Winter Solstice, or Mana’s Birthday

We’re back to my house of helens, see previous posts for context:

This time it’s Mana’s birthday.  She is the materal or grandmother figure.  She is not a helen I know that well yet.  She is sort of there in the background watching and offering hugs and nudges where needed.

Today, to celebrate her, we will be lighting a candle as the longest night begins and offering her hugs and kisses.  There will be yummy tea drunk by a roaring fire.  Stories will be told.

We will thank the sun for returning and thank the darkness for the chance to reflect, to restore, to rest.  This has been a really important part of my change in perspective of winter, that is to honour the unique and vital aspects of the darker time of year rather than just berating it for existing.

Alone, myself and Mana will do a tarot reading.  One fitting to her wisdom and knowledge as well as the time of year.  It will reflect, pause and look to the coming light.

Whilst this is a post about the house of helens, I also want to make it relevant to my nature and writing project so I’m sharing some things I have found or know about winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

During the winter solstice, the north pole is as far away from the sun as it can get.  This means that at the same time the south pole is as close to the sun as it can get and the southern hemisphere celebrate the summer solstice.

The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still.”

There are numerous stone monuments which are configured in such a way as to show when it is the solstice.  Whether they were built for this purpose is a matter of debate but given how important the passing of the year would have been for our ancient ancestors I think it’s a strong possibility.  If you live in a time when farming and hunting are your lifeline, it’s going to be very reassuring to know that the shortest day is here and from now on everything is going to get easier.

For the Mayans, the sun was incredibly important as it allowed them to create their complex calendars and “entire ceremonial complexes that were positioned specifically for the celebration of the solar cycle”.

Around the world, people celebrate the winter solstice. China’s Dongzhi (literally “the extreme of the winter”) Festival celebrates the winter solstice, along with the imminent return to longer days. At the ancient ruins of Stonehenge in England, thousands gather before sunrise to celebrate. In Japan, some partake in a traditional hot bath, soaking with a Japanese citrus fruit, called yuzu, to greet the winter solstice while protecting against common colds.

Futurity

Whether you mark the solstice or not, I hope you have a lovely day!

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A birthday in the house of Helen’s

Check back at other posts for context:

Coming up this week is the birthday of one of my Helens.  Hennie, the teenage-ish version who has a cat called Charlie, is the quietest and shyest of the house.  She has had a tough past and struggles a lot with identifying and meeting her own needs and is still getting used to being in a house full of love.  That’s all I’m going to say about her, she’s very private and wouldn’t like me much if I said much else.

However, she has no problem with me sharing a bit about how we’re planning on celebrating her birthday.  She is a Scorpio which places her birthday anytime between October 23 – November 21 this year and as I’m a pisces we figured we’d go for the time when the moon is in Pisces, that is 29th to 31st October.  This year that means we’ll be going for Tuesday although ideally we’d have avoided Halloween…

When we first started talking about her birthday, she was clear it was to be a low key event, not surprisingly.  She wanted a bonfire, herbs burning and poetry.  Ideally outside and with only people she felt really comfortable with.  A bit more chatting and she thought maybe storytelling would be nice too, hopefully the story of Ceridwen.  And a private tarot reading, just the two of us.

How this translates is not always an easy matter.  I can’t have a bonfire for example.  But we’re having candles, incense and mulled wine or mulled apple juice.  Ideally there would be lots of nice autumny food as well but I’m having trouble swallowing at the moment…

Whilst this isn’t a Samhain celebration, it does drawn on elements of the fire festival.  Hennie inhabits a liminal space between light and dark and can find herself in either very quickly, more so the darkness.  And this has been a darkness that has caused us both a great deal of anxiety and fear which makes this time of year a great chance to transform and reframe it.

Death and darkness are important, they are necessary parts of the cycle of rest, regeneration and rebirth.  As I wrote about in my post on the bear spirit card, we all have periods of activity and inactivity, of light and dark, of external and internal and we can benefit a lot from seeing them both as important and not fight against them.

Instead of battling the darkness, we can use it as a time to dream and ponder and plant seeds for the year ahead.  We can be rejuvenated by this period and be thankful for the space to rest and nurture ourselves and our ideas.

“Increasing darkness and cold means we must accept that winter is fast approaching and we must adjust to this changing season.  Leaves have fallen off the trees, birds have migrated, animals have gone into hibernation, and frosts have come.  It is a time of death and decay, death of the cold, and within this, knowledge of rebirth.  It is a time of forced adjustments that, once accepted, reveal a new set of possibilities, a new phase, a new power to life.” 
– Glennie Kindred

Right now, for me, forced adjustments seem very much present and seem also like they’re here to stay…

We will embrace this time of year as a chance to go into our unconscious self, to heal and to renew ourselves.  To incubate our potential and keep ideas and dreams safe until the winter months are over.  It is a time to go back to our roots, to plant seeds and to accept that life comes from death.

We will be looking at the year that has passed, the gifts it has bought, the sorrows we’ve seen and looking ahead, making wishes and dreaming.

We might use leaves to embody those things we want to let go, burning them as we release the past.

We will be trying to incorporate elder, a plant of regeneration and renewal as well as feminine power.  And apples, as Hel’s apples represent a journey to the land of death and rebirth.  We’ll also be using some spices, cinnamon feels appropriate, a firey spice for the cold winter months and ginger, another firey spice which grows underground.  If my eating was better, I’d be including some seeds here as well.

The tarot spread we’ll be doing will have three cards which will roughly correspond to:

  1. The past, the underworld, things which are hidden
  2. The present, now, material things
  3. The future, the otherworld, possibilities and direction

Wish her happy birthday and I hope winter treats you all well!