As this year’s winter solstice approaches, it is also a time for winter solace. This has been a year like none other in recent or distant memory, yet, the turn of the seasons and the time of the winter solstice can provide solace if we tune in and listen to the rhythm of the earth and her shifting seasons. And, after solace and illumination, a slow return to the light, a time for planning what we may want, and need, to create next.
Winter solstice is the time where the days are the shortest and from that point the light grows stronger every day, all the way to summer solstice, when light is at its height and the days are longest. What a metaphor for hope after this year which is waning! We can take our comfort here in hope for better times ahead.
Traditionally, there are a multitude of winter festivals in the Northern Hemisphere around this time which celebrate, in one way or another, the return to light: Christmas, Yule, Diwali, Hannukah, to name but a few. Each lays out a similar message of light, hope and peace through a specific cultural lens. So pick your celebration and know that in one way or another they all honour the turn of the earth and the strengthening of the sunlight, day by day.
In Laplandic and Siberian shamanic traditions, a sacred tree (Axis Mundi) would be erected inside the dwelling of a shaman. On behalf of the community, she/he would undergo a near death experience and journey in an altered state to make contact with spirits, working with them to illuminate and release what no longer served, and bring back messages and metaphorical gifts to the individuals of the community of what would be needed and cherished in the times to come. The shaman would often be assisted in his or her visions by partaking of Amanita muscaria, the red and white hallucinogenic mushroom often seen in fairy stories. Reindeer in these regions would eat this mushroom as well. It is said that the red and white costume of Santa Claus and the reindeer story grew out of these origins.
These solstice traditions persist today in the bringing of trees into the home. An acknowledgement of the return to light also exists in many traditions around this time – Hannukah, Diwali, Christmas and Yule all use candles and stories about how light persisted in darkest times. Ancient Celtic traditions used community bonfires to symbolise the waxing of the light once again.
In a year where many are feeling isolated and distant from family and community, we can still create rituals in our own homes which draw on the methods and power of these ancient traditions. A simple ritual is to meditate in the dark, then light candles to acknowledge the turning of the year and the bringing in of the new. A slightly more complex one, which draws on shamanic fire ceremonies and Celtic Pagan Yule traditions, is to get a candle, anoint it with essential oil if you wish, and light it on the darkest night. Let it burn through the night, into the day which is a fraction longer than the previous one. You can write wishes for the year ahead, and put them into the fire, releasing them into the spirit world.
Finally, the astrology and astronomy of Winter Solstice 2020 cannot go unacknowledged, because it is significant. On the day of this year’s winter solstice, 21st December, there is a “great conjunction” of Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. These planets have all been travelling this year through the astrological sign of Capricorn, which symbolises systems, structures, and institutions. Jupiter moves slowly and generally symbolises generational influences related to luck and learning, Saturn is a “taskmaster” planet teaching us lessons through limitation, and Pluto symbolises regeneration and rebirth. They all meet on the solstice within one degree of each other, ushering in what has been heralded for years as the “Age of Aquarius,” as they move out of Capricorn and into Aquarius. The sign of Aquarius focuses on freedom, evolution, and solutions. This is a great time to meditate on and think deeply about the change you would like to effect, both in your personal life and out in the wider world.
The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 21st December will appear in the Northern Hemisphere sky as a “Christmas Star,” a phenomenon last observed on earth eight hundred years ago and similarly observed (with different planetary conjunctions) two thousand years ago, around the time of the origin of the Christmas story. It will literally be a light in our sky, symbolising peace, new beginnings, and hope. So may the winter solstice this year be a time of solace for many, and a time of peace and hope for all.
Dana Mayer is a healing practitioner who brings together her knowledge of shamanic and energy healing, psychology and tarot to deliver a treatment unique to each client. Her shamanic approach and training incorporates aspects of Native American, Celtic, South American and core shamanic work. She is a certified practitioner of the Hakomi Method, which uses mindfulness and somatic awareness as a basis for the client’s assisted self-discovery, and holds a BA in psychology. Dana has been reading tarot professionally for close to ten years. She is also certified in Usui Reiki and weaves this into her practice. Click here to book an appointment.