Lighting the Sunwait Candles 2020

As we approach the darkest time of winter in the northern hemisphere, we also enter the period leading up to Christmas and Yule. Even amidst the commercialization and the widely associated christian traditions, Heathens and practitioners of Norse/Germanic Paganism can enjoy meaningful practices during this time.

Lighting of candles at this time of year has been traditional in northern European countries for centuries and are a mix of welcoming returning light to recognizing the birth of Jesus.

Lighting the Sunwait Candles for a Modern Tradition

Recognizing that candles are not only something for one specific religion, the tradition of the Väntljusstaken (Sunwait Candles) has been re-envisioned from the Advent Candles. I discovered this in 2017 from the post of a friend and found the page on Facebook to inspire the growth of this delightful tradition for the entire family.

It takes the premise of lighting a candle for a specific number of days or weeks prior to Christmas eve (usually twelve days) and changes some of the parameters (which are also flexible depending on the individual).  The Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles practice came from Swedish traditions and updated for people of today to have a meaningful experience.

It is a tradition that can be created and enjoyed by the whole family. The procedure of the event is to light one candle each week leading up to the solstice, recite the stanza of the poem that coincides with the rune/day (this can also be expanded to include meditation on what it means), and welcome the inspiration of the season. Väntljusstaken poem takes the first six letters (staves) of the Elder Futhark (F-U-TH-A-R-K) as a runic “guide” to bring in blessings for the coming year.

Listen to episode 25 the podcast about Vantljusstaken which includes a reading of the poem in Swedish and English.

Creating the Candles and Holder

Selecting and preparing the candles and candle holder for the Sunwait lighting, can be a fun experience for the family. No need to have commercially prepared materials; though that is also an option based on your ability, availability, and time. Select any six candles you want to use for the year. Any color, shape, size. Be mindful of your candle holders and how you want to decorate them (avoid flammable additional materials). Carve or draw a stave on each candle or onto the candle holder base. You can anoint each candle with an oil or incense and call/galdr the energy of each rune into the specific candle. For example, Fehu (the first rune) represents prosperity and wealth. Anoint with that energy for prosperity of health, love, job, finances, etc.

You can also creatively decorate a base to hold candles using regular holders, plates, clay pots, or however inspired. If you cannot use real flame for safety or other reasons – no worry! Use electronic candles or small lights. Your intent and enjoyment in the process is connecting to the tradition and the energy from the Web of Wyrd. (See the many examples shared on Facebook -linked above- and Instagram – @sunwait_candles – for ideas.)

2020 Dates

Sunwait dates for Thursdays prior to Winter Solstice

December 21 falls on Monday and you can begin on November 16 with the final candle lit on Dec. 21. Or you may start on December 16 and do one each night before Yule.

The Väntljusstaken / Sunwait Tradition

The lighting of the candles begins six weeks prior to the Winter Solstice/ Yule on Thursdays. Thursdays were selected because of a Swedish tradition known as Thorshelg.

“The reason for the Thursdays is that, Thursdays have a traditional significance in Scandinavian folk lore. Thursdays have been the day for trolldom (folk magic) and communicating with the gods and nature spirits long into Christian times,” explained one of the page organizers. “There are accounts as late as the 19th century where the Thorshelg (Thor’s hallow) was celebrated by inviting Thor and Frigga to the house on Thursday night”

She continued to state that other cultures have a specific holy day and that as there isn’t a one day specific to all of Heathendom universally, it makes sense for people to select what works best for them in this “tradition in development.”

Some may choose to do the activity on the six Thursdays prior to the Winter Solstice (21 December), some may  choose to do it on the day that the solstice falls upon for six weeks prior – with the final candle on 21 December, some may choose to begin six days prior with the final day on  the solstice, and some may choose another day that is special to them. “I think everyone should feel free to do as they feel most comfortable. We are creating this together,” she said.

