Historically, the winter solstice holds much magic for many communities and cultures. We are hard-pressed to find a society in all of time on earth that did not honor this moment of darkness. According to Wikipedia, the solstice is an astronomical phenomenon. It also comes in other names—Yule, Midwinter, The Longest Night.
It is this “longest night” aspect that thrills me, and the darkness that makes it such an important day for us all. Beginning with the Autumnal Equinox, we begin to head into darkness: Winter creeps closer, the sun sets earlier, and we begin to notice that dinner is served sooner and our children come inside quicker during these days. Time moves ever-forward, and the darkness becomes part of our daily routine. The kettle is on more frequently, and we begin to make soups and stews to warm ourselves from the inside out. Perhaps we start reading more, since there are more dark hours where we are awake. Many of us have probably experienced a child’s insistent opposition to an earlier bedtime as Autumn wraps us in her night-colored blanket.
Finally, this season leads us to the Solstice. For me, Solstice does not mark the beginning of winter—it marks the depth of winter. We are truly in it, and the Solstice in and of itself is a ritual. It is a ritual of darkness and going inward. By honoring this ritual and this journey through darkness, we will be granted the ultimate gift of renewal and rebirth. The darkness can be appreciated, let us not rush it nor ignore it or fight it. Of course we will light our lamps and candles and we will sit by the fire, but so, too, will we rest more, sleep more, spend more time being still and quiet—and amazing things will be born from this practice.
Winter is nature’s way of giving us time and space to become ourselves, again and again. In many places, winter delivers a quiet hush to the land. But even if we live in big cities where there is no snow, no winter hush, we can still experience it—it’s still there if we choose to access it. I look to the plants for inspiration. In winter they stand quietly, bare, unmoving. Some of them feign death, and I cannot tell if they will reach another spring. Underground, though, I know that they are gathering resources, thickening their skins, making way for new roots, and fortifying the roots they already have.
In winter, darkness is a gift. As we approach the Solstice, darkness arrives in full force, the nights are longer, the stars shine for us more than usual. The Solstice itself is an astrological moment—a cosmic apex of the innermost reflection. At the Solstice, we pass through the portal to the next chapter, and from this moment on, we will begin unfolding in preparation for the blooming of Spring.
During this time, the inward journey is not always easy. The darkness of winter gives us opportunity to explore corners that have gone unseen for some time, and to delve into places that we do not often visit. Go there. In the stillness of winter, we will be able to explore these places and clear them out, bring warmth to them, light them up or clean them up for good. This is a time to finish what is undone, and to prepare for what is yet to come.
As we approach this longest night of the year, may the darkness be a blessing to your heart. May the cold days of winter be a gift to your family and to your home; may your fires burn brightly and may your stove be warm.
In the darkness, there is potential for the brightest light. May your journey through it be beautiful and deep and may it lead you gently to the doorway of your heart’s desire.