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The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice
Written by Jimmy McCann

Winter 263
The darkest, longest night of the year: the winter solstice under a new moon. The great hunter begins his stalk across the clear night sky with Faolan and Sapphira making preparations for the ritual under the twilight canopy.

“That’s not where the candles go, Faolan!”

“But Sapphira, why not? I thought it was an interesting design I made around the circle.”

“We go over this every time we cast a circle; You know the candles are supposed to go on the other three cardinal points.”

Their circle measures ten paces wide with a teepee of wood prepared in the east and more wood stacked just outside the circle, enough for a fire to burn all night. In the center is a simple wooden altar draped in a cloth of silver and blue, and adorned with branches of evergreen and stems of mistletoe. On the altar is an offering of grain and vegetables gathered from some of the locals’ autumn harvest. The still air hangs thick with frankincense, cinnamon, and myrrh from the incense burning around the altar.

Sapphira: “Ok, I think everything is set. Let’s begin.”

Sapphira retires to a small tent just southwest of their circle to change into a flowing white robe, then Faolan to change into loose white pants and a white smock. Then they approach their circle from the west with Sapphira carrying a small stick alit at the tip. With Faolan standing behind her, Sapphira kneels down to light the western candle while reciting her first incantation:
Tonight is the night of the Solstice,
The longest night of the year.
As the Wheel turns once more, I know that
Tomorrow, Sol will begin his journey back to us.
With it, new life will begin,
A blessing from Gaia to her children.

Sapphira rises and proceeds towards the altar with Faolan trailing her. At the altar, Sapphira turned and headed north leaving Faolan to stand guard at the altar. With Faolan watching her every move, Sapphira kneels to light the northern candle while reciting her second incantation:
It is the season of the winter goddess.
Tonight I celebrate the festival of the winter solstice,
The rebirth of Sol, and the return of light to Gaia.
As the Wheel of the Year turns once more,
I honor the eternal cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Sapphria then rises and heads to the southern edge of their circle, passing behind Faolan standing on the west side of the altar. Upon reaching the southern candle she kneels to light it while reciting her last incantation:
Today I honor the god of the forest,
The King of nature, who rules the season.
I give my thanks to the beautiful goddess,
Whose blessings bring new life to Gaia.
These gifts I offer you tonight,
Sending my prayers to you upon the air.

After pausing for a moment, Sapphira returns to Faolan at the altar. Together, they step around the north side of the altar and head towards the eastern edge of their circle. At the wood teepee Faolan kneels down and pulls out his hunting knife and a piece of flint. He strikes the back edge of his knife against the flint sending a spark into a bed of dry grass at the heart of the teepee. He quickly leans in to breathe life into the flames, and once the kindling has caught he begins chanting.
As he chants, he tips back to take a seat to the northwest of the fire with Sapphira sitting down to the southwest of the fire. Faolan’s chanting continues.
With Faolan’s chant carrying into the night, they sit in meditation upon the fire and the coming of brighter days, but a singular, inescapable thought creeps into Faolan’s mind:
Eventually, the fire burns down
Eventually, the candles grow dim
The Darkness wins…

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