On the chosen night, light the candle while reciting the Väntljusversen poem (available in Swedish, Dutch, French, and German on the page) or one of your choosing that is meaningful to you/your family. The rest of the ceremony is up to you to create to suit  your desires for the winter, Yule, the coming year, etc.  One thing I do with the poem is to contemplate on the energy of the rune of the week. How does that energy/power influence and interact with my life? I call on their specific energies to bless me and guide as I move into the new year.

For example: I call on fehu to give me prosperity in the things I do creatively, at work, with relationships, to generate wealth, etc. I would reach to uruz to give me the strength to meet the challenges the year will bring with the guidance of my ancestors and ability to keep going. And so forth with the rest of the runes.

Extinguish the flame when you are finished. For the next week, relight the prior candle(s), then repeat the program with the next verse of the poem. Some choose to allow all of the candles to burn down on the final night, sending the energy and intents of the working into the universe. (A note of caution: do not leave burning candles unattended, accessible to children and pets, or around flammable decorations or items.)

Vantljusstaken_Pantheon Skulptor
Sunwait Candles with statues by Pantheon Skulptor.

Väntljusversen poem


Fehu – In the first of sunwait we light
The candle of Fehu so bright
Until the return of the queen of skies
May her beauty and splendor in it rise

Uruz – In the second of sunwait we light
The candle of Uruz so bright
With all that has passed and ahead of us lies
May the passing of time in it rise

Thurisaz- In the third of sunwait we light
The candle of Thurisaz so bright
When the force of winter upon us lies
May the return of spring in it rise

Ansuz – In the fourth of sunwait we light
The candle of Ansuz so bright
In worship of gods old and wise
May the powers of Regin in it rise

Raido – In the fifth of sunwait we light
The candle of Raidō so bright
In yearning for that which never dies
May our longing for new life in it rise

Kenaz – In the sixth of sunwait we light
The candle of Kenaz so bright
A light in darkness again shall arise
May the hope of yule in it rise

In Heathenry and Germanic Paganism, we develop our practices and relationships with the Gods in ways that are meaningful to each of us today. The Väntljusstaken is not a right or wrong way to honor Yule or the Gods.  It is a way to do it.  If you find this is a way that brings joy and meaningfulness to the season, please share your experiences and photos on the Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles and Gifts of the Wyrd Facebook and Instagram pages (@sunwait_candles and @wyrdgifts1). May your Winter Solstice/Yule Tide seasons be filled with joy and amazement.

Images used in this article are from the Väntljusstaken/Sunwait Candles Facebook page with permission. Header photo is my own.

Virtual Spiritual Encounters

Desk top altar set up. iPad screen,representations of the gods; incense and offering; divination tools (runes, scrying bowl), and an offering bowl.
Example of a basic desk top altar for a ritual. Includes items for use during the ritual.

Creating Sacred Spaces Using Online Technology

The world is in a condition of a paradigm change. At the time of writing, travel restrictions, social distancing, cancellations of events, and recommendations for people to stay at home and “isolate” due to the fast spreading Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) have altered the way we are interacting with each other. The silent streets, closed businesses, and people scurrying about to get their shopping with as little interaction with others has created a noticeable shift in the universal energy, wyrd in Germanic practices, that influences how we perceive the realm of spirit.

As people find ways to maintain connection through online resources such as concerts, classes, medical appointments, conferencing meetings, and more, we are maintaining and expanding relationships and connections in creative ways that will last for a while to come. During this time when in-person gatherings and events are suspended, we can take the time to strengthen and build our spiritual community world-wide by harnessing the technology we have to reach out and get to know each other locally and around the globe.

Among these conferencing meetings will be the rise of virtual rituals, light/calming meditations and healings, and divination readings. These subjects have long been frowned upon by many in the spiritual community as inferior ways in which to have a spiritual experience with others, preferring physical interactions. The benefits of virtual experiences is that that participants are able to connect and create meaningful spiritual space with others from local regions to around the world. This is particularly valuable to solitary practitioners who normally have few or no one nearby with whom they can share these experiences on a regular basis.

