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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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These long nights and short days are not for everyone.  I used to find the lack of daylight almost suffocating.  But over the past handful of years I’ve found a deep love for the darkest days of the year.

I wonder now how I got there.  An appreciation for cycles and the somewhat revelatory realisation that we’re always in motion has been part of it.  And layered on top, an understanding that the darkness encourages us to travel into our inner world to tend to what’s waiting for us.

If this is what the darkness helps us to do I can get behind it, but I used to be a bit scared of the dark truth be told.  Then a few years back a friend organised a gathering on the Solstice and it changed something. 

A group of wonderful women I knew and loved gathered together in her home in the darkness.  She lived in the countryside with no street lamps for miles so it really was dark.  Her home was lit by a few candles only.  We had a solstice-y women’s circle, exploring our feelings about the darkness and this time of year.  So many of us felt discomfort in the darkness and the solidarity of the moment prompted us to blow the candles out and sit in the pitch dark together for a while. 

It was profound.  Sitting in safety and warmth in the darkness a deep peace settled in me, the kind I hadn’t really felt before. The darkness felt nourishing.  Like I needed it.  And my relationship with the dark shifted.

Since then it’s not about getting through what I used to see as the dark, depressing shortest day.  It feels more like an invitation to be still and listen to what treasures lie within the darkness.

No surprise then that this is one of my favourite Celtic festivals to celebrate by taking a moment for myself.

There are three invitations below of ways we can do this.

Join me in taking a moment for yourself this Winter Solstice?

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice – the shortest day – falls on 21st or 22nd December each year.  In 2023 it lands on Wednesday 21st December and some celebrate it as the festival Yule.

We know this day has been significant to humans for millennia.  Placement of stones to line up with the Winter Solstice sunrise at sacred sites around the UK and Ireland (and around the world) tell us this and it’s clear to see why.  Imagine when the only light was sunlight, how these shorter and shorter days must’ve felt.  The turning point of the Solstice and the return of the sun was a time to rejoice, even though there is much of Winter left to endure.

Old traditions speak of the sun dying at this time of year and of being reborn by the Goddess at the Solstice.  The Goddess of the Solstice is the Dark Mother (also known as Mother Night or Mother Winter) and she is the giver of gifts and the teacher of lessons.

And so the Solstice brings with it themes of going within, honouring our lessons and our gifts, finding the light in the darkness, rest, renewal and rebirth.

It’s a beautiful time to be still in the quiet of the dark night, listening and tending to what’s here for us right now.  To rest in this pause.  To gather.  To wonder about the ways we’d love to be reborn with the increasing light.

May the longest night and the shortest day,

Bring rest to your mind and your soul, I pray.

May you find guidance and may you find peace,

As the cycle of light will slowly increase.

Embrace the magic that the darkness bears,

Breath deep in the chill and shift in the air.

May you always be blessed with the light from within,

And may wellbeing be yours as the new cycle begins.

*

a Winter Solstice Blessing by Stephanie Laird
How we celebrate

These few days before Christmas can be so full, but since our kids were small we've tried to carve out time on the Solstice to pause together. It's a lovely antidote to the bustle. When they were small and woke at ungodly hours we'd keep the house dark and make it exciting to watch out the window waiting for the sun to rise on the shortest day. As they grew and mercifully slept in I'd take that peaceful hour to myself.

For the past few years, as a family we've enjoyed lighting a small fire in our firepit in the low light of the afternoon and reading Solstice stories around it, usually with obligatory marshmallow toasting or chestnut roasting. My youngest's favourite is the Solstice Badger and there are some lovely stories in Circle Round by Starhawk.

3 invitations

If the wheel of the year festivals fascinate you as they do me, they can be a lovely reminder to pause and take a moment for yourself.

I’ve made some of the ways I love to connect with the Winter Solstice into three simple invitations for you.  See if there’s one that speaks to you…

1. Winter wander

Wrap up warm and take yourself on a grounding Winter walk in nature.  With no agenda other than to feel the earth beneath your feet and the natural world sinking into it’s winter slumber.

Notice what you see, hear, smell and feel. Then enjoy the ritual of cosying up when you get home and allowing your own winter pause

2. Nourishing dark

Light a candle in the darkness and watch the flame as you sink into a place of rest. If it feels ok, blow it out and allow the darkness to hold you awhile.

Try to let your thoughts and feelings be what they are without judging. Take some long, slow belly breaths as you sit in the stillness, elongating the out breath. Sit for as long as feels good then light the candle again when you’re ready and notice what it brings.

3. Return of the light

It’s a beautiful time to watch the sunrise and the dreamy winter skies that go with it. If you naturally wake (or are woken by small people) while it's still dark it can be lovely to open the curtains and keep the lights off in your home while you wait for the sun. As the sun rises and the light filters in, take a moment in that gentle wintry half-light to ponder:

What is bringing you light in your life right now? And where would you love to be inviting more light into your days? What would bring you lightness right now? Your journal might come in handy.

*

Allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful. Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  These invitations are still available to you. No urgency or expiry dates.

I love to hear what you do with these invitations.  Feel free to let me know over on Insta how they panned out for you.

Winter Solstice blessings, dear one x

*

Before you go, two offerings:

If, like me, you love using the festivals to take a moment for yourself, you might like to know about my (virtual) Imbolc Workshop in January - part mother's circle, part journaling session, steeped in the energy of this beautiful festival and season. There are 3 price points to maximise accessibility and the group size will be limited so reserve your place now.

If Winter has you feeling reflective just now, you might like to download my Self Care Journal for Mums. Subscribers to my free email community can download this for free. You're so welcome to sign up here if you'd like to and you'll get instant access.

© 2024 Lisa Mabberley
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