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Circle Craft: Sunrise Rituals

by Selena Fox

Throughout the ages and across cultures, Sunrise has been a sacred time for personal and community rituals. This change from night to day has long been a powerful and transformative time for spiritual practice. Sunrise symbolizes new beginnings, resurrection, and renewal.

Rather than being an exact moment, Sunrise, also known as Dawn, is a process. It begins with the stage known as First Light, or Daybreak, when the dark of the Nighttime starts fading and the light of the Sun first becomes apparent on the Eastern horizon. In the next phase, the colors of Dawn create a beautiful light show in the Eastern sky. Then, as the orb of the Sun appears to rise up over the horizon, the sky is filled with golden brilliance. In the final stage, Sunup, the golden sky changes into the light blue of Morning.

Sunrise rituals have been an important part of my spiritual practice throughout my life.

Over the years, I have developed a variety of Sunrise rites through my personal spiritual work with and studies of the Sacred Sun. I share some of my favorite Sunrise rituals here. When possible, do these outside in places with a good view of the Eastern horizon.

First Light Vigil

This ritual begins with a meditation during the darkness of the Night. This vigil can begin an hour before Daybreak or it can be the culmination of a Dusk to Dawn meditation. Sit it in a comfortable position and face East. If necessary, wrap yourself in a cloak or blanket to keep your body warm and dry. Center yourself by doing deep, slow, relaxed breathing. Close your eyes for a few minutes to deepen your connection with the Night. Listen to Nighttime sounds. Attune to the Night, experiencing its mystery, beauty, and power. Give thanks for the Night.

Now, with your eyes open, meditatively keep watch on the Eastern horizon for the first signs of the light of Dawn. Also listen for changes in sounds and other sensations as Daybreak approaches. Connect the power of anticipation. Sharpen your senses.

When Daybreak comes, stand up and stretch out your arms to greet the First Light of the Day. Experience the magic of a new Day Dawning. Feel the power of rebirth within you and around you. Speak a prayer or do an affirmation of blessing on the Day for yourself and others. When you sense it is time to end your rite, conclude by giving thanks for the Day.

Sunrise Walk

At First Light, take a meditative walk in a natural place. Let this walk deepen your connection with Nature. See the beauty of the waxing light illuminating the landscape. Enjoy the changing patterns of color in the sky. Breathe in the fresh morning air. Listen to the sounds of birds and other creatures. Feel the growing warmth as the Sun rises. Focus your thoughts on the awareness of being part of the Community of Life experiencing early morning. After concluding your walk, sit quietly and recall your experiences. Then, ask for a message for you and the Day, and reflect on what emerges. Then, give thanks for your experiences, for your sacred relationships with Nature, and for any message or guidance you receive. If possible and appropriate, take action on the message during the course of your Day.

Colors of Dawn

One of the most powerful ways to attune to the colorful beauty of the Dawn is through photography. Dawn photography can be a relaxing meditation as well as an educational experience. Recording the changing colors of the sky at Sunrise and later viewing the photos you have made can sharpen your powers of observation and deepen your understanding of the vast array of colors, tints, shades, and hues in Nature’s palette. Photographing the Dawn also can be a fun ritual of creatively interacting with the rising Sun.

Dawn photography can be done in a wide range of locations and with most cameras. For best results, however, use a tripod and a camera that allows you to vary exposures and shutter speeds. Be sure to protect the well-being of your eyes and do not look directly at the orb of the Sun. Be familiar enough with the operation of your camera in order that you can focus your attention on enjoying and photographing the colors of Dawn. When you are done with your photo session, give thanks. Later, you may want to select one or more of your photographs to display and/or to use as a Sunrise visualization aid.

Sunrise Labyrinth Journey

Journey to an outdoor Labyrinth an hour before Daybreak. Follow the protocols for the use of the Labyrinth space. Enter the Labyrinth during the time it is still dark. As you meditatively walk, experience yourself taking a sacred journey of transformation. As you approach the center, dispel concerns and barriers to growth. Stand or sit in the Center and meditate on the Dawning of inner Light. At Dawn, greet the Day, and then begin to meditatively walk out of the Labyrinth. Experience the renewing power of the Rising Sun in and around you as well as the magic of the Labyrinth as you journey transformed back into the world. As you exit the Labyrinth, give thanks to the sacred space, to the Sacred Sun, and to other forms of the Divine that you have worked with on your journey. Find a place to sit quietly and journal about your experiences.

Welcoming the Rising Sun

This Welcoming the Sun can be done as its own rite or as part of a morning ritual. Begin this ritual at least one half hour before the orb of the Sun is likely to be visible on the horizon of the ritual site. The time of Sunrise will depend on several factors, including the time of year, latitude of the area, and the terrain and orientation of the ritual site in respect to the Eastern horizon. Another factor to be considered is the amount, position, and thickness of any cloud cover in the Eastern sky. This ritual works best on clear days.

Bring a drum or other rhythm instrument to the ritual site. Burn incense sacred to the Sun, such as frankincense or copal. Consecrate the site, yourself, and your rhythm instrument with the incense. Then, facing East, begin making a slow, quiet, steady rhythm as you look at the Eastern Sky. When the orb of the Sun first crests above the Eastern horizon, speed up the rhythm. Shift your gaze from the orb of the Sun to an area above it so that you are not harming your eyes by looking at the Sun directly as it rises. Begin chanting to welcome the Sun. This can be a freeform chant spontaneously created at the moment or a Sun chant, such as “Sacred Sun, Come!” If you wish, dance as you chant and make rhythms.

As the orb of the Sun increasingly appears about the horizon, increase the speed and intensity of your chanting, rhythm making, and movement. When the orb of the Sun has cleared the horizon, culminate your chanting and rhythm making, and then be silent for a time. Close your eyes and meditate on the warmth of the risen Sun flowing around you and in you. If this ritual is being done by a group, then the leader should signal the group to peak the sound and then have silence.

After the silence, honor the Sun with a spoken or sung invocation of the Sun in one or more Sacred forms. Then, be silent again and pay attention to any words, symbols, or other impressions that may come to you. Give thanks to the Sacred Sun.

Selena Fox
Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox is High Priestess of Circle Sanctuary and founder of the Circle Craft tradition. She teaches and guides rituals at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Some of her writings, recordings, and photographs are available on-line and through Circle. For more information, email: selena@circlesanctuary.org.