Seasonal Depression & The Winter Solstice

Image Credit: Elijah Hail | CC0 License
Image Credit: Elijah Hail | CC0 License

For most the Holiday Season is a time of joy, cheer and love, but this isn’t the case for everyone as a lot of people tend to fall into a deep depression. In fact, suicide rates are the highest during the holidays. For some, it’s a reminder of what others have that they’re missing – friends, family, financial abundance or love. During this time people can range from feeling “seasonal blues” to suicidal behavior. This is often linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a depression that is directly related to the changes in season. This depression often begins in the fall and peaks during wintertime.

Our Teutonic Pagan ancestors seemed to understand this, as the contributors of the four Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year associated with celebrating the solstices and equinoxes. During the solstices the tilt of the Earth’s axis reaches its maximum angle compared to the Sun. As it approaches the Winter Solstice the days began to decrease in light and the nights began to grow longer. At the Winter Solstice, being the shortest day of the year and the longest night, the days begin to increase afterward the Winter Solstice as the tilt of the Earth’s axis begins moving the other direction. From the Winter Solstice on, we begin to receive more sunlight.

As witches, most of us are trained at the foundational stages to understand the Hermetic Principles. The Principle of Correspondence teaches us, “As above, so below; as within, so without.” During the Winter Solstice celebration of Yule, we are not celebrating just the return of the Sun’s light as the Child of Light, we are encouraged to keep a hold of our own inner light and to nourish our Inner Child of Light who is reborn on the Solstice.

One of the most touching implications of Yule for me, is that on the darkest day – when darkness seems to be at it’s height, there’s the promise that the daylight will return and that things will get better. We are reminded of the transitional nature of everything as we watch the cyclical nature of the Sun and the Earth’s seasons, a reminder of the Hermetic Principle of Rhythm, “Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides…”. Nothing in the universe is eternal, everything shifts and changes.

While everyone has their own individual and unique battles and situations, I do not wish to invalidate clinical depression or mental illness as something that can be cured by waving a magickal wand. They are very real issues, and many of the most amazing people battle with these struggles. I am not an expert in these fields and can only state what I do to cope with feelings of depression. I would also like to add that I do not believe meditation or magick is a substitute for professional help, but I do believe in holistic approaches that also include meditation and magick along with any other modality.

One of the main treatments for modern day Seasonal Affective Disorder is phototherapy or light therapy. It is usually recommended that those who have seasonal depression try to get more sunlight, but I think just as important is the idea of trying to focus upon your inner light and nourish that as well. It’s human nature to get depressed at times. When I’m feeling extremely depressed and having trouble getting out of a funk, I do a lot of inner child work. I visualize my child-self and try to give him the things I felt he was lacking such as comfort, love, and support. I treat him with the love that he deserves. I usually do this after performing a Kala Rite, and I cradle and rock my lower belly as if it were an infant, as this is the area that is commonly associated with the lower self which is often viewed as our feral shamanic inner child who is simultaneously the child of light and the shadow self.

If your depression gets to the level of suicidal tendencies, please do not hesitate reach out for help.

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