Updated: Dec 26, 2020
In amongst the journey to Solstice and the great reckoning of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, I have been deeply contemplating the ancient significance of this time of year, the interesting coincidence that lockdown is once again ushering us back into connection with the Earth’s quiet natural rhythms, and listening to what my inner landscape is loudly revealing as the body drops an octave deeper into this sacred yin time.
Typically at the point of Winter Solstice we experience 3 days of still darkness, a time to bathe in the hush within the dark womb of the Earth as she cocoons us in her soothing embrace. These days lead up to Christmas which in the old days was seen as the beginning of the slow resurrection of light leading towards Spring Equinox.
What follows is a sacred period of 12 days known as the Holy Nights or Yuletide, a time of feasting, celebrating, prayer, ritual, ceremony, fires, cleansing, cleaning, dreamtime and oracles. A magical time of quiet contemplation as the old fragments of the year fall away, lightening the load as the journey towards a new cycle approaches.
A few years ago whilst spending a winter in Germany I discovered a Germanic festival steeped in myth, legend and spirituality celebrated in Northern Europe called Raunacht, meaning ‘Rough or Wild Nights’. Much like the Holy Nights it is a time of honouring the natural cycles of life and death in preparation for the new year to come. It is also a profoundly magical time as the veil between the physical and spirit world becomes incredibly thin. As the Earth’s dormancy opens to receive the blessings of the heavens, an incredibly potent opportunity opens up to call in guides, spirits, angels, ascended masters, and other celestial beings. A powerful time to ask for support, guidance and assistance.
Typically and as much as possible, in both traditions, you were not supposed to work during this time. Funny as we find ourselves in another lockdown. Once again I'm amazed at how the global dark night of 2020 somehow reconnects us with the Earth’s cyclical wisdom that is so lost within our fast-passed-24-hour culture.
Interestingly the Celtic Luna Year has only 354 days which means the missing 12 days are in fact these mysterious, magical Holy Nights. Quite literally a 12 day passageway-portal from one year to the next which coined the phrase ‘Between the years’. Yet another sign from nature that transition and change takes time and requires us to engage consciously with the passageway of time rather than remain passive to external shifts.
In some traditions it is said that each of the 12 days corresponds to a month of the coming year. In other traditions the first 6 nights bring the old year into completion and the following 6 nights support envisioning of the coming cycle.
The Twelfth Night leads onto the day of January 6th known as Epiphany, which officially marks the end of the Holy Nights and the entry into a new cycle. Also why it’s traditional to take down Christmas decorations on this day.
Overall we are in a liminal portal between space and time where the dark mother holds us and our shadows in her safe embrace, while the portals between the worlds open. There is often a great deal of emphasis placed on birthing the incoming light, but don’t rush the darkness. It is in this darkness that a seed receives the nourishment and nutrients it needs to crack through its shell. In the same way our souls long for this time of rest, nourishment, and attunement.
Winter’s sacred gift is the assistance in learning to die well, allowing the remnants of who we once were to become holy compost for the future self yet to grow. Often during winter’s initiation in learning to die well, that which we hold dear is unwillingly taken from us, plans are forced to change, and what we thought was certain begins to crumble through our fingers. The holy gifts of this season lie within embracing this deeply yin time: slowness, rest, patience and trust are efficient pathways towards harnessing the wisdom of winter.
So as we may find ourselves heartbroken, angry or disappointed by how things have turned out, trust is signalling clearly to us that as we harness the feelings honestly they transmute into the nutrient-rich compost to stir and nurture new life within the fertile ground of becoming. Something better awaits but trust and patience have shown that nature is not quite ready to reveal yet. The road ahead is being paved without the certainty of a destination. Such is the mystery of life that requires our constant moment by moment surrender.
And right within the heart of this dismantling the Holy Nights reveal to us their mystery and mastery. The dark night becomes a temple filled with sacred stars, each one a candle burning brightly unveiling our inner knowing of love and connection to all of existence. And as the light grows the darkness is illuminated as a sacred time of celebration, heightened intuition, magic, mystery and deep dreaming.
12 Rituals for The Holy Nights
Practices to support our deepening during this time:
Slow down a LOT. Go out into nature often and connect to the earth and the stars. Practicing slowing down during your day, taking your time over meals, a little longer in your pj’s, savouring conversations, a little longer in bed in the morning.
Cleansing and clearing the old is a big tradition at this time of year, you may wish to clean your home space thoroughly, de-clutter and smudge with herbs or incense every day. Quite literally smoking out the past.
Journal daily – let the words pour onto your page without needing to understand, Note down the various messages coming through on each day – e.g. the weather on that day, emails, texts, symbols you may notice. Again no need to understand just note them down.
Do a tarot/card reading for each day to correspond to each month of the upcoming year and note down the messages that come through.
Take time to sit in contemplation, set intentions and journey into your inner world, meditate and journal and just see what wisdom/insight pours through. You’re likely to be highly intuitive and sensorially awake at this time.
Contemplate, journal and meditate on the past and take slow steps to make peace with your losses. Note down what you feel starts to shift through staying close to the dismantling process.
Pick 2 candles for your alter to journey with you during this time. One symbolising that which is leaving your life, burning away, and the other symbolising the ushering in of new life through the fire of transformation and change. Light these candles each day with intention. Alternatively you can light 2 fresh tea lights each day.
13 Wishes – This is a potent time to honour the fulfilment of our hopes, wishes and prayers. Cut out 13 small pieces of paper and on each one right down an intention/wish. Fold them up and put these wishes in a box or basket. Each day pick one piece of paper and without looking at it, burn it. Then on the final day open the 13th wish and let it be a sign or message for the upcoming year. This doesn’t mean the other wishes are not valid or going to be fulfilled but this one takes priority for now.
Dreamtime – Our dreamtime is incredibly potent at this time and may reveal important messages, omens for the future as well as show us what is still passing through to be let go. Before going to bed massage your feet with essential oils that support dream lucidity such as juniper, angelica, mugwort, lavender, sandalwood, rose, frankincense, clove, silver fir). Keep your journal and pen by your bed so on awakening you can write down what you remember. Before going to bed you may wish to ask a question and then simply await the answer in your dreams. It is said that the dreams we have on each night correspond to a month within the upcoming year.
Make offerings of gratitude and to support your process of dying well. Sometimes offering an item which means something to us can be a strong message to heavens that we are ready to let something go. Also simply giving back to the Earth as a gesture of deep thanks allows the flow of abundance, giving and receiving to continue in its natural cycle. Offerings can be made to all the elements; burying into the Earth, burning in Fire, submerging in Water and maybe even offering to the Wind too! (Please be mindful of offering that which is kind to nature).
Sleep. The body also goes through a great deal of attunement, rejuvenation and nourishment during the dormancy of sleep. Take naps, sleep long and deep. Let your body acclimatise to this yin season of deep rest.
Celebrate with good food and time to enjoy feasting, remember this is also a time of celebration.
An offer of an additional bonus 13th ritual - I have created a downloadable guided audio The BlackLight Transmission which was recorded over Solstice during ceremony as a powerful ally to assist in harnessing the magical wisdom available during this sacred time. Click here for more info and to download and enjoy during these cosy dreamy nights.
Happy Blessed Yuletide!