Solstice: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Newgrange Ireland at the Winter Solstice,

The sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.”
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights up the whole sky.

Poem: “The Gift” @1350, by Hafez, tr. D. Ladinsky

‘Tis the season, quite literally. We are approaching the turning point of the season, the lever of our mini-universe, wherein the sun will be at its Most. Here in Northern California, it will be at the lowest point to our horizon and the furthest south, which means we’re at the Solstice, baby!

Even though other latitudes and longitudes will feel that dance of the sun differently, everywhere is going to feel the sun at its Most. Those at this latitude, the 90% of humans who live on the majority of the land masses on this side of the equator, will feel this as the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow holds promise because it will be longer (for 90% of us anyway). Folks on the south side of the equator will enjoy the longest day of the year, although they might revel in our revelry, too.

People long ago lived under a differently aged sun, but they also did this dance, and they also experienced the sense of cold/hot, shorter/longer, death/rebirth, and dark/light that we are experiencing. ‘Tis the season to get me thinking all about ancient celebrations of solstice. Fair warning: this is not just a laundry list of the top 12 pagan chants or a random set of ten holiday traditions… I’ve done some of that in previous blogs, and you can google plenty of other examples. This is not just about how Queen Victoria popularized Christmas trees or Good King Wenceslas or Saturnalia or even Stonehenge–let’s go a little broader and deeper than Northern Europe. How old and how omnipresent are celebrations of the solstice? How do we know?

Stone circles in South Africa, photo from
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