Friday, December 21, 2012
Today marks the day many ancient peoples all around the world celebrated the Winter Solstice. Although it marks the beginning of winter, Spring is just around the corner. There may be plenty of bad weather between now and spring flowers, but today is the shortest day of the year, so starting tomorrow the days will begin getting longer.
The Winter Solstice marks the turn from the shortest day of the year towards the return of light and in many cultures this return of illumination is celebrated, welcomed and revered.
The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites such as Stonehenge (pictured above) in Britain and Newgrange (pictured below) in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the center of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.
For Pagans, Solstice is symbolically the night when the Sun Child is reborn out of the womb of Mother Night. For the Mayans, this year marks the end of a 30,000-year calendar cycle. For pop culture, somehow this has become the end of the world.
Deep inside we sense that we are, indeed, approaching some kind of end. Maybe it's the end of our current way of life, fueled by cheap oil and the illusion that we can endlessly and thoughtlessly exploit the living systems of the earth without dreadful consequences
We desperately need to make an end of our destructive practices, lest we leave our children a world that is at best impoverished and at worst, uninhabitable. And yet we often seem paralyzed, knowing what we need to do and unable to marshal the will to do so.
May this Solstice mark an end to the era when we saw the world as a bunch of dead, separate stuff and ourselves as isolated, and the beginning of a new day when we understand the world as an interconnected web of relationships.
My winter wish to all as the days begin to grow longer is for convivial companionship, sweet dreams, and peace on earth. It will be spring before we know it.
Posted by Magpie at 12:04 PM