A Winter Ritual of the African Diaspora

Our friends over at Conari Press just posted this winter ritual on their Facebook page. With their permission I share it with you here!

from the wonderful Jump Up: Good Times Throughout the Seasons with Celebrations from Around the World, by Luisah Teish:

This ritual can be performed any time during the winter season


For this ritual you will need these items:

  • A recording of sounds of the Ocean
  • Clothing that reflects the color of the Sea
  • A mat
  • Objects from the Sea and/or those associated with the qualities of the Sea (seashells, coral, silver objects, Moonshapes, and mirrors)
  • A seven-day deep blue candle in a glass
  • A seven-day green candle in a glass
  • A large bowl with blue water in it
  • Blessed anointing oil (I recommend Meditation or Sweet Dreams oil)
  • Small musical instruments
  • Seven dimes
  • A folk or fairy tale about Mer-people or Ocean creatures
  • Songs and food to share
  • Smudge in a shell
  • A silver bell

Clean and decorate the room. Play the Ocean tape and allow the sound of the Sea to fill the room before the ritual begins.Altar Building: This ritual may be performed in front of the seasonal altar …It could also be done in the presence of the dinner table; however, because people are so drawn by the power of food, I recommend that the ritual be performed in another room, away from the dinner table, or shortened to allow for the appetites of family and friends.

Entry: As the participants (hereafter referred to as “family”) enter the room, they may place their ritual objects on the altar table or mat. Choose a comfortable place to sit. (I recommend a comfortable chair or pillows on the floor with room to lie down.) Listen to the sounds of the Ocean and be quiet.

Smudge: The oldest woman in the house (or She Who Has the Most Children) should mix a smudge of sage. rosemary, hyssop, and lemon verbena and smudge the altars of the people. As she does this, moving West, North, East, and South, the youngest woman in the house (or She Who Has No Children) should follow her, ringing the silver bell.

Invocation to the Directions

Center: Face the altar. Invoke the power of the Trickster. Visualize yourself as the spark of all beginnings. Ask for the power to truly change your life in the coming year.

West: Turn and face the West. Invoke the powers of the West and the Western ancestors. Ask for a beautiful interior life, for sweet dreams and loving family. Ask for health and protection of women and children and for better understanding between women and men in the coming year.

North: Turn and face the North. Invoke the powers of the North and the Northern ancestors (the Europeans and/or whatever people inhabit the land north of where you are). Ask for the power of manifestation and the preservation of the Earth in the coming year.

East: Turn and face the East. Invoke the powers of the East and the Eastern ancestors. Ask for inspiration and the peaceful use of technology in the coming year.

South: Turn and face the South. Invoke the powers of the South and the Southern ancestors. Ask for personal courage, for the healing of sexually transmitted disease, and the end of sexual abuse, and the cooling of international temperaments in the coming year.

This ritual is a group effort, the invocation of the directions can be shared by five people. Choose one person to hold the center. The other four people will stand facing their respective directions and remain there until all directions have been invoked. At the end of the invocation, everyone will return to the center.

Performing the Ritual

Deep Sea Chant: Hand in hand, with eyes closed, the family takes seven, slow, deep breaths, breathing in the sound and feel of the Ocean’s depth. Now family members call out the names of Sea deities (Goddesses and Gods) and chant these names. Play with the names, stretch the vowels, hammer the consonants, allow them to crescendo and decrescendo into a cacophony of sound. Return to silence. Listen to the sounds of the Ocean. Melt down into your seats, lie down on the floor, relax in Yemaya’s arms.

Guided Visualization: A visualization should be spoken by someone who has a soothing voice. The sounds of the Ocean create the background music; occasionally the tinkle of the maiden’s silver bell is heard. Light the blue candle. The visualization should take the family back to Mother’s womb, to the depths of the Ocean. It should speak to the creative and regenerative powers of the Mother’s womb and the Father’s seed. Family members are encouraged to recreate themselves, to compose a new person for the New Year. This visualization works best when it is delivered impromptu (this preserves the virginity of it). If you prefer to read it from a prepared script, let your voice be influenced by the rhythm of the Ocean. The speaker should visually walk into the Ocean, experience devolution and union with Her other life forms, return to a single cell, and recreate herself. If you are the speaker, speak the directives that will seduce others into similar feelings as you are experiencing this recreation. In this way the speaker will remain part of the flow. Let your own words come through as you speak.

The Recovery: As the visualization ends, the family will open their eyes and sit up. Now it is time to share the experiences from the Ocean bottom. Members will volunteer to share their stories. Anyone who wishes to remain silent may do so. Invite family members to chose a name or title for themselves that bespeaks their experience…

Anointing: Now pass the anointing oil around the circle. Each person should anoint her or his third eye (between the eyebrows), heart (between the breasts), and navel while pronouncing their sacred name. Some people may want to use this name throughout the year. If the name is that of a sea creature, it may be used as a dream totem. Ask your personal wisdom if this totem is your dream companion for the year.

Make Merry: After the anointing, members may pick up their small instruments and create a “makeshift orchestra.” Begin with a steady drumbeat, something soft and comforting. Let the instruments join in at will. Build the music up. Get up and move your body. Swim through the space, flip-flop and dive through the air. Each person should only stop playing and dancing when they are ready. Decrease the music and the movement until there is only the sound of the drum, the silver bell, and the Ocean in the background.

The Mother of Secrets: Each person will bring out their seven dimes. Whisper your hopes, dreams and aspirations to the seven dimes. Take your time. Be clear. When you are ready, go to the bowl of blue water. Say, “All powerful, all healing, most beautiful Mother, give birth,” and drop the dimes in the Ocean.

Each person will dip their hands in the water, just enough to carry a wet hand over to their ritual object on the altar mat. Sprinkle your ritual object with Ocean water, pick it up, and return to your seat.

At this point, a woman should deliver ans Oriki (praise-poem) in honor of the Ocean. A few words will do. Simply share a personal story about the beauty and power of the Ocean, or confess how much you love Her, thank Her for her undying dance, Her endless returning.

Close the Directions: Lightly or firmly dismiss the directions South, East, North, and West.To extinguish the candles simply pinch the flames with moistened fingers. Do not blow the candles out. Share food, conversation, and song. Read a folktale. Play like children.

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