I’ve always been questing for something bigger than me. I mean, way bigger.
At five, I’d gaze at the night sky to the star closest to the moon, my secret friend – my lucky star. At 18, I hitchhiked throughout French Brittany, La Bretagne, with my boyfriend du jour to watch the sunrise over Celtic stone megaliths. At 19, I hitchhiked with a girlfriend throughout Great Britain, La Grande Bretagne, in search of light beams from UFO’s, Unidentified Flying Objects.
Across the universe from La Bretagne to La Grande Bretagne, from the earth to
the moon and UFO’s, it’s clear I’ve always been a seeker of B.I.G.: Big Illuminated Galaxies.
So it’s no wonder that every year, the winter solstice holds a special meaning for me, with the rebirth of our brightest star, the Sun, and the return of Light.
Technically, the Sun never “died” and the Light never “left” us. The phenomenon simply occurs when the Earth, after rotating around the Sun for six months, tilts its polar axis the furthest away from it. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun rises directly above the Tropic of Capricorn. Depending on the shift of the calendar, this celestial event can happen on December 21 to 23. The new dawn heralds the lengthening of days until they peak at the summer solstice, around June 20 to 21 the following year. In 2011, the end of the longest night of the year falls at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday December 22.
Since the beginning of time, world faiths and cultures have used myths and legends to explain the wondrous workings of the universe. Our ancestors celebrated with Earth rites, songs, dances and ceremonies of rebirth. My old English book “The Year of the Goddess, A Perpetual Calender of Festivals,” by Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, lists a few.
Starting on December 19, the Romans held seven days of festivities known as “Saturnalia,” during which they decorated their temples with greens and gave their families and friends holly sprigs with wishes of health and well-being.
In Egypt, December 21 marked the resurrection of the Sun-God in the Womb of the Lady Isis, the astrological House of the Goat (Capricorn).
On December 22, the Ancient Greeks celebrated the birth of the Divine Child, named Horus, Osiris, or Helios, in the temple of Persephone, the Goddess of the Underworld.
Can you see the parallels between those festivals termed “pagan” by the Christian church and the celebrations of Christmas?
Indeed, Earth rites and Christian traditions blend perfectly in Psalm 74:16.
Yours is the day, yours also the night.
You made the luminaries of the sky,
The sun, moon and stars.
In fact, according to an internet post by Lawrence Kelemen titled “The Real Story of Christmas,” some time in the fourth century of our Common Era, the Christian church succeeded in converting masses of Roman pagans to Christianity “by promising them they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.”
There was only one problem: nothing about the Saturnalia was Christian.
So “those Christian leaders named the final day of the Saturnalia, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.”
Truly, isn’t it amazing that throughout the ages, we’ve attempted to understand the world around us and created meaningful metaphors in the process?
This winter solstice, you can choose to celebrate the return of the Light within or without. You can resonate with this Celtic Benediction I adapted from J. Philip Newel’s book “Celtic Benediction, Morning and Night Prayer.”
As it was in the still morning
So may it be in the silent night.
As it was in the unseen life of the womb
So may it be at my birth into eternity.
As it was in the beginning, O Spirit of the Universe,
So in the end, may your Light be born.
Or will you get up before dawn on Thursday December 22, step out into the night, and your eyes turned to the Eastern horizon, greet the new dawn with a smile and a song?
Either way, it’s alright, isn’t it?
Here comes the sun!