The altar has been erected with loving care, each item carrying meaning and intent. Similarly, the hearth has been laid with care, the cauldron of gifts on the fireplace apron. Witches gather and greet one another.
The priest sings incantations as he prepares salt, water, and incense. During the course of the ritual, a newer coven member may stumble a bit on wording, but is quickly, gently, and lovingly righted on his footing by more experienced colleagues. The ritual unfolds seamlessly and gracefully.
We meditate on the year and the darkness. All candles are extinguished. Out of the darkness, a priestess lights the center Sun candle, then the other candles on the altar. I am struck by the beauty of the poetry she speaks as she brings back the light. A priest takes the flame from the altar candles and uses it to ignite the hearth fire.
We dance around the old year's dry wreath, chanting: "Horned One, Lover, Sun, leaping in the corn, deep in the Mother, die and be reborn." The priestess calls a drop and places the old wreath on the fire, where it roars and brightens the whole room. In some years, this act elicits cheers. This year, however, we gaze in silence -- contemplative, reflective, awestruck, warmed, renewed. We see a bright year ahead
After some time of communal silence, we exchange gifts from the cauldron, each a surprise to the recipient. We share culinary delights that each of us has brought to our common feasting. We engage in sacred conversation -- sacred because it takes place within the sacred circle.
We are rewarded for our efforts and our honoring (or maybe not by our efforts) by the return of the Sun, without whose light we and the many beings with whom we share this glorious green egg cannot thrive.
I am sustained, nourished, renewed by the sharing of this annual rite.
Solstice blessings to all! May your year be warm and bright like our burning wreath.