The Winter Solstice marks a central part of nature’s cycle. It is a time of new growth, rebirth and renewal. It is a reminder that in order to begin anew, the old must end. It is the time of year when we pay homage to the darkness of life’s mysteries, while still keeping our faith. Spring will come again.
The solstice is either of the two times a year when the Sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, the great circle on the celestial sphere that is on the same plane as the earth’s equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs either December 21 or 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn; the summer solstice occurs either June 20 or 21, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Cancer. In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter and summer solstices are reversed.
The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.” It is the great stillness before the Sun’s strength builds, and days grow longer. It can be a time to rest and reflect. It’s the fruitful dark out of which new life can eventually emerge. In ancient times and for some today, the darkness itself is the spiritual cradle into which the Sun is reborn.
There is a profound spiritual significance to the winter solstice. The winter solstice has formed a central part of spiritual beliefs throughout the world since the beginning of history—in ancient Egypt as the birth of Horus, ‘The Birth of the Unconquered Sun’ in ancient Rome, Yule in old Europe, Yalda in Persia as the birth of Mithra, in ancient Neolithic sites such as Newgrange in Ireland, at the pyramid of the feathered serpent in Chichen Itza Mexico, and as the birth of Jesus at Christmas, etc. All these sites and celebrations share common symbols even though some have been separated by vast distances and time. This gives us a clue that the time of the winter solstice has a deeper spiritual significance that is more universal than most could ever imagine, in many cases Winter Solstice was associated with the birth of the Sun, meaning the birth of the god or goddess. Every spiritual teaching throughout the world had some word for attaining enlightenment, whether it was awakening, self-realization, salvation, imperishability, or immortality, etc. Most still have remnants of a divine savior associated with the sun, and many associated the birth of this savior with the winter solstice. This divine savior always taught humanity how to achieve enlightenment, to become a “son of God.”
It would seem that many ancient cultures had a similar spiritual meaning for Winter Solstice, suggesting humanity always cared about the rebirth of light.
The time of winter solstice signifies a stage in the work of spiritual enlightenment, veiled in esoteric symbols, yet at its core is found unified the spirituality of the whole of humankind.
Every human being is a latent spiritual potential, like a seed. We live asleep to the greater realities of existence, and to the greater reality of who we are and what we came here to do. We live out our lives in the darkness of our own subconscious which we dream in at night, many following the external worship of spiritual things, yet never becoming spiritual themselves. Whether we choose to realize it or not, each of us has the potential to become an awakened self-realized being. This is why sacred texts from ancient times and still today, always point towards enlightenment as the ultimate goal of life.
What Can I do during The Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice is a powerful time of re-birth and transformation – to acknowledge our shadow, heal our wounds, release old thought patterns and align with our destiny. When we dare to face our deepest, darkest fears and overcome them we can truly experience the ecstasy of life. We become confident and stronger. We discover our selves and we know who we are. We begin to trust life and know that it is a force that is both for us and within us. The Winter Solstice marks this triumph of the hero on his or her quest for a greater good.
Welcome back the sun and honor its return. Fill your home with lights, candles, and solar symbols. Face a candle and set in your winter affirmations, also known as New Year’s Eve Resolutions and prayers.
This is a poignant time to stop and listen, to harmonise our energy and reassess our connection to our spirit and life’s purpose. Take some time to look inside and think about what it is that you would like to bring in to your life, or nourish within yourself. What makes you come alive? When we shine with life and light, we enhance the lives of others and encourage and inspire them to improve themselves. In this way we all add to the lights shining around the world, dispelling the darkness.
Remember though, that we’re all responsible for our own light. If it goes out, someone can help us to find a flame, offer their light to guide us, hand us a match to re-ignite it, even show us how to do it, but they can’t re-light it for us or keep it lit on our behalf.
Ensure that all you do protects and strengthens your inner light and keeps it alive for you. Use it to get excited about your life, to get enthusiastic about the things that you do. This excitement and enthusiasm is like a forest fire – you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away, and it spreads to those around you. The Winter Solstice is an opportunity to come together with your community in celebration of hope, peace and the rebirth of light.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus