A Winter Solstice Mandala – An Intuitive Art Directive for the Darkest Night of the Year

On December 21 we celebrate the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Just before the sun returns and the days start to get longer again we experience the darkest and longest night. Like the saying goes: “The darkest hour is just before the dawn”. It’s a poignant reminder and beautiful symbol of how light and dark both exist simultaneously in our lives and that often, just when we are about to lose hope or want to give up, the (re)solution appears – we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Just before we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun let’s honor the growth and transformation that happens in the silence, and depth of darkness, in the abyss of the Unconscious. Before moving towards the light again, let’s discover the gifts and the wisdom of the dark. Just like stars are born from darkness and cannot shine without it, we too spend  nine months in the darkness of our mother’s womb in preparation to be born into the light.

The following art directive is meant to celebrate the symbolism of the Winter Solstice in a creative and personally meaningful way with a mixed-media collage mandala (Mandala= Sanskrit for “sacred circle”).  You do not need to be an artist to have fun with this, nor do you need many supplies. Use what you have.

Materials needed

To emphasize the symbol of the womb of creation (darkness) and the Sun (light) we will create a collage on a circular background. You can either purchase a round canvas or cut a large circle out of thick paper or card board, using a bowl or plate to help you create the circular shape. Trace the bowl or plate with a pencil and then cut out the circle with scissors.

* paper/cardboard or round canvas; or a bowl or plate to draw a large circle on paper

* Magazines, scrap paper

* Crayons, colored pencils or other colouring & paint mediums

* scissors, pencil and glue stick






Before you get started

Once you have all your materials gathered I recommend you to create a ceremonial and cozy atmosphere with candle light, a hot tea or cocoa, ambient music (I actually listened to Vivaldi’s “Winter”) and maybe some essential oil if you have a diffuser. Turn off your phone and take this time for yourself without interruption for at least 1-2 hours. Now close your eyes for a few moments and focus on your breathing and on relaxing your mind and body.

If you are into tarot or oracle cards you can draw a card from your favorite deck as an overall theme or message for this year’s Winter Solstice.


Browse through your magazines or image collection and find a symbolic image for each of the 5 Winter Solstice themes –  as shown in the diagram below – with a magazine image, starting with You/Your Light in the center. 

All 5 Positions:

  1. You/Your Inner Light (your eternal Soul essence)
  2. The darkness you release & let go of now; your symbolic death
  3. The gift(s) of the darkness you are receiving at this time; your symbolic transformation
  4. The integration of the dark and the light; how you balance both and find yourself in the middle
  5. What is restored and renewed at the return of the Sun; your symbolic rebirth

At this stage do not worry about composition and finding the perfect images. Just go with your intuition
and let the images choose you. You do not even have to know why you are attracted to a certain image and whether it represents the particular theme as per your usual understanding, or wether it matches with the others. The symbols can be abstract and vague or very literal; there are no rules here. This is an intuitive process and you can take your time  with it but be sure to leave your thinking mind and perfectionism at the door. Just set the intention that you wish to create a mandala for the Winter Solstice with those themes of light and dark.

After you have found your images, you start gluing them down on your round canvas and create a mandala around the images: Color the background with crayons or markers and find a way to connect the symbols to create a unified whole that pleases you.

Or, alternatively, you can create the background first with paint, crayons or collage (whatever art supplies you have at hand) and then glue on the five symbols afterwards. That’s what I did. I created the background with watercolor and acrylic paint as well as some crayons and chose the colors to match the images. I also wanted to have a mix of dark and light contrast.Once the paint was dry I glued on the images in the order of the diagram…

….and then added some glitter and doodling with a black pen to connect all the symbols together – emphasizing the never ending cycle of dark and light, of death, transformation and rebirth.

How to read your mandala

  1. Once your Mandala is finished, look at each symbol one by one, moving from 1) to 5) and start describing it.
  2. Describe each Symbol individually. Take into account the colors, the shape, the size, is it a person, an object, an element of nature, an animal, etc. What do you associate with the symbol and how does it answer or relate to the specific question/theme?
  3. What emotions, thoughts, memories & physical sensations does each symbol evoke?
  4. What resources, gifts and lessons are emerging?
  5. Finally, looking at your entire piece, what is the overall message of the mandala for you at this Winter Solstice? Are there recurring themes, colors, symbols? Do they all connect? Do they tell a story together? How do the themes of dark and light feel to you now that you have created the mandala? What is the wisdom that you gain from it?
  6. If you like you can write a poem to go with your Mandala or do the SoulCollage® exercise as explained below to dive even deeper into each of the symbols and their personal message to you.

SoulCollage® Exercise:

Especially if you are very intrigued or bewildered by one or more of the images that you chose intuitively you can use the SoulCollage® question method to dive deeper into a symbol and it’s particular message:

Step into each image, become the image and speak as if the image where a person, a guide, a sacred energy that you embody and that speaks its message through you.

Let me give you an example:  I asked the woman in my symbol on the left: “Who are you?” and then answered “I am one who is ready to cut her losses and let go of what no longer serves her.”

Another example: I asked the woman in the top image: “how can I honor the gift of the dark throughout the year?” and then answered “the way you can honor the gift of the dark is to…”

Questions for journaling & self-reflection

  • “How can I shine my inner light more brightly?”
    Start answering by saying:”you can shine your light more brightly by…”
  • “How can I best restore my positive energy?”
    Start answering by saying: “The way to best restore your energy is….”

Come up with your own questions to explore the sacred messages of wisdom hidden within the symbolic images of your mandala. It might feel “strange” in the beginning to talk to the images but with practice you will experience how a very wise and intuitive voice starts to emerge out of you connecting you to your higher self.

P.S. this is the card I drew at the beginning of the exercise from my own “Inner Compass Oracle” deck: it’s called COSMIC ORDER. Could there have been a more fitting card? I think the oracle card unconsciously set the tone for the mandala I ended up creating.

I had so much fun creating my mandala. Diving deep into the symbolism is so rewarding and touching each time. It is a wonderful way to tap into my creative as well as spiritual energy and guidance.
The journaling and SoulColallage® reading of the images amplified the experience of this entire process.

I hope that by now you are eager to start your own mandala, and dive into the mystery and symbolism of the Winter Solstice. Be sure to journal about your experience with this process and to connect with your symbols of light and dark through writing, meditation and using the SoulCollage® method. If you want to know more about this creative process visit the SoulCollage® website here. 

I would love to see your creations and hear about your experience with this art directive. So head on over to my Instagram page and share your mandalas there with the hashtag #wintersolsticemandala and tagging me @heatherhoepsintuitiveart


xox, Heather

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