Women of the Winter Solstice 2020

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A 2020 RitualArtworK

Curated by Fern Smith

WOMEN OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE a geographically spread, socially distanced ceremony

Women of the Winter Solstice: A geographically spread, socially distanced ceremony

with gratitude to Amalia Sommariva, Gilly Adams, Clare Whistler, Sheena McMahon, Katy Jones, Donna Males, Suzanne Iuppa, Carole Shearman, Helen iles, Linda Alton, Judy Ling-Wong, Emily Hinshelwood, Katie Slee, Rachel Hasler, Lorena Rivera de Beer, Julia, Marega Palser, Andy Legh-Smith, Lena Šimić, Ailsa Richardson, Theresia Guschlbauer, Rosie Leach, Christina Birrer-Fetzer, Christina Jackson-Szczyrbowski, Katja Machleidt, Chris Bird-Jones, E.S, Judith Mills, Julia Forster, Phil Ralph and Suzi Gablik.

A RitualArtwork Curated and Produced by Fern Smith Front cover image: Helen iles Above image: Fern Smith Back cover image: Suzanne Iuppa

A Ceremony for the Winter Solstice 2020

The Winter Solstice is one of the great turning points of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it represents the shortest day and the longest night. In mid-December, I sent out an invitation to join with me in marking the 2020 Winter Solstice. This went out to a network of women all of whom either practise or have an interest in finding out more about ritual and ceremony. Within a week or so, I received responses from 30 women from within and outside the UK, the majority of whom participated in the creation of this book. This book has been created with a view to honouring and sharing each woman’s individual ceremonies and any reflections or insights gained from them. The women’s ‘DIY ceremonies’ were intuitive and did not follow a particular form or structure imposed by organised religion or specific spiritual traditions though they may have been informed or inspired by them. The ceremonies or rituals created are not only of individual significance but are also intended to be in service of the wider collective. They represent a form of ‘sacred activism’ in support of the planet and all beings, present, past, and future. I wholeheartedly thank all the women for joining me and allowing me to join with them. This collaborative RitualArtworK gave significance to and helped honour a moment which could so easily have passed unnoticed given the strangeness and disruption of these times.

The Ceremony within a Global Context The Winter Solstice of 2020 fell, along with the Autumn Equinox, Summer Solstice, and the Spring Equinox, during the time of a global pandemic caused by the Coronavirus disease known as ‘Covid-19’. Beginning in late 2019, a series of lockdowns and social distancing measures were implemented in waves throughout the world. The death toll and its effects on long-term physical and mental health, economic hardship, education, and social isolation are ongoing and still being assessed. Many, including myself, have experienced some positive impacts from the pandemic in terms of experiencing slowing down a hyper-accelerated pace of life, cleaner air, and having more time to spend with families and loved ones. However, the negative impact of Covid-19 has been disproportionately felt by many of the planet’s poorer people and people of colour, with higher infection and death rates amongst these groups. During this time, there have been up-risings and protests worldwide especially from ecological and climate protestors and from Black Lives Matter. The BLM protests have been significant and powerful and shone a light on the ongoing injustices and systemic racism experienced by black, indigenous and people of colour. Many names should be remembered alongside the name of George Floyd who was murdered on May 25th by a white policeman in Massachusetts, however the list is tragically far too long. Rising-up as well as lockingdown has been a central phenomenon of this unprecedented year of 2020. A geographically spread, socially distanced vigil was marked and a RitualArtworK in book-form, produced for the Summer Solstice. We now honour and mark the Winter Solstice with a companion book. This RitualArtworK: ‘Women of the Winter Solstice’, has been produced in the age-old tradition of ‘lighting a candle in the darkness’. As I write this, infection and death rates in many countries are at a record high. The Winter Solstice which fell on the 21st of December 2020, was marked with travel and other restrictions including with a lockdown in Wales where I live. Vaccines are fast being developed; however, no country is as yet free from the virus and its effects which will surely be felt for years to come. Many speak about the lessons to be learned from this virus. It makes us think hard about what is important in life and how we might live more lightly on the earth in future. We are at or perhaps beyond - a tipping point in terms of this planet’s ability to sustain life for future generations. One thing we should agree upon is that there will be no return to ‘business as usual’. Many believe that what we formerly considered ‘normal’ is what brought us to this place of unprecedented global crisis in the first place. Taking the big view, the 2020 Winter Equinox was also accompanied by a ‘Great Conjunction’ of the two planets, Saturn and Jupiter. This alignment was powerful and auspicious and had not been seen in the skies for many hundreds of years. Astrologically, we are literally at the dawning of ‘The Age of Aquarius’. Many are offering prayers, ceremonies, rituals and creative actions to mark this historic moment. This RitualArtworK is offered by all the participating women and myself as a radical act of prayer from the heart at this momentous time in celebration and support of all life on earth. Thank you for reading…

The Invitation:

Women of the Winter Solstice 2020

Make Ritual Art Marking Solstice Welcoming all women, those who identify as women or non-binary.

The 2020 Winter Solstice lands on Monday 21st December The Solstices are significant moments to mark individual and collective change. They are balance points, fulcrums, portals to let go of the old and bring in the new. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice marks the point of deepest darkness and simultaneously the beginning of the returning of the light. 2020 has been a momentous and unforgettable year. There are currently powerful planetary events playing out. And at this particular Solstice there are even more powerful energies constellating which set in motion new possibilities, potential and the heralding of a new era. Learn more about the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FnfUve-Qz0

Lean into the time and space of the Solstice with others to open to gratitude, the mystery and the energies of the time. You might return with a message, directive, information, a gift, an insight to carry forward into the future to benefit yourself and your people. Create and share your own self-generated ceremony to mark this moment in time. Participate in a collective work of art to mark and celebrate the 2020 Winter Solstice.

In the next days before the Solstice, find an IMAGE & SOME WORDS.

AN IMAGE. Find an Image or ‘Glyph’ which has significance for you an image which has shared meaning or one which is unique to you. The Glyph above is a depiction of the spiral and the straight, which for me represents the straight and the winding paths, the masculine and feminine, the sword and the grail – the balancing of opposites. Yours might be for example, a Labyrinth, Caduceus, Vesica Piscis, Yin & Yang symbol, or your own personal image or shape which you might draw which has deep meaning for you.

SOME WORDS. Find a poem, lyrics, fragment of writing, prayer which is significant for you at this time. As you hang out with these and think about what the solstice means to you, you will begin to form an idea of how you might like to mark the solstice. Let yourself be informed by the image and words you have chosen to connect with the deeper creative generative mysteries…Let yourself be moved and see what the universe wants to manifest through you. You might choose to make vigil… Dance and move…Silently reflect…Gather with others... Write, make, paint…Go on a medicine walk…Make an altar... Let go of something And let something else come…

WITNESS ONE ANOTHER. There will be a chance to gather online before and after the Solstice to share intentions and stories.

LET THIS BE A DOCUMENT. This collective living document can be shared with others and is a creative offering to the universe representing a radical act of love, beauty, and prayer as a legacy for 2020 and beyond.

About Me My name is Fern Smith, I live in Wales and I’m a ritual artist, facilitator, celebrant, coach, craniosacral therapist and rites of passage guide. www.fernsmith.uk, www.emergence-uk.org, www.craniosacraltherapy.wales Glyph Image from The Moon Oracle of the Sidhe by John Mathews & Wil Kinghan.

A winter solstice (a page totem of the ritual)

a time of cosy, spacious gratitude of stopping and letting go of awe, new beginnings and inner stillness of torchlight fire a time for listening and birthing visions for insisting on beauty at the bottom of the pool where the train arrives and the train departs this time of not yet, of the trickle, of the natural flow here in the gloaming I am the land connecting the north, the south, the east and west a seed seeking secret i am essence, connection, conception, an unstoppable force when two opposite truths can be held grieving this many layered, weathered thing solstice laura corrigan celebrations around the fire with quiet care, crystal clear, quiet offerings a time of expansion of the womb of the return.

Amalia, Chris, Fern, Judith, Julia F, Julia W, Katie, Katy, Linda, Lindsay, Rachel, Rosie & Suzanne.

