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Longest Night Vigil - ADF Technopagans
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Longest Night Vigil
Many people have found value in holding vigil though the night around the winter solstice. Some people prefer to greet the rising sun on the actual solstice day but for myself I have for the past several years preferred to stay up on the longest night, the night of the Winter Solstice, and greet the sun on the next day when the light begins to increase. Of course this increase is impossible to notice with our naked senses, we need some kind of measuring system to notice the slight change. Which makes it all that more amazing, to me, how many ancient cultures acknowledged, measured, and celebrated the growing light in some way.

The vigil has always represented to me a desire to stand up to darkness. I surround myself with the flickering flame of many candles and other lights when the darkness, literally, lays most heavily upon the land. My goal is to both acknowledge the darkness but to also "live" through it. To say to the universe, "I am here!"

It is also about hope. In the morning the sun is reborn as it is every year. From this day forward the light increases every day until the Summer Solstice. We once again find ourselves in the "In between." We are literally living though the darkest times of winter, with months yet to go until the spring, and yet our first indication that the winter will end is upon us. A reason to hope, and celebrate, indeed.

I have always wanted to vigil through the longest night with others but have never found anyone willing or able to do so in person. When earlier this year the ADF chats began to become more active I began thinking this would be an excellent way to share this night with my ADF Family. As much as the vigil is about fun, laughing in the face of winter is how I like to put it, it is also a religious experience. I tend to make offerings throughout the night. Originally i had planning on doing this on my own. Excusing myself from the chat to make my offerings and then returning. However at the last minute I asked others taking part if they would like us to do them as a group. I was worried it might be silly but in the end it was a very powerful experience.

One of the first things I realized that of the 15 or so people in the room early in the night very few of them would be able to attend the whole night through. I wanted to include them in some way however and so made an offering at about 10:30 pm (all times US Eastern) to open the ritual portion of the experience and to ask that those who could not stay in person the whole night through may stay in spirit.

We are gathered - 10:30 pm

Children of Earth
In this night of darkness
We gather together as family and friends
To laugh in the face of winter
To join our hearts as one
To welcome back the growing sun

As We make this offering
Mighty Kindred gather near
Hear our prayers

For those of us who vigil this night
Keep us safe and bright throughout
For those of us who must leave
Let their spirit vigil with us
As we await the arisen sun

Mighty Kindreds
Accept our Sacrifice!

After each offering I took an omen and for this opening offering we received Raidho - the journey, the unexpected. It was very moving. I know it may seem strange to think of words scrolling across a screen as moving but it truly was. Several of us were teary eyed as we thought about us connecting across the distance and spending this night with our ADF Family and Friends.

The next couple hours became about fun. Just enjoying each other's company for as long as they could stay. As you might imagine many people had to leave shortly after this time. Those who had to sleep in order to awake early to get ready for work, for instance, and others who had just been awake for too long to last the entire night. As people dropped away and we began to realize how long our undertaking had become we had a greater sense of the darkness. Some of us found our hurts and concerns bubbling to the surface. Others became quiet and subdued. And so for our second offering we acknowledged the darkness and asked Kindreds to hold us throughout the night.

Into the Darkness - 1:30 am

In the darkness we wait
The darkness behind the shadows.
The ending before life begins again,

We make our offerings to the kindreds
That they may grant us skill and insight
To survive the long dark until life begins anew

Accept from us these offerings
Be with us this night as we vigil on
Bless with your watchfulness and power

Mighty Kindreds
Accept our Sacrifice!

And for the omen we received Thuriaz - the thorn, Thor, protection of the homestead and the folk.

One of the wonderful things about the night was the variety and number of people who came in. Some came and joined us for many hours, some only a few minutes at a time. Some were old friends some I have never met before. All of them were welcome and we appreciated and the spirit and energy they brought was added to our own with every offering. We even had a visit from an ADF member in Australia who was busy celebrating the Summer Solstice for them but wanted to come and show his care for us and to offer us a bit of warmth of the New South Wales summer day. (It was 95 degrees there when he spoke with us). I had debated beginning the night following the Core Order of Ritual and opening the gates. I thought, however, it may become to draining to keep the gates open throughout the entire night however and instead just made individual offerings as the time went on. Even still, I wanted to make offerings to the Three Kindreds and so once an hour for three hours during the darkness of the night we offered to them and invited them to join us in our vigil.

