Winter Solstice
compiled and edited by Wind Daughter
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For us in the Bear Tribe Medicine Society, the Earth Renewal (or Winter Solstice) ceremonies are among the most important ceremonies that we do every year. We share these with you so that those of you who cannot be here to share with us in person can have the same opportunities for sharing in the growth and energy available at this time.

It is possible that your life plans or your jobs leave you tied up during the day of Solstice. If this is the case I still suggest that you personally do whichever of the ceremonies feel good to you on the day that works out best for you. The time of Earth Renewal is very strong, and the energy of this time lasts up to twelve days before and after the Solstice itself. If you are sensitive, you can generally pick up on these energies as they begin to peak (4 days before and after the Solstice). This time of year is a chance for you to give your thanks and to give your energy back to the Earth Mother and Father Sun.

On this, the shortest day of the year, we celebrate the return of Father Sun, welcome the Spirit Keeper of the North, of Winter, Waboose; and give thanks to the Spirit Keeper of the West, Mudjekeewis, whose time of Autumn has just passed.

The ceremonial cycle this year begins to peak four days before the Solstice.  Traditionally the members of the tribe and invited guests fast for one to four days prior to the day of ceremony. We will begin our ceremony very early in the morning of the Winter Solstice. All fires are put to sleep in our houses, and our stoves and fireplaces are cleaned, along with the cleaning of our living spaces, in a ritual and sacred way. This cleaning physically represents that we are beginning a new cycle, and that we want to do so without carrying over any dirt or garbage from the cycle passing. We sometimes have a period of storytelling during and/or after the cleaning. The men prepare the fire for the Stone Peoples' Lodge, and will sweat first. After the Women's Lodge, coals are carried from the sacred sweat fire to our homes to symbolically bring the fire (light and heat) back, just as on this day Father Sun returns. We honor the return of Father Sun in this way.

Then we go to our Earth Mound for a ceremony honoring the Earth energies. The keepers of the Earth Mound will be leading that ceremony. In the center of this mound we will bury a glass jar for 12 days (a very old Celtic ceremonial practice that in later years became the 12 days of Christmas) with representatives of all the seeds we will be planting next spring. At the Earth Mound we have a large rock that we use to represent the head of a turtle, reminding us that the earth of this continent is called Turtle Island. We will at this time move the head into the Northern quarter of the Mound to symbolize the earth in its winter form. We offer prayers for the season coming again, and we offer tobacco and cornmeal, and songs.

Following this are separate men's and women's ceremonies. The women grind our ceremonial corn meal for the year. They focus all their female energy into the corn meal as they grind it. Sometimes they discuss the function of feminine energy in the world or chant, tell stories, or drum as they grind the corn.

The men make prayer plumes to put within all the vehicles that we own to protect them in the coming year. As we make the plumes we focus all the masculine energy we can into them. At this time we might discuss male energy and what it is and what it means. The men also make up kinnikinnik, our herbal smoking mixture, from herbs that we gathered in the previous spring, summer and fall (uva ursi, mullein, sweet clover, sage and raspberry leaves). To this herbal mixture we will add some of the gift tobacco that has been given to various members of the tribe during the previous year. We will crush and grind together all the herbs asking the spirits to bless our prayers during the coming year.

When the men and women come back together again, every person will be given a pouch of kinnikinnik to use for making tobacco offerings or for their personal smoking mixture, and everyone will be given a small pouch of sacred corn meal to bless our gardens, and children, and to be used in ceremonies all over the world in the coming year. As the year progresses and we come to run low on tobacco or corn meal we will always leave a little in the pouch so that when we add to them there will always be some of the old to mix with the new and so we keep the energy shared at Earth Renewal present throughout the year. We close this day by bringing all our pipes together for a pipe ceremony and if there is anyone who wants a pipe consecrated this is one of the times during the year that we get together to do that.