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Celebrating The Winter Solstice: An Ancient Solar Festival

Updated: Feb 26



winter solstice, yule, sage, smudging. smudge stick

Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice or Meán Geimhrich in Gaelic, is a time when the world is asleep. The lunar & solar forces have quieted, so that we can truly receive the imprint for the upcoming year from Spirit. A time to reflect & rejuvenate. Let go & release, allowing your mind, body, & soul to fully receive the Universe's medicine that will best serve you. The veil thins once again, & the celestial forces guide us into the cave or void as we settle in for the cold months ahead. Yule is a time of joy, quiet, optimism, reflection, blessings, loss, obstacles, growth, & connecting with those you love. The Winter Soltice begins on the evening of December 21st, encouraging us to nestle into the Cosmic Womb as we enter the peak of Winter. Turn inward & reflect on this past year.


December 21st/22nd marks the shortest day & longest night, encouraging us to slow down & turn inwards. Who do you wish to be in the New Year? What is your truth? How would you like to grow & let go of what no longer serves you? What are you calling in? The Winter Soltice is a turning point, a time for us to enact change for the better. It is a time of transition, between letting go & receptivity.


The long night of the year is also a time to celebrate because it signifies the return of the Sun! From here on out, the days will begin to get longer & the nights shorter. We give thanks to the Sun, Spirit, & the element of Fire for their return!


Brief Altar Ideas: One simple way to rejoice is to create or refresh your altar. Place the cardinal directions/elements on your altar - North (Earth), East (Air), South (Fire), West (Water). I provide elemental offering ideas below (+specific symbols of the season), if you're unsure of where to start. You can also add any magical objects/tools to your altar - pendulum, divination cards, bones, salt, herbs, wands, etc.. I like to keep a cauldron in the center of my altar as well. Don't forget to cleanse your space!*


Offerings for the Elements + Directions:

  • Earth / North: bones/horns, evergreens, cranberries, poinsettia, crystals, herbs, roots, citrus

  • Air / East: feathers, incense (frankincense, etc.), ash, seeds, smudge sticks (sage, myrrh, etc.)

  • Fire / South: matches, candles (white, gold, silver, red, green), goldstone, gold, silver, mirrors

  • Water / West: black turtle/turtles, seashells, water, oil, blue lotus, jasmine, selenite, moonstone


Symbols of the Winter Solstice:


  • Crone/Cailleach: the wise woman, the dark goddess (Hekate, Cerridwen, Black Moon Lilith, etc.)

  • Death: nature draws inward & tells us with her barren life that this is a season of death/rebirth

  • Holly: a symbol of Winter & luck! Place holly in your home to welcome in Nature Spirits.

  • Yule Log: the Yule Log protects you during the season of Yule! Traditionally, the Yule Log is oak, & is either a gift given or a log cut from a tree in your yard. Keep the Yule Log burning for protection, or extinguish it intentionally. It is believed to be bad luck, if you let the log burn out.

  • Wreath: did you know that the wreath was originally meant to symbolize the Wheel of the Year?

  • Elderberry: Sambucus nigra is a plant of strength & endurance. Connect with this plant spirit for protection, immunity, & healing.

  • Brighid: this powerful Goddess, reminds us that even on the darkest of days, our inner light is always burning. We are loved in the Sacred Well or Cosmic Womb of the Great Mother.

  • Orange: citrus represents the return of the Sun - a time to celebrate! There is an ancient Welsh tradition that I recall doing as a kid, where you stud oranges or apples with cloves.

  • Herbs: cinnamon, elderberry, myrrh, mugwort, frankincense, juniper, misletoe, clove, bay laurel, yew, ash, oak, pine, arborvitae, chamomile


Crystals for the Winter Solstice:

  • Labradorite

  • Lapis Lazuli

  • Star of Aragonite

  • Honey Calcite

  • Golden Healer Quartz

  • Black Obsidian

  • Petrified Wood

  • Silver

  • Gold

  • Amber

  • Sunstone

  • Goldstone


13-Holy Nights Receiving Ritual:

The 13 Holy Nights is a pre-Christian sacred time of foresight & connection. The celebration of the year behind us & the year ahead begins on the evening of the Winter Solstice 12/21, where we turn in & release what no longer serves us (old habits, negative thought loops, prejudices, etc.) through mindful practices/centering. A time to begin to turn inwards & quiet the mind, in order to connect with your heart/subconscious. The 13 Holy Nights will begin on December 24th & go through January 6th. Each night offers us an imprint of the year ahead & the medicine we might seek.


