Site: Epping Forest, London.
The evening was cold and crisp, the air damp with a fine mist and the site, which we had not previously attended, was swamp-like and had a very dark atmosphere.
While walking through the forest to the site, one of the party mentioned how quiet it was and that there seemed to be no one else about. Immediately this had been said, there was the sound of a tree falling much deeper in the forest. There was no wind however and no obvious reason for this to happpen. As a precursor to a ritual to celebrate a time of year that is associated with death and rebirth, this seemed particularly appropriate.
We walked a little deeper and came across the embers of a fire still burning on a little island surrounded on three sides by a river. There seemed to be no one in the vicinity and we continued still deeper into the wood.
We eventually arrived at a clearing. It had a burnt log in the centre which looked somewhat like a dead animal and on the edge of the clearing, a huge oak with gnarled features that gave it the appearance of a face and two horns.
We lit a small fire with some difficulty due to the damp conditions of the firewood but after a while it was burning very nicely.
Each participant had previously decided on one thing in their lives that they wished to destroy and offer to the fire, and one thing that they wanted to emphasize or bring into being in the coming year. The participants each had with them a small cup of water to represent the opposite force of fire and the union of fire and water symbolizing vibration between positive and negative as well as having aspects of death and rebirth.
The ritual was opened with the striking of bells 3-5-3 and banishing of a free-form nature. The statement of intent was made "It is our will to celebrate this winter solstice, the turning of the wheel of the year, the phenomena of life and death and rebirth".
Each participant stared into the fire after sprinkling a few drops of water on it and meditated on that thing they wished to destroy while intoning the mantra MOH-UH-AH-EH-IH (symbolizing energy being taken from the earthy level of manifestation and being taken up into the spiritual fire). While doing so they took an object that symbolized that thing they wished to destroy and cast it into the fire.
The fire died down to embers at this point.
Each participant then concentrated on drawing back something from the fire via the water to symbolize that thing that they wished to bring into being. The mantra IH-EH-AH-UH-OHM was intoned, a glowing branch was taken from the fire, plunged into water and the resulting ash was taken as a manifested symbol of the desired result. The ash was used by each participant as they willed (to anoint themselves or a magickal tool).
Freeform movement, drumming and speech continued for some time.
The rite was closed with striking the bells 3-2-1-2-3, a short banishing and the statement and response "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law!", "Love is the Law, Love under Will".
There was a great feeling of completion.
On walking back from the site, we went to further investiate the fire that we had seen when we first arrived.
"When I first saw it, I had a jolt of shock. It appeared to be a human body lying on its back and on fire. I could see its withered, blackened arms and legs extending from its trunk, and the fire burning steadily within its chest cavity. The fire could be seen licking up in the spaces between its ribs. It appeared to have been decapitated.
"All sorts of horrible thoughts went through my mind as we tentatively approached the burning corpse. Once right next to it, I could see that my fears were unfounded; it was actually a felled tree, rotten and burning slowly inside. It had probably been smoldering for days.
"Even once its true identity had been revealed, it still had a very uncanny quality and we left quickly.
"The night seemed to have had a bizarre quality of giving everything an illusory and yet lifelike quality. The last tree I saw before leaving the forest appeared to look exactly like Priapus with his back arched backwards, his hands in the air and his glory for all to see! I felt that this was a very positive note to end on after all the images of death and destruction from earlier in the evening and also seemed oddly appropriate for what marks the beginning of the rebirth of the God from the womb of the ever present, ever changing Goddess."