One candle for each quarter, and one each for the Goddess and God. One sheet, white or black, large enough to at least symbolically cover a seated person. Other altar tools as usual, according to group tradition.
The winter solstice marks the rebirth of the God, as well as the longest night of the year. It is also the final appearance of the Goddess in the cycle of the year, since she will spend the winter months recovering from her labors this night. All the earth will sleep with her; our bodies, and the trees and seeds of the earth await her return in the spring. It is a night of celebration, because we know that the light of the God has again returned.
Circle casting: (begin with ritual cleansing for the group, of whatever type is commonly used)
Covener: Guardians of the East, keepers of the fires of our minds, keep us strong and sure; help us to remember that there is order, even in the smallest things, and that even in death, new life and growth will come again. (light candle, if using them to mark the quarters)
Covener: Guardians of the South, keepers of the flame of intuition, keep our eyes open, and our hearts aware; help us to remember that there is a reality we cannot see, and knowledge that we have never learned. (light candle)
Covener: Guardians of the West, keepers of the water of healing, keep us true in our love for one another; help us to grow in our relationship to the earth, and to celebrate our unity with all that lives. (light candle)
Covener: Guardians of the North, keepers of our oldest memory, keep us grounded in the wisdom of those who have been our teachers; help us to feel the earth we walk on, and to celebrate the turning of the year. (light candle)
Covener: As we gather here, drawing strength and life from all that surrounds us, let us remember that we are not alone. Even as we find warmth and safety within our own small band, we worship, too, in the spirit of all who have gone before us.
Call to the Ancestors (courtesy of NROOGD)
You dead, who lived in wisdom strong and plain;Covener: Invocation to the Goddess:
Covener: We stand between worlds, where Earth and Sky, Night and Day, Life and Death are one. The circle is cast, the ritual begun.
All: Blessed be!
At this point one member should be selected to represent the Goddess and one to represent the God. The blanket or sheet should be placed over the God, seated on the ground or floor. If you're lucky enough to be outside, the comfort associated with a blanket at this time of year provides a handy analogy to the Womb of Rebirth. Speaking parts for this section should be assigned based on who is chosen to represent the deities. These two will not speak.
Covener: (Addressing the covered form of the God)
God of sacrifice
Lord of death, reborn this night,
A member of the group should now light the God candle from the Goddess candle, leaving both burning on the altar. The blanket should be removed from the God. Each covener in turn should embrace the God figure, feeling the strength and love that pass between them, either silently, or using whatever words of welcome seem appropriate. The God may then become a member of the circle again.
Covener (Addressing the Goddess figure):
Goddess of creation
Spirits of the forest deep
All in turn should embrace the Goddess figure, again being aware of all that passes between them. The Goddess then takes up the blanket as a cloak, and takes her place, seated, in the circle. The Goddess candle, very gently, is extinguished. The following should begin with the Goddess, and can then be passed around, so that adjacent members are in turn the "soloists."
Goddess:The wheel of the year again has turned.
All:The seasons' course again is run.
Covener:What was offered up is now reborn.
All:We feel the light of the infant Sun.
Covener:May this be real in each of us.
All:The night has ended, the dawn begun. Blessed be!
Things can then proceed as normal, with the blessing of the food and drink, and the Simple Feast. The circle can then be opened according to custom. I'll include the farewell to the quarters (from Starhawk), because I think they're wonderful, but use what works for you.
Guardians of the East (South, etc...)
The circle is open, but yet unbroken