As I write this post, Winter Solstice is approaching. It will happen at exactly 4:49 GM time on Tuesday, December 22nd, with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire a few hours later. Here in Southern California, Solstice will occur at 8:48 pm this evening (Monday 12/21/15), while most suburbanites in my parents’ neighborhood in Oceanside, California (where I currently am) will either be watching the new episode of the Big Bang Theory or fighting the crowds at the mall across town.
And still, in the middle of all this modern hub bub, the measuring of solstice will remain the same. As has been the case for over 4,500 years, it will be calculated by the massive sandstone sarsens of Stonehenge and the exact time when the sun will rise between their shadowy lines. This process says a lot about the ancients who built these amazing and sacred monoliths. They have stood the test of time and, in fact, continue to create it.
If you happen to be reading this post on your smartphone while standing in line to buy your brother that “must have” flannel shirt for Christmas, you may want to take a breath and ponder all of the above about Stonehenge, the Solstice, and the solidity of some things that apparently do not change. I mean, what else do you have to do right now?
You can also take a look at the picture below for inspiration:
Oops, sorry, wrong pic! Try this:
(That Kermie really gets around!)
Anyways, Winter Solstice is both a literal and figurative turning point. It is the moment when the shortest day of the year gives way to the “lengthening of days” that leads up to the thawing of snow, warmer weather and eventually, Summer Solstice in June. It signifies that shift from the stillest point of winter to the slow jangle of movement, the first inkling of new life that will inevitably emerge in spring.
That’s more than I can say about the before-Christmas sale at Macy’s!
Of course, the darkness of the longest night of the year and the emerging of the light at dawn has always had significance for us humans. Ever heard of the lighting of the Yule log at Christmas? It comes from the Feast of Juul, a Scandinavia solstice celebration. Households would light hearth fires to represent the light and heat of the sun as it returns from the dark and cold of winter. The Hopi of Northern Arizona celebrate Soyal, which welcomes Kachina protective spirits back from the surrounding mountains. In Iran, the celebration of Shab-e Yalda keeps families up all night as they wait to welcome the morning sun. In China, the “arrival of winter” is Dong Zhi, originally celebrated as end-of-harvest with special foods, music and celebrations.
Even if you haven’t had a tradition of honoring Winter Solstice in the past, it’s never too late to pick up the habit. For a lot of our ancient ancestors, “weathering” the solstice and celebrating the dawn symbolically meant that the forces of good had again won out over the darkness of evil.
For you, it can be a chance to go within and sit with the darkest parts of yourself that may be clamoring for your attention. Tonight and tomorrow may be good times to listen to your creative yearnings, to memories of the past, and to long-lost lusty callings to do something wild like…take up belly dancing again (0kay, that happens to be my lusty call).
Anyways, you get the picture.
Winter Solstice is a GREAT time to vision, plan, and kindle the creative spark of your projects and dreams. They don’t have to lie dormant all winter but can instead perculate like a steaming pot of joe. They can begin to emerge in the quiet spaces that winter inevitably brings.
It is also a great time to go within in a safe and healing way with friends– like I did last night at the Drumming in the Light celebration at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, California.
Wow, I was not expecting such a treat!
For a couple of hours, we drummed, danced and laughed our way into Solstice energy with Christine Stevens, Dan Cardamil, Frank Lazzaro and friends and the musical samples they brought with them from all over the world. Then Tibetian gong musician Richard Rudis invited us to go even deeper into our intentions with a gong bath tuned to the frequency of the earth.
And just what did she (the Earth, that is) have to say when it was over? Listen to what the musicians drummed up in a spontaneous re-introduction of sound out of the silence:
A retreat doesn’t always have to mean quiet time and it doesn’t always have to be done alone. In fact, there are moments during the year when human beings have collectively drummed, stomped and chanted their prayers to the heavens together .
We have done it this way for thousands of years. Why not keep up the tradition?
What will you pray for on the darkest and longest night of the year? What will be your focus as the dawn breaks to a new cycle of the seasons?
I would LOVE to here them in the Comments section below!