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“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” ~ Hafiz

In the Hopi tradition, Winter Solstice, known as Soyal, is the time on the wheel of seasons when everything that will occur during the new Solar year is to be arranged. It is a time for recognizing the death of the old and honoring the birth of New Beginnings, brought forth through community rituals that last for 16 days. A time when the Hopi spirits (Kachinas) are summoned to dwell among the tribal lands as helpers, all the way through to the summer solstice when they return again to their mountain home in the spirit realm. I believe that we in the West are in need, now more than ever, of such powerful collective rituals. We are in need of spirits, who like the Kachinas foster reassurance that the chill winds of this dark time will cease to blow indefinitely, who help move the Wheel to a brighter place of good fortune. That is not to say we have no solstice rituals. Many of us get into the spirit of evergreen tree decorating and lighting and gift-giving to herald the Sun/Son’s return. Unfortunately, much of the power of our solstice season has been usurped by consumerism, so that we tend to feel more stress than vitality of spirit.

Interestingly, I wound up at my mid-West Alma Mater website to find a working definition of “Winter Solstice” from the ancient, pre-Christian, perspective:

The moment when the old solar year dies and the Goddess gives birth to the Divine Child (the new solar year) is known as the winter solstice. Known by different names, the Goddess and her sun-child were celebrated throughout ancient Mesopotamia, Persia and Europe, including the druidic celebration of Alban Arthan and the Roman Saturnalia. In many lands, monuments such as Bru na Boinne, the passage-grave Newgrange in Ireland, were erected to guide light into an inner chamber possibly offering resurrection to the souls interred there.

A sun worshipper by nature, I have been feeling a definite shift in perspective leading up to this year’s Winter Solstice. Mother Night has pulled me into her realm more compellingly than I can recall in the past to enter her cave of dreams, visions, night meanderings, and stories of descent where symbols and shapes of death and rebirth are fashioned out of the stuff of the Dark. One subject in particular kept rising up from the shadows for me: Aging. I knew that I could not fully embrace this last half of my life without facing the ebbing of the thing I have always held so dear: my seemingly endless vitality. It has become clear that I am going to have to slow down and honor a different way of being.

As if to underscore this ‘knowing,’ a combination of dreams occurred recently in quick succession while I was on a Dreaming the Tao retreat with Jungian dream therapist Meredith Sabini in a wilderness setting a few hours north of my urban/suburban home in Berkeley, CA.

On the second night of the retreat I had a dream I titled “Trying to Blow Life Into the Dead Baby” ~

I am at the shore with others. There is a toddler playing in the sand at the edge of the water. I know I am supposed to be keeping an eye on the baby for its mother. The other people distract me, and when I turn around to bring my attention back on the baby, she is gone. There is a tiny fish lying on the beach in the place where I last saw her playing. I pick up the fish and take it with me, knowing that somehow I need to convert it back into the baby before her mother comes to retrieve her. Later, I take the fish out of my pocket and see that it is lifeless, cold, and stiff. I am upset. Wondering what I’m going to do, I ask one of the women I had been distracted by on the beach what she thinks. She has no answer. I blow into the little, dead fishes mouth several times to try and resuscitate it. It remains dray and brittle. I say to the woman in the dream, “This cannot be happening! If this baby is dead, I have no reason to live.”

Later that morning, I re-entered the dream in a half waking, half sleeping visionary state ~

I am sitting on the beach with a woman, more of an essence than a full-blown person. I sense her presence, rather than see her. I am quietly, meditatively watching the waves lap up around my feet. The water is crystal clear with different colored pebbles that the sun is shining down on through the water, making them glitter. All of a sudden, something comes swimming fast toward me in the water…like a joyful dolphin might swim. As it comes up out of the water, I realize it is the baby, now around 6-7 years old. She is happy and and full of life. She tells me that I was trying to blow life into a representation of her and how that could never work. She also says that whenever I sit quietly by the shore, like I am right now, she will come to me. I am filled with joy that she still lives in a much more vibrant way than I had imagined (End of Dreaming).

I understood the message of these dreams to mean, in part, that I need to follow what my intuition has been prompting me to do for some time: slow down and begin a regular, daily practice of meditation. I know that when I sit patiently by the ‘shore’ of my quiet mind, the real vitality and light of my being comes forth.

While I was in the process of writing this blog post, my friend sent me these words of John of the Cross. They are from St. John’s famous treatise, “Dark Night of the Soul.” As meaningful coincidence would have it, they go perfectly with what I have been contemplating:

“That sweet night: a secret,
No one saw me;
I did not see a thing.
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart”

I leave you now to contemplate the meaning of what the Solstice is for you personally. But before I go, I’d like to share with you two poems.

The first is an ee cummings verse titled “I thank you God for most this amazing.”

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

This second poem is one I wrote on the Winter Solstice last year.

Fashioning Wreaths (A Winter Solstice Poem)

Fashioning wreaths for our lost dreams
(dead lovers all),
We utter prayers through spinster lips
Too parched to cry.
Remembering what brought
Us to this mourning place,
As chill winds all around whisper,
“Wrap your wounds in moist and
Fertile soil as you sift through ruins
For possibilities not yet decayed.”
Our gathering receptacles are full,
Still, we cannot change the past
And turn to face the Dark Side of the Moon…

But Wait!

Soul on ice, can this be Light,
Elusive Conqueror of Dark?
Sing ye “Hark!” as Sol does rise
Reclaimer of the Northern skies.
Sing, also, “Joy on Earth! “ in praise of Sun’s rebirth.

Happy Solstice!