How lucky we are to live on this beautiful planet where the glorious sun shines down upon us and fills our days with light. During the night, that same sun shines upon the moon which reflects the solar light back down upon the earth.
There are two dates in our calendar when the sun shines for as long as the night falls and these two dates are known as the equinoxes. This publication is to be launched on another special solar day-the Winter Solstice; the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
The word ‘solstice’ comes from the French language and is made up of two words; ‘sol’ for sun and the last part is from the word ‘sistere’ which means to stand still, or to take a stand. On this day the sun is taking a stand, a still moment, as it goes from one season into another. It is resting as it comes to the end of the autumn cycle and preparing itself to step into the winter.
On this date the winter solstice is happening in the northern hemisphere, in the southern hemisphere it will be doing the opposite, going from spring into summer and becoming the longest day and the shortest night.
Many people around the world regard this Winter Solstice as a time to celebrate with feasting and merry making along with decorating a tree. This date is also known as Yule and the yule log is a favoured activity symbolising the rebirth of the sun, bringing in a log, decorating it and burning it. People have been taking part in this activity for so long its origins are forgotten but it must have something to do with the belief of bringing light into one’s home during these dark months.
The Druids celebrated this date by gathering mistletoe and sacrificing a white bull, the bull is a symbol of the sun in many ancient religions. In some places a white bull would be paraded around the streets reminding all that the sun was starting a new cycle.
At this time of year many people start to collect holly to put into their homes for decoration and this probably came from the tales of the Oak King and the Holly King. These two kings would have a battle every winter, the Oak King being the light and the Holly King the darkness. This battle represents the old year, the Holly King, being defeated by the new year, the Oak King. Both are battling out for supremacy as the light versus darkness, it is the retelling of the story of the sun breaking anew into the dark winter.
In China the Winter Solstice is part of the yin and yang cycle, the yin is the negative and the yang the positive. The yin energy has come to its peak at this time and begins to weaken as the Yang energy rises. It is regarded as an auspicious day celebrated with food, usually dumplings, and prayers to the ancestors.
In the Norse Tales the God Odin would on this Winter Solstice ride his eight legged horse Sleipnir through the skies delivering gifts to his peoples, does this sound like anybody else we know?
In Ancient Egypt this was a day for celebrating the God Horus, the hawk headed God of the Egyptian pantheon. He was a sun god and to celebrate his rebirth they would have a twelve day festival where they would lay out plenty of green plants especially palms that had twelve shoots.
There are so many ways to celebrate the winter solstice and back in ancient times somebody, some culture who we do not know, made the stone circles that can be found around the world. Whoever did this understood the sun and the moon as well as the stars and the paths they take across our skies because these stone circles are astronomical observatories. Megalithic stones have been set up and aligned so that on the solstices and equinoxes the sun’s first rays fall upon specific stones, or in the case of Newgrange in Ireland, they light up a passage made up of these megaliths.
The winter solstice is the long night of darkness and perhaps this is the time for one to look at one’s own darkness within and remember that the sun, one’s own light, will shine through. Whatever you are doing this winter solstice may the sun shine down upon you and bless you with its rays.