“In the bleak mid-winter,
Frosty winds made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone
Snow had fallen,
snow on snow,
snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
When the earth’s tilt of its axis points away from the sun, at its maximum distance the sun will appear to rise and set at the same position for several days, it’s the closest distance to the horizon as it will ever be. This is the ‘solstice’ meaning ‘sun stand still’. In the northern hemisphere, it is the longest night and shortest day of the year signaling the beginning of an increase of daylight as the days start getting longer. Known as the Winter Solstice, it has the most rituals associated with it in the world dating back some 30,000 years, mostly rooted in ancient religions.
Stone structures like Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland were built and set to capture the first rays of the newborn sun on this sacred day, usually falling on December 21st. This is the age-old ritual of light over darkness, good over evil.
“The winter solstice is a celebration of our spirit being reborn and transformed from inner darkness into light. Spiritually, it is symbolic of allowing the darker shadow side of our personality to come out, to be acknowledged and to be transformed as it heals.” – Patty Kikos
Believed to be an entrance to the Otherworld, Tir na Sorcha, the land of light, Newgrange was a fairy-mound where the Tuatha De Danann lived. It’s also known as the “cave of the sun”, uaimh na greine in Gaelic. It is also the largest earthen chamber in Europe and oldest at over 5000 years.
On the morning of the 21st, the first rays of the sun penetrate an underground 60 ft long narrow shaft for 17 minutes, illuminating the triple-spiral triskele, which is a carving at the furthest wall of the chamber said to contain the Philosophers’ Stone.
Light of the World
The light in the chamber at the time the sun’s rays hit the shaft can be a ritual of fertility or for a bountiful harvest now that the days are getting longer, the light overcoming the darkness.
Looking deeper in the Book of Genesis we see the ”word” known as the ”logos” known as the “light.” And God created the sun and moon and stars on Day Four but on Day One He said “let there be light” and this light is the mystical light of pure consciousness prevalent everywhere. This is our Buddha nature, Christ consciousness, the light of the radiance of the Virgin Mary, the light called a Star of Bethlehem.
Since light doesn’t show itself, only what it illuminates… consciousness is the same way, it only shows what it affects, it experiences, it creates… not itself. It is light and consciousness that have created all we see and don’t see and to which we give thanks in our ceremonies and rituals of light.
“In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.”
“And still a light is shining from that land on down the hall. Maybe the Star of Bethlehem wasn’t a star at all.”