Solstice - the standing of the sun
The time when the sun seems to stand still in its cycle before beginning a new. The shortest day of the year and the longest night.
Here in the north, this day falls in December, around the 21st, give or take, from year to year.
Where I live, this means about 7 hours of daylight and 17 hours of darkness. Basically, the further north you live, the shorter the day and the longer the night.
However, solstice is not necessarily the day with the latest sunrise. (I used to think so, and this is why Helga marks the sun poles the way she does in my novel.) Nor does the day always have the earliest sunset.
So, the ancient people must have worked out the shortest day by the sun’s position in the sky when highest. Today its high point is the lowest of the year. Of course, ancient people may also have relied on the gods or spirits to tell them.
The turning of the sun as the Norse called it (and many Scandinavians still do) has long been celebrated or marked in some way.
Ways to mark this day
People have lots of wonderful rituals or traditions surrounding solstice celebrations. Lighting outdoor fires, jumping over fires (away from what you want to leave behind or toward what you want), singing, and of course offerings or blót if we are talking Ásatrú.
Is there a correct way to celebrate? Ideas of strict doctrine seem highly unnatural to me. Other life around us is in constant flux. So I favour the opinion that one should do what feels right, and also feel free to change.
Sun worship is an ancient tradition
What I do
The special thing I do for both solstices is to share offerings, but since I do not call on the gods, I do not consider this blót proper. I give in thanks to the landspirits where I live. At this time, I also thank the spirits for the lessons I have learned and for the blessings in my life.
Everything else I do is something I may do at any time whenever I feel called to do so. My favourite spiritual practice is walking or being in nature. I feel the trees and the land, the air and the water. We communicate but not with words. I can best describe it as sharing energy or feeling.
Seeing the world strong is the intention I bring with me if I want to interact and not just be part of our whole.
Some days I feel a need to do. It is all too easy to get caught up in the bad state of our world, in all that is so wrong and destructive and painful. But I don’t want to have my focus there.
The academic training in me does of course. It wants to analyse and problem-find. And this approach is important if indeed I then follow up with problem-solving action; but if I just stay stuck in spotting all the bad, it is my belief that I merely expand the bad, that I feed it with my energy and focus.
So for all the issues that I cannot take action on, I like to change my methodology to the shamanic approach of seeing things as they should ideally be. I truly believe that if we are enough that focus on the same good outcome then no matter how big a change seems required, this is possible.
A mid-morning moment in the sun
Today when the sun was at its strongest, I walked out into the middle of the stubble field behind my farm buildings and felt the sun on my face. Here I stopped and, turning slowly, I connected with the forests on all sides. I felt how strong the land and trees are.
Happy birdsong sounded from a number of slight depressions where the stubble stood taller, and from one nearby, two little birds flitted up in the air a few feet before again hiding in the grass and stubble. It reminded me of the sound of early spring. The joy of life growing.
When I walked back towards the house, exuberant splashing came from the garden pond followed by quacking. Wild ducks. Putting the two together, I first wondered if these were signs of yet another mild winter. Great news for heating expenditure, not so much for controlling sheep-worm and tick population.
But then I got the clear message in my head that they simply enjoyed the now. That was the lesson for me, should I absolutely need to see a message in anything. I often get the impression that the spirit world laughs at me when I want to read meaning into everything. So I am working on that, on less searching and more just being.
A time for quiet
Dawn and nightfall have always reminded me of the magic in our world. And I find those times of day to be especially conducive for inner silence. I like to pause and just be at those times of day if at all possible. And should I need help, watching my chickens roam and scratch for food, or sitting among my sheep as they graze, never fails to quiet my mind and my mood.
What do you do?
I wish you well with whatever way you choose to celebrate life or be in this world. Whatever your beliefs, and whatever your religion.
Have you heard of the blessing associated with Winter Solstice, "Til árs ok friðar, skál!"? Read more