header photo

526180

How to Celebrate Winter Solstice the Kemetic Shaman Way

Hetepu (Peace & Blessings) Family

I have been meaning to write this post for the longest time so finally, here it is and hopefully it helps.

If you are like most people interested in your spiritual development, you have most likely come across people talking about winter solstice. I am not going to go into the full explanation of winter solstice is because there are plenty of sources available on the Internet.  Instead I am going to give a little insight into how I got into it, why I stopped observing and why I chose to celebrate it now.

Before we begin, I have to tell you that when I first got on this path, there were people who explained to me that winter solstice was the original Christmas. Now either because 1) I was new to the whole practice, 2) my disgust for the over commercialization of Christmas and those dreaded Christmas songs that are played 24 hours for 35 days beginning on November 26, and/or 3) because these individuals were very zealous and did not understand the full meaning either.  All I got out of it was that we were supposed to do all day fasts prior to the 25th of December, on the hope of receiving new things for the coming year. (Please note that I am knocking anyone who observe Winter Solstice in this manner.  I am just stating my experience. ) It was also impressed upon me that if you did not fast and meditate, that you would not be blessed.  So, for several years, I tried to observe this event as best I could even though it was presented to me as a dogmatic ritual.

However, it became increasingly difficult to observe Winter Solstice this way because: 1) I still had to go to work and, going to office parties, while fasting brings a whole lot of unwanted and unnecessary attention, and. 2) Not only that it never felt like a real celebration but more like a boring, monotonous chore.  So I stopped observing it for a while, but I returned to celebrating it after I discovered the Maa Aankh. Then, when my daughter was born, my wife and I wanted her to have a more profound experience for this event without feeling isolated or out-of-place from other family members and friends who celebrate Christmas and Three Kings Day in the typical fashion.

So, that our child has a more profound understanding of this event and develops an interfaith and multicultural understanding, it was decided that we would celebrate Winter Solstice as the “Receiving of the Name”.  This way she is not weirded out and sees the celebration of other peoples’ holidays as just another form of Winter Solstice.

What is Winter Solstice?

Now, before I explain how the “Receiving of the Name” works, Winter Solstice is the start of the solar year and it begins on the 21st of December marking the first day of winter. It is an astronomical event like a solar or lunar eclipse, or shooting stars, but a little more significant because the earth rotating on its axis tilts in a way that sun appears to be sitting still.  Thus, making the length of the day appear shorter and the night the longest night of the year. (Note that during the summer solstice the opposite occurs and the sun appears to sit still making the day the longest day of the year and the night the shortest). Immediately after the 21st of December, the days the sun shine during the daytime will get longer as the nights will get shorter.

[caption id="attachment_1921" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Courtesy of timeanddate.com. https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html[/caption]

So, in a nutshell scientifically speaking, Winter Solstice is when the earth tilts making it appear that the night is longer than the day. It is an annual, natural astronomical event, which means it affects all of us regardless if we believe in it or not, like gravity.  Since it affects us all, each culture interprets it differently like we do when we see an eclipse. Some people go out and gaze at the eclipse, others avoid being out during the eclipse for fear of the influences it may have upon an unborn child (My wife and I heard them all this past year). While some people see eclipses as an opportune time to conduct rituals, so it all depends upon what you believe or how you interpret the Winter Solstice.

Since it affects everyone, Winter Solstice has been celebrated by people all over the world based upon their cultural belief.  This means there is no right or wrong way to observe Winter Solstice. Choosing not to observe this astronomical event is similar to choosing not to watch a solar eclipse or Haley’s Comet. However, if you choose to observe it, you can do what others have done in the past, which is allegorized the entire event.

For instance, for some people who saw the darkness as an extension of evil and daytime as an extension of good, Winter Solstice was seen as the birth of a solar savior.  During this time they created a tradition to ensure that the various trickster spirits in the darkness were kind.  This is how Santa Claus comes into the picture and why he is offered sweets to make him more favorable towards you.  For some other cultures, they observed this event by setting an evergreen tree in the north. Then the tree was decorated with a star above used to represent the “invisible sun” (some say the star Sirius) and the various orbs and lights decorating the tree symbolized the spheres of the Tree of Life. Another version of this same tradition seems to build an elaborate bonfire and observe that the “Invisible Sun” provides warmth during these dark times.

In case you are wondering, the reason for allegorizing this astronomical event is because most people would get lost with the science of it.  Imagine explaining to a child about how the earth tilts, and now that we have people who are questioning on if the earth is round or flat.  You can easily see how it becomes very confusing with all of these beliefs, ideas and theories but, people cannot deny this astronomical event.  All you have to do is go outside and you will see that the days seem to be getting shorter and the nights longer. For instance, the other day (December 12th) the sun set around 5:30 - 6 o’clock and did not rise until 7:30 the next morning. That’s between 12+ hours of darkness. And, the closer we get to the 21st the shorter the days will be. So people from all over the allegorized this event to help them to remember, celebrate and observe it, and you can too.

Most of us are familiar with the Christianize version of this event which was changed to December 25 by Emperor Aurelian to celebrate the “Invisible Sun”. Then, in 273 AD the Roman Catholic Church changed this astronomical event to a literal historical event to celebrate the birthday of Christian savior. However, it is believed that January 6 was the original date the Kemetic sages chose to celebrate Winter Solstice, which the Catholic Church adopted in order to celebrate the Three Magi or Three Kings Day.

