In honor of the Winter Solstice today, here's a video that gives us the opportunity, albiet in 2x3 inch form, to witness a Winter Solstice event created by neolithic farmers:
http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/Solstice2007/ (click "view the archive")
The video shows the sunrise on Winter Solstice at Newgrange, a beautiful neolithic structure in Ireland engineered to observe and honor the Solstice.
More about Newgrange here:
I have been lucky enough to spend time at Newgrange several times in my travels in Ireland over the years. It is awe-inspiring -- the structure is 5,000 years old and its design is brilliant both technically and artistically.
Sidenote for you natural building aficianados out there: its a south-facing bermed structure with a living roof that hasn't leaked in all those thousands of years.
Newgrange is a beautiful symbol of the winter solstice, and resonates deep, deep down for me -- maybe it's molecular, maybe it's the collective unconscious.
Winter Solstice has always been a significant time for my family -- sometimes full of joy and other times marked by profound grief and loss.
It is the longest night, a time to notice and know darkness, a time to honor the dark, a time to honor the dead. It is a time to sit with the painful and the difficult things, with loss, with despair. It's the dead of winter.
And: it is the birthday of the sun--the birthday of light in the midst of the darkest time of year. A turning point, the return of the light, a time of transformation, a time of hope, and a time of rebirth.
In many ancient traditions, Winter Solstice is a time to honor the way that life emerges from death, light emerges from dark in the cycles of the natural world. A time to look forward to Spring and Summer and the bright, hot months when everything will be in fruit and flower, imagining what will come to be.
Solstice morning on the farm
For gardeners, this time of year is a time of planning the garden, deciding what seeds you will plant, what food you will grow. On a metaphorical level, the Winter Solstice is a time for the same sort of setting of intentions, dreaming, imagining good things to come.
The seed is a beautiful symbol of the Winter Solstice to me -- a tiny dormant thing, seemingly lifeless but full of potential, full of life that will sprout, grow, bloom, and fruit as the cycle continues. Today, I will excavate some vegetable seeds from the jars where they live in the back of my fridge, and lay them on my altar, imagining all of the growing things to come!