Winter Solstice Traditions & Spiritual Inner Work

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man and woman holding hands in the snow

The winter solstice on December 21 marks the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Long nights and darkness are associated with the subconscious, dreams, and spirit realms. Thus, winter is a time for turning inward, reflection, and deep spiritual inner work.

It's during this time that you can get to work on some amazing winter solstice traditions to help increase your spirituality and ground yourself in the present.

The winter solstice is a time to let go of the past and embrace the coming year. And for this reason, learning how to practice inner work and open yourself spiritually to the magic of the solstice is important.

Historically, there have been many ways to do this, over numerous cultures all across the world.

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What are some winter solstice traditions and how are they celebrated?

In many parts of the world, people celebrate the winter solstice the same way they've done for thousands of years.

The rise and spread of scientific rationalism and intolerant religious and political views abolished many solstice traditions, driving them underground.

For example, Christians severely curtailed pagan beliefs and sacred practices. Still, they adopted and popularized many of their winter traditions, such as hanging mistletoe, gift-giving, and the burning of yule logs.

These practices are common in both religious and non-religious ceremonies.

But nowadays, the world is seeing a bit of a resurgence of winter solstice traditions. Many people are openly returning to the celebration of pagan rituals and rites, choosing these practices instead of religion-driven celebrations.

What does it mean to practice spiritual inner work, and how does the winter solstice fit in?

Historically, the winter solstice was considered sacred and a solemn time. People gave offerings and paid thanks to gods, goddesses, or some other sacred representation of the sun.

The ancient Celts, for example, believed that during winter, the sun stood still for 12 days, which was why it was so important to keep the yule log burning, so you could chase away the darkness and keep your home warm and bright.

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Other cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time to rejoice. It was a sign that the sun would be returning.

Daylight hours were increasing, signaling that all living things would soon be waking up and flourishing again. So instead of a solemn practice, it was a time of joy and welcoming in vibrancy and life.

Nowadays, energy healers and the general public conduct energy healing and clearing ceremonies during the winter solstice.

They create intention grids and reinforce them with crystals, herbs, and energy healing. Solstice celebrations are in a resurgence.

The winter solstice is a time to let go.

On the winter solstice, people let go of what no longer serves them. One classic way to do this is to burn effigies. Effigies are figures that represent those they despise, who caused them great harm, or who had an unhealthy hold on them.

You can practice this by releasing relationships that no longer serve you, as well as bad habits, negative work issues, and toxic elements in your life that are holding you back from what you want to be or experience.

You can do this by burning lists of your own undesirable behaviors, or even the year's painful experiences. The idea is to transmute negative past experiences, freeing their future from their unfortunate past.

Additional cleansing practices might include smoke cleansing, ritual baths, and biophysical purging and detoxification with herbs. This might mean colonics, enemas, and special diets.

Meditation, prayer, and other rituals are often combined with the detoxification process.

The deep cleanse is often said to open an individual or a community to access higher spiritual and personal connection and purpose. It establishes a clear and supportive foundation to articulate and usher in new intentions for a new year.

For many, the solstice cleansing process is a week or 10 days in duration. Interestingly, 10 days span the winter solstice and the New Year. Most people form their New Year's resolutions over this 10-day period.

Use this time to reflect, set your intentions, and clear away what stands in your way using some of these winter solstice traditions, or even by creating your own. Don't let the old, sour elements of your year linger and hang on into the new one.

Use this amazing time of year to let go and invite new, positive things into your life!

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Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D., ACC is a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) leadership coach and a certified Martha Beck life coach. For more information, contact her or visit her website.

This article was originally published at Starchaser-Healing Arts. Reprinted with permission from the author.