December 2009
A Blessed Winter Solstice
Yultide Musings from Handfastings.org

handfasting cords Wedding Officiant News

Welcome Johanna Burdinie of Iowa City!  Aside from having performed handfastings since 2008, she is a Reiki Master and Tarot card reader.  Glad to have her as the latest addition to the Handfastings.org family!

The Rev. Margaret Beat of Northwest Florida has recently developed a new website at www.weddings-by-lady-fae.com.  Learn all about Lady Fae and go check out her new site!

Do you have any news of your own to share?  Email us so we can share it in an upcoming newsletter!
Winter Weddings

winter weddingI'm not quite sure how this bride (above) was able to stay warm during this photo shoot, but the picture turned out beautiful!


Winter weddings are so very magical and can hold a lot of meaning for the bride and groom as they say their vows to one another during the Winter Solstice. 

Because of the introspective nature of this time of the year, handwritten personal vows are very appropriate for winter weddings.  The bride and groom are giving a bit of themselves to one another, so it is only fitting that they personalize their ceremony with a gift to each other of one-of-a-kind vows.

 Winter Wedding Ideas:
  • Decorate with poinsettias
  • Create hand-made ornament favors
  • Treat your guests to hot cocoa during cocktail hour
  • Serve a cozy bowl of chicken soup during the reception
  • If you are blessed with a snowfall, be daring and run outside into the snow in your gown and tux and make snow angels.  Guests will follow!
Winter Solstice
Welcoming the Light

On Monday, December 21, 2009 in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice will take place.  Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year.  Even though it doesn't seem like it, we are now entering what Pagans call the light half of the year, when the days finally become "longer" (meaning there will be more and more light each day after the solstice).  On Winter Solstice, we celebrate the coming of the light and welcome it with open arms.   

winter solstice

Photograph courtesy of NASA

Many Pagans bring in the light through ritual, dance and celebration.  Some rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle and meditating on the flame within a sacred circle.  Other rituals can be elaborate theatrical events, as illustrated by the one we have presented to you at the end of this newsletter.  Either way, it is a very magical time when we look inward, seeking the light within.
  This is a wonderful time for new beginnings as we welcome the rebirth of the sun and seek the newness in and reinvention of ourselves and the reinvigoration of our personal and professional goals.

Happy New Year!

father winter Father Winter

Father Winter. He is a wonderful ancient symbol for the winter - the cold and dormant nature that lay beneath the ground. He looks remarkably like Santa but without the commercial red suit.  He has a white beard as long as a winter's night and as white as the snow that glistens in the moonlight.

Father Winter, known as the Holly King in ancient Celtic lore, wears a crown of bare branches (and a bough of holly of course). He protects all the food you've stored up for the winter months to keep your belly full and your family healthy.  He continuously gives you your winter rations so you never hunger.  Father Winter lives to give, and when the snow melts away, he slips into the ground and gives his final essence to the seedlings beneath the frost.

The path to the figure that many today know as Santa Claus is a long and sorted story, filled with lore from every corner of the world.  His myth grows exponentially, gaining momentum during each winter season.  The short version of his mythic past goes something like this: the Holly King became Father Winter and Father Winter became Father Christmas and Father Christmas became Saint Nicholas and Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus.  But this, of course, leaves out all the juicy tidbits of his fabled journey.

Throughout the history of humankind, we have sought to understand, and try to explain, all the reasons behind the natural wonders of the world.  In order to explain how the world works, we create myths to help us describe in colorful detail the turning of the seasons.  One such story is that of how the earth turns cold from fall to winter by way of a great man/god/saint who brings about the cold.  Another story is that of one god who battles another to rule the light part of the year (see last year's newsletter for more detail about the Holly King vs. the Oak King).   So we create beautiful, descriptive myths to explain and embody the season.  It would take a book to fill Santa Claus' sorted journey from Holly King.  But one thing remains certain: if you believe, the winter will bring gifts of hope, even during the darkest of days.

frost queen Winter Bridal Headgear

I was reading Offbeatbride.com when I came across the most fabulous headpiece designer.  Her name is Daniella White and she lives in Los Angeles. Daniella creates beautiful, unique, custom-made headpieces for brides and for other occasions when you are in the mood to wear some plumes and antlers (comes in handy for Pagans!).  You can view (and even purchase)  some of her pieces at http://www.etsy.com/shop/magentafabulous
I think she looks like a beautiful Snow Queen or Winter Goddess with the antler headdress above.  Below is another one of her festive creations.  
winter feather bridal headpiece

You can also see more of her amazing pieces here:

Winter Solstice Ritual

Solitude of Winter by April Lindsay
Photo: Solitude of Winter by April Lindsay

A Wiccan Yule
Ritual Theater by Ayla, Elder Priestess of the Sibylline Order; and Virginia, Elder Priestess of the Sibylline Order.


