For the first time I had an impulse to drive the 650 round trip to Keswick, Cumbria, to take part in the Winter solstice Druid ceremony of Alban Arthan at Castlerigg stone circle. I had no idea why I felt the pull to go and it didn't make any logical sense but I felt I had to be there! I was able to combine this with staying with my sister who lives 30 miles from Keswick, which was a lovely treat so near to Christmas.
Solstice means 'stand still' referring to the seasonal movement of the sun's path (as seen from the earth) as it comes to a stop before reversing direction - the Winter solstice is the point of greatest darkness when the night is longest.
Meeting with our druid for a pre ceremony briefing, we learned more about the solstice ceremony and were invited to participate by playing one of the roles. We were given a programme and script and I imemdiately had my eye on a role called the Peace Giver but as he called out the roles and explained what they were connected with, I unexpectedly found my hand raising pretty swiftly in response to a call for a Direction Holder in the South. � It appeared this role is associated with nature, abundance and Beltane energies so no surprise that an unconscious part of me wanted this role and not the one my logical head desired! For those who don't know, I have a pretty deep and all consuming connection with nature and abundance has been a focus for me for a while now....
There were a wide range of people gathering, children and dogs included, and we set off from the centre of Keswick on a 45 minute walk to the circle, which went well until the last 20 minutes where the path became very steep - I wasn't the only one completely puffed out by the time I got to the site!!
When we reached the plateau where the circle lies it was a calm and ethereal scene - slightly misty in the distance and lowish light meant for a very atmospheric scene. Some of us wandered amongst the stones waiting for the rest of our gathering and the ceremony to begin - taking photographs before dusk fell. I was trying to sense energy from the stones but apart from a feeling that they were very appreciative of presence and a knowing and expectation of why we had come, the energy was subtle and hard to read. I was filled with gratitude for the beautiful landscape around us, which is stunning, and gratitude for myself for having made the effort to be present to give thanks and receive blessings for the completion of another cycle of the year.
Our druid encouraged us to ad lib if we felt drawn to say something off script, dogs were allowed to wander about, as were children, which was lovely as it felt a real collaborative family event where there was respectful ceremony yet a relaxed knowing that it didn't matter if we said our lines wrongly or needed to be prompted.
We gathered in a very large circle within the sacred space, those who had volunteered to take on roles got into their right place in the circle - somehow I was standing in the North and had to take a swift run across the circle to get into the South position �, the Yule logs were lit (that took some doing in the breeze that had picked up), props were distributed to those burning incense, spraying water (yes we were lightly blessed with water!) or carrying dried mistletoe, the circle was cast and the ceremony began.
I found during the ceremony there was a real sense of love and respect for the earth and each other, a few laughs when things didn't quite go according to plan - the druid marching through a deep puddle was one when he cast the circle - and it was wonderful to see some children also participating. It was quiet, no phones going off and there were a few spectators outside the circle who observed quietly.
I loved being blessed with a sprinkling of water and then smudged with incense and then taking a sprig of the Golden Bough (last years dried mistletoe), placing it in the sacred flame and thinking about what I want to kindle for the seasons ahead. I loved how we all said the sacred words invoking the opening and closing of the gateways and the spirit of the ceremony. Afterwards we were provided with mulled wine, hot chocolate and mince pies to warm us up then we wandered back into Keswick, in the darkness, the pathway lit by our lanterns and torches. Quite magical!
Through this experience I was reminded of the significance and energy of words and how, to me, they are sacred symbols. We would do well to be mindful that words are energy and as such are powerful when you think about the intention behind them, they can be used to heal or harm, consciously or unconsciously ourselves or others. As energy, words and language and indeed thoughts, can lower or raise our vibration.
I was also reminded of the power of the energy of the group, a sincere intention to celebrate the earth multiplied by perhaps the presence of 40 or 50 people. The impact of this ceremony would have given people food for thought, the energy generated with open hearts will undoubtedly ripple out to more than were present. The nature of my work tends to keep me in isolation to an extent, so this year I have set an intention to be open to group and collaborative connections, in whatever way that shows up for me.
And simply the joy of standing with strangers, coming together in unison for the purpose of celebration. I am so grateful that I took the opportunity to go - a chance Google search led me there on an impulse - feeling blessed �.
Will I return for the Summer solstice?????? ��� wait and see