19th Dec 2020
This Winter Solstice is a special one as thanks to ‘Great Conjunction’, which makes it a powerful moment to usher in change. Crystal therapist Merle O’Grady explains.
Winter Solstice, which happens this year on December 21, is the night when we swing from midwinter back toward spring. It occurs when Earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun, which means the shortest amount of daylight, and longest night.
It has long had spiritual association too, seen as a significant time of rebirth and the cause for celebration across many different faiths and cultures, attested in Ireland by the Neolithic burial site of Newgrange, constructed so the sun only penetrates through the long stone tunnel, directly into the structure’s burial chamber on sunrise of the Winter Solstice.
Solstice is a time for new beginnings; a chance to scan all areas of our lives to see what no longer serves us (and eliminate it), and where we want to direct energies going forward. We asked crystal therapist Merle O’Grady to share a simple Winter Solistice ritual to help us move into 2021 with positivity, abundance and hope.
Working with crystals
Merle, originally a jewellery designer, became interested in crystals and the more spiritual side of life when she returned from London to Ireland, married and had her daughter Vega. So much life change led to her seeking greater self-fulfilment; by the time Vega was one, Merle was exhausted by post-natal depression and decided things had to change. She sought help through counselling and devoting more time to herself and her creativity, and this is where her interest in all things mystical and spiritual appeared: “I had to believe in something bigger than myself to get out of the hole I was in”. The discovery of crystals and things mystical became a portal to a whole new world and Merle found a kinder way of thinking about herself – less about the linear success model and more holistically-orientated.
Already familiar with crystal stones through her jewellery making, Merle studied online with Kate Mantello at Evolve Healing, based in Australia. “I loved Kate’s unique, very active technique of crystal healing, involving a lot of movement and directing energy using quartz wands with crystals in place on the body. I spent months doing case studies and learning everything from elixirs to grids, but at the end of the day building your own relationship with crystals is where the magic lies – just introduce one to your life, meditate with it, put it under your pillow, keep it in your bra or pocket.”
“I’ve realised you really don’t need a lot of crystals – intention is everything. Although they’re becoming so much more popular, it’s important to really be mindful of buying lots and not actually working with them or connecting with them. A single piece of clear quartz can be an absolute workhorse for you when you really set an intention for it. Crystals are not some magic cure-all pill but they are a really powerful tool to help you to shift your energy – maybe to help you feel confident when moving a new direction or to support you and bring you comfort when going through a really hard time, and helping people feel like they can easily incorporate them into their lives is a joy.”
Capturing the zeitgeist as well as sharing her very unique take on the subject, Merle had begun hosting crystal workshops and monthly meditations before Coronavirus hit. She’s successfully now moved online to do twice-monthly sessions in tandem with lunar cycles, involving guided mediation, free writing and a special mystery crystal, sent out in advance which all participants open together in the session. This winter, Merle also starts her own online teaching for those who want to learn more. And of course, jewellery still plays a massive part, Merle creates beautiful crystal kits and jewellery, both of which sell out quickly online. They are absolutely one of those “one for them, one for me” type of purchases.
Merle’s Winter Solstice Ritual
“This year’s Winter Solstice on December 21 is a particularly significant one. It sees a very special ‘Great Conjunction’ (the closest since 1623) of Saturn and Jupiter into the humanitarian, innovative sign of Aquarius. It marks the end of a 200-year cycle of Earth energy and the beginning of these two planets meeting up in Air signs for the next 200 years.
“Take some time to go through a ritual, particularly focusing on what we’re holding onto too tightly to and where we’re being too rigid. This shift of energy, combined with the Winter Solstice, allows us to start to look to the future with a sense of optimism – as long as we’re fully open to change and doing things in a new way – which is what 2021 will very much require of us.”
- Take some time to write down all the places you feel stuck, too defined by your past or by external influences – anything you feel is holding you back from growth. If anything else you wish to release from 2020 comes up for you, write it down.
- When you feel ready, place your list in a fireproof container (or fireplace if you have one) and set it alight – feeling that sense of release as you watch the flames and, on this darkest day, trusting that the light is returning soon.
- Take a green crystal (I love Moss Agate, Green Calcite, Unakite, Green Moonstone or Vesuvianite for supporting growth and releasing old patterns and beliefs) in your non-dominant hand and close your eyes. Set your intentions for the year ahead, speaking them out loud or just in your head, really getting into the feeling and creating a vivid image in your mind.
There is a full interview with Merle O’Grady in the IMAGE Annual, out now. Photographed by Anthony Woods
Read more: How to turn your bath into a self-care sanctuary
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