Winter Solstice is upon us. We’re at a turning point as our planet Earth makes its annual rotation around the sun. For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the next 24 hours will be where we get the shortest amount of sunlight because the sun is lowest in the sky. In fact, the sun appears so low in the sky (because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis) that it seems to set in the same place as it came up—an illusion that makes it look like the sun isn’t moving at all.
That’s where the term “solstice” comes from. The Latin solstitium translates as “the Sun stands still.” Solstice has been a special moment in time even during the Neolithic era, as seen in ancient sites like Newgrange in Ireland, which is aligned with the winter solstice sunrise, and Stonehenge in England, which is aligned to the winter solstice sunset. Back then it was a time for feasting before the famine months of deep winter set in. Cattle were slaughtered so they wouldn’t have to be fed during the winter; the wine and beer brewed from summer’s harvest were now fermented and ready to drink. So, the heart of Solstice was family and friends getting together to feast and exchange gifts, just as we do today.
And because the event heralded the beginning of the return of the sun, it was the time to celebrate the birth of the sun god in cultures around the world. The birth of Jesus was set as December 25th because it was the date of the festival of Sol Invictus, the sun god of the Roman Empire, and to incorporate indigenous Yule traditions into a Christian framework.
The Romans did it up in grand style, honoring the god Saturn with the festival of Saturnalia in the days of solstice. Businesses would close down and there would be big banquets, music, gift-giving, and nonstop parties—with an abundance of candles symbolizing the returning power of the sun’s light.
What does Saturn have to do with solstice? Solstice begins on the first day of the astrological sign of Capricorn, which is ruled by Saturn. That heavy planet is known as a spiritual teacher, preparing you for the obstacles you have to surmount on the path to liberation—like getting through the long dark night of the soul.
In the Vedic tradition, the winter solstice is called the dawn of the year, knowing that the budding flower of time will unfold over the following year. According to Vedic Astrology, the Sun gives access to exploring your future with strength and courage. The sun is the eternal atman, the spiritual life principle of the universe, and the source of much of your energy. It sustains and empowers life through the balance of the seasons.
Just like the first two hours of the morning are when you receive the seed principle of the day, the returning light of the sun at solstice will help you receive the seeds you need to plant for new growth over the coming year. It’s right now, and not January 1st, for the time for New Year’s resolutions.
Join me today in a Vedic fire ceremony for winter solstice to revisit the past year and reflect, without judgment, on what you need to cast off, and to invite in a focus for setting new goals that will help you move in the direction of your dreams. The energy of the solstice supports you in letting go of old habits and beliefs and opening up a fresh chapter in your life. The Sun God starts to rise again, and your soul ascends to spirit.
On the winter solstice, the sun reaches the dark zenith of the underworld, where true light is reborn stronger than before. It points to achieving peace, prosperity, and wisdom.
Since the start of the solar year celebrates the rebirth of the Sun, it’s a wonderful time to meditate on darkness and light, and what they mean for you.
So close your eyes, and take in a deep breath and exhale any tension in your body, then let your breathing become slow, deep, and easy. It is the dark of the longest night of the year. The dark of deep space between the stars and planets. The dark of the depths of the seas. The dark of the womb.
Imagine you are walking alone in a dark forest. It is dusk and there is no moon. You walk slowly on a barely visible path, past trees shrouded in gloom. Your heart is heavy.
You have been through a challenging year and you worry about what might be coming in the next year. You made mistakes, you suffered loss, you had pain. You tend to be hard on yourself, and all you can see are your failures—the times you closed your heart, the times you reacted in anger, the times you saw someone in need and turned the other way. A new year lies ahead, and you know there will be new challenges and new uncertainties.
Not far away from the dark woods you know that people are caught up in a whirlwind of activity. They may have lost sight of the meaning behind the holidays—the rebirth of the Light.
It’s a time of depression for many. Maybe you’re dealing with a difficult diagnosis, or you went through a traumatic event this past year that you’re still reeling from. Or, like so many, you may be feeling the pain of the world—there are so many in desperate situations who are dealing with poverty or war or persecution. Or you may be feeling the pain of the earth as mankind continues to deplete her resources.
You keep walking as night takes hold of the bleak beauty of the wintry forest. The darkness grows deeper.
The darkness holds your unseen worries, the anxious thoughts that circle endlessly in your head and don’t let you rest, the fears for yourself and those you love. Will you be safe? Will you be healthy? Will you have enough sustenance—not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually?
