Winter Solstice 2014
Winter New (Settling In) Moon
A sacred calendar follows a scheme that interprets the flow of the year from within a certain perspective. It is now Hanukkah, for example, a holiday of memory, the annual recollection of rebellion and a small victory offered by a god. Later this week, on December 25th, Christmas, in all its multi-layeredness, descends on children and retailers alike. This holiseason, the period from October 31st to Epiphany has the brave festivals of light as well as Samain, Thanksgiving and the Winter Solstice.
Today, on my sacred calendar, and more significantly, tonight comes the most loved holiday of the year, the Winter Solstice. While, yes, it’s true to observe that axial tilt is the reason for the season, the empirical and scientific reductionism implied manages to the human meaning entirely.
The tilt of the earth’s axis and its orbit around the sun combine to make this the longest night of the year. See this webpage for a helpful animation of day/night length. At 4:03 pm Mountain Time today “… the sun on our sky’s dome reaches its farthest southward point for the year.) earthsky
The sacred moment comes not when earth’s axial tilt darkens our home place longer than at any other point on the orbit, no, the sacred moment comes when we consider the possible meanings, metaphorical, physical, psychological, ritual that longest darkness offers, or perhaps better, stimulates.
The sacred moment comes when the illumination and enlightenment focused Western mind encounters the dark, the quiet. Not all of human significance comes from reason and analytical work, perhaps not the most important in particular.
What does reason have to offer as we contemplate death, for example? Or the deepest human suffering or injustice? How does enlightenment speak to the fecund reality of life beneath the soil, of life beneath conscious thought? It cannot speak there for its realm lies with Demeter and like Demeter cannot reach the Hadean depths of either the earth or the human mind.
Tonight we celebrate the shadow, not the noon day sun. Tonight we embrace, for a moment, the darkness to this life death brings. Tonight we join, just for a while the roots and rhyzomes, the microbes and tiny, burrowing animals as they move and live and have their being out of sight of the sky, creating a richness on which we feed. On which if you consider the food chain we must feed.
Tonight we celebrate the dark and hidden parts of our own psyche, the wounded soldiers and civilians of our inner realm, those who carry in their struggle some of our most profound possibilities. In my inner realm for example a creature, part-boy and part impatient man (a man very much like my father at his most difficult moments), sometimes seizes the day. Quite literally. This short-tempered man-boy rises when the man I am most has not had enough sleep or is physically tired or sick. He’s annoying and rude, someone my daytime persona would rather not admit as part of his whole being.
He is, yes, annoying and rude, but in him lies a distinct power. He can and will confront wrong-doing, injustice, abusive behavior. He lifts the metaphorical sword arm of the more timid and conforming daytime persona. He gives daytime the courage and the will to make a stand. This is his power, though most often its expression is inappropriate, unwanted.
So the long Solstice night gives us a chance to bring our shadow in close, to greet it with the welcome and love it deserves. You might be surprised at the power you could find there. Tonight we celebrate the dark.