From the safety and comfort of one’s own home (or garden, park, other natural setting if capability and connectivity allow), we can create a setting around us and connect them together like bubbles of sacred scared space via the web. Let’s go over a few of the ways that we can access these virtual spaces to continue connections with our local groups as well as expanding and including others who otherwise would not have a way to connect in person.

Ritual: This is often a controversial topic as there are some in paganism, including the Druid and Heathen communities, who think that virtual ritual is not effective. They take great pains to deny it has any value and denigrate those who participate as well as the event itself. My experience and opinion are that virtual ritual is a wonderful way to provide a deeply moving and sacred experience for those who cannot do so physically with people they know, trust, and care about.
One of the aspects that will require more attention of participants, is that of focusing on the ritual and avoiding the temptation to multitask and be distracted by activities and events around their location. To help deal with this, I encourage people to fully participate in the ritual, just as if they were attending one in person with a kindred, grove, or circle. Practice the very same etiquette you would at a physical event. Dress for the occasion (as you normally would – or maybe dress up more in your home), don’t type or surf the web simultaneously, set aside the time and space without interruption, and don’t talk or interrupt unnecessarily. Respect the person(s) facilitating the ritual as well as other attendees.

Another way to engage in the ritual is to not be just a virtual observer. It is different to have participants on a screen (either with or without video. Since some are concerned about being recorded, they may turn off video to participate) and to not be in the physical presents of the elements of the ritual. But, by mirroring what is happening with the facilitator with elements in your presence, you can feel more engaged and part of the ritual experience. To do this, the facilitator can send out a list of what ritual tools, offerings, and elements they will be using. Participants can bring similar elements and set up an altar space before them. As something is done by the ritualist, mirror it in your physical space. I think this will help establish a wonderful connection through the cyber realm and also knit the webs of sacred experience to everyone involved, very similar (even if not exactly) to physical ritual events.

Meditation and healings: These can also be very effectively done via a web conferencing platform. Similar to the ritual experience, participants can use the tips provided above to help set their room or space for meaningful experience. The caveat here is that video really should be used so that the facilitator can observe the person. It is also recommended that very deep trance and journeywork should not be done in this manner because a physical proximity is important between the participant and mediator for such deep experiences. For guidance and light calming techniques and healing discussions, video can be an effective way to communicate (just as phone guidance was prior to such advances).

Classes/Workshops: These have been provided for a number of years already with the increase in use and popularity of YouTube. You can find a YouTube video for practically anything that you want to learn or learn how to do. What this possibly expands upon is now creating a live event that your local group can join in from their own homes. With the increase of recommendations to remain away from even small group gatherings, this makes it an effective way to maintain group cohesiveness. It also provides wonderful opportunities to expand invitations to others in the local pagan community who may be interested in learning about your path, but may not have been able to attend because of a private location or fear of meeting unknown people. It also opens the opportunity of bringing in people from further way (such as solitary practitioners) as well as the potential for guest speakers.

Divination/Readings: Finally, we have divination and readings. Moving to a teleconference capability expands upon a communication technique that has been around for meeting the needs of seeking divine guidance for decades. Readings have been given by telephone, chat rooms, messenger, recordings, and letters.

Teleconferencing allows for an interactive experience that includes a way for each to see the other, the seeker can see the cards or oracle tool being used, and interact a little more easily than by other means. The tips above are useful here as well, since we want both parties to be present in the moment and attentive to what is occurring before them.
So we have an opportunity to truly turn a situation from doubt, uncertainty, annoyance, and isolation into one that can still include others and provide a way to share experiences and knowledge (gnosis) and maintain the vital connection of community. Something that is highly needed at all times, but particularly when we are faced with being alone (either physically or on our journey) or facing troubled times.

May your virtual encounters be blessed by the Gods, Goddesses, and beings you work with and filled with many shared experiences.

This article first appeared in Oak Leaves Issue #89 – Summer 2020, a publication of Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF).

Listen to my discussion about online ritual with Robb Lewis of the Ring of Ghosti on episode 36 of Gifts of the Wyrd Podcast.