“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.
Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them.”

~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull ~

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Winter Solstice

What is a solstice? The earliest humans knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress. Today we can see the solstice differently, from the vantage point of space, and we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by the Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the sun.

Because the Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, the Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. That’s what causes winter and summer.

At the December solstice, the Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the North Pole is leaning 23-and-a-half degrees away from the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23-and-a-half degrees south of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Capricorn. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice. Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

You can see signs of the solstice everywhere in nature because for all of the Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you can notice the late dawns and early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the December solstice, it’s your longest noontime shadow of the year.

Many people have an unfavorable response to this time of short days and long nights in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I myself suffer from this disorder and use special lighting, although I wouldn't say no to a vacation on a warm, sunny beach somewhere south of the border!

The 2010 December solstice takes place on Tuesday, December 21 at 23:38 (11:38 p.m.) Universal Time. That’s the time at the longitude of Greenwich, England. To find the time in your location, you have to “translate” to your time zone. Here’s an example - I live in the midwest and use Central Standard Time. So I'd subtract 6 hours from Universal Time. Therefore, the time of the solstice for me would be 5:38 p.m. Central Standard Time.

An ancient belief is that the Wheel of the Year stops briefly at this time of the Winter Solstice. It was taboo to turn a wheel or even a butter churn, on the shortest day. This time of stillness was a precious opportunity to consider the year gone by and to look forward to the increasingly active months to come. It's also a time to choose what to take with you into the New Year and what to leave behind.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice by lighting candles around your home and for a few minutes during your celebration or ritual, turn all the lights on in the house welcoming and celebrating the rebirth of the Sun God.

This year, Brian and I will take part in a Winter Solstice/Full Moon Ritual at Circle Sanctury. Afterwards we'll come back home to enjoy a quiet evening, set our Yule log on the fire and perhaps look out at the stars meditating on the darkness, and light, of the world.post signature


Kiki aka Victoria said...

Beautiful post Teresa! Gorgeous photos! I am excited for the Soltice..and always enjoy celebrating this time of year..enjoy yours..wishing much joy and new magic of the sun's rebirth!

greekwitch said...

Thank you so much for your nice words. You picked me up on day i really needed it.I loved your blog too. I follow a lot of blogs so when i find a new one i like i do not read many previous posts. That was n't the case with yours. I am
completely hooked!
Thank you! Have a blessed Yule!

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

What a beautiful blog! I love it! I haven't blogged in nearly a month...so, VERY unlike me. I was surprised to come back to a few new followers. Yourself included :) So wonderful to meet you and what a pleasure your beautiful blog brings :)Blessings to you and yours.