According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, the astronomical solstice will occur tomorrow at 11:11 AM Central Time. Tomorrow night, Denton CUUPS will hold our Yule circle, where we’ll celebrate the rebirth of the Sun and the return of the light.
Before the rebirth, though, there is one final sunset. Come with me, if you will, on a Solstice walk.
Imagine yourself standing outside a house in a rural area. Perhaps it is your house. Perhaps it was your house earlier in this life, or before that. It is late in the day and the Sun hangs low in the southwestern sky. It is cold but not frigid and the ground is clear – the bitter cold and the snow won’t come till January and February. Begin walking toward the setting Sun.
Moving northeast to southwest, you walk steadily over familiar ground. Crops grew in this field last summer, apples grew on those trees, berries on that bush. Now all are bare and dormant.
Keep walking toward the setting Sun.
Now you move through a pasture. Not long ago cattle grazed here – or was it sheep? Now they stay close to the shelters and you feed them from your barn.
Keep walking toward the setting Sun, now just above the trees on the horizon.
Now you leave the pasture, closing the gate behind you out of habit. Move into a wooded area, still following a southwesterly path. It’s even colder in here, but your walking has warmed you.
Keep walking toward the setting Sun, now glowing in the trees.
Move into a clearing, an open circle in the middle of the woods. You’ve been here before – this is sacred ground. Slowly move clockwise around the clearing, feeling the Earth beneath you and the Sky above you.
Complete your circle and move into its center, again facing the setting Sun, now more below the horizon than above it.
Watch as the Sun sinks lower and lower until only the afterglow remains.
Think of the good things in your life: family, friends, Nature, life itself. See them clearly in your mind, and give thanks for all you enjoy.
Think back on the year that is ending. What has passed? Remember it. What has begun? Celebrate them all.
What are you most proud of? What milestones did you reach? What truths did you discover? What acts of love and kindness did you perform? Mark your triumphs, and allow yourself to feel good about the positive things you have done.
What brought you sadness this year? Where did you fail to embody your values and demonstrate your virtues? See these things but do not hold them. Instead, let them go.
The Sun’s light is gone and the darkness has come. Tonight is the longest night. You turn, move to the edge of the clearing, then walk around it counterclockwise. When you reach your starting point you turn back to the southwest and say a prayer for the Sun, and for the dying year.
Now retrace your steps, back through the wood, through the pasture, and through the field. It is dark, but you know the way.
Back at your house there is food and drink and warmth. Eat and drink, and give thanks for a warm place to sleep through the cold night.
At dawn the Sun will be reborn, and with it the dawn of a new season and a new year.
Blessed be the Winter Solstice!
Tonight the Twelve Days of Solstice begins for me. I’ll still be posting over the holidays, but not as frequently as usual. Whether you have twelve days or two days or if all you have is a few hours between work and family obligations, I hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed.
May the blessings of the dying and reborn Sun warm you and inspire you in the cold days ahead and in the year to come.