Child of PromiseMerry Yule, one and all! I wish you a festive season filled with love and laughter, good friends, good food and good times. Whatever it is that you celebrate during the winter months, the themes of family, friendship, and sharing are common within the various celebrations. Light is another common theme during winter festivals from Diwali in October to Imbolc in February, and Winter Solstice is no different. Light within darkness invokes strong primal instincts for modern man, from the physical aspect of warmth and safety to the emotional and mental health that sunlight brings. At Winter Solstice we face the longest night of the year followed by the rebirth of the Sun and the increasing sunlight. Some refer to the Winter Solstice as Midwinter, based upon the Celtic calendar which consisted of just two seasons – Summer and Winter. Winter ran from the Autumn to the Spring, from the last harvest to the first planting, and Summer from planting to harvest. Some consider this shift of seasons to occur on the equinoxes, others believe that Samhain and Beltaine divide the year. However, despite the older term of Midwinter, for many countries the winter is only just beginning and people have a long way to go before the signs of spring surface from frozen white ground. The gradual but perceptible increase in light every day uplifts the heart and mind, and brings a sense of hope and promise. This feeling is encompassed within many stories, myths and legends of the Yule period.

Grandfather FrostDuring the rebirth of the Sun, we celebrate the rebirth of the Son – the Divine Masculine, the young God, the Child of Promise. This young divinity is born of the Mother Goddess who grieves the loss of her Divine Consort, the God who sacrificed himself at the harvest. From sacrifice, grief, death, despair, loss and love, the Divine God is born anew. The child that the Goddess holds in her arms is both the memories of her past and the promise of her future. During this time the God resides in many other forms, as the God of the Hunt; as the Lord of Shadows; as the God that descends and journeys through the underworld; as the Holly King and the Oak King. He even resides within the traditional Father Christmas and Grandfather Frost. Within the fire, within the woodland creatures, within the sunlight gleaming upon snow.

The Goddess too takes many forms other than the Divine Mother. She is also present as the Old Crone Midwife who assists in the rebirth of the Son; as the Goddess who descends into the underworld; as the Goddess of the underworld, of womb and tomb; as the Maiden of Spring who sleeps under ice; as the weeping widow and the Goddess of light.

We also take many forms within winter. We are the close friend, distant friend, the struggling sibling, the glue that binds a family together. We are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We wear masks of happiness to cover stress and anxiety. We are excited, uplifted, joyful and peaceful. We are together. We are alone. The longest night and the coldest months can reflect our own dark night of the soul. The festive season can be cold and bitter for many, and isolation can affect even those in the midst of the hustle and bustle and bright lights. The warmth and comfort that winter festivities bring can often highlight the darkness we hold in our own hearts and lives. This is not something to fear. Facing the darkness is an important part of spiritual development, and although it may feel terrifying, long and arduous, it is a necessary part of the cycle of our lives. And just like the longest night of the year, the dawn breaks in a rebirth of light. Our light. Each and every one of us. We are all lights in the darkness.

stonehengewinter

And now for the science part…

The Earths’ axis points in a northerly direction close to the second-magnitude star Polaris, known more commonly as the Pole Star, regardless of where the Earth happens to be in its orbit. Everything in the sky, including the sun, appears to revolve around this almost fixed point in the sky. This means that the Sun appears to move throughout the year from 23.5 degrees north of the celestial equator (on June 21st) to 23.5 degrees south of the celestial equator (on December 21st). On December 21st the Sun stops moving southwards, pauses, and then starts to move northwards. On or around March 21st, the Sun crosses the equator, a celestial event known as an ‘equinox’ from the Latin for ‘equal night’ (day and night are of roughly the same length at this time). On June 21st the Sun reaches its most northerly point, pauses, and then moves southwards once more. Again the Sun crosses the equator on or around September the 21st, another equinox. The summer and winter Solstice on the 21st of June and December, are named from the Latin words ‘sol’ for ‘sun’, and ‘sisto’ for ‘stop’. The most common interpretation of solstice is the time when the ‘Sun Stands Still’.

For your viewing pleasure: Live performance of Winter by Wendy Rule

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