Words from the Women of the Winter Solstice

I long for the light. I long for the darkness to dissipate. I yearn for the days to lengthen with the promise that spring will emerge - eventually. This Winter Solstice, this sacred day, holds all these possibilities within itself. I seek an appropriate image to guide my meditations. For a long time there is only the flame of my candle. "It is better to light a candle than to rail against the darkness". I believe this but in this moment, it is not enough. Nevertheless, I ask for courage and faith and energy. I sit silently and decide to welcome whatever comes next. An image arrives: It is dawn and I am walking along a country path, just outside a town, after a difficult night. The moon is still in the sky behind me and the sun is rising ahead of me. It is intensely beautiful and I am intensely happy. This is a memory from nine years ago. I conjure it and experience it again with all my senses. I am literally walking into the light. With this image working in me I plan just to sit in quiet vigil but I am suddenly drawn to read a book that I have just been given. It is called "The Gift, twelve lessons to save your life", written by Edith Eger, a woman who survived Auschwitz. It is full of her wisdom and experience. It is full of healing and transformation, forgiveness and love. I read the whole book with my complete attention. She has continued to walk towards the light despite everything. My next task will be to read it again slowly so that I can absorb her teaching. This is my Solstice gift.

Gilly Adams

Let the Mother guide you BE with Her in deep rest As the Father sun returns BE embraced by your nest This year I have leaned into what it means to live as Art rather than produce it. If art is the sensorial representation of ideas and craft is the production of them, I have been observing the ritual of both in our everyday lives. As 2020 unfurled it became apparent to me that the most valuable and radical action a human can make in the face of deep uncertainty is to relinquish attachment to all stories ever told or now being spun, and to simultaneously surrender and return to source for elemental guidance, accepting mortality and the unique message it offers to each living Being... “Watch and you will learn” she whispered to me I Watched I Waited I Learned I was shaken to my core by going against social programming, by refusing to busy myself in some act of assistance. Invitation after invitation poured through my screens. I switched off my mind and went to the land, creating earth with my hands, sowing seeds from my heart, gently watering them with trust, singing joy and strength into the shoots and nurturing Self, Other and Mother as I went. The Summer Solstice came and went beautifully alone, by the sea, singing songs of letting go... Again, the message was clear: “Keep watching, keep learning” The more I learned, the more I realised there was to learn... However, the learning most required was how to UNLEARN. When Fern’s calling to mark the Winter Solstice arrived something fundamental had shifted. The space of not knowing offered the potential for discovery via a deep, powerful and instinctive listening. I listened I learned I unlearned I was asked...

Why must our bodies die before we know REST?

I turned to Mother and saw her resting. Her extraordinarily ordinary quiet ceremony of life now complete: my strong shoots had grown in abundance; nurtured Self, Other and Mother by effortlessly BEing what they are; produced new seed without request or thanks; gracefully let go of their splendour; and now lay resting. Resting in Peace Resting in Ease Simultaneously full of life force AND saturated with permission to do nothing with it...... for Now My Winter Solstice RitualArtworK was given to me by the fabric of the universe. I didn’t produce it. It produced me. Waves of clearing, understanding and unlearning came stronger and faster until they were so close together their separateness was indecipherable. Each moment was full of emptiness. Each breath gave birth to the song of Now. Nothing was known. Nothing was required. Deep rest and perfect action were aligned.

everything changed


nothing changed

Monday 21st December 2020 - The Winter Solstice

Experiencing Presence Watching - Waiting - Listening - Unlearning - Resting MIND In the shower, naked, I wrestled with the programming to be someone doing something. I leaned into the hushed wisdom of human struggle. The ability to know was crushed by the weight of the dark skies outside.... it swirled in an array of sharp but seductive particles, glistening their reflections all around me. One by one I pushed my false knowings against these harsh sharp shards of truth. Each one met the initial pain of acceptance then disappeared in the bliss and ancient familiarity of the ordinary perfection residing within the wave of each Now. This was my ritual.

BODY At the time of the Solstice I let myself BE in and of existence. I observed the insistent pulse in my throat, felt the clean air on my flesh, flowed with the slow steady rhythm of the earth breathing though me. I softened in the gentle heat of the flame beside me, allowed the medicine of lavender to infuse me and the miracle of home and seeds to surround me. I didn’t count the illusion of seconds, minutes or hours. Gradually I disappeared. The form of my body became minutiae in the eternal universal energy. This was my rest. ESSENCE Later in the day, when the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn occurred, I offered another divine human feminine energy their first experience of elemental Solstice ritual, sharing the deep vibration of singing bowl stillness beside two flames of transformation. A powerful act of release and truth. This was my liberation. The earth day of the Winter Solstice ended as it begun, in the ever-deepening process of awareness. My ritual ArtWorK of shifting perspectives complete

Linda Alton

I planned a ritualised walk that would include the different elements, marking also the movement of the planets and the changing cycle from earth to air. With it I also wanted to mark an internal movement related to the healing of my father's bloodline. I started the walk with a troubled mind. The father as an internal barrier, as a carrier of judgements and fear. I experienced the interference, the effects of the real father in my internal world... Am I still going deeper into the darkness or has the journey towards the light started?... I think about Inanna, the ancient Mesopotamian goddess, and her journey into the darkness and then back into the light. I think of the gods/fathers who refuse to help her because they consider her journey into the darkness an act of hubris, and of her third father, Enki, the god of wisdom, who understood her journey and helped her so she could be reborn. I think of Inanna in the darkness, heading towards the light but with a difficult journey ahead, having to give up someone she loves and eventually giving up her husband, so he will also have to travel to the darkness. I walked up the Knipe Scar (a hill in front of where I am staying in the Lake District), crossed the river, walking towards the East. Arrived at the top at 4:05. I spent 5 minutes contemplating the fog and the upcoming darkness and feeling the wind. The notion of leaving home that the Buddhist monks vow to when they take the ropes emerges. I made my own vow: 'No, father, no. I will leave that home behind. My only home will be where I am. I hope that one day, we'll both stop fearing who I am, who you are.' Going down the Knipe. I arrived at the hanging bridge from the East side, going to the West, I stop in the middle, facing South, holding the North. It's exactly 4:30, it's foggy and I can't see the stars, but I keep the awareness that up there in the cosmos, a momentous encounter between Jupiter and Saturn is taking place. I am in the dark and I read aloud David Whyte’s poem 'Sweet Darkness'. When your eyes are tired the world is tired also. When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you. Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own. There you can be sure you are not beyond love. The dark will be your womb tonight. The night will give you a horizon further than you can see. You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

I light a candle and then sit in silence for 20 minutes, observing the water of the river passing under me while the wind made the fire tremble. I invoke a spiritual woman I know who died a few days before and at that moment the candle blows out. I don't move and keep sitting in silence holding the blown-out candle.

After the 20 minutes have passed, I stand up, I am wobbly and tired, but I feel ready. Step by step. I thank the river and the wind and the Knipe and the fire and the people in my life that are shaping my journey. I vow to take the help of the ones who support my journey into the dark and back into the light. I mourn for those who rejected my journey, I acknowledge the loss and my love for them. I vow to be there for them when and if they are ever ready.

Lorena Rivero de Beer

I spent the winter solstice in the shack in the woods with Billy Collins! I bundled two collections by the American poet up in my basket along with a candle, a box of matches and my laptop so I could write by the last gasp of the sunlight, pre-solstice.

Time is a precious resource in my house, and undisturbed time even more rare; you have to leave the house to get it. Here, I won’t be disturbed. However, after an hour of sitting at the desk in dialogue with Billy, I can no longer feel my toes. I have lit a candle and it gives off a lovely glow, a tiny bit of heat with which I warm my fingers.

The poem I drafted is called ‘I am unlearning’ and it is about the recurrent nightmare I had as a child that my parents were drowning in a lake and I had to choose one of them to rescue. The last line is: Perhaps it was just my job to stay dry?

Reflecting later, on the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, the dawn of the age of Aquarius, the switch to a new paradigm, I am struck by the shifting political landscapes, the changing energetic fields and how we’ve been invited to share in a time throughout 2020 and into this new year which heralds a different way of being connected and being inter-connected. I’m full of hope and light for the year to come and vow to invite in a sense of conviction, of creativity and of courage to all that I do on the other side of this winter solstice, as the days start to lengthen again.

