It was Winter Solstice yesterday. The day when winter officially begins. The longest night of the year. The darkest day of the year. I tried to sleep without marking this day in any special way but could not sleep. So, in the middle of the night, I slipped down into the family room, put a log in the fireplace, and sat upon the floor directly in front of the fire. I pulled out my pipe – a ceremonial pipe that I had made many years ago for personal use. There have been years when I used my pipe on a regular basis for prayer and meditation, but in recent years, I have pulled it out only once or twice a year. Tonight, with the darkness of the world pressing upon my soul, I felt compelled to do a ceremony to mark the darkest day, to pray for the return of the light, to send out healing energy to those I love and to the world in general.
So I pulled the wrapped pipe out of its bag, laid out a few ceremonial items, and smudged the pipe and myself with the smoke from burning cedar, sage, sweet grass and lavender. My mind quieted in response to these simple rituals as I focused on cleansing, purifying and beautifying my aura and the space surrounding me. I unwrapped the stone pipe bowl and the cedar pipe stem and held them above my head with arms outstretched, and brought them together with the simple prayer, “I bring this pipe together in keeping with the two sacred laws that all things are born of women and nothing shall be done to harm the children”. I did this as I was taught to do 25 years ago and felt my heart sing, once again, in response to the beauty of this ritual.
With a bag of tobacco in my lap, legs crossed, I began my prayers. For each of the 8 directions on the medicine wheel and for the centre of the wheel, I offered prayers, and added a pinch of tobacco to the pipe. From this quiet place inside my mind, in this sacred space created with my pipe, I visualized my body filling with energy from the earth and then I offered it to a loved one in need of healing. With each person, in my mind’s eye, I wrapped my arms around them and said, “I offer this energy with love to be used in any way that you may choose.” And then, I allowed my body to fill with white light from the stars and, with a similar attitude, I offered it to the earth, to women who I don’t know who are worried about how they will feed their children, and to men who are in conflict zones…
When I was done, my tears were spent, and my heart felt light. Before closing my sacred space, I checked in with myself. This felt so good; why don’t I do it all of the time? Because I have trouble believing that prayer can have an impact. Because I have trouble believing that MY prayers can have an impact. Because I believe that a person’s prayers can only have an impact commensurate with his/her physical size and psychic abilities. But, in this centred place, in the middle of the night, on the darkest night of the year, on the darkest day in a millenium, I knew that these beliefs were not truths. In that place, I knew that prayer is powerful; that my prayers are powerful; that the power of a prayer has nothing to do with the size or ability of the person offering it. And in that knowing, I felt my despair about the darkness in the world shrink; I felt the light of hope re-ignited; and I knew that I had touched the true meaning of a Winter Solstice Ceremony; to re-birth the inner light!