Snow blanketed the Hearth Grove as Danceswithweasels, Greenfingers, Vyvyan, Strider and Taleteller arrived for Alban Arthan. I (Taleteller) was running the ritual, my first time leading a ceremony for the Grove and I was pretty excited about it. Clouds obscured the sky and where the snow had receded the ground was muddy and littered with leaves – but we don’t do this sort of thing for the sense of comfort!
In a break from the usual, to really engage with the dark and cold of midwinter, we didn’t start the ritual with the fire burning. Instead, we carefully stacked some bundles of twigs, put a few logs on top of them, and left the pile there, awaiting the symbolic return of the light, anticipating the spark. This meant that we opened with just the quarter candles, and very beautiful they seemed, flickering in the night.
I’d devised the ritual to have three parts and ran it without a script, so things unfolded as they unfolded in the moment. Firstly a meditation and chant to connect with the energy of the Sun’s rebirth which culminated in Strider lighting the fire and the whole pit roaring into flame. Then the burning of a log – not a true Yule Log, as it hadn’t been charred a little in last year’s fire, but instead a log which had first been lit at our Beltane gathering, had sat beside the firepit drinking up the Summer sunshine until I’d picked it up at Alban Hefin with the intention of laying it on our pyre. It certainly felt appropriate to be remembering and looking forward to Summer as we gathered around the fire. Lastly, to honour the Earth as she slumbers in Winter, I spoke about the importance of rest, sleep, dreams, restoration – about the inspiration I find in the natural world in this season of hibernation and dormancy. We blessed a bowl of seeds with the Peace Prayer and passed them around the circle, speaking about the particular things that help us find rest and rejuvenation before eating some of the seeds and hoping these midwinter intentions would find root in us during 2018.
Before wrapping up the ritual, we took some time to think about those that hadn’t made it that night. To reflect on all the members of the Corieltauvi who have gathered in its two decades at one fire or another, and to think about all those who are yet to come. We retreated back up the cars to let the fire die out in the bowl and to share our feast. Plenty of Thermos flasks of hot liquid got passed around, one way or another, which was very welcome. The clouds had parted during the ritual, the whole panoply of stars looking down on us in frosted sparkles, and the air rapidly getting chillier. There was some shoving as car wheels span on the way out, but everyone departed in an orderly fashion.
All the best for this time of year and here’s to 2018,