Winter solstice is a time when the North Pole is tilted the furthest away from the sun thus making it the shortest day of the year. We celebrate this time for many reasons. Primarily it is a grand time for reflection of our experiences between now and last year.  It is also an opportunity to set goals for the year ahead. Symbolically we may set a tone in anticipation for the return of the sun as it moves closer to the North Pole once again.  This year winter solstice happened to be on the same day of the full moon another opportunity to release the old and bringing in the new, so I thought it would be appropriate to include this as my first official blog entry.
The Space
Great work always starts out with intention and will so I create a sacred circle that encompasses my entire house. I pray for blessings of  the space. Another tool I use is visualization. In my mind I see a huge beam of light shining down over my whole house from the sky, kind of like rays of light permeating through the trees in the forest. Please see examples below:
Then I proceed to clear the energy in the space through burning sage and incense. white sage is what I use the most. I also like to burn frankincense and myrrh and copal. After the burning and smoke I follow up with consecrating the space with holy water using a spray bottle or dipping my fingers into a bowl and splashing all corners. I walk the space always in a clockwise motion as that is the direction of ascension. I want the energy of my space (and myself) to ascend into a higher frequency.
The Altar
The next thing I did was gather items for the altar. There are many different uses for an altar. I like to think of them as doorways for the kind of energy we want to invite to our sacred space; for example, one will most likely see an altar centrally located in a church. Items  usually include a cross,  holy water and  items for communion such as wafers and wine.  It is also a place where we keep our ritual tools, offerings and other magical items. You can build an altar for all occasions and intentions. There are two altars in my house one is the everyday living altar and the other is one to honor my ancestors (boveda). In the past I have had altars in every room!
I have attached a photo of the solstice altar (see below). The key factors at play when I build an altar are intention and representation. The intention is Solstice and in all my altar building I represent the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), four directions (north, south, east and west). There are a few different ways to arrange the elements and directions.Starting clockwise, I place fire items in the south. There are three candles that will be eventually lit. I have chosen three; red for prosperity and passion;  green for abundance and magic workings; and white for peace and purity. Next we have west which has two cups of blessed holy water; the smaller cup is stationary and the larger will be used in ritual. The north represents earth and usually I use natural items such as stones, crystals and natural items. I have a crystal here, a statue of Buddha made of amber; fruit as offerings to honor the higher power and symbolizes fertility . The east is for air and generally I like to put my incense, sage , feathers and anything else that correlates to it.
There are other items chosen for solstice directly. The sunstone on the left represents the return of the sun, the wreath, the cauldron in the middle (we would use this during the ritual later),  The golden hippo was placed there for personal reasons and also for its rich gold color and as mentioned above, the fruit. I also have a Norfolk Island pine and Christmas Cactus.
The Ritual
What is a ritual? Before I move into describing the solstice ritual, I would like to provide my definition of what a ritual is.  In very basic context, rituals are based on repetitive courses of action possibly involving a series of words, objects, gestures and/or intentions. They may be at a certain place, done at a specific time in an exact manner. One of the most popular rituals is the brushing of one’s teeth. We always use the same object-the toothbrush as a means to scrub every surface and crevice in the mouth, we do it everyday at the same time in the same place. Certain rituals may also happen periodically. Examples of this include family customs during the holidays, birthday celebrations and rites of passage.
To start out the ritual my partner and I pulled from my deck of Mana Cards. We did this for guidance on perhaps things we may not consider during this work. In order to empty the mind, we meditated for 10 minutes. We did this in silence. Then we each wrote down on pieces of paper things that we want to release. Then we each took turns reading the contents of our list outside to the moon. After verbally releasing each item, we placed the pieces of paper in the cauldron one by one to be burned. Luckily I went first because  Juniper woke up during her father’s turn. At first I panicked as I thought I would have to break my focus by putting her back to sleep. Instead I decided to let her hang out with us for the second part of the ritual. She was happy to be with us and her joy added to the vibe of the ceremony. We concluded this part by using the element of earth and water to ground the work into the physical. Before the ritual we each chose a stone from our personal collections, we held on to our stones and sent our intentions and energies meant to be released this year into them. Then we placed the stones in the large chalice of water, still sending intention to thus be washed away to start anew.
So the first part was all about releasing parts of ourselves that no longer served us. Now we have to replace them with something new and positive.  We each took turns writing down desires and goals, and once again speaking the list outside to the moon. We kept these lists and placed them on the altar when this was finished. We then sat in silent prayer giving thanks, asking for forgiveness and blessing to humanity.  We ended it with “so mote it be” which is another way to say “so must it be”. I do this to conclude the work and give gratitude for the opportunity.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more magic!