This Winter solstice, coming up on December 21, 2012 at 3:11 AM Pacific Time, is especially important. It marks a time of transition. According to the Mayan calendar this solstice marks the beginning of the age of flowers.
It marks a transition from selfishness to brotherhood, from individualism to collectivism and from an anthropocentric life to a biocentric life. This is a very important time to honor in some way. It is a time to honor and forgive the structure that has held life together up until this point. It is a time to move ourselves into a place of trust that a new structure is possible. The best intentions during this time are to be in trust and to do our part as unique individuals and as part of the greater collective.
What better way to celebrate the transition to the age of flowers than to mark the occasion with the ancient practice of honoring the four directions with plant essential oils? People have been honoring the 4 directions since ancient times in cultures throughout the world. Native American tribes use medicine wheels, the Celtic stone circles were thought to be used as temples, calendars, or even astronomical observatories; and the Chinese used the Element Wheel. Although each has its nuanced meanings, each culture honored the 4 directions and the natural rhythms of nature through these circles.
Here is a ceremony you can enjoy alone or with friends.
- Make a circle with stones marking the 4 directions – north south, east, and west – and one marking the center. It is best to make this circle outside, but it can also be made inside if you choose. The circle can be any size. It can large enough to fit a large group of people or small enough to fit on a plate or flat basket. The stones can be large rocks, beach stones, semi-precious gems, or whatever you choose to use.
- You may wish to light candles, burn incense, or play soft music while you do your ceremony.
- Cultures throughout the world believe that you need to protect your ceremonial space by cleansing the space by smudging it with herbs such as sage, sweet grass or cedar. The burning of herbs goes back to the ancient practices of Egypt, Asia, India, North and South America. Herbal smudges help to uplift the spirit and can be used for meditation, spiritual clearing, and healing practices. The offering of smoke helps connect heaven and earth.
Smudging a room or space: Light the smudge stick and walk about the perimeter of the space, giving special attention to the corners and the places behind doors. You may want to use a shell or ceramic bowl to hold under the herb bundle to prevent ashes from falling onto the floor. A large feather can be used to fan the smoldering smudge stick. After use, extinguish the smudge stick by dampening the stick out in sand, or earth or you can just press it against the bottom of the receptacle. Always make sure that a smudge stick is out before leaving the room where you keep it.
Smudging yourself: Fan the swirls of smoke around your body from head to toe. You may want to focus on areas where you feel there are blockages or where there has been or is physical, emotional, or psychic pain. Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached themselves to you.
Smudging another: It is often appropriate to smudge guests as they enter the space at a ritual, ceremony or special event. Smudge as if you were smudging yourself, fanning the smoke all over their body. You may want to speak an intention or a suggestion for the smudging. Allow the sacred smoke to cleanse your body and spirit bringing you to the present moment.
- Place a small bowl on or near each stone that is marking the directions including the center stone. Pour the following essential oils diluted in either olive oil or jojoba oil into these bowls. (The dilution should be 10% essential oil and 90% olive or jojoba oil. ) Each of these oils works to balance the earth element that is represented by that direction.
- East: Rose representing the air element, spring time, renewal, joy, love, and the heart.
- South: Rosemary representing fire, summer, transformation, creativity, and the solar plexus.
- West: Ylang ylang representing water, autumn, flow, letting go, endings, and the sacral region.
- North: Cedarwood representing earth, winter, wisdom, compassion, and the base of the spine and the lower extremities.
- Center: Frankincense, representing space, the present, our individuality, our true nature.
- Prepare an offering: Bring something of importance to you to offer to and honor one or all of the directions.
1. Enter the circle from the East. Before entering, smudge yourself, or have someone smudge you using a cedar or sage wand.
2. Step into the circle.
3. After all participants are in the circle, stand facing the east. As you face this direction, meditate for a few minutes on the qualities you are honoring in that direction. This can come from your intuition, from information you have gathered, or from the qualities of each directions listed above. The leader of the ceremony may want to say some of these qualities out loud to help people with this. For example, while facing east, I might say, “I honor the east, love, joy, spring, renewal, taking clear action, setting clear intentions.”
4. Have each person put a drop of rose oil on their finger and rub it on the skin over their heart. Honor the spirit and beauty of the rose and the qualities of the east as you do this. Thank the rose plants for their oils. Allow the aroma of the plant’s oil to flow through you and fill your body with its nature.
5. Repeat this in each direction, including the center, working with the oil and qualities of each direction.
6. Have each person move to the direction for which they are called to at this point in time.
7. One at a time, invite each person, if they choose, to share what they might be learning from the direction they chose and have them make their offering and say whatever words they want in honor of the direction of their choice. The direction for the offering can be different than the direction I chose to stand at this moment. For example, I might stand in the south and say, “I am learning to honor my creativity. I make my offering to the North to honor the Earth.” I would place my offering in the North.
8. When everyone is finished making their offerings, invite everyone to honor and forgive the structure that has held life together up until this point. Take a moment of silence around this invitation.
9. Invite everyone to set an intention of trust. Trust that a new structure is possible. A structure that emphasizes kinship, expanded consciousness, appreciation for all life, unity, and love, Take a moment of silence around this invitation.
10. Take a moment of silence to appreciate and find gratitude in each other, the ceremony, the directions, and the moment.
11. Leave the circle to the east.
Kim Stokely is co-owner of Ancient Ways Botanicals and is passionate about supporting healing and wholeness in individuals and their communities.