Julia Forster

Winter Solstice Circle

Artwork by Abstract Natured

I wake up on the eve of the shortest day and I feel childlike. Giddy. I can’t wait to light the fire, as soon as the rain breaks, I’m out. I build it well. It lights first time and easily which surprises me as it is monsoon season here in Wales. I stand and look into it. For an age. My daughter joins me as she rounds the garden for the 15th or 17th time. She is happy, I look at her and today I see my face so clearly in hers. My inner child is singing. The light is returning, and I feel like it’s a momentous occasion. I thank the darkness as the sun goes down. I put my feet in the river. It is silky and smooth and cold. I have enjoyed the darkness this year. I have felt like the universe turned the lights out and tucked everyone up in bed for a rest. I feel a little daunted that Spring is around the corner and there is much to be done in preparation. I breathe in. The fire is just so beautiful. As well as thanking the darkness I want to make sure the light feels welcome, it is sometimes scarce in the valley where I live. So, I raid the fancy dress box and put on some shiny sequined trousers that used to be my Ma’s. I am chuffed, again feeling like a small and contented child. I stick glitter to my face, my daughter laughs and laughs and asks what I’m doing. We are both now covered in glitter. So is the house. The light is welcome here. I put some music on. And dance. With the valley and the wind and the darkness. Normally I dance with the fire but today I waltz away with the darkness. A grateful dance for this time of rest. Normally by this time I am restless for the light to return and days to get longer again. But this year I have relished the darkness. Comforted by shadows. Like a seed in a really good compost. … The sun rises. It’s cold but I go out to check on the fire, it’s smouldering still. I stoke it and it coax it into flame again. I sit and look at the mycelial network on a piece of wood. It looks like an evolutionary tree to me. I think about Darwin. I think about shared ancestry and connectedness. I stare at the wood for a long time. Fascinating. Branching patterns of growth. Growth in darkness. Growth in the deepest rotten surroundings. A niche found and a brilliant display of not just survival, but beautiful living. I am amazed. I start thinking in thousands of metaphors. All of them hopeful, all of them human and comfortingly clichéd.

Whilst sitting with the fire I made these notes: I think about this mycelial symbol. What does it mean? To me? Connection. Interdimensional connection. I want to dip it in resin, preserve it This underground moment Hidden in wood until I struck it. With all my might. Sounds violent. It wasn’t, I love chopping wood. Meditative, primal. Warmth in darkness, fire in darkness. I look into the fire, filled with thanks. After writing the notes I kiss the mycelium and place the wood, and network it holds or is held by, into the middle of the fire. An offering. … Darkness, oh my darkness This soft, velvet underbelly of the world The moments of stillness, relished No need to push forward like spring bud Here is rest. Here is inward. Now the light is seeping back in. The darkness, with no need to fight, relents To reconvene when rest is needed again. Ravens will know when. Watching for the moment when Light forgets how good it is When tanned faces grow tired Then the Ravens will know, Will call back that thick blanket of night When my eyes are closed, I’ll think of you.

Rachel Hasler

I am happy, I realise. It is 5am on a morning approaching the deadline for this story. I feel the pull of it wanting to be told and a space opening up for the fullness of it. This story has been brewing since that solstice meditation, the one where I confessed - with some degree of shame - to being a bit stuck around money, worth and value. This incessant drive to make things - to make films, books, events. To make food. To make community. To make things happen. To make something out of nothing, out of nowhere...This drive does not always translate into making a living. Have I stopped being stuck? Not really. Questions have been dropped into the well and have made ripples. I have met inner and outer obstacles and attempted, but not always succeeded, to befriend them. Some things I understand a bit better. Some, I see now, are ongoing. Questions to be lived with. There may never be a final solution. Can I be ok with that?

Following the online solstice gathering, there was a fire. A circle of people sitting in the dark, watching the flames lick brightly at the night sky. We shared three rounds: 1. What are we ready to let go of? 2. What are we wanting to invite in? 3. What do we appreciate?

I carry my story through the full, Cold Moon of December, through the 12 days and nights of The Omen Days. I go in with it. It travels inwards with me. We dream together. My grandmother shows up and offers me the keys to her shop. I accept.

Today, when packing a book for postage, I understand that this book is Worth It. What does that mean? It means that the process of creating the book in itself is enough. That bringing together the threads that weave something out of nothing is Worth It. More than that. It is delightful. To live accompanied by delight is both a gift and a blessing.

The other side of that blessing is the curse of every creative person. That the maker's hand is not always matched with the marketer's heart. These hands and hearts dance apart from each other. To get them into the same rhythm is a struggle. Opening the hand, if the offering is snatched away, can lead to a closing of the heart. But I would rather lose the heart to sell than the hand to create... Walking amongst the vineyards with friends, we gather in that same place where the fire circle took our prayers and surrendered them to the wind. It feels like a closure. The hand was opened. The offering was accepted. Can I let this be enough?

What we receive, when we open our makers’ hands, is so much. I'm ready to let go of the shame I carry around worth and value. I'm ready to invite and to keep receiving whatever I need to thrive. I appreciate the depth and richness of my life as a maker. After all, at the root of maker is the word magh, from which comes magic. After all this, I am happy.

Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction

Helen iles

No Dig Method No keeping things light when peat is present. Our history in layers, in strata of spores: our books, chest Of drawers, Easyjet romances, first-marriage recipes, miscarriages, OS maps, bait boxes and photos turned to the wall. All saved perfectly underneath larch needle mulch. Rich and heavy and ready to slip— Better to start with layers of cardboard, sacks of horseshit. We’ll make this beautiful and productive, if We both work from ground up. Line interval paths with laddered tights And Lycra from your biking wardrobe. Wood chip. In the dark, guerrilla gardeners do their best in lunar grooves Against a grey, gleyed clag typical to this certain place, Too close in particulate matter. Trapped mineral salts. Oxide Smears and gushes, waterlogged with constant rain. During the drought season, it cracks, powders on top, leaches out So we spread a thick layer of newspapers, Sunday lunch. In time, our daily threshing uncovers a seed. It grows a long taproot, Though the thought of it sickens: the making accommodation in our subsoil, hard-packed glacial till. You tell it-- It must find its own water. I tell it-- There is no death.

Suzanne Iuppa

Today my calling is to care for my aged aunt. To listen to her rhythmic fast puffing, gasps for breath, to feel happiness and sorrow alongside each other, to be here and present for her, to be. Here in the flatlands, familiar space, filled with family memories, a good and comforting albeit difficult place to be. Alone and together, weak and strong. Dark and light. I am calm, resolved, knowing I am where I’m meant to be. It is my 28th wedding anniversary.

Big skies and beautiful light of the flatlands 1

Big skies and beautiful light of the flatlands 2

Chris Bird-Jones

This year we wanted to celebrate the returning of the light so much. We wanted to celebrate and include the children. We wanted to reflect on the year gone by, give thanks for abundance and support and let go of what was no longer needed. My daughter and I decided to follow the ancient tradition “hyfen y ffynnon” - the collecting of spring water by children in the dark and blessing the people of the house or village by sprinkling the magic water over family and friends using a frond of fern, yew or rosemary. Beth and I set out from the house, under starry skies, down the lane to an ancient well and a stream marking the boundary of our home not far from the site of an old stone circle. Collecting water in a special jug (belonging to Nain “Winnie the Egg”), she was a little scared of the dark but excited to be part of and creating a special moment. First, we sprinkled some of the boundaries of the land and asked that all who come here be kind, safe and well. We took the water back to the house and sprinkled the threshold, I gave thanks for our home, food, water and the people in our life, my ancestors and the lessons they show me. Beth sprinkled the water on me laughing and gave thanks for a kind mum and dad and school which had been closed part of the year. We went around the house and met on the landing with my three children and my eldest gave thanks for skate-parks and my youngest, said ‘shoes’. Then on to Dad who had water sprinkled on his face and head. We settled in for the night, and in the morning, woke early and I went out to gaze at the stars, and I wondered at the vastness of the skies, and how small I am. I then lit a candle in the West and spoke to my Mum and ancestors who had departed in the East. My daughter came downstairs and I told her about her Grandma and I chatted to Mum about my children, who she never knew. A gentle day ensued with rain and wind, rain and wind, we huddled indoors and my husband, youngest son and I fell into a deep delicious afternoon sleep. Oddly, I didn't touch technology that day and it felt precious and right. We marked this Solstice for the first time and when I think of it now it seems to give me a certain feeling of magic and brings a gentle smile to my face that lights up my soul with a glowing ember of warmth.

Katy Jones

“Deep down in the belly of the night Dream deep winter’s dreams And lie safe in your grandmother’s arms Still as a seed, still as a seed”

In late November, fragments of this song kept on trying to break through - the first song that really wanted to be sung in a long time, our weekly singing circle having been discontinued since the early Spring- but it was never quite the whole song: words were missing, the melody was askew… as the Solstice was approaching, more fragments emerged… until around the 19th when the full lyrics and tune came together: I could sing clearly! Here was this song, loud and clear, wanting to be heard… just in time for the Solstice.

