Winter Solstice Ritual For Love

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This is a special guest post from my marvelous friend Margaret Emerson:

Spending time in nature has the incredible ability to make us feel peaceful and grounded. As an ecopsychologist, I know that human beings need a connection to something wild, whether that be a pet, a garden, or a mountain in order to feel soulful and happy. I see how couples who backpack, hike or garden together are able to—at least for a while—put their troubles behind them when they immerse themselves in the beauty of the wilderness.

Studies have shown that spending time simply walking in a natural setting (as opposed to simply walking in the mall, for example) can have immense psychological benefits, including reduced anxiety and depression.margaretemerson

One way to honor the natural world and actual form a relationship to the land where you reside is to acknowledge the passing of the seasons. Solstice ceremonies and rituals date back millennia, when societies were much more in tune with natural cycles because their very livelihood and wellbeing was so intricately tied to the land, the weather and their animals. Celebrations were rich with food and drink—one last feast before the start of the long period of uncertainty and possibly starvation during the cold months of January through April.

We are now approaching the next solstice, which is the winter solstice, or the first day of winter, typically falls around December 21st in the northern hemisphere. The solstice is the day in which the sun begins to rise earlier and set later, making for longer days and shorter nights. The day of the solstice is the shortest (and darkest) day of the year, but it’s also the beginning of a trend toward longer days, even though it marks the first day of winter.

I designed a do-it-yourself winter solstice ritual around the concept of preparing a seed that will hopefully sprout and take root in the spring, both literally and figuratively. Because the solstice is the start of longer days at the same time it’s the beginning of the coldest season, it represents the preparation for new beginnings at a time when it’s easy to forget that things will once again thrive and grow. Maybe you’ve lost something of importance to you this year.

Maybe something didn’t quite turn out the way you had hoped—a relationship, a job, or a financial venture. On the day of the solstice, you want to plant “seeds” for new beginnings and new hope for things to blossom for you in the coming year. The seeds will lay dormant for a few months, just as your dreams may lay dormant while you make background preparations for the changes you want to make.

This is a ritual you can do alone or with a friend or romantic partner.

You’ll need a few days to research and prepare for this ritual. You want to lay the groundwork and give your seeds the best possible chance to grow and thrive. First, you’ll need to know what are some of the native plants or grasses that grow in your bioregion. Here where I live in Colorado, buffalo and blue gamma are the native grasses that grow in the plains right up to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

For the ritual I’m doing, I bought a small amount of this seed at my local nursery. Learning about the native plants in your area is a way to know more about the land where you live, more than just where the nearest mall is. It’s the kind of knowledge our ancestors needed in order to live sustainably with their bioregion.

Once you have a list of native plants, you can visit your local nursery order seeds online. Purchase a small amount of some kind of grass, wildflower or plant that will grow without much human input in a meadow, open space or park near your home.

Next, find out what time the sun rises on December 21st where you live. This will be important for your ritual. Also, think of a park, wild area or trail that has a good view toward the southeast horizon near where you live. Preferably, this should be a wild area that isn’t landscaped with grass, an area that would be good ground for growing the seeds you purchased. Ideally, it should be an area where the plants you purchased already grow naturally or where the ecosystem would not be disrupted with its introduction.

On the night before the solstice, take a small amount of the seeds and mix them with compost, garden soil or some kind of seed starter mix. Place the mixture in the middle of a square of brown paper bag, like a lunch bag or a grocery bag. Carefully wrap the mixture as if you were wrapping a gift, and secure it with thread or a very thin piece of tape. You will be taking this with you on the morning of the solstice, along with a pen or marker.

On the morning of the solstice, plan on arriving at the natural area or park at least 15 minutes before the sun is scheduled to rise. After parking your car or arriving on foot, take a minute to center yourself in the space and state your intention –

What are you here for? Ask the land permission and blessing for your ritual.

You and your partner should then begin to walk or hike on the trail in meditative silence, allowing yourself to be mindful of your surroundings. Notice the way the air smells, the way the wind sounds as it moves across the land or through the trees. Notice if you hear any wildlife. What does the sky look like in this moment at sunrise on the shortest day of the year?

You’ll want to walk or meander in this space for a short time, watch the sunrise if possible, and relax into the surroundings. Then, when you’re ready, take out the seed packet you prepared and the pen you brought with you. What do you want to let go of that you’ve lost in the last year? What new challenges or hopes do you have for the coming year? What “seeds” would you like to plant for your life on this day?

Write down some words directly on the brown paper that represent what you are hoping to incubate and nurture for next year. It could be things like a good relationships, a new understanding of someone you love, better friendships, a new job or career. Perhaps you want to nurture new, positive habits. Write down two or three words to represent your hopes and goals.

