Winter Solstice, the Turning

Today is December 21st, the date given to celebrate the Winter Solstice, the darkest day in our hemisphere, the world now beginning to turn toward the light of longer days. The event has been ritually celebrated by humans since well before recorded history. We find the markings of it in such things as the ruins of Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland, revered relics that were ingeniously built to highlight the sunrise and sunset on the day of Winter Solstice. The effort and ingenuity it took to create them, as well as the lasting fascination with such sites the world over certainly suggest we might pause today and reflect what this moment in our year’s journey around the sun still might mean to us. We have modernity and the strains of holiday preparations to distract us, but I am thinking the reflection has value. And so I pause this morning to write.

In my body I feel not so much the anticipation of more light, but a buckling down for winter. In earlier ages the possibility of not surviving a winter was a cold hard reality to prepare oneself for in all of the ways one prepares. Starvation and freezing to death were only two of the ways a harsh winter might be unsurvivable. Enforced isolation was and still is a factor.

This will be my 8th winter living in remote,  high altitude terrain in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Part time residents in my area still don’t know what it is like to go through a winter there. I am finding new respect each year in the faces of my neighbors as they count how many winters I have survived there. It is a kind of respect one can only give or sense the power in receiving if you have done this particular gauntlet faithfully and repeatedly. I am uniquely initiated, and realize I even owe respect to myself for this.

But, and still, and in any case, those particular initiations are symbolic of something interior all of us at some level and to some degree experience in our deep instinctual soul in this season, marked by this day. Death and hibernation are all around. Plants, animals, insect populations die, the soil lays fallow. We see more moon and starlight than solar light. We cover our bodies in layers to defend against temperatures. Huddle around fires. Sleep more if we are lucky.

What dies inside of us? The experiences of the calendar year just completed have become essences and memories: 2011, the year when…  The new year hasn’t yet arrived, there is more to go through to bring it in. This Solstice day is a between-life moment. A time to assess the old, to determine to survive the winter and survive it well, with more awareness this time. A time for our psychic soil to lay fallow and rest before new planting and new possibility. A time for darkening. Deepening. Dying. No re-birth is possible without the death.

Let’s take this moment, not let it pass. Build our own Stonehenge in consciousness to mark it. I commit to this now.

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2 Responses to “Winter Solstice, the Turning”

  1. Jeanne Day Says:

    I dreamed of a vast staircase of marble stairs going down, down, down into the mists of another world and so I have been beckoned to descend. I am going with willingness and acceptance of the death that may be waiting for the next birth. Perhaps we may meet somewhere down there in the consciousness of otherness.

  2. KatiesCameraBlog Says:

    What a wonderful post. So many people skip over the dark and just go straight to the light, and life isn’t like that. We need to really appreciate this time. Thank you for this post. And happy Solstice too!

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