Archive for the ‘Yearly Rites’ Category

Winter Solstice Tea Ceremony

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Photo by Tom Check under CC

With endless holiday commercials since late October, shopping and decorating, you may be holiday cheered out by now.

However, the Winter Solstice is a powerful time for connecting with the natural world. In the Yearly Rites section, I wrote about the importance of connecting with the natural turn of the year. It brings us closer to nature and ourselves.

The Winter Solstice (on Dec. 21 this year) marks what earth-based religions call “the triumph of the light.” After the Winter Solstice, the days will start to get longer again. It’s a marker in the depths of cold days that warmth will come again. Burning a Yule log, bringing a Christmas tree inside and hanging holiday lights are all ancient celebrations of life’s triumph over darkness and stillness.

In order to connect with the Solstice, I have a tea ceremony of sorts I like to do that I wanted to share.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is pick out an appropriate tea. I like to pick out a flavor that is closely associated with the holidays. The herbs usually have a close connection to the Solstice. Some of my top choices are:

Peppermint tea: This one is just a given. Peppermint is an invigorating tea that is closely associated with mental stimulation. It is the perfect choice for combating the surly sluggishness of winter.  This one is easy to find in the store, and you probably won’t have the fresh plant around this time of year.  If you do thanks to an indoor garden, however, here are instructions on how to make the tea.

Pine needle tea: In case you weren’t aware, yes, you can make a delicious tea out of real pine needles. It ties into the season perfectly. Evergreens like pine have strong associations with eternal life and bold heartiness. Here are some great instructions with photos on how to make a fresh, natural cup of pine needle tea.

Cinnamon tea: With this classic holiday flavor, you can brew the tea straight out of cinnamon sticks. Here’s how. Cinnamon is associated with vitality, energy, courage and fortitude. It’s the perfect drink as the light triumphs over the dark.

Once you have your tea picked out, the ritual is simple. You’ll just need your cup of hot tea and a quiet place.

  1. Breath slowly and clear your mind.
  2. Think of the cold winter, the silent earth. Picture snow on the trees (or maybe in your area it’s simply a rainy season). Fully picture and immerse yourself in your vision of winter.
  3. Hold the teacup in both hand and feel the warmth of the tea. Think of the days getting longer and picture sunny days.
  4. Drink your tea slowly, and as you do, feel it suffuse you with vigor and warmth.
  5. While still drinking, focus on a key aspect of the herb in the tea. For instance, if you are drinking cinnamon, could your life use more courage?   Is there an issue you are avoiding? Hold the question in your mind. Answers may come and they may not. Don’t feel forced into anything. But when they come, they’re usually pretty strong.
  6. Once your tea is gone, focus on your gratitude for these gifts.

Once you’re done, you may want to go write down any epiphanies. I also find it helpful to just record my experience; it may reveal some wisdom.

Happy Solstice!

Samhain (Halloween) Meditation

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Photo by Chenspec under CC

Halloween can be a goofy but fun time: weird costumes, teeth-rotting candy, cheesy horror films. But Samhain (the Gaelic term for Halloween, pronounced SAH-win) has a rich history as an end-of-harvest festival marking the beginning of the “dark” part of the year when the nights get longer. Earth-based religions mark it as the new year; in fact, it’s been called “The Celtic New Year” and “The Witch’s New Year” to mark it as the time for new beginnings after the old harvest has been culled. It’s one of the four major Gaelic festivals and is great for orienting yourself with the Wheel of the Year  and the natural rhythms of nature. It gives you an opportunity to look ahead and contemplate new possibilities during a time of impending frost and death.

As far as elemental associations go, air rules Samhain, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was traditionally thought to be the thinnest. The element of air is associated with spirits, death and crossing over. Just as air is unseen, it’s the element that encompasses the unseen realm of the spirit, metaphorically. Air also is associated with the realm of thought and writing.

So in order to connect with the elements and this time of the final harvest, I’ve compiled the simple meditation below.  It combines four elements into a chant, honors the passing of the year and connects you to the air element by writing out goals for the year.

What you’ll need: lighter, one black candle, two orange candles, a journal.

Place the candles in a line of alternating colors: orange, black, orange.

Light the black candle in the middle and say:

So as fire burns and purges,
So as air erodes,
So as water laps away,
So as earth returns all to ashes,
We see the passing of another year.

Light the orange candle to the left and say:

So as fire burns to create way for growth,
So as air gives breath,
We welcome the possibilities of a new year.

Light the candle on the right and say:

So as water gives life,
So as earth gives nourishment,
We welcome the possibilities of a new year.

Now is a good time to look ahead to what you might want to accomplish or study this year. It could be as complex as learning about a new religion, it could be something related to your career or it could be as simple as starting a vegetable garden. It’s up to you and your needs. Write in your journal a list of goals (or just one goal to keep it attainable). You may also want to try some of these spiritual writing exercises while focusing on your goals for the new year.

Happy Halloween!