During that emergence, I had picked up a larch branch from our field, with the intent of making ‘something’ for Solstice day… I had also accumulated various debris (bells, bits of jewelry, ribbons, cloth) with a vague view of using them for some nonspecific creative purpose. So Fern’s invitation to take part in a Solstice ritual, was all I needed to bring it all together. ON the 21st, I went out to gather my ‘bits’, having already braided some colourful cloth onto the branch; I attached some of the debris and found more; I wanted to make something pleasing and playful, something fun and frivolous; the bells suggested sound, noise, magic and tempted me towards a procession! A one-woman procession… something a small child might do…

So once my branch offering was complete, I dressed warmly and equipped with a candle and matches and set out on a small procession through our field singing joyfully shaking the branch to make the bells ring… I eventually came to a trunk cum altar which my partner and I had collaborated on earlier in the year and somehow found a way to wedge the branch into it, as if by magic… giving thanks to nature for indulging me in this childlike ritual. From that altar, my steps naturally lead me towards the nearby St-Brigid’s altar completed about 5 years ago, which is framed by two blueberry bushes – symbolizing my maternal grandmother- so quite quickly, I sensed her presence, and this was an occasion to light a candle, to give thanks, especially for the gift of bringing David into my life (a long story) … something I shared with him later that day… A few days later, when the larch branch had fallen during. the storm, I made an offering of it to the StBrigid altar… to which I will return later this month as we celebrate the end of the Celtic Winter and the beginning of Spring with Imbolc.

Theresia Guschlbauer

My intention: To be still and listen. Listen to the earth; the wind; the trees, the stars, my inner self. My image is of a new plant putting healthy roots deep into the soil and growing fresh leaves. There are some beautiful blue star-like shaped flowers tiny but deep, deep, rich blue growing within it too… Lines from this poem by John O’Donohue were with me “that the silent presence of your death would call your life to attention, wake you up to how scarce your time is ……………………………….. That you would gather yourself and decide carefully how you now can live….” My solstice felt a bit fragmented (like me at present!) I did a Solstice ceremony on Sunday afternoon via Zoom with my women’s circle which felt beautiful amongst other sharing’s we sent light out into the world with candles and sounding /our voices. Called in the directions…sent out prayers…I than went into a 24-hour silent retreat. Sat by my fire, walked, listened…. Listened, went into stillness alternating with extreme restlessness. Memories of the last year came up since lockdown. How life has changed. Fear for our future & loss of liberties. Distrust of forces at work in the world- global corporations making huge profits whilst businesses go under/struggle. Uncertainty of what to believe about covid-19; total mistrust of the Government’s handling of it. Disbelief that some people can really believe in Trump…& so on. Then there was personal stuff coming up including having worked with much of my own shadow this year both in circle and on my own…. It felt powerful work though hard at times. My main realization was how stories I create in my thoughts can create that reality and that I can change those stories not get enmeshed in them…step afresh into each day!! Pain, grief, loss, sadness came up - both for loss of a way of life for all of us – wanting to go to the cinema, a live music gig, feel warmth of human togetherness, dancing in a group, just talking in a café…as well as grief about the earth - destruction of Amazon, the pollution of the Earth’s waters and so on…violence toward women, children and all life forms … horror of some of it… So, for me the solstice felt very much a listening of the dark in the world at present. Hard to be with and not feel overwhelmed but felt important to acknowledge it … I felt like I went through images, memories, thoughts, remembrance of learnings helped by grandfather fire and mother earth. I went out to look at the stars at 4am - it was cloudy, but I felt a strong silver energy coming into me. I than shifted to gratitude for what has come in this crazy year. Joining a healing Earth group via Zoom, being able to connect with like-minded people, my women’s circle -strengthening our bonds

and our learning together. Doing an online permaculture course –very inspiring and meeting others on it even if online! The ceremonies shared with women (facilitated by Fern & in my circle.) Working on the land where I live, connection to others. The stillness the first lockdown brought and nature speaking to so many of us… The deep commitment I now feel to creating something positive on this land I live on, in these times to plant seeds for new life and growth - physically, emotionally, mentally & spiritually. A poem I wrote on retreat a couple years ago came back to me and I felt it strongly speaking for me as we walk into the New Year. In this new world may the old ways come to us to join with new to help the Earth & all life forms… I am she of Silver Mane & Flashing Tail I am she of deep green eyes That see it all I am she of velvety paws Silently padding on the hard-packed earth The earths skin like a drum Vibrating through my paws A hum, a song I Soar, I dance I Glide, I love I am she of Silver Mane & Flashing tail I am she of the moonlit nights The howls on the wind, echoes of time I am she of beauty & joy Of Starlight & love Of harshness and truth And Fierce Kindness too I am she of family packs Of friendship groups Of loyalty and comradeship Sisterhood and truth I am she of the Ancient Paths The Ancient Ways I am she of Flashing tail & Silver Mane I am Silver Wolf

Sheena McMahon

Three colours Of the Goddess Of Life Inside out Outside in Being Born --------------------------Come to the core And rest Be in the core And grow Into Your higher potential ------------------------Bare feet In the grass Like a bear A hare Or a robin ------------------------------

Katja Machleidt

My intention was to carve a part of the Solstice for myself (one hour or so). To spend time up in the Woodland, and mark what is going on for me right now. I wanted to sing, dance, and pray for some peace during this challenging time on our planet. I am angry and frustrated that I am not permitted to travel to see my partner’s father this Christmas. He has been receiving chemotherapy for Lymphoma and was looking forward to seeing us. So, I am pretty frustrated and sad about it all. It’s afternoon and I’m waiting for the rain to ease but I know of old that this is futile, so I grab my bag with my flask of tea, notepad and ukulele, and bracing the rain, I head for our woodland (3 miles away from the house). I go with a poem in mind, it’s by Wendell Berry and so apt for this moment… When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. From The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1999) I walk up to the patch we’ve been clearing of brambles and bracken lately, and perch on the bench we made for our tea breaks. I breathe in the fresh air and observe the silence. Beautiful old Oak trees that are now bare for winter surround me. I gently remind them of our plans, promise them that I will take care and respect them when we come to make alterations to their landscape early next year. I want to sing them a song (or two). You see, I’ve become somewhat of a Songwriter during these Covid days. Song writing has been my saving grace in trying to make sense of the shit that’s happening on and to our planet. I sing for my new friends, ‘the Oaks’. They sway softly in the wind…I like to imagine they are dancing, enjoying my offering. As I sing, I realise that the words are a prayer, a prayer for all trees that are suffering and in need of love all over the world. Soon after I stop singing a little Stoat appeared. So young and playful, he ran around hiding and jumping out to surprise me when I least expected it! I laughed so loudly, the more I laughed, the more he would play. He got so close to me at times, his face so young, curious and bright. Then poof he was gone! But I know I will see my new friend again. Interestingly, the stoat has a brown coat in summer and a white coat in winter and according to folklore symbolically represents the spiritual change of a spiritual traveller - one who has gone the full round of seasons. I think about my father’s death last year, and pray for my mum. Pray that she finds peace this Christmas. It’s always a difficult time of year when we have lost loved ones. This year Mum said she would like to plant a Rowan tree at the bottom of the garden. There she would bury my father’s ashes. We have many small Rowan saplings on the woodland, so I choose one and ask her permission to be gifted to Mum for Christmas. She agrees to emigrate to the Island of Barrybados! (bless her) I carefully and painstakingly remove her from her home, mostly with my fingers, gently teasing out her delicate roots from the earth. I tell her that she will enrich Mum’s life in many ways and will look beautiful in her garden. I kiss her and thank her.

I’m writing notes and the rain is getting heavier. My notebook is wet and I’m tearing holes in it with my pen. My time here has come to an end. I haven’t been out long, and this time has been special. These times are always special. It reminds me that whenever I am invited to make ritual and agree to share my experience with others, I have this nagging doubt that nothing significant will happen and I will have no story to share. But In my experience, something magical always happens. There is always a story to tell. My song For the Trees https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw6-DPe5Mmg

Donna Males

December 20th, first sighting of the Moon, new on December 14th. It’s in my 5th house: pleasure, joy, and relationships.

Photo taken just after the gathering on Sunday looking for Jupiter and Saturn and Dion Fortune’s rhythmic words, exuding elemental magical thoughts. Retreat Kitty O’Meara’s poem, a mantra from the first lockdown, returned to my conscious awareness with a new resonance. And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Music: In the Bleak Midwinter - Annie Lennox https://bit.ly/3hvr0on

Solstice Day

It’s raining. I decide to wear a sunshine yellow jumper. I would follow my plan.

