2016 Winter Solstice Festival
By: Minette Quick
WINTER SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
FOUNDATION CENTRE - IRELAND
December 17th, 2016
It was a bright frosty morning as we gathering to celebrate this special time, and within the welcoming warmth of the beautifully decorated Theatre the twinkling lights on the tall tree were reflected in shining faces all round! The drum rang out as we processed to the Rose Garden, the Heart Centre of the Fellowship, and on along the Yew Walk and down to the Druid Grove through the Wilderness to invoke the presence of the Goddess Dana. There we stood, rooted deeply into the Earth beneath the magnificent Redwoods once again, and together sang the ‘Immas.’
The vital spirit of the land which inspired our Co. Founders is such a potent force when we come to connect with the home places so dear to them. At all times of year the energy unfailingly rises to greet us as we process the grounds. The remains of the Abbey adjoining the Castle itself, is now the home of the Noble Order of Tara, whose members dedicate themselves to increasing awareness of the sacredness of the land and the vital work of preserving all aspects of the environment which that awareness engenders.
At the foot of the steps which lead down from the front of the Castle to Persephone’s Gate, our attention was drawn to the beauty of some mature winter-flowering shrubs, which were just coming into bloom, despite the cold deep withdrawal of so much of Nature into its time of rest each year. And Her message for us as we entered the welcoming presence of the Temple of Isis, was that this was an opportunity for us to reflect deeply upon our inner worlds, lit by that inner light which dwells within us all and gives us life itself. Greeted by a blaze of candles from the High Altar we passed on to gather beside Brigid’s Well, to hear the words of Isis reminding us of the Holy Breath of Inspiration wafted by Her wings and by which we live and feed our spirits..
Following invocations and blessings by the priesthood at the Well, and a reminder of the coming of the Sacred Child in many traditions at this time, we all settled around the High Altar to receive an extremely moving and powerful Oracle from Gaia, the Great Mother of our Planet Earth, upon whom we depend for absolutely everything within life. Her Body continues to suffer greatly at our hands, and yet even at this crucial time we were assured that the Light is genuinely gaining ground as each of us plays our part in spreading it on Her behalf.
To the quiet sounds of the harp we all reflected deeply upon Gaia’s potent words and our ceremonies continued upon the theme of the power of that Inner Light, first with a wonderful guided meditation and then with our customary shared healing prayers for those close to our hearts, whether family or friends or so many thousands around the world who are suffering violence or painful restrictions of any kind.
Instead of our customary Mystery Play, everyone present participated in a candlelit Ceremony of Lights which was magical as we responded to the lovely words of the priestess presiding over the ceremony and sang together the words of a beautiful pagan version of Silent Night, enveloped in the immediacy of the darkness surrounding each little light. Once the main lights had been restored, we were all treated to a delightful story, weaving its faerie way through our hearts, as the little elemental folk feared for the ‘death of the Sun’ and the fate of the earth, but were reassured that the Child that is born each year, as the light is at its lowest, will grow and become strong and lively with Spring.
And so our proceedings drew to a close once again, with thanks for the presence of Deity amongst us in such powerful and healing ways when we meet. And, as ever, we repaired to the village to enjoy some welcome warmth and refreshment before taking to the road to return home.
The Castle Yew Walk, photo © J.D. Mabbott
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(Many thanks to Minette for sharing her reports!)
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