Embracing the Power of the Winter Solstice to Heal Self and Others

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. 2017

 

The darkest day or the longest night of the year is near. This annual planetary event is known as the Winter Solstice, and occurs this year on December 21. At the Winter Solstice, the sun begins to return, shifting the balance of dark and light, bringing promises of increasing warmth and new beginnings.

 

  • This is a powerful time to reflect on our seen and unseen darkness, so we can release some of that pain.
  • As we come to the close of this year, let us heal our emotions and spirits and thus release the darkness within ourselves to make room for the returning light that can bring with it, and fill us with, what it is we desire to manifest in 2018.

1. Embrace the calmness of winter evenings and nights. As you sit alone in the darkness, allow yourself to feel the peace within the stillness. The quiet calm of a long winter’s night provides a great opportunity to look within and nurture Spirit Connections. Acknowledge how much energy gets poured into the external preparations for the winter holidays and then use the stillness of a quiet calm winter night to honor your inner world, and to refresh and renew your Spirit.

2. Reflect on the need for change. As the sun changes course, ponder the direction of your life and determine if you need to, and/or are ready to change direction.

 3. Awaken to higher consciousness. The return of the sun following the Winter Solstice has long been compared to the growth of inner light and thus, to the awakening of higher levels of consciousness. As we shed our darkness and brighten our inner light, we are more able to contribute to the healing so needed in our world; and by so doing, we honor the energy of the Winter Solstice.

4. Connect with Universal Energies, Spirit Guides and Angels. Many spiritual masters teach that the Solstice is a time when there is an increased alignment between the Earth and the other Universes, creating an opening that allows for easier entry of Spiritual Guides and Angels “bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold,” and thus increasing the possibility of our prayers to be heard and answered in more immediate and miraculous ways.

 5. Enjoy the Celebrations of the Season. Since ancient times, the returning of light has been held as a sacred time of the year and marked with festivals and celebrations.

6. While it is unclear for how long people have been celebrating the Winter Solstice, we know that ancient stone structures were designed to align perfectly with the sun at dawn and dusk, during the solstices. Some believe that the Winter Solstice was more important to the people who constructed the Neolithic stone structures, than was the Summer Solstice, for their livelihood depended upon the returning sun. Stonehenge located in the south of England, is aligned on a sight-line that points to the Winter Solstice sunset. New Grange, in Ireland, points to the Winter Solstice sunrise. The Winter Solstice was a time when most cattle were slaughtered (so they would not have to be fed during the winter) and, most of the wine and beer were ready for consumption. That in itself seems like a great reason to celebrate the season.

7. Wear Amber The ancients thought Amber to be a power stone, for they believed this fossilized resin trapped the sun. They wore it to maintain their personal power and to draw the power of the sun god into their lives.

8. Use the Power of Light and Fire. Mid-winter was a time of concern for our ancestors. They believed the darkness to be filled with dark spirits. To keep them at bay, they lit many candles and built their fires high. They swept their homes with pine branches to cleanse it of darkness and to make room for good luck and prosperity.

 

 

Revisiting the teachings surrounding these seven ways to honor the Solstice can help use the power of the solstice energy to rekindle our inner light and to help brighten the glow in those we walk beside in both our personal and professional lives.

 

I wish you a joyous Solstice and a very blessed holiday season.

 

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Summer has ended and during this week we are in the energy of the Autumnal Equinox. Since ancient times, the Earth’s Peoples have re-enacted rituals to draw in the energies of these days believing that during the equinoxes, the universes are more directly in line; and thus celebrations of gratitude as well as rituals for supplication were more likely to be received and responded to by the heavens. According to NASA, there is indeed a change in geometric activity that takes place during the September Equinox. These changes actually increase the chances, for those of us who live in the higher regions of the Northern Hemisphere, to view the Northern Lights.


No matter how far removed we are from the soil and the smells and colors of this beautiful season, each of us is affected by the movements of the planets; and thus each of us can purposefully harness the energies of these days for our own life shifts. Here are some ways to draw into your own as well as into your groups, the power available to each of us during the Autumnal Equinox. Remember that rituals and ceremony do not have to be observed following any particular tradition or religious ceremony. In my experience, the best outcomes of any ceremony are achieved when they result from actions based on pure intentions that flow from my own Spirit to serve my personal needs and those of my groups.

 

  1. Examine the Balance in Life

This year the official day of the Autumnal Equinox is September 22. On that day the hours of daytime and nighttime are relatively the same. This has long been interpreted to mean that during this short period of time the world is in balance. Metaphorically, we can use this time to determine and re-establish the balance in our own lives.
 

