The Longest Night of The Year

Samhain                                                            Waxing Moon of the Winter Solstice

In my sacred world the holiday season has begun to climb toward its crescendo, or, rather, descend.  Would that be a descendo?  As I gradually shifted my view of sacred time from the Christian liturgical calendar to the ancient Celtic calendar, at first I celebrated Samhain, Summer’s End, as my foremost holiday.  It is the Celtic New Year, representing the end of the old year, too, Janus like, like our January 1st.   The growing season ceases and the long fallow season begins as Beltane ends, the season of growth and harvest.  I liked this simple, incisive division of the year, growth and rest.  Samhain also sees the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead, between this world and the other world, between our reality and the reality of faery.  Life takes on a numinous quality around the end of October and the beginning of November.

In the years when I celebrated Samhain as my chief holiday I began novels then, ended projects begun in the earlier part of the year and thought a lot about ancestors and the delicate, egg shell nature of life.

Samhain still represents a key moment in my sacred year; but over time, as I worked with the Great Wheel, an expanded Celtic calendar that added Imbolc and Lughnasa to the solar holidays, equinoxes and solstices, my soul begin to lean more and more toward the Winter Solstice.  At some point, I don’t even know when, I began to look forward to the Winter Solstice as I once had to Christmas and after it, Samhain.  This was a quiet change, driven by inner movements mostly below consciousness.

Now the longest night has that numinous quality, angel wings brushing by, contemplation and meditation pulsing in the dark, taking me in and down, down to what Ira Progroff calls the inner cathedral, though for me it is more the inner holy well, that deep connection drawing on the waters flowing through the collective unconscious.  I’ve been to a few solstice celebrations, but none of them grabbed me, made me want to return.

I’ve become what the Wiccans call a solitary, practicing my faith at home, according to my own rhythms and my own calendar.  At times I’ve shared my journey through preaching at UU congregations or writing seasonal e-mails and sending them out, but now I write something on this blog and post it on the Great Wheel page.  Otherwise, on the Winter Solstice, my high holy day, it’s a candle and some reading, long hours of quiet.  This Tuesday.  The longest night of the year.