Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Observing the Winter Solstice

I was very excited when last week my husband and I were having one of our late night conversations and he showed a great deal of interest in the Pagan ideas I had recently been exploring. We agreed on the goodness that would come from teaching our children about nature and science through experiential learning. I had been drawn to celebrating the Wheel of the Year as I learned about gardening, pregnancy and childbirth and the origins of our cultural traditions. Together, my husband and I committed to observing the wheel of the year in order to teach our children, incorporate ritual and tradition into our family life and to give thanks and praise to God for the earth.

The following is a description of how we observed the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Using LED candles (because I know my kids would attack fire and wax if given the chance!), I created a circle, with one candle in each direction. At north, south, east and west, I placed an object representing one of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. To the west (water), I placed a vial with water in it, to the north, a pumpkin as a product of the earth, to the east, a balloon filled with helium (air) and to the south, a lighted wax candle (fire). This was done to provide contextual evidence to small children what these abstract ideas are in a concrete reality.

That's Willem, waiting excitedly for the ritual to start.

We started by going around the circle and describing how each element is necessary for our continued survival on the earth and that we are thankful for each one of them. I truly believe because it was illustrated in such a concrete way, Willem understood it.

After naming and describing the elements and expressing our gratitude for them, we went around the circle again, this time reading a poem for Solstice at each element.

I read them in this order, each poem at a different element:
The longest night has come once more,
the sun has set, and darkness fallen.
The trees are bare, the earth asleep,
and the skies are cold and black.
Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,
embracing the darkness that enfolds us.
We welcome the night and all that it holds,
as the light of the stars shines down.

The food is put away for the winter,
the crops are set aside to feed us,
the cattle are come down from their fields,
and the sheep are in from the pasture.
The land is cold, the sea is stormy, the sky is gray.
The nights are dark, but we have our family,
kin and clan around the hearth,
staying warm in the midst of darkness,
our spirit and love a flame
a beacon burning brightly
in the night.

As the earth grows colder,
the winds blow faster,
the fire dwindles smaller,
and the rains fall harder,
let the light of the sun
find its way home.

Ending on fire, and to celebrate the return of the sun, Willem repeated after me as I read the following lines:
The sun returns! The light returns!
The earth begins to warm once more!
The time of darkness has passed,
and a path of light begins the new day.
Welcome, welcome, the heat of the sun,
blessing us all with its rays.
To close, my husband offered a beautiful prayer giving thanks for the elements and the earth and to God for the creation of it.

In the end, it was short (probably only 10 minutes) but simple and effective. The Spirit was in our home in a special and meaningful way that night. It was just the encouragement I needed to continue building on this tradition with my family.

And for some additional cuteness, Belle was certainly interested and excited to be apart of it.


alisaterry said...

I love this! Both Bryan and I have celtic ancestors so we have been focusing a lot on those traditions in our family, as well. I love using festivals as a way to mark the passage of time, give the children something to look forward to, and teach them about seasons and gardening. It also makes our home more beautiful to have these lovely seasonal decorations.

Descent said...

I completely agree with you, Alisa. I'm very drawn to my Celtic heritage as well, though we are also very Viking, which at some points in time was one and the same anyway. Have you considered introducing your children to Irish or Scottish dance? Its a great way to celebrate and engage in the Celtic heritage?