  • Purchase two candles for each person who attends your equinox ceremony. Select one candle for each in a bright autumn color and the other in a dark color. During the celebration each person in turn, lights first the brightly colored candle and speaks of how and in what ways, since the Spring Equinox, they have been able to balance their soulful and personal needs and desires with their commitments to the outside world. The colored candle is then placed on the centre altar and the dark candle is lit. As the dark candle burns the person speaks about what actions are needed during the upcoming dark days and nights, so that the balance that is already achieved can be maintained; and so that there can be, by the Spring Equinox, a celebration of having achieved an even greater balance, between soulful and personal needs and desires, and their commitments to the outside world. The dark candle is then placed on the central altar. When all members have spoken and all the brightly glowing candles are on the centre altar, lead a group prayer in which you honor the balance in the universe; express gratitude for the balance each member has found, and request that each receive whatever they require to achieve the further balance they seek.

 

  1. Make a Wreath
     Invite each person to pick a piece from the bowl that you have previously filled with items representative of nature in autumn. After each person has picked their item, ask each in turn to speak of the significance of that particular piece to them and what drew them to select it; and to then place the item on the empty wreath (which you have earlier either purchased or created from willow, grape vines or birch bows). You will want to have a good quality glue gun available for the purpose of gluing the items to the wreath. Once all of the items are secured to the wreath, place it on the centre altar. Invite members to join hands and form a circle around the altar and then lead a closing prayer of gratefulness for the gifts of the Earth; acknowledging that as we celebrate the gifts of the Earth, we also accept that Her growing time is dying. Pray that each member of your group is able to embrace the dark times ahead as opportunities to be more inner-focused and from that, to place their newly gained strength and renewed purpose in readiness to meet the light of the Spring Equinox.

The Earth grows cold.
The soil lays barren. Six months of dark
Without dark we do not know light.
 Without barrenness we do not know growth.
Without death we do not embrace life
Without sorrow we do not appreciate joy
Great Mother, in your dark time, support me in mine.

A Time to Begin Anew: Applying Lessons of the East

Jane A. Simington, PHD.

© May, 2015

Help me celebrate as much as you help me mourn.

sunrise

Many training and practice models designed to guide therapists use as a framework the three phases for healing trauma described by Judith Herman.1 The three phases are: Safety First; Remember and Mourn; and Reconnecting with Life. Clients often report however, that while their trauma experiences tore them apart, and their healing processes reshaped them in ways they themselves often did not recognize, their therapists paid little attention to helping them through the processes of Reconnect with Life. For them, that would often have meant claiming a new identity and taking major risks as they tiptoed through doorways of the numerous new beginnings awaiting them. Clients also indicated they would have perhaps moved further and more quickly along their journey toward transformation had their therapists helped them acknowledge the forward movement they had already made, and helped them recognize the signs indicating their souls were urging them to celebrate the healing they had done and that they were ready to reconnect with life in new ways. A number of years ago, one woman stated this clearly. “Jane, you must help me celebrate as much as you help me mourn.” In this article I will describe symbolic indicators of readiness to reconnect with life in new and exciting ways and I will offer strategies for affirming in ourselves and others progress made along the healing journey.

1)    Pay attention to the rhythms and the cycles of nature and align with these rhythms.

Some years ago a client commented how strange she found it that on each of her daily walks she seemed drawn in an easterly direction. Listening to her awoke within me a similar memory of a time following my son’s death, when regardless of the path I had chosen for my morning walk, I would end up heading East. I still recall the excitement in her responses as I described my discoveries of the significance of the East and the symbolic reminders it holds. She positively connected with the teachings surrounding the Teutonic Goddess Ostara, after whom the East was named. Ostara was celebrated as a Goddess of new beginnings because of her associations with dawn and springtime and therefore the increase of sunlight. In helping this woman recognize the connections between her internal rhythms and the energy of the East, I recalled how affirmed and validated I had been when during my own time of healing someone reminded me; “It is often darkest just before sunrise.”

I also remembered the “awe” of another woman, who had similarly related being drawn to the East when she related her discovery of the Medicine Wheel teachings associating the East with new beginnings. One of these teachings emphasizes the value of making a morning journey into the East to allow the goodness of the new dawn to enter our being. According to this teaching, the golden rays of dawn energize the energies required to live in wholeness.

The Medicine Wheel and various other cultural and spiritual teachings also associate the element air with the East. Based upon this, I love to encourage people to pay attention to the direction from where the wind blows so as to absorb the related teachings. Winds from the South remind us to pay increased attention to the maintenance of our physical strength; winds from the West encourage healing; the North winds bring wisdom and remind us to be grateful; and winds that blow from the East encourage us to welcome newness into our lives.

2)    Pay attention to the birds and other symbols of transformation.

In most ancient societies, people studied the natural world to understand themselves. This knowledge lingers within many cultures. One common belief is that birds are messengers from the spirit world. The Eagle, one of the noblest of birds, is placed by some in the East of their Medicine Wheel.  A rooster is also a symbol of a new beginning. To have one appear in a dream or in art work forecasts that a new day is dawning. The crowing of a rooster reminds us that from the darkness comes the dawn.