Honoring the Ancestors - 3:00 am

Honored and Mighty Ancestors
Of our hearts, our hearths,
forever tied to this land

Thank you for your lessons
Of how to build and stay warm
Of how to survive when darkness settles in

Accept from us these offerings now
That you may know our honor and praise
For all that you have given us

Bless us with your wisdom and attention
Bless us with your truth and care
Bless us this night as we vigil on

Mighty Ancestors
Accept our Sacrifice!

Omen: Ehwaz - the horse. Freedom, Journey, Independence

Honoring the Worldly Spirits - 4:00 am

Noble and awe inspiring Worldly Spirits
Animal Kind, Bird Kind, creatures of the sea
All who dance merrily, and wait eagerly, amid the wild wood

Thank you for your aid and sacrifice
That we may have food and warm clothing
That we may follow your paths to lead us home

Accept from us these offerings now
That you may know our honor and praise
For all that you have given us

Bless us with your awe and beauty
Bless us with your aid and care
Bless us this night and we vigil on

Worldly Spirits
Accept our Sacrifice!

Omen: Wunjo - Joy, Accomplishment

Honoring the Shining Ones - 5:00 am

Honored and shining Gods and Goddesses
Patrons and protectors of those gathered here
Old ones, known or unknown

Thank you for your guidance and power
That we feel the spark of creativity
And the warmth of inspiration

Accept from us these offerings now
That you may know our honor and praise
For all that you have given us

Bless with your protection from all the evils of the darkness
Bless with the power of inspiration and awe
Bless this night as we vigil on

Shining Ones
Accept Our Sacrifice!

Omen: Gebo - Gift for a Gift

And then, the long wait ...

We had many hours still until the sun would rise for even those of us on the East Coast. Those few of us left in the chat began to feel the strain of staying up through the night and the giving of our energy and care. Candles began burning out and more then one of us spoke about how the offerings we had burned throughout the evening had left a pleasant, yet quite strong, scent behind in our homes. But we were determined. We changed out candles. We grabbed snacks and caffeine drinks, we buoyed each other's spirits as best as we were able. We laughed in the face of winter. And we longed for the rising of the sun. Originally I had planned for the final offering of the night to take place right before the sun rose for the first of us but one of us in the chat had to leave at a certain time, about an hour before actual sunrise, and so instead we made our final offering to Hasten the return of the sun.

Hastening the return of the Sun - 6:30 am

The night is dark, the sun is gone,
Yet we know the wheel turns on.
Through midnight's hour, solid dark,
Hear us as our voices call..

Who will light the sacred fire?
Who will stand the whole night through?

As the flames around us glow,
So may love within us grow.
So may hope within us grow
So may the Sun be reborn

We wait now, with bated breath
For the rebirth of the sun
Hasten in your journey
Come to us to light our way
As we end this Vigiled Night

Beautiful and Glorious
Hope of the year to come
Bright and powerful
New Year's Sun

Accept our Sacrifice!

I was quite shocked by our Omen; Dagaz - the Day, Dawn. Stand up and face the new day. So shocked I had to let people know I had not cheated! What a glorious omen for our final offering on the Longest Night. After this, I have to admit, we began to get quite silly. We laughed the remaining hour or two until the sun would rise for each of us. And something amazing happened! People who had been with us earlier in the night but who had to leave us to find sleep began returning. One at a time, mostly, to let us know they had made it through and greeting the sun themselves on this morning. Many of us chose to go outside and greet the sun. For myself it was very cloudy and snowing when I headed outdoors and gave our liquid offerings to the tree in my front yard. I faced the east and closed my eyes. And even though she was hidden from my sight I felt the sun leap above the horizon, felt her warmth, even behind the cold morning air. I breathed in the beauty of the morning, I said a prayer of thanks and, even now as I write this, felt the well of hope fill in my heart.

We have made it through, my friends. Another longest night has come and gone and we have survived and kept the old bargain. We offered our gifts to the Kindreds and to the world and ushered in another beautiful morning.

Thank you to everyone who shared this night with me. It means more than I can say to have felt you all by my side.

Until Then and Always
~ Jamie Goodwin

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