Well, it’s the Winter Solstice, and with it my own personal New Year.
The Solstice falls on the darkest day (reminding me of Thomas’ “Broken and blind, he died the darkest way / And did not turn away”). On this day, the sun burns for the least amount of time, and the darkness of the night is longest and most penetrating. From now on, even though the crust of the earth will still be cooling down because it is such a heat-sink in summer, the sun will burn a little brighter and for a little longer each day, bringing us a promise of an eventual spring and new life.
I particularly love the Equinoxes as times of balance, and the Solstices as apogees or nadirs of power. And the Winter Solstice is a nadir of power. It is now that the aged Year-King dies utterly, and the first spark of life that will become the new Year-King is brought into the world.
In pre-Christian society, the Winter Solstice was celebrated similarly in many cultures, as a time to cultivate Fire, to remind the Sun to burn. In many Shamanic societies particularly, the shamans would work their most sacred, most powerful fire-magic on the Winter Solstice. In pre-technical society before the advent of accurate chronometers, a highly-trained mind with a good eye might notice that the sun was responding to this magic and rekindling itself and the days were gradually getting longer, by about the twenty-fifth.
Such an awareness would be cause for a huge celebration, slaughtering something big and meaty and eating as much as possible in celebration, as the earth promised to replenish its gifts to humankind. And in the Northern Hemisphere that festival of rejoicing might occur on the 25th December. Well, guess what.
Today I spent some mindful time to celebrate, walking along that Otherworldly region where the elements meet (the sand and rocks of Earth, the waves of Water, the winds of Air and the light of Fire). This far edge of the world, where everything we know falls away into the sea, is about as close as we can get to the Gods. I shared it with an incoming tide rushing helter-skelter into the saltwater lake-system, a lone pelican and a flock of seagulls (no, not the eighties band!).
The seagulls were, in particular, enjoying themselves. Undaunted by the chilly winds that kept many of my fellow primates away, they were ducking and diving as best their buoyancy would let them, into the rushing waters, catching the young fry that the tide was dragging back into the lake. The overwhelming feeling I got from them was glee, enjoyment and a sense of plenty.
I would wish exactly those feelings on each of us, as the old sun dies and the new sun is born, and the whole world rejuvenates itself.