A Midwinter Ritual by Barbara Ardinger

Midwinter, the winter solstice (December 21), is the shortest day and longest night of the year. I like to think of Yule, an old pagan name for the solstice season, as a time when we get to take a nice, long, peaceful nap between all those holiday parties. For this ritual, you need two candles (silver and gold), a blanket, and a small gift for yourself.

santaSanta Claus is really a shaman. He wears red and white and black (the three sacred colors of the so-called ancient triple goddess) and he’s fat because he’s well-fed. (A traditional shaman once told me never to trust a skinny shaman; if his people don’t provide for him, he’s not doing his job.) Santa flies from the frozen north, where the Saami (or Lapp) shamans still wield their full traditional powers. He’s drawn through the air by magical reindeer whose antlers symbolize the surging force of life. The Christmas tree is the world pole. From Mongolia to the American Southwest, shamans traditionally ascend the world pole to make their astral journeys. Santa knows everything, especially if we’ve been good or bad, and like karma itself, he brings us our just desserts. His gifts are the gifts of the spirit made material. His attendants, the toy-making elves, are the Old Ones who help the deserving and play tricks on the undeserving. Santa is not a god, but let’s honor him along with the solar gods and goddesses in our midwinter ritual.

Because this ritual is about rest and revival as the light is reborn, you need a blanket or quilt, preferably one that’s handmade and full of snuggly memories. You also need a small gift to yourself, something you really want. This is your gift from the goddess Ops, consort of the elder god Saturn, who was the god of agriculture during humankind’s Golden Age and is both Father Time and the Grim Reaper. The week-long Saturnalia of ancient Rome was named for him. His consort is Ops (her day is December 19), from whom we get our word “opulence.” Your gift can be a crystal or a book or any small thing you really want.

Light your silver candle and set it somewhere safe (on a table or an altar if you create an altar), then sit on your cozy blanket and invite the elemental powers of fire, water, air, and earth into your space. Invite Santa and the Christmas tree angel, too. Ask them to take the same places the guardian angels take around Hansel and Gretel in Humperdinck’s opera—at your head and feet, right and left hands, above you and below you.

Frau Holle is the German goddess of winter. When snow is falling, we can see that she’s shaking out her sheets and tablecloths. Invoke her with these words:

frau-holleFrau Holle, Grandmother of All,
it’s winter, and I am cold.
Frau Holle, Grandmother of All,
it’s dark, and I am frightened.
Frau Holle, Grandmother of All,
it’s the nighttime of the year, and I am weary.
Frau Holle, Grandmother of All,
take me in your arms—
hold me, rock me, cradle me,
and watch over me while I sleep.

Wrap yourself up in your blanket, or at least wrap it around your shoulders. Imagine Frau Holle coming to tuck you in for the night. Let her sing you a lullaby—the famous aria from Hansel and Gretel, “All Through the Night,” Brahms’ “Lullaby,” “Mockingbird,” or any other lullaby you love. When the kind goddess has finished singing to you, she sits in her old rocking chair nearby and takes out her eternal knitting, which becomes the blanket of snow that covers the land.

Now in your imagination you get to be an animal. Become a bear in a burrow. You’ve eaten enough holiday meals to sustain yourself through the winter, and now you get to take a nap. First make sure your candle is safe, then take your midwinter nap. If you actually fall asleep, that’s all right. Sleep peacefully through the longest night of the year. Imagine Santa Shaman visiting you and bringing your gift. Have a brief dream conversation with him if you want to.

When you wake up, make animal noises. Yawn and stretch. Winter’s over! The sun has been reborn! Untangle yourself from your blanket and crawl out of your burrow. Light your gold candle and greet the newborn sun with these words:

sunriseHail, Golden Saule, Beautiful Hathor,
Mighty Apollo, Gentle Jesus—
Morning greetings, solar gods and goddesses.
Hail, climbing power of the rising sun,
fiery dawn and newborn day,
illumination and warming joy.
Night is done, midwinter has passed, and I rejoice!
Welcome, rising sun!

Give thanks to Frau Holle for watching over you during the night. Say thank you to Santa Shaman for the gift he brought you. Thank Goddess Ops for all the precious and small gifts you know you’ll be receiving all year long. Sing a Christmas carol, and then begin your new day.

Joy to the world,
The light is born.
Let earth begin to sing.
Let every heart
Rejoice in the light.
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and earth and nature sing!

Barbara ArdingerBarbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations.  When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.

Categories: Divine Feminine, God/des, Goddess Spirituality, Ritual

Tags: , , ,

16 replies

  1. A wonderful Midwinter ritual Barbara. Grab your soft blanket & a good book and rest.


  2. Thank you for this lovely ritual as well as the information about mid-winter symbolism which makes experiencing the vestiges of them in our Christmas traditions all the more meaningful and fun!


    • In Pagan Every Day, I wrote about solar gods on the December 25 page. “…Sol Invictus, and Mithra were associated with the birth of Jesus. In 354, Bishop Liberius of Rome moved the birth date of Jesus to match the date of Mithra. ” The Christian church doesn’t actually know when Jesus was born, though there are lots of guesses. I know people who firmly believe Jesus was a Pisces.


  3. This was so much fun! Thank you for this much needed and welcome break from the events of the last month.


  4. What a lovely ritual! Thank you, Barbara.


  5. So beautiful, Barbara! Thank you!


  6. Perhaps people might like to read a more feminine version of Solstice & Shamanesses? https://gathervictoria.com/2014/12/04/doe-a-deer-a-female-deer-the-spirit-of-mother-christmas/


  7. We need more rituals of self love and care. Thank you for this one Barbara. I like Frau Holle. Sometimes I just really need a grandmother to tuck me in.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I absolutely love this. Thank you. I am craving more rituals in my life, and what a lovely new (for me) way to see the Santa figure.


  9. What a beautiful loving ritual – thanks for sharing.


  10. My sister and I (East Coast-West Coast) and 4 of my co-workers performed this ritual individually on the eve and morning of the Winter Solstice. What fun it was! We give each other solstice gifts to be opened upon arising and we shared a sense of being loved and embraced by the Grandmother of All (Mother God) and each other. It is destined to be an annual ritual. Thank you for this wonderful little gift!



  1. A Midwinter Ritual by Barbara Ardinger | GrannyMoon's Morning Feast

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