I’m a bit nervous at sharing this. I’m afraid that I somehow did this wrong, approached it incorrectly. This will all change as I grow, but I’m sharing this now to have a record of that growth.
I lit a thicker candle (one of the ones that could stand by itself on the table), explaining to the children and my unusually patient wife, that this was the longest night of the year. That after this, the days were going to begin to get longer. That the sun was coming back.
The candle, I explained, was a symbol of the sun. And we could each light our own candles and say something that we’d like to change in our lives as the sun was changing the world around us. I talked about wanting to be a better papa. My wife said she hoped we got to travel together as a family. Our daughter said she wanted to turn four (I suggested it, after she didn’t seem to have any idea) and our oldest talked and talked about becoming a police man and the best hero ever. He’s five.
After we said what we hoped for in the new year, we blew our candle out. (That was about the extent of what we could do with a three and a five year old. The two year old was off somewhere else).
Eventually, the oldest wanted to relight his candle and talk a little while longer. It was quite a bit of him happily holding his candle and talking about the things he hoped for his future. They involved him being a policeman, a fireman and an ‘ambulance man,’ among other things.
Having seen that, our daughter wanted to relight her candle to say that she wanted to be a princess when she was big.
I’d say it was a success. My standards aren’t high.
It was important to me — understanding myself now as a ‘solitary practitioner’ (to the extent that I’m a practitioner at all). I went to the tree — an oak in a nearby park — that I’ve chosen to make a place where I can choose to be centered in the ‘green world’ on a regular basis. I’ll write more about this tree at some point, for now, it’s a tree I’ve always found attractive and I like that it’s close enough that I can see it on a regular basis.
I went to this tree and, feeling a bit odd, told it that I wasn’t sure what I was doing, that I didn’t think I had to worry about doing it wrong, but that I’d like to do it as right as possible. Speaking out loud is important to me. It’s as close to action as I’m likely to come in the near future, as far as my spirituality counts.
Still speaking to the tree, I said something like “I don’t know what part of you I’m talking to, what part of you can really help me. I don’t even know that you want to help me. I just kind of chose you and I’m sorry for that. Still, I think you’ll know better than I will how to show the respect I want to show.”
Then, I opened my offering. It was a bottle of beer, which might seem a bit disrespectful, but as a brewer and fan of beer, I felt like I was giving something of myself. Also, there’s a line of thinking — which, probably only I can follow — by which beer combines earth, air, fire and water. “I don’t have fire, or water, or other offerings.” I said, pouring first an offering at the root of my tree. “But this what I have. I offer it, and ask for your aide.”
Then, beginning the ceremony, I said something like. “I wish to honor the Earth. I don’t know how best to do this, but this is an act of worship. I wish to be an instrument of worship.”
Moving to the north (I actually brought a compass to double check that it was where I thought it was) I said, “I recognize the earth and offer this offering in gratitude for what it has given me, and what I hope that it will do for me.” I poured my offering.
I am not yet ready, I think, to really worship the elements as deities. I don’t know why. It was important to me that the ceremony be an honest one, and not a case of me going through motions that were empty of meaning for me in the hope that they would take on meaning. Instead, as I poured, I tried to keep in mind the ways the element earth, either abstractly or as something more spiritual, worked in my life.
I moved to the south. “I recognize and honor fire, and I offer this gift in return for the things fire has done in my life, for the things I hope it will yet do in my life.” There was another moment in which I thought about fire.
In the east, I continued. “I recognize and honor water. I know that I am mostly water. I offer this offering for the things that water has done in my life, for the things I hope it will do.”
In the west, I finished. “I recognize and honor the air. I offer this offering for the things that the air has done in my life, for the things I still hope it will do.”
Then, I returned to the tree. It feels weird to write about it now, but I felt pretty comfortable speaking to an unseen audience by this point. I said that I had missed the sun as it was waning, that I was personally happy to have it coming back. That I was thankful that it would come back.
Returning to my New Year’s Resolutions, I told the world that I wanted to have a better sense of myself and of my path by the time I celebrated the solstice again.
Then I didn’t know how to end the ceremony. So, I said something about honoring and observing this high day of solstice, and sat on a bit of protruding root and finished the beer, telling the tree again that I was sorry for involving it without its permission.
In fact, I rambled to it a bit. I didn’t know what to do about taking an omen — I have my plant oracle cards, but don’t feel confident ‘consulting’ them — and that I’d read about a well and a fire, but I didn’t understand it.
It turned out that I was pretty generous with my offerings. There wasn’t much more than two mouths full of beer left.
I felt bad leaving the tree. In fact, I liked how it’s branches stood out against the pale sky that I paused to take a photo of it. (Now the background on my phone.)
Sunrise is at 8:06 tomorrow morning. My wife will be at work. I would like to be able to get the kids outside to the tree to watch the sun come up. I don’t know that it will work, but, if it does, I’ll post about it.