Fog After the rain, the fog descended. A cloud of unknowing, or a fog obscuring the great conjunction? Will it last? Will it go? My Solstice Greetings were dispatched. Rhiannon reformed doubt to questioning. I put a protection ring around my Solstice and sensed the other women on this Solstice celebration. Respect descended as my lead angel for the year. Then The Collective called. This time is not about me…yet. I rested as others said they were going to do I meditated as I planned and another meditative opportunity emerged I read a bit I listened a lot I healed a bit I stayed home I walked by the sea as it breathed rhythmically in and out out and in.

The Darkness Open to the dark Druids work in the dark. They are inspired. Seeds fall from their cases in winter’s darkness, preparing. Let the limitations float to where they are needed The Renaissance came out of darkness after the last Jupiter Saturn conjunction. Wait for warmth and light

The Light

It’s there. It pierces the dark. It always does. Its elemental. Trust ye the fire and the wind Feel with Natures forces Move with them Sing with them Do not be afraid of them You need them Respect, Love, Trust You have been given the freedom of The Elements Extracts from Dion Fortune: ’The Chant of the Elements” Vibrations are rising Music: Beach Boys Good Vibrations https://bit.ly/38tvSGE

Earth moves to Air An end and a beginning Integration of the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine Music: Vidor Toccata https://bit.ly/3hbyFrP Find something in myself I didn’t know was there

Judith Mills

‘Breathing and walking and managing to empty the head sufficiently to notice what there is to see and hear in the theatre we happen to be living in’John Cage 8.40am The radio tells me that the planets are aligning just as i step out onto rain soaked pavements. The number ‘3’ stands out on the short route that takes me to the RiverUsK ; traversing junctions heading towards the TransporterBridge crossing East/West Horizontals next to the Pylons vertical reach connecting BabbleConstellations. Misty fishing, trucks on tarmac, the immediate world is LouD and rushed. Signs for the Coastal Path walk divert thru’ redundant retail OuTlets ; under ironwork bridge rusty with time - an inner beauty revealing the inevitable,,,all things become one, return to ground the late Autumn pears gently rotting hold the same colour. Over ‘FuckMe’ Bridge and under traffic sounds, stepping into new EdgeLand territory-the River Ebbw now FaT&FasT, too full to wade down; stripped back of salty summer kisses. BoXed houses fenced in, ochre reeds and dirty fields. TrainTraX crossed ; road turns off onto track into mud ; cows share space with swans and pylons. The wind blows the wires of communications, eyes focus on uneven ground ; slipping into the River’s muddy bank ( yet another fall )-Bounce back up - AgaiN. The River’s Mouth, the channel opens to an early morning MurMuring with light in the distance. Time to sit and sip coffee, inhale smoke and simply marvel at it all. The return journey-always quicker, or seemingly so.... A new memory layer. * ‘May the light hold you and the dark keep you warm’

Marega Palser

So much has gone before in this season. Another ceremony has gone before this one at this Solstice time. The teachings from ceremony are part of our medicine, and how we share our medicine is sometimes delicate. I am not starting from the beginning … So this is where my story begins: In every disaster is concealed a seed of grace1 I journey my way through the spiral and the stations of the mandala, sensing into the body’s movement and breath. Some journeys (and stories) begin with structure, a map, a set of rules to follow, not to be constraining but to enable discovery and to bind ourselves to each other. This is one such journey. I have planned my itinerary and I follow it. I visit the ‘stations’ allowing the embrace of earth, water, fire and air: the support of a tree branch under the side of the head the imagined warmth of sun the absence and presence of parents lifting winds - soft, warm, infused with the spray of winter rains I bring gifts from each to the centre of the spiral: kindling, winter blossom, berries, I take holly medicine, the berry dissolving before my eyes. The holly has something of the warrior spirit. I give thanks. I continue to travel through each station with relative ease, the travel not always comfortable but I can find the inspiration along the way. I am travelling back and forwards, the movement feels multidimensional in space and time. On the journey, I acknowledge what has come to pass this year: interruption, overwhelm, neglect, questioning, a stretch to over-fullness, lost connection, discombobulation. I shape each in turn and find what these qualities can become... (In every disaster is concealed a seed of grace) nourishment soft winds gathering kindling sensual mysteries complex territory tuned in backed up (the ancestors close) present be gentle with opening become astute with lightness ...then the travelling changes and I am looking Future full in the face … and the possibility of fulfilment. I know hope is there, but terror is closer. There is a brokenness in the line of travel– a resistance to believing in the potential for fulfilment, happiness even? Is this what hope is? Believing in this potential, trusting, following and allowing emergence? And the opposite being a tendency to expect the worst, of everything being torn away. Emergence is a letter away from emergency.

In every disaster is concealed a seed of grace


From Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle

I notice how I don’t allow fulfilment in, or really feel it somehow, as if to do this, to hope, is too dangerous. There have been too many broken promises. These are old stories, wounds re-opened. Interconnection and Realisation feel more resonant. This year has made me aware of interconnection in more ways than has been my habit. Realisation feels connected to ‘vision’. I know what it means to have vision, to receive vision at least, but there can be much to cloud vision in these times. Many kinds of clearing are needed, sometimes ‘waiting’, sometimes actively lifting the veils in order to see. Don’t be fooled, this balancing of receptivity and active intention (lifting of the veils) requires work, practice, skill, a full woodstore, ancestors at my back, warrior spirit, the ability to be ready, at the ready and at the centre of myself. Am I ready? Are we ready?

Ailsa Richardson

My intention for this Solstice and beyond, is to join with others in holding the earth and humanity in love and light and calling in a future in which love, peace and harmony, justice and equality, care and responsibility are the central tenets of a human civilization all around the world. I will be anchoring this in at sacred sites in Glastonbury, Avebury and at Stonehenge. I will also humbly ask for guidance for my own life going forward. On the morning of the 19th I caught a train to Wiltshire. I and the few other passengers, all of us masked, travelled silently past swollen rivers and sodden land, beneath scudding clouds and sudden flares of golden light. My sister met me in Salisbury and we drove to Stonehenge. We walked out to and around the stone circle in a wild and bitter wind. Frustrated not to be able to walk amongst them, touch them, lean against them. A dark blanket of cloud descended, obscuring the setting sun and bringing an icy squall that sent us running from the henge. In bed that night I received an email from a friend and mentor. I had told him that our father, having recently undergone major surgery, had subsequently contracted Coronavirus. We were all gravely concerned for his life. His words touched me deeply. I cried for a long time, tears of relief mixed with grief. The next morning, my sister and I woke before dawn. As we drove to Avebury, in the clear ultramarine of the eastern sky in wonder we beheld Venus, magnificent. Shadows in the pre-dawn twilight, we walked amongst the stones. As the sun rose, we struck out across the wide-open land, walking down the length of West Kennet Avenue to Silbury Hill and on to West Kennet Long Barrow. Inside the burial chamber a powerful atmosphere pervaded. Yellow and white flowers had been placed and candles, still burning. In this silence and stillness we prayed for our father. All the day we strode across the wide landscape, breathing deep the crisp wintry air, the sky clear and bright, the splendid sun. A Red Kite circled high above us. On the day of the Solstice, we drove to Glastonbury, the sky thick with cloud. Mid-morning we entered the steady stream of people ascending and descending the Tor. As we arrived at the top, a child handed me a small black stone. Drummers and dancers filled the tower, and all around people were meditating, praying, gathered around a small fire singing, dancing, greeting one another with bright eyes and open hearts. Later, when the tower emptied, I sat in meditation, feeling a powerful current of energy as the fierce wind blew through. The sun burst through the heavy clouds. We walked down the Tor giddy with laughter. Then, to the White Spring. Due to Coronavirus, only two people were admitted at a time. My sister and I felt humbled and blessed to have this sacred place to ourselves. The cave-like space lit by candles and filled with the sound of water, dripping and gushing. The Goddess’s face shrouded in mystery, her heart a radiant sun. That night, for three hours I danced my prayers, my heart aflame with love. And the next night, returned to Wales, in a temple I danced again, feeling the energies of Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge radiating out across the land. Afterwards, in the dark heat of a sauna, I gazed out at the moon, perfectly halved in illumination and darkness.

I lit a fire and made myself a makeshift bed beside it, where I slept and rested until the following evening. All day the rain poured. My moonblood came, out of time, with intense pain. I was given a concoction of herbs and African roots, to be licked from my palm and swigged down with red wine. Three men came and shared their supper with me. Woozily I lay listening, as they sang and played instruments. The lanes around us flooded. I was offered a bed in a nearby house, and after a bath and hot sweet tea, a ceremonial sword was laid across my lap. That night, beneath soft lights of changing colours, I slept deeply, and woke on Christmas Eve to a glorious sun, a crown of light.


