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.
Word of the day: “midwinter” – the day of shortest sunlight, when the sun reaches its lowest maximum height in the sky, & after which the light begins its slow climb back. The winter solstice; the year’s true turn; my day of most hope. pic.twitter.com/2XC9irHkob
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) December 21, 2017
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.
Whether you mark the solstice or not, I hope you have a lovely day!