Winter Solstice: Can We Celebrate the Restful, Welcoming Darkness?


The days are slowly winding down toward Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest night of the year. Today the sun rose at 7:20 and will set at 5:08 in Crete. In Sweden, the sun will rise at 9:25 and set at 2:12. Though I light candles in the darkness of morning and have lights on my tree, I am not celebrating the “return of the light,” but rather welcoming the restful dark.

In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk writes that Winter Solstice is about the rebirth of the sun. This interpretation has taken hold. For most pagans, Summer Solstice also is a celebration of the sun on the longest day. Few are those mark it as the time of the dying of the sun or the rebirth of night.

In our culture we have learned to celebrate the light and to avoid and disparage the darkness. We have inherited this habit of mind from the Indo-Europeans who, as Marija Gimbutas wrote, celebrated the shining light of the sun as reflected in their shining bronze weapons. When the Indo-Europeans rewrote the myths of the land that came to be called Greece, they placed the “Olympian” deities on Mount Olympus while relegating many of the oldest female deities to the underworld, which became a fearful place. New Age spiritualities follow this pattern, celebrating “light and love.” This habit of mind reinforces racism.

While it is true that without light there would be no life, it is also true that without the dark and cold of winter, there would also be no life. After the harvest, seeds must be kept in a cold dark place in order to regenerate. People too need the daily dark to regenerate our bodies and spirits after a hard day’s work in the light of day. In the agricultural societies of our ancestors, farmers tended their crops on long summers’ days. After the harvest they rested. Winter was a time of renewal. Tools were mended and weary bodies were given time for a “long winter’s nap.”

After entering into the darkness of caves on the first Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, Jana Ruble began to understand that the darkness is just as important as the light. The song she created, “Light and Darkness,” celebrates light and darkness and their intertwining without elevating light above darkness.

(The song “Light and Darkness” begins at 00:42)

This Winter Solstice I encourage you to honor and celebrate the darkness: to rest, to sleep, to dream, in the embrace of the longest night. Life is not all about light. It is about the cycles of light and darkness, birth, death, and regeneration.

 

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.



Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Feminism and Religion, General, Goddess, Seasons, Winter Solstice

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22 replies

  1. yet here in my southern hemisphere home on Tasmania we are heading to the summer solstice. the world is two halves and it can be so interesting knowing that you will be celebrating winter solstice
    blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful, Carol. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dearest Carolina, Thank you so much for the reminder of the balance between light and darkness. This is essential for me. I Worship the Darkness equally with the Light and welcome these days and nights of winter season, even though it causes social problems. I will always treasure singing “Light and darkness” on your wonderful pilgrimage which I was privileged to take part in.

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  4. A few years ago, I proposed Barbara Ardinger’s story about the ant and the grasshopper and preparing for the dark as the center of a Summer Solstice ritual. I pointed out, as you did above, that in the winter in the Northern Hemisphere we celebrate the coming of the sun and in summer we celebrate the presence of the sun, which leaves out honouring the darkness. There was some resistance, but in the end it was a successful evening; several of the women began a practice of seeking out goddesses of the dark.

    Thank you also for the recording of Light and Darkness. I tried to teach it for a ritual and realized i didn’t remember the tune. I found many songs about light and about darkness on YouTube, but that wasn’t one of them. I’m also happy to have the attribution.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh wow – I never made this connection before – you are so right. “New Age spiritualities follow this pattern, celebrating “light and love.” This habit of mind reinforces racism.”
    As you know, you and I are of one mind regarding this time of year…I lean into the daylight hours waking before dawn and watching the sky glow… I celebrate the early twilight lighting my candles and smelling the sweet scent of the balsam wreath I made. The glow from the wood stove warms me… I sleep and dream always giving thanks for this time of peace. I am definitely NOT longing for light but rather to move into winter with acceptance in my heart.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. such an astonishingly beautiful song….

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  7. Love this piece, Carol. You are spot on. You write, ” I am not celebrating the “return of the light,” but rather welcoming the restful dark.” I’ve been wrestling with grief for the past several months. Sometimes we need to sit with our “dark” grief, not look for ways to quickly get to the other side.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. As I see the winter solstice, it’s the peak of the winter’s darkness, the corner (so to speak) of the season. The tiniest bit of light will be reborn and begin growing on the day after the solstice. So today we’re still in growing darkness. Yes, focusing on light and white is New Age racism.

    I wish we could rest in this sacred darkness! I wish we could celebrate the darkness. But the way much of the world is running today, with the Covid killing people and presidents-for-life in many lands and a would-be king here in the U.S., well, the metaphorical darkness is nearly overwhelming. Let’s all act as strongly and peacefully and kindly as we can to transform the darkness into the sacred peace it should be. Sacred blessings to us all!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Beautiful, Carol. We’re so addicted to productivity and activity and doing, we’ve lost the gift of rest and renewal. May we learn to embrace the transforming mysteries of radiant darkness.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nourishing night, sweet deep dreams to you, Carol and to all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Darkness, tackles this position in Christianity. Gives us consideration of perhaps why sexism and racism are two horns of the same agenda. Thanks for your post as usual.

