Last night I celebrated the Solstice with my Druid grove (yep, a day early- we meet on weekends for the convenience factor). The ceremony turned out to be really lovely (not to mention darling, since some of the members' little ones blessed us with fire and water and presented us with mistletoe). What I appreciated about the ceremony was the meditation on darkness and light, of the cycle of death and rebirth. In this time of the longest night, during the cold and dark part of the year, we celebrate the rebirth of the tiny flame... with the faith that this will bring us back to life, fruition, and the summerland. Our ceremony involved extinguishing all the lights until we meditated on the darkness- on our grief, on the losses we had during the year, on our struggles. And then we relit the center flame, and from it, each of our candles and the lanterns in the four directions. And as we did so, we spoke words about the rekindling of our hope, the rebirth of our soul, the faith we had in our capacity to start anew. We had, each of us, a black cloth that we wore- some tied to their arm or wrist, some at their waist or neck. The black cloth symbolized all that we struggled with, that we lost, that we despaired over this last year. With the recession and various life changes, it's been a rough year for the group and I think everyone was quite touched by calling to awareness these elements of our lives. When the central fire was relit, we dropped these cloths to the ground. They were no longer attached to us. We were letting go of this year to allow a rebirth into the next. The darkness was understood to be the womb of the Earth Mother... the deep and brooding potentiality. It is a necessary birthplace for light. Every light reaches its zenith and then burns out, only to be reborn once more as a faint but steady flame. And while this process, in birth and death, may feel sometimes so cruel and cold, it also allows us to be reborn and to let go of our troubles, our struggles, our flaws. As I see it, the Light of God has the power to renew our life, but we go through the shadow-lands first. As I drove home through the frosty night air, I thought about the ceremony and the upcoming Christmas Eve mass. Every year at the Episcopal and Lutheran churches I have attended, we celebrated the promise of the Christ, of God's Light in a little baby... that tiny child that brought so much hope. We each held a little candle, relit from a central flame- person to person, flickering in the dark church. We sang hymns of joy and hope and justice. The history is such that I cannot tell if the modern Druids built their ceremony off the Anglican church, or if the Christian traditions came from the Pagan solstice ceremony. And to me, this is fitting. Modern Druids celebrate the coming of the Sun-God as the Mabon, the child of light. Christians celebrate the coming of God as the Christ-child. In both, we celebrate the hope of God's love and the grace of rebirth. We honor the Goddess, the Virgin, the Earth Mother from whose dark and creative womb we spring. We honor the great mystery of God entwined with humanity. I thought about the many, many religions that celebrate during this time of deepest dark, the brightness of hope found in the Light. There is something so universal, so truthful about this celebration- something that transcends all the myriad of forms it takes. What experiences have you had during this height of darkness, and promise of light? Any and all religions, or no religion at all- I'd love to hear.