  • Always start by centering your mind & making sure your space is clear.

  • Starting this week, begin to think of a mindful practice that you could do every evening, from December 21st to January 6th.

  • A Very Limited List of Mindful Practice Examples: meditating, breathing practice, yoga (yin/restore), connecting with oracle or tarot decks, walking every evening, cooking a fun dish every night, lighting a candle, enjoying a cup of tea/cacao/cider, qi gong, etc.

  • Start your mindful practice of choice on the Winter Solstice 12/21, or at least begin to slow down a bit & try to set time aside for yourself during the hectic holiday season.

  • Once the evening of 12/24 hits, the 13 Holy Nights begin. The imprint of the first night 12/24 symbolizes what the Universe holds for you the year of 2024. The 1st day goes from sunset 12/24 to sunset 12/25, & so on. Each sequential night will be the foresight of each month (or Zodiac / Lunar Phases) of the year to come, in consecutive order. It will go as follows:

    • Sunset December 24th to sunset 25th: the year ahead (2024 as I write this!)

    • Sunset December 25th to sunset 26th: January / Capricorn

    • Sunset December 26th to sunset 27th: February / Aquarius

    • Sunset December 27th to sunset 28th: March / Pisces

    • Sunset December 28th to sunset 29th: April / Aries

    • Sunset December 29th to sunset 30th: May / Taurus

    • Sunset December 30th to sunset 31st: June / Gemini

    • Sunset December 31st to sunset January 1st: July / Cancer

    • Sunset January 1st to sunset January 2nd: August / Leo

    • Sunset January 2nd to sunset January 3rd: September / Virgo

    • Sunset January 3rd to sunset January 4th: October / Libra

    • Sunset January 4th to sunset January 5th: November / Scorpio

    • Sunset January 5th to sunset January 6th: December / Sagittarius

  • How will you receive these imprints? It varies for everyone. My favorite way is to meditate, quieting my mind in order to listen to my heart, & pull an oracle card or 2! I've had a cup of cacao every evening in the past, but cacao keeps me up a bit, if I enjoy it too late in the day. Tea/Coffee divination might be more up your alley, or possibly connecting with runes or automatic writing. Or, you might see animal totems, or have signs pop up throughout your day. Write them down!! Remember to journal during this sacred time. You also might receive downloads, messages, or images from Spirit that resonate with you during your time of mindful practice, or during moments of mindfulness throughout the day! Spirit / The Universe will connect with you the way it knows you will listen.


Enjoy this season & comment with any shares or questions! Spend time with those you love & give gratitude for the connections, growth, & beauty of your life. Be merry, celebrate & feast, but remember to take a moment to yourself & slow down. Blessed Yule!


May you find time to rest, rejuvenate, & restore! Internal peace brings external peace. Blessed be.


Learn more about other holidays within the Wheel of the Year in the Moon & Magic section of the Embodied Ambrosia blog.


Looking for holistic clean beauty & body care products that you can trust? Check out the Embodied Ambrosia Clean Beauty Collection in the Shop!



*How I clear my space: I typically clear my altar & wipe it down with either lemongrass or cedarwood essential oil. Next, I will either spray a smudge blend I've made, or burn one of the following: sage, palo santo, cedarwood, or resin of dragon's blood / frankincense (keep your windows open when smudging).


Sources:

  • Hinds, K. & McColman, C. (2020). The Spirit of the Celtic Gods & Goddesses: Their History, Magical Power, & Healing Energies. Weiser Books.

  • Hopman, E. E. (1995). A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year. (1st Edition). Destiny Books.

  • Lafranque, S. (2020). Moon Energy: A Practical Guide to Using the Lunar cycles to Unleash Your Inner Goddess. Skyhorse Publishing.

  • Lister, L. (2017). Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic. (1st Edition). Hay House UK.

  • Starling, M. (2022). Welsh Witchcraft: A Guide to the Spirits, Lore, & Magic of Wales. (1st Edition). Llewellyn Publications.

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