Let your heart lead you to a spot where you know your seeds have the best possible chance to grow in the spring—a spot with lots of sunshine and good soil. Take the seed packet and place it under the snow or bury it a little bit on the ground (depending on the weather that day). Place it somewhere where it won’t easily be found, where it will remain sacred and safe.

Return to your home or car again in silence, to honor the moment and contemplate both the real seeds you’ve placed on the earth and the metaphorical seeds you’ve placed in your subconscious that will hopefully take root and thrive in the months ahead.

When you return home, have a big breakfast feast—lots of delicious sweet and savory things to nourish you. Share your impressions with your friend or partner. Talk about how you can help nurture each other’s “seeds” in the months to come.

This is a new “outside of your head” way of bonding with them, and you may find yourself remembering in the days ahead how magical it felt to be out in nature at sunrise on the shortest day of the year, in a solitude we don’t often experience in the city.

This is Margaret’s site…go here for more information on ecopsychology and nature-based practices ->

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  1.  #1gina on December 12, 2009 at 2:10 am

    oh my gosh…I haven’t read this article yet. But I can’t resist this opportunity to share a major mondo success. Rori…THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!

    Tonight, after a very successful True Beauty Workshop, I joined my roommate for a trip to a salsa club that I never get to visit, cause usually I waitress on the weekends. Guess who was there…YES! Johnny!! (who i slept with on halloween, but haven’t spoken to or seen since – just a few emails and texts back and forth, but we haven’t communicated at all in the last 3 weeks). He came up and he immediately shared how relieved he is that he has had 2 job offers, and now he has a couple of weeks of vacation – he feels really good. We had a conversation where he indirectly covered all the bases about why he’s out and why he hasn’t called, without actually addressing the issue (he’s been at the hospital with his Grandfather every night – but then, at another point of the conversation, I coulda sworn that he said that he’s been helping his grandfather around *the house* every day…he painted a picture of what a freakin phenomenal guy he is by sharing that he’s been recording conversations with his grandfather cause he’s planning to write a memoir for him… he goes to this salsa club cause it’s right around the corner – he called it “recession” partying…it was a pleasant conversation in spite of the massive pink elephant in the room, that he was describing so prettily, without actually acknowledging it. I walked away as soon as I could to get started having fun in spite of him. Later we crossed paths and he said “oh did you want to dance?” I said “actually, I just wanted my drink” he kinda laughed, and then he awkwardly suggested a dance again, and I went with it. It was sort of a romantic song- Bachata style. the dance felt weird, cause he always used to put his pelvis close to me, but now I was like “no thanks” – and the connection was hot and cold. After the dance he lingered near me, but I walked away. I noticed that I didn’t feel so good after we danced. Like I was getting smaller. I saw him dancing with lotsa girls (and I was busy dancing, too), but there was one girl in particular that I noticed he danced super well with, and it was like I realized that we didn’t click. and I was completely okay with that. I passed him a couple more times – smiled and kept right on walking. Then he approached me for another dance…and I said…

    (big smile as I shook my head “no”)…and said “It’s been fun to see you, but I don’t wish to speak to you anymore. No hard feelings though.”

    Him: “You don’t wish to speak to me?”

    Me: (shook my head “no”) “You understand, right?”

    Him: (he sits, as though we’re going to discuss it. And I go ahead and I sit down next to him) “Well its been a tough call. Cause you made it clear from the very beginning that you weren’t willing to drive to Dallas…”

    Me: “Yes, but I really appreciate straight forward clarity in relationships, and I just don’t feel the basic trust necessary for even a casual friendship…”

    Him: “But no hard feelings…”

    Me: “…no…” (big smile)

    Him: “Warm feelings…”

    Me: (huge smile) “I wish you the BEST!!”

    Him: (he laughs as he repeats what I said) “Ha…’I wish you the best’…”

    and we walked away from eachother. Ha. ha. ha. ha .ha. ha. pat on my back and a big thank you to Rori and all the Goddesses on her. THIS FELT GOOD.

  2.  #2gina on December 12, 2009 at 2:15 am littel revision. At the climax of our conversation, what I actually said was…” Me: “Yes, but I really appreciate straight forward clarity in relationships. I felt in the dark…and it’s not okay. I just don’t feel the basic trust necessary for even a casual friendship…”

    oooooh so good.

  3.  #3gina on December 12, 2009 at 2:38 am

    whoa…another revision…”a big thank you to Rori and all the Goddesses on HERE” – not “her.” oops!

  4.  #4Daria on December 12, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Omg GIna so WEIRD!! like in a good way…l didn’t see that one coming…

    i feel shocked and kinda dazed… and good… lsot but good… i feel glad you feel good. that felt pretty awesome

  5.  #5Jennifer on December 12, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Hey Gina..
    I feel fantastic for you!!!!

