Once upon a time, Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, King of the Winds, and the wife of Ceyx, King of Thessaly. Alcyone and Ceyx loved each other devotedly and were never willingly apart.
Nevertheless, a time came when Ceyx decided he must make the long journey across the sea to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. When Alcyone learned what he was planning, she was overwhelmed with grief and terror, for she knew the power of the sea winds and feared his death.
Ceyx was deeply moved, but his purpose held fast. Alcyone yielded at last, and let him go alone.
Alas! Ceyx was shipwrecked and died tragically, as his wife had feared. The Gods appeared to Alcyone in a dream in the image of the drowned Ceyx, and told her of his death. Alcyone ran to the seashore and found Ceyx’s body drifting slowly towards her.
Stricken with grief, Alcyone jumped into the sea, but the Gods took pity on her and before she could be overcome by the waves she was transformed into a kingfisher. Ceyx was changed into a bird as well, and their love was blessed for all time. They are always seen together, flying or riding the waves.
And in their honor, Zeus forbade the winds to blow for seven days prior to and seven days after the Winter Solstice.
So every year at this time the sea lies still and becalmed; no breath of wind stirs the waters. For this is when the kingfishers brood over their nests near the waters. After the young birds are hatched, the charm is broken.
Each winter these days of perfect peace are given to us, and they are named after Alcyone, or, more commonly, “Halcyon days.” Thus, their loss was redeemed, and what was a tragic love story has given us the very word that means contentment and happiness.
So starting today, we move into “the time out of time.” Slow down. Let the peacefulness of this magical season sink deep into your heart. Treasure your beloveds. Suspend all sorrow, step back from the cares of the world.
Be present with your dear ones and let no disturbance of your serenity into your home. For this is our nesting time; from this day forward, let all our busy-ness be centered only in love.