Carole Shearman

Towards New Light I walked between New Brighton and West Kirby. I was chasing lighthouses, like Jay who was transfixed with the green flickering light at the opposite end of the bay. Oh, Daisy! The ever-elusive dream of love. Through my Solstice Walk, I tried to be a woman by the sea, these lines from Sheila Heti in my mind: Since my girlhood, I had been cautious about allowing myself to imagine the beauty of being a woman alone in a house by the sea. I dared not to be cautious with my imagination. I longed for too much. I wanted the impossible. That doesn’t get you very far. I don’t feel profound at all. I feel wasted by all the attempts at rituals, as if they could deliver me some higher consciousness, some faithful revelation. A hope towards deliverance. A liveable future. This is not my sea. This is not my land. This is just mud. I am sinking. I am pulled in by it. This landscape does not belong to me. I do not desire a house by these waters. Alone or with others. I long for something much more dramatic. Different colours, rocks, dark blue winter sea. Coldness. Crisp wind. Am I doomed to be called back by the landscape of my birthplace, my own past? Am I lulled back towards it, rebirthed backwards? Can I not escape The Great Gatsby’s last line? We beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Damn, these lighthouses have all been decommissioned. There are no working lights. What am I chasing? I noticed some Pied Wagtails at Meols Parade, playing around the fence. I recognized them; that felt joyous. At the end of the walk, after making my way back to New Brighton, riding two buses 407 and 414, I ended up in Caffe Crème. Warm orange glow, the anticipation of Christmas. All couples, or in friendship groups. I was the only solitary woman figure, with a blue shinning notebook, hopeful to write myself into a future. I am a woman alone by the sea in the late December. They were all having ice-cream. Our desires combined. Stracciatella, in which I tasted a promise of the Summer and New Light.

New Brighton Lighthouse, 10:03am, 21.12.2020

Lena Šimić

A Walled Garden In a year that has put so many walls up (masks distance quarantine) and bled boundaries without choice (work life home), marking the Solstice in a community of women feels like a way to reclaim both connection and intention. I had some ideas about what this marking might include: being with the other women on the Sunday call made me miss my friend Laura, who died in June. She was a lover of rivers, stars, and adventure. I wanted to make a tribute to her. Yet I had also just come to the end of a consuming project and knew that I needed to be gentle with myself. Which meant I let myself off the hook a little with planning and decided to follow my gut on the day. I am currently living in the south of France, on a flower farm at the edge of a small town called Gignac. I have fallen in love with the farmer’s cat, Tayo, who sleeps in our living room. At around 4am on the Solstice, Tayo woke me up in her typical way, by forcing our bedroom door open with her little face and letting out one of her little Marge Simpson grunts. When I let her out to do her cat things, I noticed how bright the sky was. My gut said: this is where it begins. --My experience of 2020 feels like a walled garden. As an introvert, I have flourished as my social circle has moved to arm’s length. I’ve had the best working year of my life, full of interesting, well-paid projects. I’ve felt an incredible return of my focus and intellect as I’ve experienced the first 12-month period in 10 years without a depressive episode. In my tiny, closed off corner of the world, I’ve been in bounty. All of this makes me uneasy. Do I thrive in isolation when I aspire to a connected life? What does it mean to be having a great time up in a castle when people are suffering at the gates? I feel like a Tory! It feels like a parable. ---I always associate ceremony with individual action. Perhaps this unease in my individualism made me wake up Galen, my partner. We bundled on our ski gear. I made a flask of hot chocolate. We took blankets and a tarp and drove up into the hills, where we witnessed - without knowing it - the Ursid meteor shower. We were back to the house at 6am and had a delicious sleep until 11. Was it a waste to miss sunrise on the Solstice? Perhaps not in the interests of being gentle and listening to what I really need. When I woke up, I ate a croissant and cycled 15 minutes to the Pont du Diable - a 10th Century bridge that forms part of the James Way. There’s a wide river beach, where I went for a swim. This was Laura’s tribute. The water felt great on my body, but stung my hands and feet. I stayed in a little while before wading out and beginning to get dressed, before wading back in. This was Laura’s tribute. At home I had a shower and watched 2 episodes of The West Wing. Ceremony, Katie? Go gently, I thought. As it grew dark, I built a small fire outside, and tended it as I cooked some pasta.

---Yesterday, 7th of January, I made playdough and built a small model walled garden. It felt good to appreciate the things in there, the plants, the potting shed, the stones. The ivy scaling the tall walls. As we enter another turn of the sun, I hope to continue to tend my garden, but every now and then, to open the gates.

Katie Slee

Solstice time of cleaning and clearing our little home. And then to stop and sit with the candle waiting for the light to return. Reflections of how it is and what is wanting to be known. A dream floating up, on waking feeling my heart with the sadness that our beautiful Earth has been ravaged by us humans, sadness and a new dawning of how much I love this Earth. And from that sadness and love how may I honour this precious Earth. Gratitude for my life, and gratitude for people who are been important to me. An image of an acorn, perfect, complete in itself with a hard shell to keep the seed safe until it is inspired to sprout.

Andy Legh-Smith

Fetching Water The wind and the fire work on the hill - The wind and the fire work on the hill - The wind and the fire work on the hill - Evoke ye the wind and the fire… And so begin the words, by the mystic and Kabbalist Dion Fortune, that helped create this Solstice RitualArtworK invitation. We’d done Summer in the midst of a global Pandemic – thirteen Women of the Summer Solstice making geographically spread, socially-distanced Vigil’s together to mark the half-way point of 2020. And now, here we are in mid-Winter, almost nine months after the first UK lockdown of March 23rd. Wales has just entered another lockdown, the rest of the UK under various tiered restrictions. It felt timely to mark the solstice. To send an invitation, a request for the women to gather again. A call to the women of the Mid-Winter Solstice to come and join with me in marking the darkest time of the year, a time which heralds the new light, the new seeds, some kind of possible future… I hatch a plan in the days which follow, or precisely a plan inserts itself fully formed into my psyche with an express and strong directive, “Do This! You shall go to the four lakes (I know which ones), make an offering to each and return with water, which you will then offer into the stream at Nant y Gwenill (my new homestead) where it will cleanse the land and find its way to the sea.” Sun and air. Sun and air. Sun and air. I’m up at 6am on the morning of the Solstice - Monday 21st December. Dawn still more than two hours away. It is dark and raining with fog covering all higher ground – exactly where my four lakes lie. I drive out of Nant y Gwenill at 7.15am, a car full of kit and clothes. I come prepared for my mission. I’ve been examining the weather forecast these last two days. It’s as bad as it could possibly be. I head for my first lake – Llyn Cae in the shadow of Cadair Idris, the great mountain of mid-Wales at an altitude of 460 metres above sea level. Thinking this will be the hardest, I plan to do it first. I arrive at the Minffordd Path car park at 7.45am. No one there. Everything dark, all shrouded in fog. I get the jitters. The mountain seems to be saying a big “No” and I respond in kind: “no way am I going up there in this…” Without even getting out of the car, I turn the car around and head back to town, plan up in the air, preparing to let everything go and just see what comes. Back in Machynlleth twenty minutes later, I park by the industrial estate and walk to my ‘local lake’ Llyn Glanmerin standing at a mere 120 metres above sea level. I walk up into the fog which seems set to stay in for the day. It’s sopping underfoot from the recent month-long deluge of rain. I meet a woman as I walk up the hill, we exchange greetings. I tell her it is Solstice. She is surprised but pleased not to have missed it. “Is it today?!” By 8.30am, officially dawn, I am standing by the lake. The fog is disorienting even on this relatively low ground nearby my now home-town. The sight of the lake takes my breath away. So beautiful rising out of the fog as it does. I read my words at the lakeside: Earth and water are friendly and kind, Earth and water are friendly and kind, Earth and water are friendly and kind…

I toss my offering of the first of my four semi-precious stones into the water and begin to walk away back down the track, half-forgetting I’m on a mission! I spin round and run back to fill my little water bottle with my first lake water. I am soaked literally to the skin by the time I get back to where I’m parked. A quick coffee in the steamed-up car from my flask and then I drive to the place where I shall start the walk to my second lake – Llyn Barfog/Bearded Lake in the high hills above the Dyfi Estuary at 210 metres. I change into dry clothes and venture out. The fog ominously still sitting on the high ground and now the mizzle has given way to driving rain. The Wales Coastal Path which I’m following is clear though waterlogged. I’ve walked this way before. It’s often like wading along a riverbed. Given the conditions, I wonder if I shall ever reach the lake. The rain makes my glasses impossible to see through. I take them off. Everything a blur. Will I even find the lake given these conditions? I feel nervous and a little agitated. I venture off the path into high heather and trackless bog land. I congratulate myself on eventually finding the lake. First it is nowhere to be seen in the entire expanse of mist and moor, then it rears up as I pass round a high-topped outcrop. It is enormous. Looming. “Don’t fuck with me”, it seems to say. It is majestic, vast and commands respect with a capital R. It is bigger than my memory of it and holds a certain air of menace and awe. I don’t stay long but check my watch. It’s 10.30am, perfect timing. The time of the peak of the Solstice exact.

