Time: For three days from sunset on or around 20 December (20 June in the southern hemisphere)
Focus: Rebirth, the return of light, the triumph of life over death, spiritual awakening, light in the midst
of darkness, faith that the Wheel will turn and the life cycle begin anew.
The mid-winter solstice pre-dates organised religion. When early humans saw the Sun at its lowest
point and the vegetation dead or dying, they feared that light and life would never return. So they lit
great bonfires from yule logs, hung torches from trees and decorated caves and homes with evergreens
to persuade the other trees to grow again. So this really is a time of faith and hope and also an
awareness once more of the responsibility of individuals to ensure by ritual and by giving hospitality to
family, neighbours and strangers that at this lowest point (the yoke or yule of the year) life would be
rekindled. This is a long way from the present commercial and consumer emphasis that has overtaken
our Christian festival of Christmas.
The name Alban Arthuran means ‘light of Arthur’, named after King Arthur who in legend bore the
title Sun King. His round table represented the great solar Wheel of the Year.
The common theme of the festival that spans many ages and cultures is that the Mother Goddess, under
one of her many names, gives birth to the Sun itself, the Sun God. It is the same theme as the Virgin
Mary giving birth to the Son of God in a cave or stable at the darkest hour of the year. The virgin birth
features in several cultures and traditionally a candle (or other flame) is left burning all night on this
longest of nights, to persuade the newborn Sun to rise again on Christmas Eve to light Mary on her
way. The feasting of Christmas was another magical gesture to ensure there would be food again in the
spring and good harvests the following year.
Globally, this is a time for rituals of renewed faith in the face of despair and cynicism; for work to
provide homes and shelter for people, birds and animals, more efficient and humane welfare services;
the regeneration of famine or war-torn lands; rekindling goodness even in wrongdoers, improving
conditions in all institutions; also individual charitable endeavours.
On a personal level, the mid-winter solstice is a good time for matters concerning the home and
practical family matters, for money spells as well as abundance in less material ways; for relieving
depression and anxieties for all matters where improvement, relief or success will come after patience
and perseverance; also potent for rituals concerning the very old, unborn children, mothers-to-be,
nursing or new mothers and newborn infants.
Candle colours: White, scarlet, brilliant green and gold
Symbols: Evergreens, Christmas trees adorned with lights, oak, ash or pine, brightly coloured baubles,
gold, holly, ivy and mistletoe, nuts
Crystals: Any precious stones, especially rubies, diamonds and emeralds, amazonite, garnets, zircons,
spinels; you can also substitute glass nuggets in rich red, green and white
Flowers, herbs, oils and incenses: Bay, cedar, holly, jumper, mistletoe, orange, rosemary, and
frankincense and myrrh in golden-coloured holders
A Mid-Winter Ritual To Celebrate The Rebirth Of The Sun
This ritual should be performed on the solstice eve. To prepare, decorate a bough of evergreen with red
and gold baubles and bows of ribbon and surround it with a circle of five long-burning, pure white
candles or a single candle with five wicks. The first candle will need to burn for 24 hours, the second
for about 18 hours, the third about 12 hours, the fourth and fifth for shorter periods, although you can
always replace a candle by lighting another.
We are keeping to the Celtic time and so our ritual will end with the beginning of the new day at sunset
on the actual day of the solstice.
However, if you prefer, you can celebrate 24 hours later or at a weekend where you can be at home for
a longer period. Some families move the ritual to the Christian festival and begin on Christmas Eve.
Alternatively, you can work for a shorter period, combining the stages and using fewer candles.
This is a ritual you can share with family and friends or with your coven, or practise alone, as an
antidote to the bustle and sometimes frayed tempers of Christmas.
* Just before dusk, extinguish all lights except a tiny one so you can see what you are doing, saying:
The light is gone from the old Sun, but we know it will return, pure and true, and with it the rebirth of
our hopes.
* Sit for a few minutes in the darkness, avoiding conscious thought, merging with the energies.
* At dusk, light your first white candle, saying:
The light returns; we offer our light to join with those kindled around the world that the darkness may
be no more.
* Leave the candle burning and spend an evening away from all the frantic preparations that will be
there tomorrow; share a meal, listen to seasonal music, talk about Christmas past, its highlights and
* When it is midnight or just before you are ready to go to bed, light the next candle, saying:
The light increases, as the new Sun streams forth within the cave, soon to herald the new day; we offer
this light, joining with our ancestors and those as yet unborn to call forth radiance.
* Leave the candles in a safe place and when you awaken, even if it is not fully day, light the third
candle, replacing and re-lighting the others if they are almost burned down, saying:
The Sun comes forth from the cave, in joy and glory and promise; we join our light with the rays of the
new morning.
* Spend the morning out of doors, if possible, collecting greenery, or making tiny clay figures of the
Nativity figures, santons as they are called in France, to create a personalised nativity, including
figures to represent your family and friends.
* At noon, light the fourth candle, again after replacing any that are burned through, saying:
I rejoice that the light surrounds us; the Sun lives and thrives and multiplies in a thousand cascading
* If possible, enjoy a festive meal with family and friends and make a phone call or perhaps take a
small present to someone who is alone at Christmas and might appreciate a visit; if they will not be
offended, invite them to join your family table.
* Finally at dusk, light the last candle, saying:
Ever burn bright and warm on fields and sea and sky and all the creatures born of the Mother. We give
* At bedtime, extinguish your remaining candles, making wishes and saying:
Go in happiness, bring joy and peace and plenty to all in need.