A Love Letter to the Sun on Winter Solstice
FCGCT Commentary: We are moving from the mind, to the Heart… not the balancing of the two. The mind conflicts with the Heart, and is the cause for imbalance, pain, fear, suffering and more. It is the Heart and Brain which work in harmony together. The mind… the ego, blocks the Heart, as it Edges God Out. It is the Heart and Brain which work in harmony to allow Balanced Harmonics, your Divine Blueprint. Let go of the mind, and solely flow from the Heart, connected to the Unified Heart in Unity Consciousness.
A Love Letter to the Sun on Winter Solstice
Solstice takes its name from Latin, sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still)
Approaching the winter holiday as a chance to celebrate the seasonality of the Earth is an egalitarian approach. After all, regardless of our religious affiliations or holiday traditions, we all live under the same sky and stars. Paying attention to the celestial show above as we pass through the seasons is a way of connecting to both the Earth and our common humanity. Winter solstice can be a profound way to tune into the beauty of the season, as well as to celebrate what binds us together under a shared sky.
Astrologically, winter solstice is the longest night of the year. The moment of solstice is the point in time when the Earth’s axial tilt has leaned the North Pole the farthest away from the Sun. It’s as far as the planet tips towards the cold abyss of space. During its peak, darkness engulfs us for three days before the Earth continues on its orbit, lengthening the hours of daylight once again.
We are literally facing the void of deep space; the darkness. It was a striking, and deeply significant, astrological and emotional event. It’s no wonder that the occasion caused many to contemplate spiritual matters of where we arise and what is the meaning of our fragile miraculous existence.
Slowly but surely, beginning at summer solstice, the night increases in length and warmth begins to fade, sucking the very vibrancy from the land. This was a time of dread for the ancient peoples as they saw the days getting shorter and shorter. Nature pulls her greenery deep into her innermost heart, and waits in the dark underground. It was as if everything that was bright in the world retreated, leaving behind only a barren land and hardship. As the days became short and nights long and dark, the Earth froze. Winter often brought with it the specter of death; possibly starvation or famine. Survival was hard.
It’s this time of year that we light candles, build fires, and decorate our homes with twinkling lights. Candles, Christmas lights, and the menorah all embody the spirit of bringing light back into the darkness. These rituals embody the spirit of the season, reflecting the hope that the unconquered sun would rise again.
Winter Solstice is a universal festival. All over the world, cultures distant and separated by time built temples aligning with the solstice, such as the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge, Newgrange in Ireland, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Celebrating the winter solstice could likely be the oldest seasonal festival of humankind. Since ancient times, all around the world, humankind has reveled in both the darkness and the coming of the light. Rituals were created to ensure the sun returned to bring back the warmth necessary for life once again.
The night was important: the long, dark night of solstice and the three days of the sun standing still were seen symbolically as the Sun dying and being reborn, as the the great wheel of the year curves beyond darkness and death and towards the new beginnings of life.
During those three days of the stun “standing still”, common traditions were ones centered around light. In Sweden, St Lucia’s day was celebrated by wearing candles on a crown wreath. For the Germanic peoples who celebrated Yule, yule logs were burned, keeping vigil for the lights return. Concepts of the birth of sun gods were common throughout history. For the Norse, it was Yule. For Roman, Saturnalia. Christmas employs many ancient winter solstice traditions.
During solstice, we know intuitively to await the return of the sun. It was a time to go inward and reflect, recognizing a deeper awareness of our connection to nature. Solstice provided a gentle reminder that darkness has a purpose, and to find balance and harmony in this knowing.
There is an enduring myth in Celtic lands of the battle between the Oak and Holly Kings. In Celtic mythology the oak and holly were both sacred trees, each a symbol of their season. As the wheel of the year turned, these two mighty kings battled each summer and winter solstice for the favor of the goddess: Mother Earth.
During the waxing portion of the year, from winter to summer solstice, it is the Oak King who rules. It is the time when the land slowly reawakens from winter slumber, responding to the sun’s increasing daily light. Leaves are bursting into bloom, crops are growing, and all is green and flowering. His bright and mighty foliage in the spring and summer months symbolize the year’s growth.
As soon as summer solstice hits, however, another battle begins: the triumph of the Holly King over the Oak King. From summer solstice to winter solstice, the waning time of light, it is the Holly King that reigns supreme, as darkness descends slowly and we lose more of the sun’s light each day.
The ancients of the northern hemisphere must have looked out at barren landscape of winter and felt inspired at how the holly trees, hidden amongst the prominent oaks the rest of the year, now stood out evergreen. While the oaks were deprived of their foliage, the evergreen holly tree was seen as representing determination and patient hope; a winter reminder that green would once again reign.
