Darkest Days: A Simple Candle Ritual to Connect with Loved Ones

Rituals come in every conceivable shape, from months-long ceremony to quick bathroom prayers. To my mind, a great ritual has three properties:

  1. It’s as lean as it can be.
  2. Anyone can do it.
  3. It can be explained in seconds and makes complete sense.

When Elisabeth Wingerter told me about her Yule ritual, it instantly ticked all three boxes and I asked if I could share it, because it’s incredibly simple, and its brilliance is in its simplicity.

Whether it’s Yule or Winter Solstice to you, it’s the darkest day of the year, among a long string of dark days. It is a day full of import, physically and metaphorically. Humans have been celebrating, lamenting, and otherwise marking its passage for millenia, and the first thing I liked about Elisabeth’s ritual is that it calls on our first elemental ally, fire.

The ritual is described thus: You think of everyone you care about, everyone you can think of, even remote aquaintances, and you carve their names into tealights, which are then lit. That’s it. That’s the ritual.

That may not seem like much of a revelation, but I want you to think about the year you’ve just had. Think of what you’ve been through. Think of all the people you worry about, and want protective warmth to cover them.

The second thing I liked is that it’s a meditation on our human connections. We slow down and think about everyone, and what they mean to us. We have to sit with how we feel about them. And then, we honor them.

“To go through the process of carving every name and remembering every person, and then there they all are, ablaze together.” Elisabeth said.

You make a decision to invest in them, and in turn they light and warm you with their collective energy. Physical, thermal energy you can feel on your face at the end of a year where you’re probably feeling very isolated and missing a lot of people. Maybe you’ve even lost some people and long to bring the back into your world, just for awhile.

“It’s about unity and the human tribe against the darkness.”

Of course, one of the benefits of an incredibly simple template and the third thing I like about this ritual is that you can easily assign as much meaning as you want. You can arrange the tealights out from a symbolic center. You can group them physically.

You can skip the tealights and carve or write names on a pillar candle. You can do this for any configuration of people in your life you can imagine. You can extend it to include concepts on which you want to meditate and shine some loving light. You can send people pictures of their lights so they know you’re thinking of them, or you can keep it all to yourself and cherish it.

A great ritual will always be your ritual, and I thought this would make an excellent choice for a time of year when people are feeling isolated, means might be limited, and our time is at a premium.

Make a little magic for yourself and your loved ones, and remember that you aren’t alone against the darkness.

And thank you, Elisabeth, for being one of our lights, and a source of inspiration.