Winter solstice – Day of renewal, blessing and forgiveness! Don’t miss it!

Officially the first day of winter, the winter solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. This is the longest night of the year and the days get progressively longer after the winter solstice until the summer solstice in 2018.

This year the winter solstice will occur on 21. December.

The winter solstice is celebrated by many people around the world as the beginning of the return of the sun, and darkness turning into light. The Talmud recognizes the winter solstice as “Tekufat Tevet.” In China, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated on the Winter Solstice by families getting together around feasts and music.

Until the 16th century, the winter months were a time of famine in northern Europe. Most cattle were slaughtered so that they wouldn’t have to be fed during the winter, making the solstice a time when fresh meat was plentiful. Most celebrations of the winter solstice in Europe involved merriment and feasting. 

In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated at the Feast of Saturnalia, to honor Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty. Lasting about a week, Saturnalia was characterized by feasting and gift-giving. With Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, many of these customs were later absorbed into Christmas celebrations. 

One of the most famous celebrations of the winter solstice in the world today takes place in the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of Druids and Pagans gather there to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise.

Mithraic rites of the birth of the Year-God recognize December 25th as the holy day of renewal. It is also the birthday of Osiris, Dionysus and Horus. There is nothing new, or particularly Christian, in the celebration of Christmas and other similar celebrations at or near the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. The roots of this seasonal celebration run deep in antiquity, emanating from the Shamanic rites of the Neolithic era.

Pagan author T. Thorn Coyle wrote in a 2012 HuffPost article that for many contemporary celebrants, solstices “are a chance to still ourselves inside, to behold the glory of the cosmos, and to take a breath with the Sacred.”

“In connecting with the natural world in a way that honors the sacred immanent in all things, we establish a resonance with the seasons. Ritual helps to shift our consciousness to reflect the outer world inside our inner landscape: the sun stands still within us, and time changes. After the longest night, we sing up the dawn. There is a rejoicing that, even in the darkest time, the sun is not vanquished. Sol Invictus — the Unconquered Sun — is seen once again, staining the horizon with the promise of hope and brilliance.

 

The underlying aspects of the various cultural Winter Solstice celebrations lies rooted deep in Shamanic origins. Amongst the Saami (Laplanders) and Siberians, Buryats and Altaic tribes, all of the far northern climes, there was and is a very common motif in the Shamanic practices surrounding the Winter Solstice ceremonies. There, the people would present the Shaman with gifts of value, according to the nature of each their own culture to officiate the request, be it food, furs or firewood, coin, caregiving or copper.”

In our next article tomorrow, we tell you more about the shamanic ceremony itself on winter solstice. Stay tuned!

December 20, 2017