christmas miracle, the weeds turned into brilliant red and green flowers. The star-shaped leaf pattern is said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem, and the red color represents the blood sacrifice of the God (see Holly above), or son of God as Christianity has turned it into.

Stones: Rubies, Bloodstone, Garnet, Emerald, Diamond
Metals: gold and silver

Incense of Yule:
Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon, Frankincense and Myrrh.

FRANKINCENSE RESIN: Clears negative energy, invites in positive energies, is used for consecrating objects such as stones, helps with transformation, contacting other planes, and meditation.

MYRRH RESIN: To bring in peace, for purification, and for protection. Also used to consecrate spiritual tools.

SWEETGRASS is the Sacred Herb of the Direction of North, and symbolizes the hair of the Ancestors. It honors the Ancestors and brings them in for assistance.

Colors of Yule:
Red, green, gold, white, silver.

Related Symbols: Zia symbol, Circles, Stone Circles, Wheel/Sun Wheel, Spirals, Wreaths, Sun Dials

*Combined from various locations on the internet, with gratitude to them all.

Yesterday, I came across a site with great info on Reindeer Medicine, or Reindeer as Totem Animal, that I shared with you on the Facebook page. I want to reference it here for you, as well:

Spirit of the Caribou (Reindeer)

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The Christmas Sale continues in the Etsy shop, and I am adding more items every day! Stop by and say hello and check out all the goodies!

The Touch the Earth Shop on Etsy

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Happy Holidays!
Celebrate the season and all that you are becoming!
Wishing you a New Year filled with abundance and joy!
Love,
Michelle, the Cottonwood Crone

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