Halcyon days, now wars are ending.
You shall find where-e’er you sail
Tritons all the while attending
With a kind and gentle gale.
~ Halcyon Days by Thomas Shadwell (1642 – 1692)
If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you know that every year I invite you step into a magical Time Out of Time with me, called the Halcyon Days. I first learned of this practice many years ago, from my favorite time lore keeper, Waverly Fitzgerald.
This is a very old tradition that begins the week before Winter Solstice and ends the week after, so it will officially start tomorrow. But of course, the wise ones know that time is a subtle magick, and is kept only in part by the calendar, but mostly by reckoning. So, I plan to start today.
In the Halcyon Days, we enter a period when we step out of our ordinary cares and the workaday world. This ancient practice calls us to pause, honor the rites of Yule, and celebrate with peace and kindness.
So for the next two weeks, that is what exactly I propose we do. Here is the myth upon which this time is based:
Once upon a time, Alcyone (also called Halcyon) 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! As everyone knows, men should listen to their wise and loving wives, for Ceyx was shipwrecked and died the tragic death that Alcyone 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 to join him in death, but the Gods took pity on her and before she could be overcome by the waves, she was transformed into a kingfisher.
Ceyx was reborn also into a sea swallow and together, their love lives forever. To this day, they are always seen together, flying or riding the waves.
To honor their love and to prevent any others from meeting such a tragic fate at this time of year, Zeus forbade the winds to blow for seven days prior to and seven days after the Winter Solstice.
The Tritons, attendants to Triton, the son of Poseidon, were called upon to ensure that this was made so. And henceforth, every year at this time, the Mediterranean Sea is supposed to lie still and calm; no breath of wind stirring 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.
So every year, at Winter’s threshold, these days of perfect peace are meant to come, and they are named after Alcyone, or, more commonly, “Halcyon Days.”
So starting tomorrow, my friends, let us bid welcome to the Halcyon Days. At our next lighting of our candles during this liminal time, be aware of the heightened power that now comes upon us.
Let us do all that is in our ability, to ensure that the restless inner and outer waters become quiet, so that the new birth may come.
We pray with all our hearts that, by the Gods, real peace may come to our troubled world.
And may Love abide forever.