Winter Solstice 2018: A film ritual for everyone to enjoy

We were happy to be asked to conduct a solstice eve ritual as part of a series of events at The Cube Microplex in Bristol, a marvellous community enterprise. Because we were in a cinema venue, we made use of the medium of film, and thought that you might enjoy seeing what we did; the YouTube version does require a little advance preparation, though nothing too taxing (find an orange and a candle).

Basically…

• Get an orange and a lit candle
• Start film
• As the stars twinkle, shake off unwanted energies
• When you see the sun, reach out your arms, feeling into the space around you
• Think about the sun
• As the sun sets over the city, sit and think about your year, from the heat of summer into the darkening evenings of the autumn
• In the dark the candle flickers, and you focus on the Here and Now
• The sun returns!
• Celebrate by eating your orange
• As the twinkling stars appear again, move around, make joyful noises

 

Detailed instructions:
1. Read through these instructions first, before pressing play at 22:08pm UT on the 21/12/2018.
2. Find an orange. Place it near the screen.
3. Find a candle, put it where you can look at it, and light it.
4. Turn off the other lights in the room.
5. Stand up, shake it off! Flick away all that yucky energy, making way for a cleaner you. Take a couple of minutes to gently stretch out.
6. Reach out with your arms, like the branches of a tree swaying in the breeze, sensing the air flow which brings with it information, molecules of knowledge.
7. Think about the Sun, whose birthday this is. Take some time on this process. Such an amazing phenomenon deserves our full appreciation! Here are a few facts (you can of course research more of your own in advance). E.g. Third generation star, very big, burns 600 million tons of hydrogen every second, the sun isn’t made of coal (as the Victorians thought), a photon can take thousands of years to emerge from its creation point in the central nuclear fusion zone to the outside, from where light takes 8 minutes to travel across the cold vacuum of space to our rock, the jets of gas which flare off are larger than our Earth… etc.
8. As the sun appears over the city skyline in the film, take a seat. Recall your summer past, a moment when the sunshine was super powerful. A field, with plants grabbing the carbon out of the air, to build amazingly complex structures out of which us animals can eat. Remember the feel of the heat on your skin.
9. The clock ticks. Bring that warmth, that intense light, inside you. As the sun sets, and we hear the sounds of city traffic, focus on your breath. On your heart beat. On the internal warmth of your body, your life as a creature in a house, with other creatures around with whom you have relationships, with whom you might like to visit.
10. Feel the dark around you. Bring to mind the sparkling of lights, the immensity of starry skies.
11. As night falls, watch the very tip of the candle flame; it contains millions of microscopic diamonds, forming and burning up with every moment.
12. The screen fades to black for the astronomical moment of the winter solstice, at 22:23pm UT. For this one minute, focus your attention on the world you can directly sense. The feel of your body on the ground, the sound and movement of your breathing, the heat generated within you. The sensations of the air as it moves in and around you.
13. The candle flame represents a portion of the sun’s energy. It represents the Now, the present portion of eternity, the only moment in which we can Do.
14. (By bringing our attention to this fact, we collectively empower our abilities to choose, to decide, to behave, to recognise we are free of the habitual stories of the past and future, the standard narratives which we blindly follow for the sake of convenience.)
15. As the light and sound return, when you feel the urge, pick up your orange. Hold it in your hand.
16. Behold! This is the solar globe in microcosm, a shining orb of orange, solar energy made matter.
17. Consider the orange; how it arrived where it is. The journeys it has taken. The people who cared for the tree it grew upon. The hours of sunlight, the rain that fell to water it. And then back, to the seed this tree grew from, then the tree before that, and on and on, with all the people, the land, the sunlight, the rainfall. All those thousands of years passed through, by all those moments, all those individual photons falling out of the sun star, through space, to our rock, creating this object.
18. Celebrate your knowledge of these moments which make up eternity by peeling and eating the orange.
19. Finish by dancing about a bit, putting the fairy lights on, waving some tinsel or whatever makes you smile.

We hope you enjoy your Christmas Present. Thank you for the time and attention!

NW & JV

Magic in the Darkest of the Seasons

The Wheel of the Year spins, towards the darkest phase of the year here in the far north (i.e. Britain) .

Yesterday I was at a funeral in the local crematorium, to say goodbye to someone that I’d known in the course of my museum work. Within that garden of well-trimmed yew hedges, punctuated with sober brickwork structures, I stood out of the rain in the tiny waiting room. Drinking the vending machine coffee, and feeling emotions rising in me. This time last year I was swept up in that surreal swirl of organisation which attends the end of a human life. My Dad having passed away after a brief illness, I went with my Mum to speak with funeral directors, to make formal registration of the event. I helped her enter data into Governmental web forms.

A midwinter spirit

A midwinter spirit

It is during the winter months that most people in Britain die and, while some of this may be put down to infections, most of those deaths are not, at least overtly, directly caused by the darkness and harsh weather. Yet the correlation between death and the winter has remained true for hundreds of years. It is this fact that gives the death and rebirth of the solstice added poignancy. Thus there are those bitter sweet stories of the relationship between sacrifice, death, winter and spring, from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to The Selfish Giant.

