Winter Solstice 2016: How to Embrace the Darkness (Astrology Write up & Ritual)

Winter Solstice 2016: How to Embrace the Darkness (Astrology Write up & Ritual)

Many years ago, my very first astrology teacher (who also happened to be my very first yoga teacher), would invite us to his local yoga studio to celebrate the winter solstice.

As someone who was not raised in a religious setting, this became the way that I honored the divine, and communed with nature, other people, and myself. His ceremonies were beautiful.

Every solstice, we would gather in a circle and chant mantra to help invoke the energy of the coming light (or the coming darkness, during the summer solstice). We created intentions that would set the mood for the season.

You see, the solstice is not merely the shortest day of the year.

Mythologically speaking, this time of year has been the basis of many historical religions. Early people knew that the days became shorter, and the weather became colder at this time of year. They would celebrate the darkness as darkness, because it heralded the return of the sun. In fact, it took about 3 or so days for them to realize the days were getting longer, so the official return of the sun (or, son!) was celebrated around December 24th or 25th…sound familiar?

Psychologically, it represents the move toward darkness, coldness, and death. It provides us the spacd for introspection, reflection, and release. We must experience this fully in order to make the return into the light.

Everyone seems to think it’s all about the light. Wrong.

That’s not where the magic happens. We EARN the light by moving through the dark. Now is the time to engage in our shadow work and fortify ourselves for the coming year.

Right now is a very powerful astrological moment in time. It is the perfect time for this work. In fact, we are being called to do it.

Yesterday, Mercury went retrograde (and will remain that way until January 9th). For most all of it’s retrograde period, Mercury will be in Capricorn, which asks us to take stock of our maturity levels and commitment to discipline. The world needs us right now more than ever, and though circumstances make it tempting to hide our heads in the sand, use this retrograde opportunity to gather your strength, step up to a new level of being, and be ready to do the work.

Tomorrow is our official solstice, and the energies present tomorrow last for the rest of the Winter season. Present in the sky is a powerful relationship between Pluto and Uranus. This has been present in the sky for a while, and has the signature of radical transformation. So far, we’ve seen radical transformation in the legalization of gay marriage across the country, and the legalization of marijuana in some states in the US. However, with the recent election, I think we’re just hitting our stride in terms of radical transformation. Pluto’s themes of death and resurrection are revealed with the political changeovers and Uranus’ unexpected flashes of energy mean we have no idea what will happen next. Jupiter is also in the mix here, giving an overall expansiveness to this radical, transformative energy.

On the solstice chart, we also find a strong relationship between Saturn and Chiron (the wounded healer). This is not just a prominent theme for our solstice time, this relationship will be present every day of 2017. This pairing of planets encourages us to do the deep shadow work necessary to heal our old wounds so we can step into the light as a mentor or healer. So much of our world, our communities, our country needs healing. We can do it. But, we can only heal others as much as we’ve been healed ourself. It’s time. No more overlooking the triggers. No more repression of feelings. No more judgment of others. Take this opportunity to shed that in favor of becoming a conduit for healing and light.

Finally, on the 29th, we have a new moon in Capricorn–once again repeating this season’s themes. The moon is very close to our retrograde Mercury, and loosely next to transformational Pluto. New moon energy calls us to affirm what we want to cultivate in our lives over the next six months. This moon asks us, once again, to specifically take stock of who we are right now, release old patterns that no longer serve us and step up to the plate as agents of change.


This entire solstice season’s theme reminds me of a recent converstaion with a fellow light worker who said, “2017, I’m coming for you. Right now, our work is more important than ever.” She is right. With old paradigms crumbling, we need to support each other. We need to commune, and be strong for those looking for inspiration in dark times.

Many don’t know what to do, or how to approach the coming year.

We do. We have the tools we need to utilize the energies circulating around us to come into accord with them and channel them for good…our own and everyone else’s

In the spirit of this tremendous time of year, I want to turn back to my early days with the solstice ceremonies and give you one you can do on your own, or with a group of friends or loved ones. The purpose of this ceremony is to honor what is happening now, so that you can come into accord with the energies and use them to propel yourself toward a bright future, while embracing the darkness fully.

We’ll do the same with our solstice ceremony.

Gather your favorite crystals, totems or symbols and create your ritual space. Designate the space with candles and incense, if you have it. Turn on an uplifting song or chant – a good option would be a version of the Gayatri mantra, as it signals the return of the sun. If you know the chant, sing along (if you want to learn it, click here). Take some time and write what it is you would like to surrender, let go of, or leave behind from this year. Then on a different sheet of paper, write down three things you would like to cultivate in the new year –three things that represent the way in which you work with the light.

In a sink, or in a big ceramic pot, burn the list of things you want to let go of. Watch the paper burn. Use your hands to wash the smoke over your head and body (symbolically). This helps you to “cleanse by fire” and release what you’ve decided to leave behind.

Read out loud the things you want to cultivate in the new year. If you’re with friends, read out loud to them, and listen attentively when they read their list to you.

Close the ritual with a few moments of silent reflection. Bring the hands to prayer, chant Om, and snuff the candles. Place your list for the new year in prominent sight, so that you may be reminded of your intentions for the coming light.

I sincerely hope this ritual fuels your solstice celebration, and that you take the time to enjoy the darkness, before the returning light.