The winter solstice is the time of year when the earths axis is tilted farthest away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, we celebrate it on the 21st December. This year, it falls in the early morning of the 22nd December, which is wonderful as it provides us with an opportunity to celebrate traditionally as a community on the 21st, as an individuals in oneness with the earth on the 22nd.
In Ireland, it is tradition to hold fire ceremonies for the community on this day. We celebrate the end of the period of darkness, and we welcome the period of light ahead. It is worthwhile taking some time to reflect inwards and connect to the essence of both periods and the energy the solstice brings. In Mythological an ancient traditions, it is a handing over of power from the dark beings to the light beings, from the Formorians to the Tuath de Danann. It is done in celebration, in harmony and in gratitude as we reflect on the teachings and healings we receive from both aspects of life on earth and within ourselves.
We often shy away from darkness, and think of it as negative or bad. Our ancestors, however, were very much aware of the beauty and gift of darkness. In our day to day lives, in times of darkness, we rest; we sleep, recuperate, rebuild our energy and strength for the following day. We process events of the day through dream time. We require this darkness to remain healthy and whole.
When we plant a tree, we begin with a seed. We don’t leave the seed in the sunlight, hoping for it to root and grow above ground. Instead, we dig a hole, and we place the seed within it, surrounding and protecting it with the soil. It is in this environment that it grows and thrives. In the darkness it receives the protection and nutrients it needs, so that, when spring comes, it has the strength and vitality to break through the earth and rise towards the sun.
Similarly, the gestation period up until the birth of a new born is in darkness. The fertilised egg is protected in the womb, in the darkness as it grows and develops and is ready to enter this world. Like the seed sprouting up through the earth, the child enters into the light of our world, where it grows and develops further.
We are borne out of darkness and enter the light. Spring is borne out of darkness and enters the light. All forms of life on this earth are borne out of darkness and enter the light. Why then, do we fear the darkness? Why do we shy away from it?
Perhaps because we are disconnected. We have become disconnected from the natural cycle of life. We have forgotten the simple and ancient wisdom of finding blessings and growth in everything. We have lost a true sense of perspective. Today, be reminded that we do not need to hide from the darkness, we need to change our perspective of it. We need to observe it. We need to embrace it at times and honour it. We need to understand it’s role in the grand scheme of things, the balance it creates, the contrast it holds against the light, allowing us to find pleasure and appreciation for the sunshine. It is acknowledgement that if it was light all the time; we would not find rest, the flowers would whither sooner, we would not enjoy the presence of owls, the fox and other nocturnal creatures in our eco-system. We would not enjoy the beauty of the moonlight, star-gazing and shooting stars. We would not be aware of the aura borealis.
The dark period of then year offers us a time to turn inwards, to reflect on our life, our experiences over the past year, our habits and lifestyle, the choices we have made. It offers us an invaluable time of reflection, a time when life slows down, when we spend more time at home, indoors, with family, sitting around the fire place. We wrap up, we drink warm drinks. We don’t wait for the external elements to provide us with warmth and comfort, we provide it for ourselves. It is a time of self-healing, self-care and self-love.
The winter solstice is a time of celebration, of recognising the inner healing and work we have done for ourselves, which has prepared us for this moment. The moment we welcome back the light into our lives, into our community and our land. A time when we reawaken from our time of inner healing and rest and step forward, onwards and upwards, welcoming the opportunities, blessings and gifts that await us in the year ahead.
Beannachtaí agus Solas do gach duine.