3)    Pay attention to the colors worn and the colors used in art work.

As we awaken to the powerful symbolism surrounding us, we acknowledge the many forms in which we are being provided guidance. We begin to see that colors are significant; we pay attention to their mirrored reflections and ponder the meanings of those reflections. On most of the Medicine Wheels, yellow is placed in the East, and is therefore the color associated with new beginnings and with the gaining of clarity. The color yellow resonates with the third chakra, the energy centre associated with risk-taking. When I feel drawn to wearing yellow or notice myself or someone else using a lot of yellow in decorating or in art-making, I believe it is important to ponder the color and its message of encouragement to take the risks required to move life in a new direction.

As we pay more attention to the symbolic messages being continually given and as we align more closely with the rhythms surrounding us, we acknowledge our capacity to recreate ourselves anew and welcome our journey into the East for we can now accept that we can transform ourselves and our lives, regardless of what we have been through.

 

1). Herman, J. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror . Basic Books.

Solstice Nights Offer Winter Dream

©Jane A. Simington, 2014

Those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere will soon be experiencing the longest nights of the year. While interpretation of the ever-increasing darkness surrounding the Winter Solstice varied among ancient cultures, archeological findings indicate our ancestors believed that during the Winter Solstice the Earth is more closely aligned with cosmic forces and thus prayers made during these times are more likely to be responded to than are those made at other times of the year.In many cultures, during the winter festivals, symbols of the Great Bear were used to depict the Earth’s closeness to the cosmos and the appeal for the rebirth of the sun. Like the bear going into its earthen cave to hibernate and to digest during the long, dark nights what was previously ingested so it can burst forth hungry for newness when the sun again shines brightly, we, too, with the lengthening darkness spend longer hours in deeper sleep. For many of us, the longer hours of deeper sleep result in an increase in dreaming.

 winter sunrise

Dreams have been a topic of fascination and intense study throughout history. Carl Jung, the first psychotherapist to view dreams as soulful messages noted that a dream that is not interpreted is a letter from the Gods we have not bothered to read. Today, dream therapists recognize that the dreams which capture our awareness during the long winter nights are frequently those that hold symbols of change. The need for change is often symbolized by dreams of death. To dream that you or someone you know is dying rarely announces a physical death, but usually symbolizes that something is dying (or must die) so something new can be born.

Our Winter Dreams often come in three parts. In the first portion the dreamer is generally provided an overview of what has been. The second part symbolizes what needs to change so that, with the return of the sun, we, like the Great Bear, can charge forth from the darkness of our inner cave into the dawn of a new beginning. The third portion of a dream gives us a glimpse of what will happen if we take action on what is being symbolized by the middle portion of the dream.

The fading light causes us to acknowledge that this dormant time allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.

Join me on Friday evening December 19 as I lead a Winter Solstice ceremony to open the workshop, Exploring Our Winter Dreams taking place December 20 and 21.

 

The Winter Solstice: A Time for Inner Reflection

© Dr. Jane Simington Ph.D., December 2012

 

The winter solstice occurs when the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky. This usually takes place on December 21 to 22 and creates, in the Northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year because the hours of darkness on that day are greater than they are at any other time of the year.

While interpretation of the ever-increasing darkness surrounding these days varied from culture to culture, the physical remains in archaeological sites such as Stonehenge in England, and Newgrange in Ireland indicate that the winter solstice was acknowledged. The primary axes of both these monuments are aligned with a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise in Newgrange, and the winter solstice sunset in Stonehenge.  Some believe that these exact alignments indicate a belief by these ancient peoples that during the winter solstice the earth is more closely aligned with cosmic forces and that prayers and offerings made during these hours are more likely to be received and responded to than if made at other times of the year. Evidence also indicates that these and most other cultures in the Northern hemisphere held ceremonies in recognition of the event. Common to most cultures were rituals appealing for the rebirth of the sun gods because during the winter months when the sun did not provide warmth and light for the growth of grains, starvation was common.

solsticetreeCeremonies honoring the return of the sun after the longest night continued into ancient Greek and Romans times. The festivals most commonly occurred on the night of December 24 and December 25. Christmas, the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus the “Son of God,” is also observed on December 25. Many celebrations attributed to Christmas eve and Christmas day are rooted in the ceremonies and festivals held during the winter solstice, including the advent preparation of letting go of the old so that the new can be birthed.

As the longest night approaches we are once again reminded that the cyclical rhythms of nature, are also within us and affects us deeply. The fading light causes us to acknowledge that darkness touches every life. Each of us experiences times of metaphoric coldness, yet when we allow ourselves to seize the opportunity, we settle in and re-centre. As we do, we become aware that this dormant time allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.