As follower of seasonal spirituality the Winter Solstice is one of the most important times of my year. Each and every year just before Christmas we in the northern hemisphere have the longest night and the shortest day. It is at exactly the same moment around the world and whether we realise it or not Winter Solstice, like all the solar shifts, affects us all more than we know.
But what is Winter Solstice?
Many people have heard of Summer Solstice. However not everyone realises that there is a Winter Solstice too. Now Winter Solstice means different things to many different cultures around the world. However, scientifically Solstices happen when the tilt of the Earth’s axis reaches its maximum angle compared to the Sun, and begins to move back the other direction. Because of the tilt in the Earth’s axis of rotation, the sun appears to rise and fall in our sky over the course of a year. It’s not the sun itself moving, but the Earth moving relative to the sun. And on the Winter Solstice the sun takes a pause. Yes it stops, just for 1 second, before beginning to move northward. This pause is called the “solstice,” from the Latin words “sol” for “sun” and “sisto” for “stop.”
Since humans first began to farm observing the Solstices has been important to mankind. In the past it was essential to the year’s farming calendar. Temples aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise have been built across the world. And in many early cultures the sunrise on Winter Solstice morn was the rebirthing of the sun. Which in a way is true. As it is here at the darkest moment in winter the days begin to get longer and the spring slowly begins to return.
Why is it relevant for us today?
It is understandable that early man celebrated the Winter Solstice with the need to observe the cycles as an important part of the farming year but why is it important to us here and now. The people that rely on farming but yet are far, far removed from the process of agriculture. Well there are actually many, many reasons.
The most significant is that movement of the planet, the sun and our moon affects us biologically. Just look at a woman’s connection between menstrual cycles and the phases of the moon. And at full moon many children and adults have trouble sleeping. Whether we like to admit it or not we as biological animals are still affected by the changes in nature around us.
Think about how when you are spinning in one direction then stop and change direction how much it disorientates you. It’s impossible to take control of those feelings, you just have to go with it. Solstice is the same. When we approach a solstice we should expect change and transformation rather than resist it. Winter Solstice is the extreme of winter. And extreme conditions always affect us. Before Winter Solstice people become sleepier, or their sleep pattern is disrupted, some become depressed (often due to lack of Vitamin D from the sunlight), frustration is common, as well as conflicts. One of the most common feelings is that of life being in chaos.
The funny thing is, is that most of these feelings deplete after the Winter Solstice has passed.
I call it the Solstice affect. (oh and it happens at Equinoxes too). As I work with the seasons on a spiritual level in my observations everyone experiences this wave of emotions pre and post Solstices. And what I have also noticed is that people tend to feel bad that they feel like this. And a thing I know to be true is that the more we try to resist these feelings the worse we feel.
It is ok to feel rubbish at this time. And to prepare for it. If you are feeling rubbish well to be honest that is exactly how you should be feeling. But the important thing to know is that you won’t feel like this forever. Just like the journey the sun takes life will start to move in a different direction. If you want a really perfect metaphor then think about this your shadow is at its longest at noon on the solstice than at any other time of the year. These feelings will pass, just as the shadow will grow smaller again.
What does the Winter Solstice teach us?
Winter Solstice teaches us many things. I think the most important lesson of Winter Solstice is that harder times in life are transient. After the dark the light returns, the same in our lives. There is great joy to be found in the darkest of times. What I love most about the Winter Solstice is that here and now the summer sun is born. Right in the middle of the winter. Amidst the dark the light is born.
For me Winter Solstice is like a breath of relief. A moment of hope. If possible I watch the sunrise and at that moment, I know that all’s right with the world. It’s an amazing feeling.
I think another lesson of solstice that is so relevant today is the reminder it gives us that no matter how sophisticated we have become as a society we are ultimately part of nature and connected. Without a doubt it shows us that we as humans, without realising it, as deeply connected to the ebbs and flows of nature’s seasons. Winter Solstice reminds us to be aware of that connection and also to take a pause. Just as the sun needs to take a break before a change in direction so do we.
Trust the Winter Solstice energy. Take a break and with the rising of the summer sun know that everything will be alright
Have a lovely Solstice