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.

Malcolm

Another winter solstice in the yearly cycle of transformations

“Wherever the creative power of desire is, there springs the soil’s own seed. But do not forget to wait.”

– C.G. Jung, The Red Book

If you are not a winter person, Winter requires patience in addition to bracing oneself against the cold and the extended time of darkness.

yulelogSome folks welcome the solstice because once the shortest day and longest night have come and gone, they feel like they can begin the happy countdown to Spring. Others–and I am one of them–believe Winter and darkness are part of the natural progression of everything throughout nature. Seeds require Winter, a time of waiting and preparing before flowering and fruiting are even possible.

Humans are like that, too, I think, though I’ll admit that being a Winter person becomes more difficult with age. One discards short sleeved shirts sooner, starts wearing heavier jackets, and copes less well with the cold.

Mentally, more than physically, I still welcome a time of patience, of waiting for ideas to germinate, and noting the temporal and spiritual components of ancient Yule celebrations.

As more and more of us become further separated from farms and their harvest cycles, it’s not easy to maintain ones place in the annual cycle of things. This is a pity, I think, for our mental and spiritual development has so much in common with the natural world’s “great wheel of the year” throughout the seasons.

However you see Winter and the solstice, best wishes and seasons greetings.

–Malcolm

This post was originally posted last year.

Another solstice in the cycle of things

“Wherever the creative power of desire is, there springs the soil’s own seed. But do not forget to wait.”

– C.G. Jung, The Red Book

If you are not a winter person, Winter requires patience in addition to bracing oneself against the cold and the extended time of darkness.

yulelogSome folks welcome the solstice because once the shortest day and longest night have come and gone, they feel like they can begin the happy countdown to Spring. Others–and I am one of them–believe Winter and darkness are part of the natural progression of everything throughout nature. Seeds require Winter, a time of waiting and preparing before flowering and fruiting are even possible.

Humans are like that, too, I think, though I’ll admit that being a Winter person becomes more difficult with age. One discards short sleeved shirts sooner, starts wearing heavier jackets, and copes less well with the cold.

Mentally, more than physically, I still welcome a time of patience, of waiting for ideas to germinate, and noting the temporal and spiritual components of ancient Yule celebrations.

As more and more of us become further separated from farms and their harvest cycles, it’s not easy to maintain ones place in the annual cycle of things. This is a pity, I think, for our mental and spiritual development has so much in common with the natural world’s “great wheel of the year” throughout the seasons.

However you see Winter and the solstice, best wishes and seasons greetings.

–Malcolm

Evergreens and Hope

We have seen unnatural darkness this year, that coming from hatred, intolerance, patriarchy, dominance over others, lusts for power and wealth and political and social advantage.

Live Oak
Live Oak

Winter brings us natural darkness, a time when seeds and dreams wait beneath snow and soil for rebirth and spring.

Long before Christmas trees were brought into our homes, evergreens had for centuries symbolized hope, rebirth and everlasting life.

Spruce
Spruce

The symbolism of evergreens resonates with us today whether we’re conversant with the multiple traditions of holly, fir and other evergreens.

Their fragrance throughout the house, with without ribbons and bows, is a subtle reminder that natural darkness is not forever.

And with the hope of springtimes, perhaps we will have the strength and wisdom to combat unnatural darkness wherever if appears.

Holly
Holly

Whatever pathway brought you to this holiday season, perhaps you will find hope and peace here and the knowledge that the soul is truly evergreen.

–Malcolm

Awaiting another voice on the new year

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” – T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Mythologist Joseph Campbell has written that in spite of the seeming chaos of our lives at any given moment, the past when seen in hinsight will appear well-planned. The continuity of our lives was one of my favorite themes in the novel Dune. The image author Frank Herbert used was that of a desert wherein those with second sight who thought they had been wandering could see through meditation the events of their past aligned across the dunes as a perfectly ordered set of footprints leading up to their present location.

We are who we are, I think, and making abrupt changes at the end of a calendar year is unlikely to be effective—and might be dangerous if we knew how to keep those noble resolutions we made during the last days of December.

Author Smoky Zeidel often speaks of the fallow periods in a writer’s life—or, in anyone’s life, for that matter—as periods we should accept and learn from rather than fight. Winter, a time when seeds wait in the darkness of the earth beneath the snow, is symbolic of fallow periods. As in the old story of Taliesin out of pre-Christian Welsh mythology, we germinate in the darkness of the womb and undergo many changes before we emerge into the springtime of our full potential.

Perhaps our hopes and resolutions at the beginning of a new year aren’t really abrupt, desperate or rash changes in personality, lifestyle and direction. They may well be part of our continuing evolution toward our truest dreams, more on course than we realize as the new year approaches.

The Darkness of Winter

The darkness of winter is often said to be synonymous with the underworld, the last place any of us logically want to visit. Yet, the visionaries amongst us say that, like seeds in the soil, all things are born in darkness, arising with a new voice when the time is right.

My 2011 novel Sarabande is, among other things, a story about my protagonist’s descent into the underworld where she will prepare for the next steps in her life. At the moment, I have yet to extricate myself from the underworld I envisioned for my young protagonist because, as Robert Adams discovers in the book, men are not by nature equipped to navigate the dark regions without a guide.

Writing that novel was a learning experience. So, too, is my period of re-acclimation back into the real world. Part of writing is the fallow period that arrives after the writing itself is done. The same process is probably true for most of the major experiences of our lives. Even the best of them might carry us through periods of confusion, depression and even sadness as we gather close around us what we have learned and how we have been changed.

I’ve quoted T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” in other year-end posts because I’d rather spend winter with great expectations for my voice of the new year than thrash about in the darkness making rash promises and finely phrased resolutions. The flow of the seasons is (obviously) a natural river of time in the temporal world and whenever I’m pressed to make a resolution, it is “to keep swimming with the current.”

Malcolm