    * The altar is set in the North, candles lit, salt and water purification already done when the Ritual Begins.
    * The Maiden and her handmaidens sit together off to the eastern side.
    * The Priest is positioned in the East, the cowl of his robe over his head.
    * The cauldron stands in the center, unlit.
    * A member is assigned to stand near the entance with an athame in case people arrive during the Rite.

On the Altar

    * an apple that is cut in half,
    * a Goddess candle (easily removed),
    * a lit smudge stick,
    * a sheaf of Mistletoe,
    * several bowls of salt and honey.

Ritual Items

    * Honey
    * Salt
    * Epsom Salt
    * Rubbing Alcohol
    * Garland
    * Head covering for Cron
    * Hooded Robe for Priest
    * Apple
    * Mistletoe
    * Cauldron

Sage is passed for all to purify during the speeches.


    "The Sabbaths are the Eight Points of the Wheel of the Year. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, the wheel turns on and on. In December, on the Winter Solstice, we celebrate Yule. It is a transition from Death to Life, as it is the moment of the Sun King's Birth, which reflects in our world as the beginning of the growth of light. The Crone gives her crown to the Maiden, and new replaces old.

"We have Brigid's Feast of Returning Light in February. We nurture the life born on Yule, as the Sun Child grows strong. A transitional time from winter to spring, it is the time for cleaning, both house and soul. In March, on the Spring Equinox, Life has burst forth with the true emergence of Spring. In the time of the Maiden we celebrate the Eostar, and bring all elements into a harmonious balance. Beltane, the celebration in May of the fertility of all things, is the adolescence of the year, when the Maiden begins to give way to the Mother. The Sun King begins his courtship of the Goddess. June's Summer Solstice brings the celebration of Litha. It is Midsummer's Night, the year's bounty is at hand. The Sun King embraces the Queen of Summer, ensuring the circle's continuation.

"The Wheel begins to wane towards winter. Lughnasad, in August, is the Sabbath of the ending of Summer. It is the Time of the Mother, and of waiting and changing. Here the Sun King dies to give bounty to the earth. In September, on the Fall Equinox, the celebration of Mabon is held. It is the Witch's Thanksgiving, where all Life is balanced as the days and nights are equal. As Winter's touch can be felt, the Sun King sails west into Shadow, and the Mother's Love turns into the Crone's Passion. October brings Samhain, the Witch's New Year. It is the time of the Crone, where the gates of life and death stand open.

"All things are possible, as we stand on the threshold of reality, and listen to the words of those who came before."

winter solstice ritual


    "The Winter Solstice is the Night of the longest dark, the point of deepest Night and Winter before the returning of new life. It is the last moment of gestation, the time in the womb that is about to end in Birth, the nothingness that becomes the universe.

"Now darkness triumphs; and yet, gives way and changes to light. We watch for the coming of the Dawn, when the Great Mother again gives birth to the Divine Child Sun, who is the bringer of hope and the Promise of Summer. This is the Stillness behind motion, when Time itself stops; the center which is also the circumference of all. We awake in the night, we turn the Wheel to bring the Light. We call the Sun from the Womb of Night. Blessed Be!"


    Blessed Be!

As the circle is being cast, a container of salt is passed around to be tasted by all coveners.

During the Casting the Priest/ess do not move. They envision their quarter of the Circle going up and connecting with the others. They can make whatever signs are appropriate.

EASTERN PRIEST/ESS: in the East, holding a stick of incense.

    "Goddesses and Guardians of the EAST, we invite thee to our circle, to witness and protect our Rite. Champions of Justice, Keepers of the Wind, bring us your Breath that is new beginnings, help us to communicate our thoughts with ease and clarity, so that we may know our truths. Maiden whose love has never ceased, bring us healing from the East!"

SOUTHERN PRIEST/ESS: in the South, holding a candle.

    "Southern Goddesses and Guardians, Warriors of the warm lands, Keepers of the Flame, we invite thee to our circle, to witness and protect our Rite. Burn in us, impart the fires of your desire, grant the spark of life. Let our wills and yours be twinned, Warrior of the South Wind."

WESTERN PRIEST/ESSs: in the West, holding a chalice of water.

    "Goddesses and Guardians of the West, we invite thee to our circle, to witness and protect our rite. Champions of Emotions, Keepers of Water. Your love streams through our hearts, cleansing us of pain. Mother, let your darkness be our blanket, covering us in the nightly wind of the West."

NORTHERN Priest/ess: in the North, holding a container of Salt.

    "NORTHERN Goddesses and Guardians, cornerstones of all magic power, home of the old and wise ones, find us a place in your thoughts tonight. We invite thee to our circle, to witness and protect our Rite. Crone of the Mountains and Forests, lend us your wisdom, and send us your Northwind's frozen breath."

