Winter solstice is probably my favorite celebration. There is something about gathering in the dark, cold, stark night to light candles and celebrate the returning of the light…something intuitive and ancient about bringing people together for music and laughter and dancing and body heat and feasting when the days grow short and the trees are bare against the stars.
Liberated from coursework for nearly a month, desperate to procrastinate (I declared to myself that I would finally obtain my driver’s permit this December, and I DON’T WANT TO), I have taken great delight in making new blended body butters, developing exquisitely scented solid perfumes, and returning to tablet weaving and knitting. Working with my hands instead of my brain, creating gifts that will help my beloved friends and family feel nourished and loved, planning a solstice party and circle dance, baking homemade bread again…ahhhhh. Long mornings of soapmaking and kundalini yoga, hours of painting, mug after mug of st. john’s wort and damiana tea, George Winston playing piano, letters to friends. Such a beautiful time.
I wanted to share my favorite solstice recipes with you, so that even though we are centering in our own stillness at the dark of the year, we are still learning from each other.
these are wonderful eye pillows for savasana (if you do yoga) or to tuck beneath your pillow when you sleep, or even travel pillows to carry with you and alleviate the stale plastic aroma of commercial travel.
Cut 2 rectangles of material (I like lavender velvet) about 12″ by 6″ , turn so that the wrong sides face out, and hem along three sides. Turn right-side out and stuff with 2 cups of dried lavender, 1/2 cup of dried mugwort, and 1/2 cup of either dried passionflower or dried catnip. Sometimes I’ll use a combination of elderflower and rose instead of the lavender. Pin together the open side and sew shut.
I learned long ago that of the senses, scent holds the most power for me. One good whiff of peat smoke can transport me into instant rapture, and the plastic scent of big-box stores plunges me into a depressive tailspin.
As a teenager, I practiced harnessing this power by experimenting with essential oils. I would choose one oil to be my “happy” scent, and for weeks, whenever I felt particularly joyous, I would dab the oil on my wrists and under my nose. Soon I had only to smell the oil to feel instant joy. I could use the oil for months to inspire happiness, but eventually its powers would wane and it would be time to choose a new “happy” scent.
I like to study my friends for a few months–what scents seem to bring them alive? I’ll walk them through my soap-making workshop and notice which soaps they breathe in most deeply. And then I design a perfume for them. It’s easy to do—all you need are almond oil, beeswax, and essential oils—and a great way to get to know your friends even better. Maybe I should design some for my enemies too so I can smell them coming…
2 tbsp. sweet almond oil
2 tbsp. grated beeswax
20-30 drops of your favorite essential oils
(some blends I love are petitgrain and patchouli, benzoin and amyris, vetiver and cedarwood, or bergamot and grapefruit)
Melt the beeswax and almond oil together in a pyrex bowl nested over boiling water. When melted, remove from heat and drop in your scent blend, stirring as you go. (Keep in mind that the scent will mellow as the perfume hardens; get to the scent strength that smells perfect and then add 10 more drops!) Pour quickly into empty lip balm tins or chapstick tubes–or an empty locket?–and let harden.
To use, simply rub some balm onto your finger and apply to pulse points and temples. These are wonderfully subtle, perfuming your personal space without invading the air around.
I do like the dark times of the year, I like the journey inward, but sometimes it can hurt. Sometimes I forget about the return of the light and let the darkness sweep me away. This tea is for those times. Hawthorn and rose strengthen and nourish the heart, St. John’s Wort reminds of the light, mullein clears the lungs (and energetically dissolves grief) and holy basil lifts the spirits.
1 c. dried holy basil (tulsi) (if you can’t find this, you can substitute lemon balm)
1 c. dried rose petals
1/2 c. hawthorn berries
1/2 c. st. john’s wort flowers and leaves
1/4 c. mullein
Blend together and store in an airtight jar or tin. To prepare, measure out 2 tbsp. of herbs per mug of tea. Cover with freshly boiled water and let steep 5 min. before straining. Sweeten with honey if desired.
This fizzing bath bomb perfumes the bathwater and leaves your skin slightly sparkling with golden mica. Take this bath by candlelight and I DARE you to stay sulky!
1 c. baking soda
1/2 c. citric acid
1 tsp. mica
3 tbsp. sweet almond or grapeseed oil
1 tsp- 1 tbsp. essential oil (I use lavender or rose, generally)
2 tbsp. crumbled cocoa butter
dried herbs or flowers, if you wish (though these can make a bit of a mess in the tub after.)
Stir the dry ingredients together until well-mixed, then add the oils and cocoa butter. Mix until it stays together when you squeeze it. Sprinkle a tiny bit of rosewater ( less than a tsp.) over the mixture, stirring constantly to keep from fizzing.
Working quickly, press the mixture into molds (empty easter eggs, silicon candy molds, flexible ice cube trays work well; I’ve even heard you can use a melon baller!) and let set a few minutes before popping out. Air the bath bombs for 24 hours. Then draw a hot bath, light candles, and drop one in. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Much love to you at the dark of the year! And happy Summer Solstice, Australians!