Interior at Newgrange Image courtesy www.knowth.com
On Wednesday, at least in the southern hemisphere, it will be the winter solstice. This year I celebrated early with a small story gathering. We ate soup, then shared and improvised stories by our cosy fireside. I love the sight, sound and scent of a wood fire! Stories and myths come from the realm of dreams and visions, so these long nights are perfect for sinking deeply into this mysterious realm! So ancient, relaxing and reassuring. Stories and myths come from the realm of dreams and visions, so these long nights are perfect for sinking deeply into this mysterious realm. A few appropriate stories for older children or adults are Mother Holle (or Mother Winter), stories of darkness, the sun, moon and stars (eg The Legend of the Big Dipper), and stories of the creatures migrating in your region. Here in Byron Shire, the Humpback whales are on the move to warmer waters to have their babies. (See the story of ‘Kondili the whale’). I found some beautiful ideas for preschoolers here.
Aerial view Newgrange Image from www.knowth.com
Traditionally in Europe, people lit fires and candles in an effort to help the sun rekindle it’s strength. It was also a time to surrender outmoded habits and beliefs. There was a beautiful tradition amoung the sun-worshipping people of Ireland (thousands of years ago it was a sunnier place). Initiates would walk inside a mother mound the evening of the winter solstice. A mother mound is a round building with a long passage inside it (see picture to the right), made of stone and covered in earth and grass. They waited for father Sun to penetrate the window or lintel above the door. Once father Sun’s rays reached the back of the mother tunnel, the iniates emerged reborn. I found an exquisite photo series which shows modern people doing this. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the arrow on the snowy mother mound image. Take a peek here . For a modern celebration, you could create a labyrinth. Or more simply, draw a spiral in the sand on the beach. Walk in holding a question and as you unwind, allow the answer to arise. You can write old beliefs onto paper and throw them into the fire. You can fill a bowl with water and floating candles, meditate and invite nourishing dreams. Some people greet the solstice dawn from a mountain top to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun and the lengthening of the days.
Waverly Fitzgerald writes: “When you light your candles and your fire, do so with the intention of bringing light into the world. What are the ways in which you can help make the world lighter? How do you bring light into the lives of those around you? Make a conscious effort to increase the amount of light you create.” School of the Seasons
I expect I’ll be tucked up warm in bed Thursday morning before heading south to do some storytelling, but Wednesday night I think I’ll light lots of candles, burn a few bad habits and invoke rich dreams. This is what astrologer Babula Clement wrote about the solstice:
The Winter Solstice is upon us: Wednesday the 22nd June, the Sun enters the sign of Cancer. Mark the date in a special way to honour the shortest day of the year. The Sun will then begin its climb higher in the sky as we look towards the promise of Spring to come. In the meantime, stay warm, rest and turn your attention inwards.
Lismore Lantern Parade
Last year my daughter and I celebrated the solstice by attending the Lismore Lantern Parade (near us in Northern NSW, Australia). This is my photo of the Earth Mother lantern. Click here to go view exquisite imagery from past festival parades. Click back to the home page to read more about the festival. While the cold nights can make you want to stay cosy at home, if you get the chance and live near Lismore, DO rug up and make the effort to check out the fabulous celebration that is the Lismore Lantern parade! You’ll be well rewarded! (To read what I wrote about that you can go to my old blogspot.) am so enjoying this winter. I have been retraining myself to go to bed earlier and sleep more. It is so much easier to do this with long nights. It has been so cold that I have been really been enjoying getting into bed earlier, reading for a while and then sinking into sleep and delicious dreams! Whatever you do, have a wonderful and nourishing Solstice!
Carved stone in front of the Newgrange entrance. Image from www.knowth.com