The Solstice tells us to be still, to slow down, to notice things and to dream of things to come.
The Winter Solstice, this year on 21st December, marks the shortest day. It’s the day of least daylight and to many (including astronomically) is considered the first day of winter. But to us it marks a day of hope as we light a bonfire & candles and call to our Sun to shine once again.
This day is followed by a few days where the daylight and dark hours remain almost static, still, and unmoving until bit by bit, minute by minute we notice that our Sun is indeed once more returning. We may call it the bleak mid-winter, but this is a moment in time to celebrate. The years wheel has turned towards the coming of springtime & summer.
The stillness, the pale and watery sunlight, the now bare trees, the evergreens and the chill in the air are to be witnessed as we mark this moment in time and the passage of our seasons.
Whilst we have a lot more of winter still to come and many more darker hours we have already spotted catkins on our hazel and primulas in flower, almost as a reminder to us that spring is coming, if we can just see the winter through.
We like to slow down over the coming months, to stay in a little more and use it as creative work time preparing new country wisdom & folklore writings and images. We look forward to cosying up in front of our log burner, wrapping up warm and walking briskly in the pared back winter landscape and looking at the magnificent winter skies particularly the night sky and listening to our resident tawny owls.
Once again, we all find ourselves in uncertain times because of the pandemic, plans are being cancelled, get togethers not being able to happen and livelihoods in jeopardy. It feels a time of so much worry. These things are beyond our control. This is where I truly believe nature is our teacher and our healer and that following old traditions and marking the seasons is so important. Yuletide and winter was always a time for smaller gatherings, staying close to home, looking after those in our local community, eating seasonal foods and enjoying the preserves and drinks we made in autumn and looking out for those small changes.
Seeing frost glistening on a leaf, mist hovering between heaven and earth, the silhouette of a favourite tree against a wintery sky, a halo around the moon, noticing a snowdrop emerging. Perhaps we can make this the ‘win’ of this very awful situation in that it forces us to turn back to our earth mother and remember how to live a little more harmoniously and peacefully with her.
Dark days and nights made many superstitions arise and stories of the supernatural shared. In Shropshire we believe that the witches, ghosts and other spirits and unearthly beings meet at a rocky outcrop called the Stiperstones. This gathering takes place on the evening of the winter solstice at midnight. They supposedly meet to decide on what dastardly deeds they can deliver upon us over the year ahead. I like to think of it as either an AGM or an office party with music, games, nibbles and a drop to much booze leading to sore heads and inappropriate couplings discovered the morning after.
Many people like to watch the sunrise at solstice, often in historic places set in ancient landscapes, some monuments such as Newgrange in Ireland are aligned to the winter solstice allowing the first beams from the sun to travel within its chambers to bring light into darkness.
After all isn’t this what this seasonal celebration time is all about whether you follow the Christian tradition of a child’s birth who is the light of the world or the rebirth/return of our sun. It is a beautiful symbol of light overcoming darkness which we all need right now whether actually or metaphorically.
Wishing you all a wonderful Yuletide and we hope you get to mark this special day if Solstice in your own quiet and celebratory way. Hope your lives will be full of love and light throughout the coming year and good health be with us all x