Christmas, or Yule, or Mithrasmas (or whatever you like to call this feast) is the pivot point of the sun’s journey. It is overflowing with symbolism; there is the iconography of everything from the Messiah through to the Krampus; there are stories of hope and redemption, gifts brought at midnight by an aerial shaman, and ghostly tales from Christmas past.

The actual human deaths that occur in the deep midwinter enrich the symbols we absorbed as children; the Christmas tree, singing auld lang syne, then singing about the birth of magical child here to bring peace – as we mature as people, our reading and relationship with these symbols becomes deeper and more complex. Christmas becomes bitter sweet; an assertion of life and joy in the face of pain and heartache, but (if we are fortunate) we can continue to see the underlying message of renewal, of transformation and hope. Opening our-selves up to that Midwinter spirit, with all its sadness and joy, its blend of longing and elation, can be a difficult thing. For many people the black dog of depression follows them about in this season; echoing the outer darkness within their mindscape.

Given my own story at this time of year I can fully appreciate some recent writing by Anglesey Druid Kristoffer Hughes about the death of his Father, John Hughes, on the 11 of December:

This day, 10 years ago, was a dreadful day. We sat and we waited for the edges of forever to open and allow him respite and freedom from the pain of cancer. It is a day that none of us will readily forget. As twinkling fairy lights lit the streets beyond the hospital, as carolers took to singing, my Dad turned his face from this world and ventured into mystery.

The mystery of life and death was the subject of recent meditation I shared with folks at The Psychedelic Society of London (where I took part in a collaborative ritual event).

Psychedelic supper time

Psychedelic supper time

After an excellent evening of food and simple, highly accessible ceremonial practice, one participant asked whether, as an occultist, I had special powers. Where had all my years of magical ceremony, gnostic states and spiritual adventuring really got me? Could I leap tall buildings in a single bound, or perhaps control the weather with my mind? What was the kind of power that magic provides to those who practice it successfully?

There are lots of potential answers to this perfectly legitimate question. But one special ability many magicians aspire to, is to be able to live this life fully. To engage and connect intimately with the universe in which we find ourselves. This is the work of living a fully human authentic life (and the praxis of magic is a great way to approach this process). Come this time of the year, this time of death and of tinsel, this authenticity for me is about being able to hold the paradox of midwinter, to be empowered by it, and to express that insight in relationship with others (as Kristoffer did in sharing his writing about his father).

We can describe this aspiration (or, to the degree we manifest it, this ‘special power’), to be authentic, fully alive, in terms of doing our (True) Will, manifesting our inner nature, being in tune with the web of wyrd and all that (should we wish it to sound properly esoteric).

Of course, in answer to the question about ‘special powers’ one might offer stories about the many and varied ways that magic works. I’d claim magic is capable of making all kinds of transformations in the world (from things that look like applied psychology, through to proper parapsychological and synchronistic effects). However if the Great Work of Magic is really that, Great, it has to be about more than gaining skills in spells that increase the probability of accomplishing some simple desire.

But are such Taoist musings simply a cop out because sane people generally don’t claim to have any demonstrable superhuman abilities? What’s the use of doing magic if you can’t do literalist Harry Potter style spells? The difficulty is that real magic, outside of the imaginal world, does not often look like ‘special powers’. Magic is much more subtle and indeed far-reaching, which is why it is so difficult (and often meaningless) to empirically test. Any magician worth their consecrated salt is also aware that there are always multiple ways of reading any event in the universe. (Even something as ‘nuts and bolts’ real as the brain structure changes that appear to be the result of mindfulness and other practices). The most effective of magicians generally hold lightly to their accomplishments, not because they do not believe in their agency, but rather because they believe that ‘as above, so below’, and they know that the simple cause-and-effect/linear chain-of-events view of reality is only a partial truth.

What magic looks like (in your head)

What magic looks like (in your head)

Moreover when we are faced with human scale reality, for example the inevitable death of those we love, this is where our magic needs to be at its most powerful. Not in trying to hold back the tide of reality, like some kind of death-defying comic book character, but rather to learn how to flow with the way the world is; with grace, kindness and strength. To use the challenges we meet as humans in our work to make our soul.

So what might the star-following, wise magus want for Christmas? What gift of siddhi or mystical insight might we hope that the Santa Shaman might present to us? (Especially if we’ve been good all year; done our meditation and body work, done Priest work for others, deployed our magic in day to day acts of sorcery, undergone powerful initiatory journeys etc etc…)

For myself I’d like the power to enter that Mystery of the Darkness (a mystery glyphed in the Chaos Craft system by octarine). To fully know, at all parts of my self, the potential and power of transformation possible at the time. To pay attention to, and be inspired by the stories of this season; in myself, in the landscape, in the communities I meet; and to communicate that wonder to others.

At a human psychological level this darkness works its magic by transforming the loss I feel when I think of my Dad. Instead I am thankful for the fact that these feelings arise because I loved my Dad and he loved me. I notice the loss, the darkness, acknowledge it. Then I become aware of that tiny, but bright light of hope. This is my gratitude to the universe for having this good man in my life. I reach out through the web of wyrd to those others who sit with loss at this time of the year and wish that they too can find their own light in this long night.