The sun and the fire work on the hill - Hail to the sun and the fire.

I speak Dion Fortune’s invocation aloud into the wind and the rain, throw my second stone into its slate grey expanse, then fill my little jam jar with lake water. An hour of re-tracing my muddy footsteps to get back to the car. It is so wet, I can’t see. Back at the car, I strip off all my wet clothes and put on another whole new set - underclothes, bottom layers, top layers, and waterproofs. I’m now ready for Cadair Idris. It’s now or never. The forecast tells me that around noon heavy fog gives way to heavy mountain rain. I have nothing to lose. I can always turn back I tell myself. No pressure. Take no risks. Respect the mountain. When I arrive back at the carpark, there’s a couple of other cars but no one else in sight. I leave a note on the windscreen ‘Llyn Cae 12.15pm’ and ascend the steep stone steps by the white-water rushing river at the base of the Minffordd path. For fortitude, I speak out loud to myself all the way. “Every step a prayer. Every prayer a step.” As I get higher and on mountain land proper, I am more exposed. For company, I speak aloud over and over the names of all the Women of the Solstice. I carry their names on a list wrapped in a plastic bag in my pocket. I recall each of their names, faces and a little about their lives. I do not walk alone. The rain is literally coming in sideways and the fog has still not lifted. I am exposed. The path is clear though as long as I stick to it. Fire will not burn you. Water will not drown you. The wind will not overwhelm you. I am wet through but after an hour and a quarter of climbing I am here standing in front of the waters of Llyn Cae, nestled in its great granite bowl. I speak my words loudly, calling up my courage, into the driving rain, glimpses of the lake coming and going through the mist. I throw in my offering, scoop up some water, turn on my heels and head down the mountain. Watch your step. No falls up here on the slippery, wet stones, though I’ve taken the precaution to pack a whistle and Emergency Bag. I speak aloud. I ask for power. “May I open to my power.” A chant. Over and over. And then, the refrain changes… “I open to my power.” No may, no request. A statement. At 56 years old, I open to my power. If not now, when? The conditions require it. Fire shall be to you as a friend and companion, comforter in sorrow. And wind shall be comrade and messenger.

I do not feel alone up here. I feel the support of hidden hands. I ask them to get me safely off the mountain.

I return, elated, to the carpark an hour later, drink some soup and change my clothes for the third time today. Three lakes down and one to go. I will do this. I head back to Machynlleth and towards home and the Mountain Road and Glas Llyn at 480 metres, “my lake”… The power of the elements shall be: - As a flame, as a rushing tide, as a mighty wind, as still as stone. I park the car and head out into the wind and waning light. I’ve not seen the sun all day and couldn’t actually tell you which direction it is in if I hadn’t checked my compass. It’s biting cold up here. I literally skip into the mist and along the track towards the lake. I am on my knees, shouting into the wind and the rain at the lakeside by sundown at 4.01pm. Wind and water. Wind and water. Wind and water. Water and wind.

I return back along the darkening track, walking into the blur. At 5pm I am home at Nant y Gwenill and standing by the stream with two little bottles and two little jam jars full of water. I speak Dion Fortune’s words through from beginning to end for the fifth and last time today. The water springs in the name of the earth and water and the rain in the name of water and the wind.

Into the Nant goes my water. Water from the four lakes, of the South, the West, the North and the East. I’ve worked my way around the wheel on this Mid-Winter Solstice. In it goes, and then onwards it flows into the three rivers, the Afon Crewi, Afon Dulas, the Dyfi and so to the sea.

Come from the depths and lighten our darkness – in the name of the Deep Mother and the living son. I am home. I enter the house, again in the dark, leaving a trail of water behind me, socks sopping wet. I have done what I said I would do, and no one is more surprised or elated than me.

Fern Smith

A train is coming, a train is leaving, fog in the distance makes this journey mystical and unknown.

A flame is flickering and lightening the shortest night, shared in the planet while stars and planet are getting closer and yet so far away. Cycling to get a hat, to keep warm, to remember life, been born in the winter time, a time of rest from working in the field, time to rest and look after a new born baby.

While walking in the vineyard, time to pause and be in touch within a resting place in my soul. Be in touch with something bigger than me, bigger and bigger while feeling the chill of cold humid fog resting on my face. The majesty of the mountain hugs me. The fluffy, pure white snow, rests on top like a white mantel keeping me warm, calm, clean and pure.

“Rest�, shouts the mountain as I feel my feet deepen into the ground, feeling at one with Mother Earth, feeling supported by it. I let myself go and be held.

Amalia Sommariva

Christina Jackson-Szczyrbowski

First Steps into Relationship

The flake of a pinecone exactly fits the curve of my thumb. Warm, smooth, the space that once sheltered a seed is a hollow that cups my skin and somehow acts as a comforting soother. I feel a call to the woods: they want me and I want them, with a yearning for connection and wisdom. I go, it’s a rainy winter solstice day. I’m not sure exactly where to go within this little neighbouring patch of woodland. I check a book with instructions on ceremony: opening and closing are important, it says, as is the offering of gifts, to practice gratitude and reciprocity is to enter into active relationship - and I really want that, so I take a tangerine and a stem of narcissus flowers from my vase, not sure what I will do with them. A short while later I arrive at the entrance to the woods and wonder which way to go and what to do next... So, I decide to play a game: I will follow my intuition - whichever path I am more attracted to I will enter. And when stuck I will ask the wood or specific trees for guidance. These woods are fairy-tale green, the trees have moss skirts and roots tumble and twist over the soft earth. I am always enchanted here, and it is easy to let myself be taken down my favourite path. The central clearing is close by, but I keep going to be respectful and approach the centre in a roundabout way. Like meeting a new friend, it pays to take one's time before asking direct requests. I walk over a small bridge, and take a turn to the right, passing a sweet bench, and then another little bridge over a tumbling brook falling into pools. The path then is crossed by another, a meeting of four ways, watched over by a bird feeder dripping in thick moss. Following my notion of wide circling I continue straight on. I come to a tall oak and a stand of small birch and turn right. I feel an encouragement to keep going. I come across a still pool full of green bobbles and bubbles, a broken boardwalk around it. I carefully tread around and over, feet sinking into soft mossy mud. This takes me back to the woodshed at the entrance to the woods where I began. This time I take a right turn down a short path to the centre circle where upturned logs are placed around a fire-pit. I stand in the middle of the ash of the fire pit. It's too public for any kind of ceremony, it feels too open. So, I ask the woods “where next?” I look across the clearing and see a path leading to a large oak majestically rising above the tree line. Its broad trunk feels welcoming. When I reach it, I see the beautiful mosses and hollows of its shape and am pulled to gently touch. I feel I should have asked, but it does not seem to mind. Despite feeling welcomed by the oak, it is also not the place for a ceremony because I am right next to the path, I don't feel settled enough. I rest my back to the oak's trunk and from this angle in amongst the rainy mist I see a little glade with a mossy stump in its centre. I pick my way over the uneven ground to reach it. This is the place. I open the ceremony: I greet out loud the four directions of east, south, west and north. I sit on the central stump and listen. What I am most aware of is that inside my head is a whirl of thoughts, anxieties and plans. After a while of supressing them and willing them away, I turn towards this bubbling thought stream. Rather than examining the individual thoughts I feel their movement in my mind, and then the answer from the woods comes...the small hazels around me seem to say "Protect your heart. We offer you some protection and you are welcome to come back’”. Some more words were said (which was like an intuition of meaning that arose within me).

With this I feel a conclusion to our interaction. I bow, offering gifts to the trees. A segment of tangerine for each tree in the glade while placing the narcissus at the foot of the tree behind me. It feels good to offer gifts - like a connection is being established, respect offered. I wend my way back along the route I came, past the oak, the fire circle, the woodshed, pond. Here I make a mistake and find myself back on the fire circle again. So, I double back, and this time turn left and come to the birch stand, the bird table, the stream, bench, and bridge. Back along the enchanted path between moss skirts of vivid green and out of the woods, and finally climbing the hill back to the house where I live. The message from the woods stays with me like a gift and blessing. A further blessing is that the woods have become other, now, not a commodity to be consumed, but a community of beings that have given me their time. On further reflection, I realise my own intuition is like a piece of wildness within me. The potential is there for it to speak and be heard. The first steps into relationship.


