photo by meredith jenks

how to have a witchy winter solstice

grab your coven and celebrate the sun.

by elizabeth koke

Witchy women have been inspiring us for years with their unique style and ability to stand in their own power. We perennially refer to The Craft when contemplating wardrobe additions, TiVo’d all of American Horror Story: Coven, purchased a tarot deck at a craft fair, and when our roommates aren’t home we can be found lighting candles and twirling with Stevie Nicks at top volume. But what does it really mean to be a witch? What are some ways to start to cultivate your own magical powers?

Well, my sisters, this weekend is a perfect time to start. In addition to the lights, trees, and music of the holiday season, there is something in the air that inspires us all to take a moment to reflect, connect, be grateful, and celebrate. Long before Christians began to celebrate the birth of the Son, this time of year has marked the celebration of the birth of the Sun, also known as the Solstice.

To break it down quickly from a scientific point of view: For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, December 21st marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year, as the sun is furthest away from us in its orbit (it is the inverse for those lucky to be enjoying summer in the Southern Hemisphere). But the Winter Solstice isn’t just about the cold and darkness. It is also about light and warmth, because after December 21, the sun begins its journey back towards us and the days start to become longer again. Witches honor this moment by celebrating the Solstice, or Yule, with various rituals and traditions. Here are some you can do by yourself or with your own coven of friends.

Stay Up All Night

One way to celebrate the Solstice is to stay up all night in order to watch the sunrise to welcome in the sun. It’s okay to party—this is a celebration, after all! But before you break out the cocktail mixers and crank up your playlist, make some quiet time for yourself to reflect. Write in your journal; think about any darkness in in your life you would like to get rid of (eg. toxic relationships, negative inner voices, addictions, clutter) and picture them melting away at dawn’s first light. Think about exciting new creative projects, professional goals, and wellness plans you would like to focus on in the new year. Imagine harnessing the strength of the bright new sun so that you can be a beacon of light in all of your pursuits.

Baby, Light My Fire

Ever find yourself staring into the Yule Log channel on Cable TV? Well, that famous log has a long history dating back to early pagan religions when families would keep a fire burning on the longest night of the year. If you don’t have a fireplace, or the ability to create a bonfire in your backyard, you could grab a big fat candle. Witches believe fire has the power to cleanse and energize us. Write down some of those things you would like to let go of on little pieces of paper and then burn them. Then, take in the brightness and warmth of the flames and think about the things that inspire and excite you.

Make A Potion And Give A Toast

Wassail, a warm spiced beverage, is traditionally associated with Yule celebrations. Jenny McGruther at The Nourished Kitchen recently wrote a great post about this and shared her wassail recipe. As a witch, the most important thing to keep in mind when cooking is the energy you stir into the pot. If you decide to make some wassail to share with your friends, think about what you love about them as you shop for the ingredients, and the blessings you wish for them as you chop and mix things. You might also want to take a moment to think about who grew and harvested the fruits, and who distilled the alcohol, and feel grateful for their work. If your recipe involves eggs, take a moment to feel grateful for the chickens that made it possible for you to enjoy them. Being a witch means being aware of how all beings on earth are connected and how we rely on each other’s labor, talents, and gifts.

Grab Your Friends And Cast A Circle

If you are ready to get serious about practicing magic, casting a circle is a widely-practiced framework for many rituals (this WikiHow gives some great basic instruction). Once the circle is cast, you might ask your friends to share something about what is going on in their lives, the things they are thinking about, challenged by, and what they are looking forward to. You could then pass around a cup of wassail, wine, or cider and ask each friend to take a sip after she declares an intention for herself. With the intention of letting go of darkness and welcoming in light, you should feel empowered to get creative with your ritual—because as witches we learn to develop and trust the magic within us.

For some more resources, check out StarhawkMystic Mamma, and your own inner voice.

Elizabeth Koke is a writer, activist, and second-generation witch who lives and works and practices magic in New York City.