Today is Winter Solstice, which happened here in New England at 7:41 AM this morning. I was doing a little reading about it today at this excellent site, and it really is a fascinating marker of time and history.
First off, I was reminded of a great Dar Williams song, the Christians and the Pagans. (for lyrics, click here).
While we all pretty much know that solstice means the shortest day of the year, it is not the time when the earth is farthest from the sun. The difference is actually in the tilt of the earth being the farthest.
Pretty much everyone is familiar with Stonehenge and its probable use as an ancient site of worship. I learned that Stonehenge marks both solstices. In addition, several other ancient sites seem to be designed to mark the moment of solstice with an opening that is lit by the sun at the moment of solstice. One is in Ireland, called Newgrange, one near Scotland, called Maeshowe, and one in New Mexico. Wow. This kinda stuff is so beautiful it just blows my mind ... on an artistic, spiritual, and sociological level. The spirals used at almost all of these sites also demonstrates to me the universal awe that humans experience at the forces of nature and this beautiful planet we share.
People have celebrated solstice throughout the millenia with feast and fire, song and dance and lots and lots of light. Tonight I plan on lighting some candles and to sit and take a moment to watch them burn and think about the turning of the years.
I love Christmas and pretty much all of the holidays. But winter solstice especially has a power and energy around it that is so ancient and true and real, like a portal into the millenia of human existence and even beyond that. Happy Solstice!