Yurt Fire Heat 6pm

wren’s nest

yellow rose



Leaves from island wood

A silver circle

In a semicircle the gatherings waited

all elements were part

at the end the walking in the dark over fence to let lose in the pond the leaves

into the fire the metal ring to be melted

plate mended before carelessly kept force of everything I possessed broke it to smithereens on the concrete path fragments everywhere left earthbound

Maybe that’s the earth or the air

It was a ceremony

observed witnessed partaken in

the order shifts due to shocks since and forgetting

solstice of acuteness

Clare Whistler

At Solstice, I returned to my physically embodiment in my experience of relationship to the earth. I merged with its experience, so that its beauty and being, its pleasures, and pain are viscerally felt within my own body. In this poem, I connect with the deep love for the earth as mother, the pain of my inevitable role in damaging her, and how even as she rages with floods, earthquakes and wildfires to devastate us, for me her beauty and splendour is still undiminished, and ultimately, I find healing only within her embrace.

Take Me To My Earth Mother We have done what we have done Thus carry the vast unbearable pain Hers or mine I can now no longer tell Oh take me ever to my Earth Mother To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing When my tears ever refuse to stop Dread darkness threatens all around Take me to where the veils are thinner To where I can see her Sacred Face To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing The self-same Mother in her grandeur Wields her powers as the Wild Woman Casts us merciless into relentless fire Still take me forlorn ever to Her bosom To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing A despair so great that I will but drown A pain so sharp that screams reverberate To heart’s core ripping all my selves apart Take me even then to be ever near Her To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing Yet at times in joy She does spill moonlight Her stars weave bright webs within the night Her radiance glows green as forests’ might The sun draws me within her very robes To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing When I weep the insubstantiality of me When I cry the sad powerlessness of me When I stand ever mired at the crossroads Oh take me back yet to her Shining Face To hold me in mystery Within her love for my healing Judy Ling Wong

Index of Contributors Gilly Adams Gilly is an independent celebrant and teacher who specialises on developing creative words for ritual, performance and life writing.

Linda Alton Linda is an artist, writer, yogi and Creative Adventures facilitator based in Nottinghamshire, England. She practises and shares contemplation, drawing, writing, free movement, sculpture, yoga philosophy, growing food, languageless BEing and collaborative explorations of NOW. www.lindaalton.co.uk www.creativetwistsandturns.co.uk

Lorena Rivero de Beer Lorena is a trainee Lacanian psychoanalyst at the School of the Freudian letter, a UK BACP registered psychotherapist, a performance artist and a Zen practitioner at the Stonewater Zen centre. www.debeercounselling.co.uk

Julia Forster Julia is an author based just outside Machynlleth in the Crewi valley. www.julia-forster.com

Theresia Guschlbauer Theresia is a collaborative artist and curator with a textile practice based in county Tipperary, Ireland. Her work includes curating Clonmel Applefest and producing multidisciplinary collaborations on environmental and social themes. Ritual and ecology infuse most of her work. www.2candoarts.ie

Rachel Hasler Rachel is an ecologist, researcher, mother and artist based in Mid-Wales who is currently researching the microbial galaxies found in the Earth’s soils. She also facilitates workshops and training aiming to make academia and climate sciences accessible and equitable for all. She is directing her energy into science communication and particularly the link between science and art. She aims to strengthen her bond with the Earth and its people with every breath and every step. Insta: green_network_support. Twitter: @_green_network_


Emily Hinshelwood After years of saying 'I’ll fix it when I get a minute', she decided the time has come. She began mending things at Samhain and will keep going through the dark days till Imbolc. The winter solstice marks her half-way. While all this fixing is satisfying on a practical level, it is also triggering deep connections with her past that are nostalgic, affirming and profoundly healing.

Helen iles Helen is a gardener, writer and meditation and creativity guide. www.heleniles.info

Suzanne Iuppa Suzanne is a poet and conservationist living and working in the Dyfi Valley, mid Wales. She has essays, poetry and reviews forthcoming in Spelt, Words for the Wild and Poetry Wales. Twitter @wildernesspoet. Facebook: Refuge / poetry by Suzanne Iuppa.

Katy Jones Katy is a body worker and yoga teacher who lives and works in the Dysynni Valley in West Wales where she offers restful holidays on her family smallholding for those seeking connection with nature. www.snowdoniahideaway.com

Sheena McMahon Sheena has done many different things in her life. At present, she lives in a co-operative in Mid Wales learning to care take of the land and learning about permaculture. She is trained in therapeutic massage and as a craniosacral therapist. She paints, loves poetry and all the arts. www.sheenamcmahoncraniov3.weebly.com www.sheenamcmearthbeauty.co.uk Donna Males Donna is a Wales based performance artist who sings of broken hearts and brighter futures. She pens lyrics that reflect the times we live in and explores who we are, where we are going and who we will become. Her stripped down, laid bare recordings can be found on her YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Ih_euyY_FTy95UU_dt41Q


Katja Machleidt Katja is a Storyteller and Wood Walker, dancing with the wind on Slievenamon in Ireland.

Judith Mills A Welsh woman living in London and Criccieth. A coach and facilitator supporting people and organisations to become future focused in their work in the world. Passionate about Theatre, Music, The Mystical and meditates for a loving world to emerge. www.intuitivecareermanagement.com Marega Palser Based in NewPorT ( the SouthWalien one ) Marega is a birther of Creative stuFFs : Sometimes-MoverGrooverMakerShaker:OutdoorUrbanActions using Paint, PlacingDisPlacing Objects and seeing how the body BEing bangs up alongside the ChAosmos we like to call this world. www.mrandmrsclark.co.uk Instagram – Horsegal

Ailsa Richardson Ailsa is an artist-performer, facilitator and guide based in North Pembrokeshire. For her creative collaborative projects with elders and carers see brism.us/creative-cafes and https://www.movementmedicineassociation.org/teacherDisplay.php?Id=45 for Movement Medicine. www.ailsarichardson.com

Carole Shearman Carole is a potter, teacher and creative, living and working in Blaenau Ffestiniog and Ynys Enlii.

Lena Šimić Lena is an artist, writer and researcher currently working on ‘Performance and the Maternal’ research project and Three Sisters: The End of the Project theatre play. www.lenasimic.art

Katie Slee

Katie lives in London but originally hails from Durham in the North East of England. She values spontaneity, kindness and variety and tries to live life in a way that makes room for all three. She works freelance/part-time, trying to find the right balance between being and doing. www.katieslee.co.uk


Andy Legh-Smith Andy is a retired psychotherapist.

Fern Smith Fern lives in Wales. She is an experiential ritual artist, facilitator, celebrant, coach, craniosacral therapist and rites of passage guide. She creates RitualArtworKs amongst other things. www.fernsmith.uk, www.emergence-uk.org and www.craniosacraltherapy.wales

Amalia Sommariva Amalia was born in San Martino di Colle Umberto, an Italian village north of Venice and surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains. She loves nature and feels a strong connection with Mother Earth. Amalia trained in Body Psychotherapy, pre and perinatal trauma. She has been working in mental health hospitals since 2004 and enjoys being part of people’s journey towards recovery and helping them to continue to grow as human beings.

Christina Jackson-Szczyrbowski Moving in the edges, Chris is fuelled by transformational individual and social chance for our collective world. www.nomadic-chris.weebly.com

Julia Julia is a British woman seeking connection with nature, who is also a local mindfulness and meditation teacher and medical GP.

Clare Whistler Clare is an artist of the elemental, from a movement background, so performance and ceremony will find a way into many things she makes. www.clarewhistler.co.uk www.elephantpress.co.uk

Judy Ling Wong Judy is a painter, poet and environmentalist. She was awarded an OBE for pioneering multicultural environmental participation in 2000, and a CBE for services to heritage in 2007.


Dedicated to the Spirit of the Winter Solstice, the energies of the Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water and all those that honour them.

A RitualArtworK curated and produced by Fern Smith, January 2021 Please feel free to share this book with others!

If you’d like to hear more or participate in ongoing retreats, ceremonies, creative and nature-based practises please contact me through my websites.

www.fernsmith.uk www.emergence-uk.org


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