Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice!

After the beautiful Solstice meditation hosted by Wild Moon Rising on Monday, I was determined to mark today with more than a passing nod.

Rising before dawn, which is very manageable at this time of year, I donned hiking boots and walked up the hill to the Bronze Age henge.

Comparable to the way the ancient traditions of Solstice have been usurped and subsumed by the Christian festival, the henge is hardly noticeable in the middle of the golf course. It’s not totally erased, but only the discerning eye can work out where it is. I love it up there. In common with more acknowledged circles, its position holds a panoramic view of the surrounding hills. It was satisfying to note that on this special day, the rising sun appears in the ‘V’ where opposite hills meet.

The beauty of this time of day is that no golfers are around, so I approached the henge across the course and through the wood, avoiding near misses on the narrow road, in the half-light.

I had some time to spare, so paused in the gentle woodland, feeling nurtured by the young oak trees, safe from cold exposure on the hilltop. A woodpecker called through the growing light, the carpet of autumn soft underfoot. Tints of pre-dawn grey illuminated the sky. I was aware of how rarely I stop and spend time, listening and observing. Particularly at this time of year, there are so many distractions, so much to prepare and occupy us in the commercialised mania that has become Christmas. The Roman religion has truly done its job over time, effectively erasing this momentous day from people’s minds.

Slowly mounting the last of the hill, I breathed in the cold still air.  Circling the banking, I entered the henge and stood, watching the sky.

Hints of the coming light tinged the grey clouds, as I tried to calm the constant chatter in my head.

Gradually, the beauty in the sky took over. My mind stilled, as I watched with awe. The pink and orange clouds intensified while the depth beyond turned from grey to blue.

The chill was seeping into my bones by the time the sun burst above the horizon, powering the land with shadows. Praying to the sun as it moved from a slither of gold to full circle, felt right and good.

Despite the full light, the winter chill prevailed, so once the fully risen sun graced the sky, I was grateful to move.

As I walked home, I reflected on being a lone celebrant on this important day. Everyone complains that there is so little time, that there is so much to be done ‘before Christmas’. We all use this as a marker in the year to visit friends, catch up with people, bake and shop with an intensity that some enjoy but others dread. I have been more aware than ever this year, how today’s significance is overlooked, to our detriment.

Later I will light a fire outside and place the greenery of winter beside it, as I welcome in the longest night. As the night advances, the green of holly, for protection, and ivy, for longevity, will be brought indoors to link our outdoor fire with our indoor one. This year, I will light a chosen yule log, then save the charcoal remains till next year, to remember the continuity of life, the cycle of the year and honouring the ancient traditions of this land.

I know many others will do this around the country, some more, some less, all in their own ways. Some have done it for years, some more recently. Knowing I am not alone feels good. Knowing that there is a growing community who value the recognition of the natural cycles and who are willing to embrace a simpler way of celebrating is heart-warming.  

May I wish you all a wonderful winter season, in whatever way you celebrate.     

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