‘Tis the Season of Lights … or we’re on the cusp of it, anyway. It beckons.

Though not without its challenges, it’s a potentially delicious time and Season-Spirit of the year … lights sparking our own Divine Spark, and various heart-and-vision expanding stirrings reach out to us from within and/or without.

So here’s an updated Blessings & Spirit of the Season post, gathered up from the Sophia’s Children vault … timeless, timely, and spruced up (no pun intended).

Cultures around the world have, for millennia, celebrated the Season of Lights leading into and through the Winter Solstice, when the sun dips to its southernmost point in relation to the Earth, the day is short and the night is at its longest.

After six months of days growing shorter, we turn at the Winter Solstice in a journey towards the Summer Solstice, with days growing longer once again.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice usually occurs on December 21st or 22nd, with the exact Solstice depending on your location on this beautiful Earth. (In the South, the Summer Solstice draws near.)

To me, the Season of Lights starts in December, when the days grow noticeably shorter, and goes right through the Twelve Days of Christmas to Imbolc-Candlemas in early February.

It’s a beautiful season and spirit to engage with, to let the lengthening nights call us into the deeper vision, restoration, and renewal of ‘Yin Time’, and open to the gifts of this time of year that our very bodies want us to ‘sync’ with … a.k.a. Circadian Rhythms.

When we ignore these natural rhythms, and continue to force the unrelenting hyperactive ‘busy do’ that’s toxic-normal in our culture, we’re stalked by the consequences … fatigue, anxiousness, feeling discordant, more easily catching a cold or ‘bug’.

As one of my spiritual mentors said once, “If I don’t go to stillness and restoration, they come looking for me.”

Note taken, eh? But it’s something we all know from our own experience, really.

So why not resolve to observe and get in sync with the energies and Spirit of the Season? It offers such lovely gifts, after all.

The Gifts of this Season of Light …

Black Madonna, Mother of Mercy, at the Gates of Hope, Vilna, Lithuania. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.
Black Madonna, Mother of Mercy, at the Gates of Hope, Vilna, Lithuania. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Given that the return of the Light was a much-celebrated event, in times when humans had a deeper connection to and appreciation for the cycles and rituals and seasons of the Earth and cosmos, what were some of the rituals and practices they used to connect them with the meaning of the Season?

For some Northern European ancestors, the Solstice was Modranicht, or Mother’s Night, when the female ancestors and Goddess were celebrated and guidance was sought.

Hannukah is the Jewish ‘Festival of Lights’ over eight days that mark the rededication of the temple in the 2nd century B.C.

During Hannukah, “We can magnify our blessings instead of exaggerating our troubles,” said Rabbi March Schneier of the World Jewish Congress and The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.

The Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice with Saturnalia, one of their grand annual festivals named for the God Saturn.

The Roman celebration of Saturnalia featured feasting, games, and the reversal of roles — masters became the servants, and vice versa, if only for the Saturnalia festival timeframe.

Saturnalia evolved into the Christmas celebration after Rome elected Christianity as its state religion, and various Christian elements were woven into the festivities to reflect the arrival of the Christ Child.

And since we now have the Saturn-Neptune Square as a key archetypal-energy ‘headliner’ for the coming year, let’s remember Caroline Casey‘s perspective of Saturn‘s archetype encouraging us to “be the authors of our own lives,” reclaiming our authentic vision (Neptune) and our author-ity (Saturn), and establishing healthy boundaries where they might have been a bit squishy and power-draining … or softening boundaries that are calcified and overly rigid (Saturn and Neptune).

But aligning with the Spirit of this time and season is in our cells, bones, and DNA … the ancestors remember and whisper to us.

Light in the Crypt of St. Wystan Church, Repton, U.K. [Photo via TripAdvisor]
Light in the Crypt of St. Wystan Church, Repton, U.K. [Photo via TripAdvisor]
The Druids and Indigenous-European ancestors celebrated Alban Arthuran or Yule at the Winter Solstice, and these are amongst the most ancient celebrations, marked by the amazing stone structures such as Newgrange in Ireland and Stonehenge in England, amongst other ancient sacred sites throughout the world.Steve Nelson, the late, inspired shamanic and mythic astrologer, had a beautiful message about the Druid approach to Yule and this season:

“At Winter Solstice the Druids celebrated their ‘Festival of Liberation’, a time when the soul is set free to dream a new world.”

Across time and cultures, celebrations of Winter Solstice included special attention to the play of Light and Dark, sunrise, a feast and celebration, evergreens in abundance (including some to burn ritually, as in incense, sage sticks, pine), and exchanging small, meaningful gifts.

And, of course, tuning in to receive vision, inspiration, and Divine Guidance to carry us well into the new year.

Multi-Tradition and Interfaith Rituals for the Season of Lights

There are many rituals and themes to these Season of Light celebrations — some shared by many different cultures, and some unique. Here is a sampling:

Symbols, themes & rituals for end-of-year Season of Lights celebrations:

• Darkness, stillness, silence, womb (turn off the lights, go within, feel the richness and the potential fertility of it)
• Light (firelight, candles, little lamps, sunrise)
• Yule logs
• Rebirth, transformation
• Wisdom
• Fallow period, during which seeds of Spring gestated beneath the ground, Wisdom or Light emerges from the cosmic womb
• Symbolic burning of greens (pine, juniper, bay, sage)
• Myrrh, frankincense and gold – symbolic gifts brought by the Magi-Kings in honor and celebration of the birth of Christ

Trinity of candles for Yule and Christmastide (courtesy of Florida Deluxe Villas).
Trinity of candles for Yule and Christmastide (courtesy of Florida Deluxe Villas).

• Mistletoe (which grew on the sacred Oak trees whose groves often formed the natural ‘church’ or sacred grounds of ancient Celtic spiritual practitioners)

• Magnifying blessings (vs. stewing on or exaggerating troubles)
• Awe
• Connecting with Nature and seasonal cycles
• Small cakes, fruits and candies
• Symbolic gift exchange
• Sharing of food (banquet, feast, abundant meal)
• Writing/sharing/speaking intentions for embodying values & making manifest visions and ideals over the coming year
• Ceremonially releasing ‘the old’ — that which now impedes ‘evergreen’ growth and the manifestation of your vision and highest ideals — and embracing and planting the seeds that will grow in the coming year
• Interweaving spiritual or philosophical tenets and ideals into the celebration of the Natural wonder and gifts of Winter Solstice and the season

Wishing you joyful lights, deep Grace, inspiring visions, and other Lovelies sown and grown in every Heart and corner of the world.

Stir your own Light, whole-heartedness and purpose for the leap into a new year:

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Featured Image Credit: The Light of the World (detail), by William Holman Hunt, c1900-1904. (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, Vilna, Lithuania. Image courtesy of Albertus Teolog, GNU, Wikimedia

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