Evergreen plants, symbolizing life’s continuity, were brought into the home. Like the lyric in the song: “Deck the halls with boughs of holly”, emblems of green life became a tradition during the darkest days of winter. Wreaths, mistletoe, and holly were all little reminders of a spring that would bathe us in light soon.
In Ireland, Celtic Druids celebrate the rebirth of the solstice Sun as the return of the Divine Child, the Mabon, at various stone alignments and sacred sites. The most famous one is Newgrange in the Boyne River Valley; a huge Neolithic passage tomb aligned perfectly to the sunrise of the winter solstice. It is believed to be around 5,200 years, making it older than the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge.
On the exact astrological moment of the winter solstice sunrise, a single beam of light enters the entrance of the giant cairn, slowly making its way to the very center of a 57 foot long passage. The light travels along towards the heart of the chamber, illuminating the art carved into the tunnel’s stones, before falling onto a big stone which bears the carving of a triskelion, a triple spiral. This is the symbol of the Goddess and her underworld mysteries of life, death, and rebirth. The spiral, like the ourobouros of the snake eating its own tail, represents the timeless mother of all creation, the one who creates from formlessness into form and then back again. The sunlight reaches the innermost interior of the mound, illuminating the spiral briefly, as if in union between light and darkness, before fading once again.
Some Druids interpret the shape of the mounds of Boyne Valley metaphorically as Earthen wombs, and as the light of the sun penetrates the dark underground womb each solstice, it symbolically marks the return of life. The ray of light by the Sun God enters into the womb of Mother Earth, and thus brings about the creation of new life.
The legacy of this perfect celestial alignment is still attracting pilgrims from all over the world 5,000 years later, to witness the beauty that Celtic astronomers created for their land and their people.
Seasonality is perhaps one of the oldest, most primordial truths. We have always been spinning on our axis, in shadow part of the year and in sunlight the rest. Ancient cultures considered the flow of time to be a cycle without beginning or end.
Seasons are the Earth’s own calendar, a reminder of cycles that rule all our lives; the cycle of crops dying and being reborn mirroring the cycles of our own lives, growing in ebbs and flows.
Winter’s darkness is a time that beckons inward towards the hearth; the flame within. It was the time to gather around the light, for storytelling and myth making over candlelight. To give gratitude for the warmth that the growth of the previous summer’s sun provided, in the form of food, fire, and another harvest stored in root cellars.
In Tao philosophy there is the metaphysical idea of yin versus yang, in which all things exist as “inseparable and contradictory opposites”. Yin is the wintery, watery, receptive and feminine moon side of life, while yang is the summer sun’s fiery masculine warmth and outward activity. Yin could be perceived as being, while yang is doing.
Poet Thomas Merton spoke of the mystic’s profession as an act of being. Winter, the season of yin, is the perfect time to abide in stillness, like a spruce tree, rooted, waiting out the frost. In winter, nature gathers life into her innermost heart; her seeds waiting patiently. Winter invites a great big sigh of surrender to allow just a being; to rest in that space to better hear the music of the spheres above. To take a deep dive inward, where intuition and answers about the upcoming year dwell, just like the land under the bare bones of winter waits for something to be born from beneath.
The seasons were designed for nature and all her inhabitants to thrive; we are nature after all. Wisdom could be found within these cycles, mirroring the darkness and light within our own hearts. Just like the seed of rebirth found at the center of the womb of the Dark Goddess; only darkness seeds the light.
Yin and yang, darkness and light, moon and sun; perhaps the Earth herself shows us how to create balance between the polarities within and without us, by respecting and finding meaning in the balance of seasonal cycles.
There’s something comforting, almost paradoxical, about the cyclical constancy. One is not more important than the other, but rather it is the wholeness, within and without, that creates the balance necessary for life to flourish.
With our instinct to turn towards the light in this time of darkness, it’s also a time to turn toward the light within. We can honor and establish resonance with the seasons by being light ourselves, sharing the radiance of our spirit.
After the longest night of the year, the darkest night of the soul, the sun rises triumphantly evermore. Hope and light return to the land and to our hearts, and we sing up the dawn. On December 25th, three days after the Earth’s farthest point on its orbit, the sun once again starts to rise, making the days longer and longer. The Romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis: the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. This is the turning point of the year. This is the day that the sun, symbolic of the light, is reborn, ensuring another year of growth and life.
May the rising solstice sun remind what binds us together, all of us under one twinkling sky.
Hail to those who lived before us,
Hail to those who follow us.
All see the turning of the wheel,
The endless cycle that connects us all.
Guide us to the returning light.
Festival rite celebrated by the Oak and Feather Grove at Midwinter of 2003 Source: The Druid Network
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