Deepest Dark Blessings to you and yours!
It is the Eve of the Winter Solstice.
This is the great celebration of Mother Night.
As far as we know, our ancestors did not have atomic clocks or satellites to help them dissect Time to the nanosecond. Instead, they had to figure by their keen observation, by dead reckoning, by the plants and animals, by the stars, Moon, and planets.
And that is why they named this time “Solstice,” because it comes from the Latin “solstitium,” which is a combination of the word sol, which means “sun” and –stitium, “a stoppage.”
For several days, it now appears that the sun’s arc from sunrise to sunset is unchanged. The long, steady darkening that our Old Ones watched, ever since mid-June, appears now to pause… and then.. one day, the sun will rise a little more to the north east, and the day is a little longer. And so the days can be seen to lengthen, and all can know that even now as we enter the doorway to Winter, Spring is a certainty.
But not yet.
Tonight we enter the pause that is at the heart of this time out of time.
To observe this with ritual and ceremony, I’m loving the beautiful contemplative practice my friend, the brilliant Carolyn Cushing, has been weaving and sharing for the descent into the velvet black night of the year. As she notes, it is folly to fight against the dark, for it is in the release and surrender that we often find the richest treasures of our lives.
This is the threshold when it might seem that the Sun will be snuffed out completely. This is when we make sure to give due honor to the dark heart of the year, although it may be uncomfortable and even test our courage.
Who Calls from This Dark?
Mother Night is observed in honor of the Dark Goddess, who holds us at our beginnings and our endings. She may be Frigga, Freya, Holle, Hecate, the Crone, or nameless. Also known as Mōdraniht, this night is Her doorway, after which the days of Yule can begin.
As historian Carolyn Emerick has explained in her fascinating two-part article, “The Lost Female Figures of Christmas,” our Americanized secular culture has obscured the importance of women’s stories and roles in our Yuletide legends.
In the old countries, this was not the case. The Germanic holidays honored female ancestors at Yule, the pre-Christian Northern European cultures placed enormous importance on the women’s gifts of magic and wisdom, and there are still traces of female Christmas figures with ancient Pagan roots to be found across Europe.
Sadly, with the aggressive conquest of Christianity over the old folk religions, many of these Goddesses of Winter were twisted into demonic monsters, similarly to how other misogynist attitudes of the Church took hold.
But we know better.
And, I would argue, our world is out of balance in direct proportion to the distortions, fears, and rejection of the Feminine Divine, especially in Her less comfortable aspect as Dark Crone.
Let the Darkness Fall
It is unnatural for our modern culture to have so much fear and denial of the dark. The night is our teacher, our healer, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to know peace. It brings the stillness in which the seed may gestate. It is the womb from which the Child of Promise will emerge.
In the words of one beautiful Heathen rite (source via the anonymous labyrinth of the web):
Well have we worked this year, and now our work is wrought. So Perchte sees my full spindle; my house is swept, my candles lit. There shall be no more spinning these days; the loom lies still, the distaffs do not turn while the wih-nights last.
These Yule nights are a time for the mind and body to rest, while the soul reaches out to the Gods.
These twelve nights represent the coming year. It is a time set aside from the old year and the new, and a time when the greatest wyrds are turned. Perchtenlauf and the Wild Hunt ride during this time.
And the walls between the worlds are thinned; the Gods’ might is at its peak, the wights and the dead walk freely among the living. Let us remember them on this Mother Night.
This is also a night for honoring the Sidhe, toasting and giving thanks:
Hail the holy Elves, Shining of the harrow,
Whole Ye hold the Hearth,
Mighty elders of old. Turn our minds toward you!
This pause between the Dark and the return of the Light is an ephemeral moment, full of magic.
Let the Darkness Fill
This year’s Solstice is the darkest, most juicy with potential that I have seen in a long, long time. Not only has the Sun reached its briefest daily visit in the Northern Hemisphere — in some places, never rising at all. Lady Luna, too, has gone dark, with New Moon and Solstice falling on the same day.
Tonight, give yourself time to allow the delicious dark to fill your awareness. Be with it, patiently listening, without fear, without the need to distract yourself.
Notice how calm, how deep, how quiet it can be. What gifts await your notice?
This night can be a balm for the sometimes too hard-shiny-bright intensity that shuns this time of year’s truest gift: the reminder of our own mortality, and the deep surrender of all things, even the Earth Herself, to times of darkness.
Within the heart of the dark, like the circle of light within the dark half of the Yin in the Tai-Chi symbol, is the divine promise of the golden child who is the rebirth.
Tomorrow, in honor of that promise, at the moment of Solstice (6:03pm, Eastern, or at sunset wherever you are), we will light the fifth and final candle in our Solstice Sunwheel. (If you are counting down only to Christmas, you’ll be lighting candle Four). I’ll post more about all that tomorrow.
But not yet.
Not before we descend into the dark, dark Mystery of Mother Night.
May She bless you well.