    As for this post….being a person who leans to the wiccan side of things..this ROCKS for me!
    I also do a Winter Solstice energy clearing.
    I use a new 100% beeswax candle.
    An hour before dawn on the solstice I take some paper and write down the things I wish to leave behind from this past year. I tear each individual thing from the paper in long strips and in the light of the candle, burn them.
    ( I have a fire proof dish for the end of the burning)
    As each one burns I think about the issue and try to find some way to be grateful for the experience.
    I could do these both together and I think it would be powerful stuff!
    Burn out the old…plant seeds for the new! FANTASTIC!!!

  6.  #6dawn on December 12, 2009 at 6:54 am

    I am a goddess. I am worhty of love. I will not die alone. I will not suffer. I am a soulful being relying on my heart to guide me. I do not wish to conquer but to harmonize with those around me. I feel joy to be who I am. I feel love . I have put the past where it belongs. I carry my dreams with me. I am the one who treads lightly but stands firm . I am focused and alive. My energy will be spent wisely. My arrows will not go to those who are undeserving. I love myself. I will teach you how to love me. I will open my heart and let you in if you are worthy. I will honor you if you honor me. I will love you if you love me. Just puttin it in the universe !

  7.  #7Tara on December 12, 2009 at 8:14 am

    The Solstice Ritual is so beautiful! I celebrate all the solstices and equinoxes, and have been looking for a new one for Yule this year. This is awesome! Thanks!

    Dawn: loved your last post! There’s so much power and self-respect there! 🙂

  8.  #8Katie on December 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I love the ideas in this post. Planting seeds at the darkest time and linking this ritual with what I want to grow next year, beautiful and I am going to do this on 21st if I possibly can.
    I feel like I want to make two little packets of seeds and plant them both.
    Both would have an intention – one to do with my life, just me, and the other to do with a relationship next year. Then I won’t feel that I’ve heaped all my energy into the relationship area alone. This has been a tendency through my past, when I have put all my hope on the one man in my life at that time – not good – I know!! I came unstuck this year and got very hurt and it is time to grow and move forwards in my own way, on my own, and if there is a good relationship on the cards then it will be a bonus.

  9.  #9cookie on December 12, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    my birthday is on the 21st, i will be 31. I have watched so many people create families, either through childbirth or marriage in the past couple of years. so many years. i have been with the same man for 8 years. long and short story. not the point. i have been undecided about marriage and forevers but i realized that my heart wants that, it always has. i will perform my own solstice ceremony, i really can’t follow this one where i live. but i will create my own ceremony around newness and planting metaphorical seeds that will grow and flourish in the upcoming year. i can’t wait to be creative.

  10.  #10Daria on December 13, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Cookie hi! I feel glad to c u agian!

  11.  #11Daria on December 13, 2009 at 4:19 am

    what ritual shall i have… it feels difficult to imagine getting up or staying up until sunrise…

    i usually stay up until 3 or 4, any later thatn that I feel SUPER RESISTANT to and afraid ill get sick, like ill fry my adrenal system

    so maybe I can do something in the middle of that nite, and in the middle of the day.
    It feels nice to think of planting something in the middle of that day… heee! My mom and I can plant my money plant from the feng shui money corner in the garden! I think the poor plant is getting tired of being in that pot.

    at nite I can go out and bless the nite, and do a Genius symbol Game with my rocks.!

    wow! that just came to me. Awesome

  12.  #12person on December 13, 2009 at 8:22 am

    omg, you people are hilarious…
    honestly, leave me alone, “Rori” you’re creepy, I don’t know who you are and I don’t need this shit. stop sending me those emails, it’s weird. i dont need it. i don’t care what you have to say, my love life is fine, and it’d be better without you. go annoy someone else with your love crap, and have a nice day! 🙂

  13.  #13Flipper on December 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I love the idea of planting the seeds in little brown packets you can write on. I was already planning to join my Cakes for the Queen of Heaven sisters where we’ll exchange candles and do a burning bowl. Practically everyone else lives in an apartment in the middle of the city . Now I want to make little seed packets for them, and will offer to plant them in my garden in the suburbs if they don’t have any possibility of sowing them outdoors in the cold (all the native flora here must withstand freezing, but those same plants would not survive in a heated space during the winter).

  14.  #14Bonnie on December 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Rori,

    I purchased your Targeting Mr. Right Program resently
    and enjoyed it very much. I found it very insightful in figuring out what we want in a relationship and how to go about it. I have to say that some of the concepts I find very scary to do but I also know that if I’m going to attract the man that I want for myself I got to at least try some of them.