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  12. Celebrating dark of night, the dark of the moon and the dark of the yearly cycle will always be part of goddess spirituality and part of reclaiming our connections to those cycles. Thank you for reminding us! In the mid 1970s I was involved with goddess spirituality while living in Kansas City, MO. My girlfriend and I created a holiday card to celebrate the mid-winter celebration which honors the longest night of the year. For the front of the card, Patt created a waxing crescent moon with the profile of a woman’s face within the curve of the moon. To complete the moon circle these words curved as a waxing moon would have curved. Along that curve were these words, “the long night births the short day”. The inside of the card remained blank.

    On the back of the card I offered this tribute to the season and the moon cycle:
    “Winter lunade marks midwinter and the longest night followed by the shortest day of the year. Winter or summer lunade is the name the ancients used to mark the longest night (mid-winter) and shortest night (mid-summer) of the year. The patriarchal, sun-oriented cultures renamed each a solstice, emphasizing the day aspects rather than the night aspect. The year has waxed to its peak at summer lunade and wanes through the fall harvest and winter as the thirteen full moons complete their cycle to be reborn at winter lunade, even as the new moon herself is reborn at the dark or new moon. We’ve reached the maturity of the year, a time of death and knowing. It’s a time of hibernation and germination in preparation for the imminent rebirth and continuation of the life/lunar cycle.” The cards were sold at our local feminist bookstore, New Earth Books, for $.40 to help explain this female-centered world view.

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  13. Thank you so much for remembering the darkness. Rilke may have been German and male, but he, too, appreciated it:

    You darkness, that I come from
    I love you more than all the fires
    that fence in the world
    for the fire makes
    a circle of light for everyone,
    and then no one outside learns of you.

    But the darkness pulls in everything:
    shapes and fires, animals and myself….

    I have faith in nights.

    (from You Darkness by Rainer Maria Rilke)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A lovely and timely post. I think this year even more than others the whole world needs to take time to rest and recover and, for those of us in the north, winter is the perfect season for that. Here in New England the Winter Solstice is really the beginning of the real winter weather and there is a sense that after the holidays we just pull up the sidewalks and wait anxiously till spring, but you are right that this is such an opportunity to live a different kind of life that will leave us restored when the snow stops falling. We had gentle snowfall today and your post reminded me to stop and be in awe of its beauty.

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  15. Beautiful post, Carol. I loved the video. But it seems strange to me that you blame Starhawk for the celebration of light returning at this time of year. I’m sure _The Spiral Dance_ may have contributed to that tradition. However, Starhawk’s second book was entitled _Dreaming the Dark_ (1982), and in it she specifically talks about how light is idealized and dark is devalued in our culture. She goes on to say “The war of dark and light is a metaphor that perpetuates racism.” (p.21). This may be the first place that I read about the importance of reevaluating the darkness, of seeing it as the necessary dark in which the seed germinates, the dark that allows for rest, the dark in which the senses other than sight become more dominant, and “the power of the immanent Goddes who lies coiled in the heart of every cell of every living thing.” Starhawk also admonishes us to “Beware of organizations that proclaim their devotion to the light without embracing, bowing to the dark; for when they idealize half the world they must devalue the rest.” (p. 21)

    Liked by 3 people

  16. This is amazing writing. This year the solstice is extra special because Jupiter and Saturn will merge to create a Christmas star that will be visible for the first time in 800 years

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  17. Carol, this is the most beautiful celebration of Light and Darkness I have ever seen, I love the women chanting, thank you so much for sharing. As I was married to a Persian man for 21 years, I learned about the Persian tradition of Light, called Yalda. Where the entire family gathers around a table with a heater underneath, peeling pomegranates seeds. Wishing you to enjoy the light and the dark. “Minds together” from Cornelia

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  18. One of my early posts for FAR was about “endarkenment.” Enjoyed reading this! <3 <3

    (https://feminismandreligion.com/2012/12/30/endarkenment-by-molly-meade/)

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  19. Yes to the darkness. I have worked with it for a long time, it is the place where seeds germinate, it is the womb where are bodies were created for this earth, it is space where the sparks of creation were first birthed. Love it. Thanks for the reminder.

    Like

  20. I have to add that for years I have signed my letters and emails “Love, light, and healing darkness.” May the darkness of the year be healing for you, Carol.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Winter Solstice: Can We Celebrate the Restful, Welcoming Darkness? – GreatCosmicMothersUnite
  2. Christmas of Hope 2020: The Winter Solstice, a Moment to Stand Still and Look Ahead. – How to Hygge the British Way

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