“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl
These are the darkest days of the year.
It’s the reign of the dark mother, who holds us and our shadows in her safe embrace, while the portals between the worlds open.
The days between Christmas and the Epiphany (January 6) have several names depending on the tradition. The most common ones are 12 Sacred Nights, Yuletide and Rauhnacht. Raunacht comes from old Germanic languages, the exact meaning of which remains unclear but it’s probably connected to the word ruch (hairy), evoking rituals in which people used to wear fur and animal skins to keep evil spirits away.
This is a time to go within, looking backward at what was and forward at what’s to come. A sort of year review, but with more depth and substance. Especially during the holidays, we get to think about the past and set new goals and ace our doubts and desires.
Our ancestors have also done this in the form of rituals.
Rituals are anything we give attention to and make sacred. Brushing our teeth can be a ritual as can mealtime (some people pray before eating).
In these shaky times we need to create a more solid base within ourselves and to help, we can look back at ancient traditions and revive them.
What are the 12 sacred nights about?
It’s a time in which the veil between the worlds of the living and the spirits is most thin. We become more sensitive and our intuition can guide us more deeply than usual. That’s why it becomes so important to dedicate as much time as possible to introspection and quiet observation.
Notebook and pen. It’s possible to use these notes as a guide for the upcoming year as every day of the Rauhnacht (12 days) corresponds to each month.
Candles. At least 12, to be burned in a safe place.
13 small pieces of paper. (More details below.)
Alone time. Lots of it. This is the most important element of the Rauhnacht.
From the above, writing and time are the only things that are really indispensable. The rest is to support sacred time but it should never feel like something we have to do. Whatever doesn’t enhance the experience, drop it.
Before beginning, I review the past year, clean the house and gather the above materials.
How it works.
As the origin of the Rauhnacht is lost in time, there are hundreds different traditions about it.
Each day from Christmas day (December 25) to the Epiphany (January 6) has its specific focus.
What works for every day:
Journaling. As soon as I open my eyes in the morning or any time during the day when I have a spare minute, I write. Don’t overthink it. Forget grammar and punctuation, and just write. It’s important to observe the surroundings, animals and people, thoughts and feelings, the weather, and to notice what messages, emails or letters arrive. These are all signs of the Universe talking. Let go of the need to make sense of anything.
Dreams. Before going to bed, I set the intention to remember my dreams. Asking a question before falling asleep may bring questions during the night. First thing in the morning, I grab my notebook and write down what I dreamt.
After some writing, an oracle card reading will give guidance for the day and beyond. Runes, tarot cards and any other divination tool can be used.
The evening ritual consists of lighting a candle and letting it burn through the night. The flame will take all the doubts and sorrows with it and give protection through night. A lantern is a safe place to burn the candle.
Bonus ritual: the 13 wishes.
There isn’t much I have been able to find about this ritual. A friend told me about it once and it has become my favourite.
Before the Rauhnacht begins, I set some time aside to feel into my desires for the upcoming year. Whatever desires arise, I phrase them in 13 wishes. It’s essential to choose wishes relevant to oneself, not just generic ones. For example, instead of wishing for world peace, I could wish for finding an impactful way to contribute to peace on Earth.
I write every wish on a separate piece of paper and fold it so that I won’t be able to read it anymore. All these slips of paper go into in a little box or bag. Starting on the first day of the Rauhnacht (December 25), after sunset I pick a folded paper, possibly go into nature (the park around the corner will do), burn it without reading it and give the wish up to the Universe, letting go of any attachment.
Do this for each of the 12 sacred nights.
On January 6, only the 13th wish remains, which I usually can’t wait to open and discover what’s up to me this new year, after I’ve left the others as the Universe’s “business.” This doesn’t of course mean that we aren’t to contribute to the fulfillment of the other 12, it’s more a matter of prioritizing and letting go of attachment.
Most traditions I know about assign a theme to every Rauhnacht. However, there’s no agreement about each day so I suggest we pick our own theme for each day. It’s possible to combine it with the wishes, too.
So, for example, if one wish concerns peace on Earth and my impact on it, I could dedicate a day to ponder peace and act on it. Or my impact. Or both. Some ideas for topics may be forgiveness, family, self-love and gratitude and anything else relevant to the heart.
Every year I wait for this time like a child waits for Christmas. I keep my journals and occasionally go back to read them, checking on how the year is developing.
May we all be able to find magic in these Rauhnacht and use it to inspire every day that follows.
Author: Maya Claudia Ferretti
Image: flickr/R.Crap Mariner
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock