Winter Solstice Moon of the Winter Solstice
It’s here. It’s here. It’s finally here. The longest night. The sun has begun to set and the darkness will be with us for 15 hours and 14 minutes. Had we been a resident of the British Isles or somewhere in Scandinavia, it would have been even longer. (and is, today.) It’s no surprise then, that in the old religions of these countries that the Winter Solstice took on an ominous portent.
Think about it. The last crop had come in at least two months ago, probably longer. There was no prospect of a growing season even starting until the next April or early May. And the nights had begun to grow longer and longer. As the cold grew more intense and the daylight diminished, it could seem possible that never again would the ground be warm, the plants green. You and your children might starve.
Yes, so far the sun had always returned but what would happen if the gods who controlled its coming and going no longer desired its return? The gods lived in their own ways and to their own designs. It could easily happen that we humans were not included.
So for some the Winter Solstice became a season of dread, followed by an increasing sense of relief as the sun escaped whatever was holding it back and began to ascend once again for a longer time each day. Thank the gods.
You know the stories about holidays of light, those holidays that both reassure and, through principles of sympathetic magic, lure the sun back from its melancholy.
There is, however, another way to come to this long night. This way takes the long night as good as the longest days of the Summer Solstice. It celebrates the darkness, that fecund place where babies grow, bulbs germinate and creativity unfolds.
It sees this night as different from all other nights in that we set it aside as a holynight, a night that stands in for all other nights, for all those moments of darkness when richness and life and new beginnings collect, gather strength.
Yes, of course, we need the light. The growing season. The warmth. And that time has it holyday, the Summer Solstice. A celebration of light and fire and the profusion of plant life.
It may be harder to celebrate the dark. It frightens us sometimes, reminds us of the coming darkness in which the sun will never again rise. And of those for whom such time has already come. There is no shame in this fear; it is universal.
But note this. It especially cannot be assuaged by the message of Sol Invictus, the all conquering sun. The darkness is coming, for each and every one of us. Far more powerful then to embrace the darkness, not as over against life and the human spirit, but as friend, as necessary companion.
This is the darkness I celebrate tonight, the longest darkness of year.