Gathering Power At the Winter Solstice

“Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning “sun” and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrates the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice can be a beautiful remembrance that our lives are part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing. – Deena Wade in Winter Solstice Traditions: Rituals for a Simple Celebration

Without spending time in the darkness of Earth’s soil, seeds would have no power to meet the Spring. Seeds, shoots, leaves, roots, and flowers naturally attune themselves to the energies of the seasons following what’s often called “the great wheel of the year.” Farmers and ranchers and others whose vocations or avocations depend on nature, are better than most of us at following the wheel of the year–out of necessity if not also for spiritual reasons.

Wade says that “In Celebrate the Solstice, [Richard] Heinberg writes that ‘wisdom consists in knowing one’s place in any given cycle, and what kinds of action (or restraint of action) are appropriate for that phase.’ Attuning our senses to the subtle changes and cycles of the seasons might help us attune more lovingly to the subtle changes and cycles in ourselves. By performing simple rituals with personal meaning to celebrate the solstice, these rituals will serve as touchstones to help us cultivate an attitude of receptiveness and appreciation that will carry us through the holiday season with more ease.”

Needless to say, our lives in a science and technology world take us away from nature and the lessons of nature and the literal and spiritual truth found in Ecclesiastes 3:  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

If you follow a Traditional Craft or pagan approach to life, or to some parts of life, then you have the tools, insights, and practices that will help you align, or re-align, yourselves with the seasons, especially Winter and Yule. If you don’t, all is not lost for you can imagine yourself on this day and in this season as a seed–or, if you like, as a person figuratively plugged into a huge battery charger like a cellphone waiting for use.

Wade’s site has a wealth of suggestions. Even reading it brings us power, the power to remember who we are and to act accordingly.


On not looking inward

In a recent post called On Looking Inward, author Dani Shapiro begins with “Increasingly, we are scattered.”

Yes we are. The Internet and other addictions pull us away from listening more often to the voice within.

It’s especially interesting to me to think about just how often I’m not looking inward. I’ve spent a fair amount of time writing stories about characters who are looking inward. But, as I commented on Dani’s blog, it’s as though these characters are my children and I’m giving them better than I’m giving myself.

In Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey, protagonist David Ward is told by his wild woman grandmother when he is a child that the important things in life are found within. By the end of the book, I think he understands her wisdom.

He went through hell to understand it. The paradox is that I wrote about him going through hell to understand it and I’m wondering if I understand it. David, like Robert Adams in The Sun Singer, goes through a spiritual transformation that I (at times) I’m witnessing through a glass darkly.

I need to buy some Windex, wash off the class and follow the examples of my fictional characters rather than saying, “I’ll just check Twitter and Facebook for a while today and then I’ll go light a candle and look for other worlds within the flame.”

I know what’s more important, but the addictions of the outer world are very strong.


BOOK GIVE-AWAY WINNER: Congratulations to Leah, whose name was drawn out of a hat in the GARDEN OF HEAVEN give-away on my Almanac weblog.

Thank you to everyone who entered.

People who need to shut up in 2011

Guest post by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter, the Star-Gazer

At the end of the year, hack reporters traditionally make inane statements about what has been important during the past twelve months and what will be important during the next twelve months.  Truth be told, I don’t have a clue. I’m paid to tell you what happens, not why you ought to care about it.

These days, many journalists are breaking that rule. Here’s what that means to you. You know what they think before you know what facts led them to think what they think. What a shame. Why should anyone care what a hack reporter thinks? Reporters aren’t gods, sages or soothsayers. Hell, a lot of them are just plain stupid.

My profoundest hope for 2011–other than getting rid of the IRS and TSA–is that journalists who tell me what they think will shut up.

Whether I’m watching FOX or CNN, I’m pretty well guaranteed to see a bevy of talking heads (usual suspects) who are paraded before my wondering eyes who just happen to feel the same way about the issues that the network feels. Hell, what are the odds that an objective panel of experts would all think the same way?

My profoundest hope–other than not seeing celebrity divorces and affairs spattered all around the Internet like they’re real news–is that those CNN and FOX news panels of “experts” will shut up in 2011.

There’s a fair number of celebrities who need to shut up in 2011 because, quite frankly, we’re tired of hearing how they hate the “evil rich” even though they’re rich and/or seeing them testify before Congress because they’re famous rather than actually knowledgeable about a cause or an issue.

My profoundest hope–other than not seeing boring trailers for movies that are supposed to be funny–is that most celebrities will just speak the lines the writers give them and then shut up in 2011.

“Silence,” Lao Tzu reportedly said, “is a source of great strength.”

Why then, do we admire those who never shut up? This is a puzzlement, if not a paradox. As a hack reporter with credentials that will get me inside any meeting, press conference or sanitarium, I would like to report stories about the strong, silent types rather than the noisy weaklings who occupy so much of our attention, column inches and air time.

Alas, we live in a noisy world of sound bites. As a reporter, I have to report that the beauty queen really wants to feed the hungry, that the movie star who earns more than my neighborhood really cares for the poor, and that the politician cares more about his constituents than his next election. In the world of sound bites, I know from experience that all the usual suspects won’t shut up in 2011. So, my profoundest hope–other than learning that soup makers have decided we don’t need all that damn salt–is that we’ll just stop listening to the people who can’t stop talking.

If silence is golden, then noise must be fool’s gold. All the more reason in 2011 to ask why the people who should shut up won’t give us a moment’s peace.

As a hack writer, I’m paid to listen. Since you’re not, you can tune out all those people who need to shut up in 2011.