All 4 Priests/Priestesses together (turn to face the center)

    "Wind's four quarters, Air and Fire, Earth and Water, Hear our Desires. Grant our pleas who stand as one, Maiden - Warrior, Mother, and Crone!"


    "The Circle is Cast;
    We are Between the Worlds; Beyond the Bounds of Time;
    Where Night and Day; Birth and Death; Joy and Sorrow; Meet as One.
    The fires are lit, the Ritual is begun.
    We enter this place in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, Blessed Be!"


    Blessed Be!


    "You have tasted the breath of death, whose body is salt. The light was born, the light has died. Everything passes, all fades away. Tonight we await to turn the wheel and bring the Light once again, but for now we are in the dark."


    "Everyone please reach out and touch those near to you so that we may raise a cone [of power]. We will be building this cone with that which we wish to loose to the night. As it comes to you, say it out loud, and others will pick up the word, helping to banish it. Say it softly at first, then louder as the power builds. We will be grounding this energy straight into the ground, since we don't want to keep any of the stuff [undirected energies] we're getting rid of."

By now everyone should be set. Priestess sits and joins in; have a few seconds of silence.


    "To Die and be Reborn,
    The Wheel is Turning,
    What must you lose to the night?"

Have a few people set to start throwing out words to be banished. Cone builds, then grounds. Give a few minutes for everyone to recoup.

Music Starts

Mother and Crone step into the center of the Circle.

The Maiden, led by the other maidens, comes into the circle from the east.

Mother Aspect turns to Maiden. In one hand she holds a candle, in the other, an apple that is cut in half. She holds them up for all to see, silently, then gives the apple to the Maiden.


    "Behold, I hold the light of the hope of the World. All come to my arms in death, and through Me all are Reborn - life and death are one in my sight, and are naught to fear. As Mother of All I bless the year. As Mother of all I bless this house, and all within. May you know Peace, Prosperity, Joy, Wisdom, and Love. Let Light Shine upon the Paths that you will take, and Know that your' Mother's Love goes with you."

The Mother moves to stand in front of the altar.


    "I have spread the mantle of winter over the land, and through the long dark have I watched and dreamed in the twilight. My son has grown within me and I am weary. I feel the first pangs of labor and know my time is come. On this night of death and birth, I shall pass away, yet the maiden's light will come to warm the Earth and bring the fruits and grains. Take Well the Counsel of the Years, be wise and bold in your actions. Speak with Love and Move with Strength. For Youth is the Future of the world, it's inspiration and it's challenge. (Turns to the maiden, places the crown on her head. Turns to the East where the Priest sits) Come now, my son, my love, and take your place once more in the councils of the wise. You shall rise in the east in the triumphant dawn, and I shall go to my rest."

Crone remains standing at the center, while the Maiden moves to the altar to stand with the Mother.

The music stops.

ALL Chant: "Turn, turn, turn the wheel, Return, return, return the light."

Build cone of power. The Crone steps to the center and lights the cauldron. At the climax of the Cone of Power, the Crone throws magnesium powder into the cauldron, creating a flash.

Drumming and/or music stop

The Priest rises from the East at the blue flash , casting back his hood, triumphantly entering the center of the circle.

He Embraces the Crone then turns and goes to the Maiden and Mother in the North, standing before them, facing South.

The Crone covers her head and steps into the circle in the west.

Someone begins to pass around the honey, all should take a taste.

Music starts again.


    "I fell into deep darkness and death, unmanifest being, I was the substance of the Stars. On the tail of a comet, I rent the Velvet Darkness of Everlasting Night. Ablaze with Glory, I am Reborn. To Begin again the Cycle of Guardianship that drives me through Death and Rebirth. With the Love of our Lady I face into the wind, we Fly together on the Wings of Time, Through Worlds and Between Worlds, Together Eternally."

Priest turns to the Altar, picks up a sheaf of Mistletoe, Takes the Maiden's hand, kisses it, and places the sheaf of Mistletoe in it.

MAIDEN: holding the mistletoe and the apple close to her bosom.

    "All does Change, the New Replaces the Old, Ever the Same, Ever Changing. Hear us oh Great Goddess, My Sister, My Mother, My Grandmother, and My Friend. Grant us your Blessings of Joy, Peace, and Love; and Give them to the World, that needs your Blessings so Deeply. Aide us in Turning the Wheel, as we have tasted the Sweetness of Life, and Welcome the Coming of Light! Blessed Be!"


    Blessed Be!


    "Let the Yule revels begin!"

The Priestesses take down circle the end of the night. Everyone relaxes and drums, generally enjoying themselves. There should be someone stationed near the door, in case people want to leave, or create a special passageway at this point, so people can come and go undisturbed, without disrupting the circle.

Thank you to the Sibylline Order for this beautiful ritual:

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Artemisia Shira Tarantino

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