You may wish for the darkness to dissipate, but the darkness is necessary. It is the womb of your being, where the seeds of your future germinate. What have you planted deep inside yourself? What plans are being formulated for your future? Are you feeding your potential for spiritual growth? Is a desire to serve others, to relieve the suffering of others, ready to emerge?
Let’s take a moment to plant seeds of focused intention. These seeds will grow to be the gifts from the darkness for you. Success lies in finding the solution to a problem. Whatever issue comes to your mind, know that there is a solution waiting for you, that you can find that solution today as you bring more light into your awareness.
Create in the light that arises from the darkness. When you allow yourself to go deep into the darkness, to explore its depths and its edges, you honor both the dark night of the soul and the rebirth of hope and vision.
An old teacher of mine used to say, “You have to kneel before you can leap.” Think about it. If you want to jump up in the air, you first have to crouch down to get the momentum you need to spring up. The same is true for spiritual growth. You have to stop fearing your own inner darkness, the uncertainty of life, the depths of your emotions, the dark night of the soul. You have to embrace that which is hidden and honor all the parts of yourself—the high and the low, the powerful and the weak, the light and the dark.
Are you ready to release whatever no longer works for you?
Are you ready to shed whatever is taking up too much of your internal space? Is negative self-talk overriding your hopes and dreams? Are you letting your light shine brightly, or are you hiding it? Are you tired of not living up to your potential?
Set the intention you need right now to release whatever no longer serves you and get ready for rebirth and renewal.
Feel how those good intentions are lifting the darkness a bit. Join me as we breathe in the crisp night air and inhale the invigorating scent of cedar and pine. The first stars are breaking through the darkness of the night and we can now walk more confidently by starlight. There are sounds of rustling in the forest, but it all seems so benign as we suddenly see through a gap in the trees to a spot of light in the distance.
We come to the edge of the clearing and we see someone who beckons us forward – we feel welcomed. A faint glow seems to emanate from the fringes of her robe, it is a woman, with a wrinkled weathered face peering out from the hood of her robe. She is tending the small fire and invites you to sit with her on the blanket that is laid out on the ground. Join her and warm your hands at the fire, then sit and stare at the flames as the sweet smell of burning cedar perfumes the air.
She tells you her name is Brigid, she is the early Celtic goddess of healing, poetry, and fire, from the ancient lineage of Druids. She has woven ribbons of red, green and white, the colors of the Druid holiday season, into her silver braided hair. She speaks to you gently, slowly, thoughtfully, as she continues to watch the fire, saying:
“You have nothing to fear from the darkness, for she is your mother and the mother of the Light. Forget your burdens for a while. Take rest here. The light cannot return until the darkness is complete.”
You watch as she reaches into a bag and takes out some herbs. She holds the plants to her lips and murmurs a soft chant in a language you don’t recognize, then throws the herbs into the fire. Pungent smoke washes over you, and you grow sleepy. The old woman advises you to lie down and enter a dream state. You feel yourself pulled into a semi-sleep. As if from a faraway land, you hear her voice.
“It is time to be magical, my dear, in this sacred clearing. You are here to honor the gods of the coming light, whose power gives life to everything which is alive. She says:
“We all come from the Goddess
And to Her we return
As our ancestors worshiped Her
On air, land, and sea.
Mother, I feel you under my feet.
Father, I see you where the eagle flies.
You shall reach us, you shall teach us
And reveal our fate!
Burn bright, flame within me,
Kindled in the eternal fire.
In your dream-like state, you feel that deep peace, the peace of spirit that passes all understanding. Knowledge arises within you of how to proceed in life. You gain the wisdom that is the gift of the difficulties you have encountered and overcome.
Slowly you wake up. Looking up into the night sky, you see the stars, twinkling in the dark sky. Brigid says, “See the turning of the wheel, the endless cycle that connects us all. May you be guided to the returning light.” And say with her: I am both dark and light. I am both dark and light.
Slowly you rise from the blanket and offer your sincere thanks and gratitude to this ancient woman who has gently given you such solace, such relief from the sorrows you were carrying alone in the dark. You have received the blessing of the ancients and a spark of new life and can carry on. You feel connected to the Source of all life and can sense the swirling nurturing energy of the dark.
You remember the ancient Vedic prayer for illuminating your life, a famous chant from the Upanishads.
From non-being, lead us to being
From darkness, lead us to light
From death, lead us to immortality
And may the infinite light arise within you.
The Vedas are ancient texts that hold the keys to personal healing, self-fulfillment and enlightenment. Within the Vedas, you can find the Sutras – mystical phrases that hold within them immense transformational power.
Right now, you can experience the “seeding” of these 20 sacred phrases in your consciousness — and transform your personal energy field.
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