The Wheel turns, and I suddenly find myself doing my very last High Day recap!
I have to say that for a while I rather despaired about writing a Yule ritual for our local group. Originally one of our OBOD members had agreed to do the rite, but she subsequently got a new evening job that keeps her from attending most of the rituals so the job fell back to me.
I had an idea to go with a theme related to the Brú na Bóinne and wrote a liturgy which seemed pretty good, but it was definitely lacking in “oomph”. I was worried that it would be a rather lackluster rite… but then about a week before the solstice I suddenly had an idea; our ritual was scheduled for the evening of the solstice, but why not have a sunrise solitary component that came out of and linked back into the group ritual? So my idea was that during the hallowing of the blessings phase I would bless extra wine. Then, after the blessings the group would do a working, raising energy and transferring it to the extra blessed wine. This then would be portioned out and sent home with all of the participants to be used as part of individual solitary sunrise invocations, and I really think it worked very well.
So let’s talk about the ritual. There were ten participants in total, including one person who was new to our group and another person who was new to Pagan group rituals altogether. It was an exceptionally mild day for December in Ontario, reaching a high of 10 degrees, but it had been raining and threatened to continue doing so. Fortunately it pretty much stopped except for the odd drop here and there just as we got going, which allowed us to hold the ritual outdoors around a small bonfire.
After the procession from the house to the fire, and the purification, we started with me doing a guided meditation:
“Let us take three deep breaths and clear our minds
Now let us leave this place and this time behind
and think of yourself standing, as our ancestors once did,
on the banks of the river Boyne in Ireland
before you is the the Brú na Boinne,
the great mound which the English call New Grange,
and it is dusk on the eve of the winter solstice.
You approach the mound, walking past the solemn standing stones
which encircle it. You pass the great stone that marks the entrance, with its triskele that was carved by people who are long since dust, and you enter the mound.
The passageway is long and high and goes slightly upward,
and as you walk, the setting sun grows dimmer and dimmer
until you are in complete darkness.
And there, in the dark heart of Brú na Boinne,
you sit down to wait out the longest night of the year.
And as you sit, you feel the cool, slumbering energy of the earth surrounding you and being drawn up into you by your breath
as the hours pass, the energy is drawn up into you by your breath.
As the hours become eternity, you become suddenly aware of a new energy.
The light of the newborn sun out in the world is rising,
is entering the passageway, from a shaft above the entrance.
Inch by inch the direct light of the sun, aligned perfectly to the solstice,
creeps down the narrow passageway towards you.
Turn your head now towards the fire and
remember your ancestor sitting in the Brú na Boinne,
the light of the solstice sun blazing upon them,
igniting the cool earth energy within them,
as you slowly open your eyes.
After the meditation we did the normal steps; the Earth Mother prayer, establishing and opening the gates, and invoking the Kindred. For the deities of the occasion we invoked The Dagda, Boann, and Oengus Mac Og. I then proceeded to tell the story of the birth of Oengus and the how he came to rule at Brú na Boinne, using the variation that saw him tricking Elcmar at Samhain.
After the story-telling we took the omen, called down the blessings, and then performed the energy-raising working. After thanking the beings and closing it off, we roasted some chestnuts on the bonfire and then went inside for our traditional potluck. While the folk ate, I filled small containers with a couple of ounces of the blessed wine and gave them to each participant along with the following instructions for the solitary component.
Winter Solstice Sunrise Invocation
Sunrise in London on December 22nd 2011 is expected at 7:53am. It is best if you can perform this invocation at that time. If you are unable to for any reason, however, you can perform this anytime before sunset.
Take several deep breaths. Ground and center yourself.
Raise the cup to the sky and recall that the wine contains the blessings of the Dagda, Boann, and Oengus as well as the energy of our tribe. Take a sip of the wine and feel yourself drinking in the blessings of the Gods. Let the blessings fill you. Use the energy that flows into you as you recite the following (or feel free to improvise as you wish):
Returning sun, I welcome you!
Even in the moment of the triumph of dark night
I welcome your rebirth!
Hear me as I call out to you
And pray for your safe return
this solstice morning!
In your absence
the Earth has gone to sleep
and winter is upon us.
Return to us, then,
that your children may embrace hope to sustain us
through the cold days ahead.
Reborn sun, I give you this offering
may it speed your strengthening
that you may return your warmth to the Earth.
Reborn sun, accept my sacrifice!
Reverently pour the remaining wine on the ground. If you are lucky enough to actually see the sun, pause a moment and let its light fill you. Go in peace and blessings.
Overall the ritual seemed to go smoothly and was well received. In terms of what went right, I can definitely say that the chanting was much more successful than previous attempts, which I attribute mostly to telling people well in advance what chant we would be using, and posting a link to a YouTube version of the chant. Getting everyone’s enthusiastic participation really helped build the energy during the working.
As far as what could be improved, the only real issue with the ritual was that we had set the altar up in a gazebo in the expectation of rain, and this required a lot of moving back and forth between the gazebo and the firepit. So, preparing for uncertain weather remains a bit of a challenge.
Our group is really starting to gel, and as a result the rituals are becoming more engaging and more personal. As I end these recap essays, I look forward to our Grove’s future ahead.