The Dark Half: Reflections on the Winter Solstice By Xochitl Alvizo

Photo by Chris Pinkham

I’m a Capricorn. People seem not to be surprised when they find out. I’m also the oldest of three siblings and a keeper of people’s secrets. Stories and secrets – my family’s included – I hear them all, take them all in. Sometimes someone will share something with me that involves another and afterward say, Now, don’t you go telling so and so that I said this. And of course I always reply, I don’t tell no one nothin’. And it’s true, I don’t tell – I simply take it in. I listen and I take it all in. The stories shared, stories of joy and of love, excitement and disappointment, of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, all of them inform me. They all cause me to reflect and consider the fragility of us all, the precariousness of life. We affect each other so much, from the smallest moment to the largest system, all of it makes such a difference to us.

Tonight we celebrate the Winter Solstice – it marks the boundary of darkness and light – it is the shortest day and longest night of the year. 

In a part of her We’Moon 2011 poem, Darktime, Shae Savoy writes:

     The Dark half of the year
     Suits me just fine.
     An incubation,
     A percolation.
    Winter time. The Dream Time.

So I ask you, on this longest night, what do you dream? What percolates in you?

I’m from LA, born and raised a “SoCal” native, so until I moved to Boston, I had no category for the “dark half of the year.” However, after almost 8 years here, after my feminist awakening, and my growing participation in earth and Goddess spirituality, I must confess that I have a growing appreciation for this dark womb time, winter time. This is the time when we can still ourselves in the warmth of our hearth and focus on our internal work; re-ignite our inner flame – that passion and energy from deep in our core that keeps us fully alive.

In the still, refulgent depths of gathering forces, in this reckoning time of year, we fold in and cackle as the fires crackle.
(Winter Solstice by Marna, We’Moon 2011).

And so even though the boundary of darkness and light has been crossed and the days will slowly get longer, we still have much of winter left. We have many days of cold and dark nights ahead of us…what will we dream? what will percolate within us?

People’s stories percolate inside me. I think of them and the people involved and I dream about a world that cares for them all – where all our stories matter; where all our lives are precious and are so treated. And thinking about how we can participate in making such a world real, even if only in moments, is what I want kindled within me, sparking my imagination.

But what material difference does this all make? I did mention I was a Capricorn right? Well, today also marks the day that the Sun moves into the Capricorn season and according to Heather Roan Robbins, this is the “yearly time to return to our roots, be fed by our traditions and reorganize ourselves for the coming New Year.” The Capricorn season is when we think about our traditions, and traditions have very material consequences. It’s also the time to think about the roots to which we want to return – what are those? I love rituals and celebrations and I try to be very thoughtful about them. They matter deeply and make a difference to who we are and who we will continue to be in the world. How we celebrate and mark important/sacred days truly does have a shaping effect. Rituals literally form us – they are embodied manifestations of the values that orient us in very material ways. What we practice in ritual organizes us and makes a material difference in the world.

And so, as these holy womb days are upon us, what will you practice? What will percolate deep within us? And what will we take into the New Year from this Dark Half?

May what we dream for the world, first be birthed within us. Blessed be. 

Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and theologian currently completing her PhD at Boston University School of Theology in practical theology with a focus on ecclesiology. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably interconnected and the good one can do in any one area inevitably and positively impacts all others. 

Categories: General, Goddess Spirituality, Poetry, Spirituality, Women's Spirituality

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14 replies

  1. I love the phrase, “dark womb time, winter time.” What a perfect image!


  2. This is such a beautifully written reflection of this time of year. Yes, we are fragile and changeable aren’t we? The darkness of this time seems to amplify this, our impermanence and fragility, maybe that’s why darkness is so misunderstood, so frightening. The longest night is for reflecting on all this. I imagine all our ancient ancestors gathering alone or together by fires and I honour them when I light candles and breathe in that darkness, that looms just beyond the small circle of light a flame can cast. What a powerful example for our own souls, brilliant and bright, yet as much the deep richness and texture of the unknown that is darkness; the reminder of our mortality that is so much a part of our potential for divinity.

    Thank you for the secrets you keep and the deepness of yourself you share.


  3. Love this! I logged 5 years in cold, snowy Boston and I love how your next context gives you a fresh perspective on such matters. :)


  4. I just received this Cleaning Ritual for the Winter Solstice from my Rekki counselor:

    Today is the day for the present-moment practice. Find a comfortable place and take 5 or 10 minutes to become aware of your surroundings, tuning into the sounds around you and basking in your human body. When you are thinking about the past or projecting into the future, write it down. Keep count of how many times you leave the present moment because awareness is key to being present.

    Soulful Action:
    Your outer goal: What could you love about yourself right not–without making one more change–that would move you closer to your desired goal?

    Your inner Goal: What could you do or what choice could you make in this very moment that would bring you the feeling you most desire?

    Soul Food: The precious moment is all that there is.

    Solstice Box: Set your intentions on paper and place them in your box and tuck them away for the year. The flip side is to write on paper all the things you are not willing to accept this year and burn them on Wednesday evening.

    Thank you Xochitl for a beautiful reminder of the need for ritual in our lives.


    • I love this Cynthie – It’s a beautiful practice to take the time for this kind of reflection and intention making. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I didn’t get a chance to do this last night, but I will do so tonight!


  5. Ummm, These holy womb days are upon us! I love that line…and your article!


  6. Xochitl,
    I love this piece. I took some time to reflect on it and thought back of my time in Wisconsin. People often ask me, “How did you deal with the long, cold, dark winter nights?” I simply reply by stating that you will never know what it is like to be so close to nature and yourself until you bundle yourself up and go out for a walk during a heavy snowstorm and just experience the world within yourself.

    I made it a ritual of mine to go out everytime the first heavy snowfall occured. I would just walk for hours on the empty streets, by the river, and just see the world through the quiet, white, dark.

    As I gear up to head back home (Wisconsin will always be the place closest to my heart) I think back to these special times and the power they still have within me.

    Thank you for your beautiful piece. :)


  7. I am a Solstice child, born the night of Dec 20. I love the dark. I love going down into caves. I love to sleep. I am not afraid of death. It is interesting that pagan rituals often celebrate the rebirth of the light at winter solstice, instead of celebrating the luxuriant dark.


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