Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Solstice part 2

I’d like to continue on the theme of the upcoming solstice. The solstice this year occurs next Saturday Dec. 21, 12:11 PM EST. This is one of the four critical turning points of the Great Round with its complement in the Summer solstice and the two equinoxes in Spring and Autumn. 

Moving toward this cosmic marker, the light is becoming less and darkness is increasing, gathering us together for the longest night, tucking us in, and readying us for the quiet display of its majesty. Once we are enclosed by this dark mother, in appreciation, we can then begin noticing the birthing of light as  days begin ticking their way toward greater radiance. But if not for this Great Darkness, this cosmic matrix, the stars could not be seen and we would not experience light. Darkness is the necessary ground for the possibility of any discussion about light.

Solstice is a holy day that is natural and cosmic. The cultural holidays; Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza are human invention preferring membership in a group. Though solstice is honored by only a few, it shares its bounty with all, no membership required. It does not exclude on the basis of caste, class, creed, color, age, gender, or species. All beings are welcomed to the awareness of darkness in their lives.

In our increasingly manic, growth oriented, and light focused culture, we seem to devote great energy toward eliminating darkness, silence, and death from our lives. We deny death, trying to hide it away from view by placing dying people in hospital and hospice away from the bustle of life where they might be seen, away from the home. We apply cosmetics to our recently dead, wanting them to appear only asleep in their final rest. 

We eschew the quiet, leaving our televisions and radios constantly on, making noise to keep silence at bay. I find that I can’t even go to a sporting event without music blasting out in between the action. We find ourselves keeping our phones attached to us to keep the conversations going or information flowing, avoiding silence and solitude at all cost.

We light up our cities and towns causing light pollution, obliterating the night sky. We illuminate our homes to chase the darkness away from our lives, keeping nightlights and security lights burning to ward off whatever shadows may be lurking that we’d prefer not to meet.

In our family, in addition to the beauty of Christmas honoring the birth of the Light of the World out of darkness for Christians, we've always celebrated the winter solstice. We generally have many lights (votive, candle, incandescent) lit in the room in which we gather then slowly extinguish each light and doing readings about darkness (we have even sung solstice carols on occasion). When the light has been removed, we sit in darkness for a few minutes and each share the value of the dark in our lives. Then we slowly return illumination to the room, relight the tree, and open one gift. In gratitude, we may even make a toast to darkness as that which contains, holds, and brings forth light. It is a simple ritual to honor that element to which our culture pays so little positive attention.

Let me close with Rilke’s words about the dark…..

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you. But the darkness pulls in everything:
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! —
powers and people —
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.

Wishing you a meaningful solstice and a merry Christmas!
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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this simple and wonderful ritual ... I shall remember it and adopt it. From darkness to light and back again, may we never forget the cycles of life.