At the end of his writing Kristoffer likewise goes beyond this own sadness into an affirmation of his connection to his father; a clear act of magic:

“…I sense that part of the Universe that holds his experience of being Alan John Hughes, my father…
And that for today, is enough comfort for me to hold his memory close and know that a part of him lives on.”

Christmas is a time for magic. Part of the magic of this time is that we come together, friends and family and share our company and stories. We feast in the darkest of seasons, we shine the light of our humanity through our communities and this illuminates us all. As magicians we seek to place our attention into this time, for ourselves and the liberation of all beings, we step into the octarine unknown of the new year. We tune in to the tides within the micro and macrocosm and use these to empower our Great Work of transformation, in whatever way makes sense for us. Not as superheroes but as fully realised (and ‘realising’ – it being a process) flawed, mortal, fabulous humans.

Seasonal Shiva; Yuletide intervention by Number One Son

Seasonal Shiva; Yuletide intervention by Number One Son

May you be blessed with the magical gifts of this midwinter spirit; with peace, delight, joy, empowerment, transformation, and may these manifest in your life in the way that serves your unique humanity in the best way possible.

JV

 

A Solstice Fire

I’m sitting alone by a roaring fire, a glass of delicious ale nearly finished, and all the fairy lights twinkling throughout the house. The darkest nights are upon us, regular as clockwork the Earth swings around the Sun, now our planet’s northern axis points 23.5o away from our constantly shining star. The ivy strands bedecking the walls are dark green signs of the eternal forces of nature alive even in the darkness.

The hearth of the home

The hearth of the home

This time of night’s pre-eminence has much to teach us; the preciousness of daylight hours, with the amount of things we can do outside currently restricted to a few activities, such as chopping wood, a brief walk by the sea, a few minutes staring at the sky and the birds.

Despite being alone physically I feel the warmth of my communities, electronically delivered words and pictures connect us (in addition to the more aetheric links that provide constant attachment). I see in my mind’s eye all the bonfires, ceremonies, parties, and people beside their own hearths, both with others and alone like myself. Some will have raised a glass to the Dies Natalis of the unconquerable sun, others barely aware of the imminent turn to lengthening daylight.

During these few days, the day length stands (to the casual observer at least) still. Solstice, a pause in the usual, a time outside of time. A chance to look at Life, our own and the world at large. A more homely festive day than the official New Year, a less pressured one than Christmas. This ancient anniversary gives us, whether secular or pagan by inclination, a chance to spend it as we Will.

My own ritual is described, in early 21st century style, by my facebook status: “Celebrating Solstice tonight (astronomically correct moment 2303h, or, 1503h down south). Gonna light a fire, say thankful words and direct attention to what I want to happen in the next cycle around our nearest star (ie prayers). Also, a good time to bring to mind those who existed in my past, those who will exist in my future, the ways life paths intertwine. This year I feel especially aware of how people we never meet can affect us so deeply, in their influence upon those we do. Hoping that I am mindful of how my own words and actions may spread out. Wishing a Merry Yule etc, to all my fabulous fb friends.”

We have talked of this practice of thankful prayers before on the Blog of Baphomet, and whilst I do this near enough every day at present, this night has a special significance.

Setting aside special time, sacred space, to stand aside from the tracks we run along everyday, gives us a chance to reflect upon whatever role we take in the timeless play that we can regard as the Mythic. What do you do? Not in your job, or even your family; what do you do when you perform your own unique skillset amongst the communities and groups you frequent? In your neighbourhood, in online forums, in social gatherings? I have lucky to have had my role given a title by others, as The Oracle, humorously meant yet appropriate; I say what I see, a quality which has not always made me many friends, but has kept me those whose worth I value.

Tonight, I shall take time out to give thanks for the many great mythic characters who surround me. The storytellers, the bards, the creators and organisers, the artists and music makers, the talkers and listeners, those who really know about mechanics, information flows, group dynamics, communication, style, movement, health and food, who generously share their knowledge. The tidy people who I have learnt much from in recent years, and those for whom sprawling chaos gives great joy. The kind ones, the comforters, the bestowers of gifts both tangible and otherwise. Those who have shown me the value of sharing one’s emotions. as well as thoughts. And of course those who taught me to make the fire, in so many ways.

I could give these friends names from myths, and dress their figures in the raiment of gods and goddesses, of priests and priestesses, I could compose paeans of praise to them for their glorious richness of engagement with life.

For now though as I type this in front of the fire which I lit from the candle flame which I lit as the daylight faded, I can only give what I write here now,  a pencil sketch of what I might do later on.

Merry Solstice to the amazing characters who I am lucky to share this world with, those I have met, and so many I have yet to meet!

And I also think of those who I will never meet with in days to come, their memories aglow with the fires they tended whilst alive. All of us influence so many more people than we can ever know. My own intention for the next year; to bear this in mind; well, as often as possible… 😉

NW