Editor's Note: At the Ashland Resource Center we want to pause and thank you for whatever you have given to our world, for giving your attention to young people, for whatever you give to those less fortunate, for the work you do in your community, and for the light-life gift your soul presents to the world. May the darkness season you, may your soul find some warmth and comfort as the light gathers itself to renew the days again.
The time of the Solstice has come round as it does each year when the days seem to be swallowed by darkness. Despite the rush against time, be it last minute gift shopping, making time for friends and family, or passing supposed health legislation, the essence of the solstice involves stopping, even if only for a moment.
Solstice means “sun standing still;” the sun stopping amidst the growing darkness and against the rapid pulse of relentless time. The sun stops imperceptibly, the way one’s heart can stop at a crucial moment and begin life in a new way. The sun stands still in the tracks of darkness before beginning to grow the days back to light.
All the history of holidays, the songs of “silent night, holy night,” the pleas for peace on earth as well as the instinct to celebrate in the face of winter refer to the hidden moment when the sun stops just in time, before the darkness becomes too great to recover from. The “holidays” were once the holy days, a time separate from the traps of calendrical time, a time set aside for helping to make things “whole” so that the world could renew and the light return again.
Most ancient cultures imagined that the sun needed conscious help from people in order to avoid being swallowed by the great darkness that nips at the edges of life. So, people fashioned festivals of light in the depths of winter and sang and danced in order to assist the turning of the world. In the ways of instinctive, sympathetic magic everything from a single candle to a huge fire could be offered to assist the return of the light from the far reaches of the dark.
Even now, albeit mostly unwittingly, people wrap houses in displays of light, bring trees inside and decorate them and as if trying to assist Nature to become bright again. Even the repetitious drama of “bowl games” unconsciously reflects a supposed battle between the forces of light and of darkness. The old year can’t die off or the new year offer renewal unless the opposition/correlation between darkness and light be enacted in culture as it replays in nature.
The solstice presents an archetypal condition that reflects an inner capacity to assist in the renewal of life despite and because of the darkness all around us. Even amidst the commercialized exchange of gifts, people enact a secret remembrance of the gift of life which itself is a light burning within each soul. Gift-giving once intended to encourage the inner gifts that each soul brings to the world. For, each soul harbors an “inner sun,” a deep and giving self that is also a “light inside the dark.”
These are increasingly “dark times” for everyone as a collective “hard turn” involves uncertainty for both culture and nature. Yet, the instinct for warmth and cheer, for love and generosity at the end of the year arises from the soul’s capacity to touch the holiness and stillness of life. It’s a good time to stand still with the hidden sun, even for a moment. It’s a good time to share the gift of life and add some warmth and love to the soul of the world as it pivots again in the darkness deep around us.
- Michael Meade