How to Celebrate Winter Solstice the Kemetic Shaman Way

[caption id="attachment_1923" align="aligncenter" width="510"] Artwork courtesy of Jeff Dahl[/caption]

Since I follow a Kemetic shamanic path, Winter Solstice has a more profound meaning to me – one related to the Kemetic concept of Ra, Shu and Tefnut. Ra or Rau in the Kemetic life force or chi energy symbolized as the Sun.  Shu is the Kemetic version of the Chinese Yang and it represents activity, light, warmth, heat, aggression, etc. and is anthropomorphized as a masculine energy. Shu’s sister Tefnut is the Kemetic version of the Chinese Yin and she represents receptivity, darkness, coolness, water, passivity, etc. Since, the dyadic relationship of good versus evil does not exist in ancient African thinking.  Shu is not the symbol of good and Tefnut is not the symbol of evil. Rather good and evil in Kemetic thinking is balance and imbalance.  In other words, too much and too little of a thing is considered evil, while good is considered balanced.  Therefore, the Winter Solstice is considered the most Tefnut day of the year, thus signifying that the Ra energy is trying to establish balance. The entire event on the Maa Aankh is overseen by Amun Ra (Hidden Ra), thus making Winter Solstice a time of rebirth, hence the “Return of the Light” or actually the heralding the receiving of Amun Ra or the “Hidden (Invisible) Ra”, according to the Story of Ra and Oset (Aset, Auset, Isis in Greek).


Remember, in the Story of Ra and Oset, Ra reveals that he is “Khepera in the morning, Ra at noon, Tmu (Ra Atum) in the evening” thus alluding he is Amun Ra at midnight.  So, upon receiving Ra’s secret name, Oset received a soul which she passed on to her child Hru, thus giving him immortality so long as he lived a righteous life.  This means that through Oset, we all became her children (Hru) because she shared Ra’s secret name or Amun Ra with us (for more information see Kamta Primer).


Therefore, Winter Solstice is a period of rebirth and nourishment for our soul.  It is during this time that we naturally tend to physically slow down and conduct most of our activities indoor because we have less daylight and more warmth inside. It also during this time of the year, we also tend to emotionally move inward and reflect on the past events that occurred during the year, as we prepare for the upcoming year.  It is natural during this time of the year to reflect inward on our health, relationships, careers, dreams, etc., make New Year’s resolutions by asking, “How can I improve my life or the life of others?”

Draw the Maa Aankh, and place five tea lights on the five points. Then on:


  • December 21st: Light the Khepera candle symbolizing the Birth of Ra we celebrate all new beginnings and give thanks for all blessings that have come into being.  This is also a special day to also honor children who signify the future and are protected by Khepera. To make this day even more festive, Khepera’s colors are black and/or indigo, so one’s space can be decorated with these colors or one can purchase dark colored flowers.  Khepera is symbolized by a scarab beetle and rising sun.  Dark colored foods can also be served on this day and children given toys to raise Khepera’s energy.  To further ritualize this day, write a list of the goals you want to achieve in the upcoming year and place them in the center of the maa aankh.

  • December 22nd: Light the Ra candle symbolizing the Visible Ra’s Day is a day of action and it is set to honor all of the young adults and adults (except for elders who are given a special day on their own). Ra’s colors are bright red so to raise this energy decorate one’s space with bright red colors. Spicy foods can be served on this day colored with achiote (annatto seed), chili, paparika, cayenne, etc.  Also, spicy and warming beverages such as spiced apple cider, ginger beer, cinnamon teas, etc.  To further ritualize this day, write a list of the obstacles you must overcome and barriers you must break through to achieve your goals from the Khepera moment. Then, place them in the center of the maa aankh. This is also a time to ask for the protection, good health, vitality and strength for all loved ones.

  • December 23rd: Light the Ra Atum candle symbolizing the Completed Ra who oversees all things that have come to an end. Ra Atum reminds us to remember our elders so that we can learn from their experience and wisdom.  Ra Atum’s colors are white so to raise this energy decorate the space with white and shiny things like silver.  White colored foods and drinks can be offered at this time.  As well as white colored beverages such as coconut milk, peanut punch, coconut water, coquito, etc.  To further ritualize this day, write a list of the things you are willing to give up in order to achieve your goals in the upcoming year and place them in the center of the maa aankh.

  • December 24th: Light the Amun Ra symbolizing the “Hidden Ra” who oversees our ancestors and spirit guides, therefore this is the day to honor and remember our honorable dead.  Amun Ra’s colors are yellow and/or gold, so to help raise this re-birthing and renewal energy, decorate the space with the color yellow and serve yellow colored foods and beverages. Offer yellow candles and light colored foods such as pound cake, etc. to the ancestors.  To further ritualize this day, imagine how your goal will improve the life of everyone. Amun Ra’s symbols are ram, sheep, spiral patterns, etc., which all signify a return.

  • On the December 25, light the candle in the center symbolizing Oset sharing the name with Hru. Then, burn all of the request and imagine the end results of your goals for the upcoming year.


  • Hope this helps. Happy Winter Solstice.

    How will you celebrate Winter Solstice?

    Please share.

    Go Back

    Comment