    Dating three men at a time I find very scary because I have never done it before. And I do have guilt about dating more than one man at a time. I do have an on-line profile and I have had many men respond to me ad. I am dating one of them now. We have really connected well and have been dating two to three times a week. And though its been hard for me to not to fall back into old dating habits for instance calling him. This time around I have resisted that urge to call and make plans to get together. He has been the one calling me to see if I’m free to date him. He has been the one comming over to pick me up for dates. We only met in separate cars for the first two dates and since then he has come to me. It feels so good to have a man pursue me this way. I feeling like I am in a dream and don’t want to wake up.

    We have been dating for a month now and I have enjoyed him very much but now I am feeling some old insecurities in me comming up. That I’m not good enough to have such a good relationship. And I know intellectually that is what we all do when something good happen in our lives and we start with the self doubt and that inner self critic that starts tearing down our good feelings that we are having about ourselves. I have been having self esteem issues with myself because I have been looking for full time work for over a year now and seem to land a job. I am only working two part time jobs that barely pays for me to live with no extra cash flow which very scary for me. I know how important it is for me to good about myself first before I get someone else involved in my life. And I have gone out by myself and did things I enjoy doing like going to see a movie or I have gone to a local church that has single dances about twice a month. Even though I am proud of myself for getting out there and making myself be seen. I find that the good feelings I feel when I do that only makes me more aware of how lonley I really am to have someone to share life with.

    The guy that I am dating is aware that I am looking for full time work and only working two part time jobs and rent a room out of a house with a male roommate. And he is still interested in me. Which surprises me because I thought once he knew this he would not want to date me. My dilemma is how do I stop this self doubt I have with myself and just enjoy it. I am afraid I’m going to sabatage a potentially good relationship by my own insecurities I have with myself. Any suggestions?

  15.  #15Amarie on December 14, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Wow, I really love this ritual. I especially feel relieved hearing about the silence part… I love contact between people with silence, especially with ritual.
    Thanks, Rori

  16.  #16Margaret on December 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and comments about my winter solstice ritual! I’m hoping that it sparks your creativity and imagination on how you can go out into nature on December 21st and plant the “seeds” of new beginnings. Even thinking about it for a few days does things in our subconscious and starts the process of change.

    One of the reasons I chose to indicate to learn about native flora and to place seeds that are beneficial or non-invasive is because this ritual is a way of healing the Earth as well as your soul. Think about it – what if thousands and thousands of people did this ritual instead of cutting down trees and then trashing them after Christmas? We would have a lot less waste and we would bring back some of the native species that may have been compromised in the development of towns and suburbs.

    Healing the Earth, and healing yourself. That’s what it’s all about!

  17.  #17Rori Raye on December 14, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    To all – I was at first going to delete this after I answered “person” personally and let her know how to get off the list…but also…I thought it would be helpful to publicly deal with this kind of thing. Isn’t this a bit like dating? And life in general? Every day you are a public person and living in the world, you put yourself at risk of “rejection” and attracting “negativity” and getting triggered. And if we get into “fear” and “anger” and “drama” around this…then we close ourselves up and get small – which is the opposite of the openness and expansiveness we want to encourage in ourselves…so, for me, allowing myself to “feel” this triggering (so little now, since I’ve experienced this so many times already…) – is all part of the healing. It brings up for me a trigger that really DID affect me…a movie I watched with my husband that surprised me by being hugely disturbing and violent and awful (next time I’ll “” first) – and which still feels like a walking nightmare in my system. I work with it – I’m working with it, embracing the feelings and images that are getting triggered…and keeping in mind for the future…that catching the red flags early, and not reading, watching, participating in, or going towards things that will drain your energy – that you KNOW on some level will drain your energy is what you want to step AWAY from. No need to close off – I would normally just delete this (times past, I would write the person and try to win them over…I believe you’ve seen that happen here, and it really was helpful for the woman and eye-opening for all of us) – but now, I think “delete” and “business-like” is the way for us to go. So – keep that in mind for all your old toxic patterns…and what one person finds creepy, one finds exhilarating…aren’t we unique! If we don’t OVERLOAD ourselves with this kind of thing by walking INTO traps like “The Girlfriend Trap” – we can handle whatever shows up as a lesson. Love, Rori

  18.  #18Rori Raye on December 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Wow, Bonnie – you’re doing GREAT!!! Just keep moving forward with your life, the way you are, and Circular Dating by flirting and just FEELING available, and having simple coffee dates as much as you can. The insecurity feelings are what you want to work with…that’s what Circular Dating cures…you can do this! And best of luck with this new fellow…Love, Rori

  19.  #19Rori Raye on December 14, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Margaret, Thank you for the post and for adding to it’s value even more with your comment…The whole concept here of “seed” is very beautiful. Love, Rori