Most of us these days know that today is the Winter Solstice, or the first day of Winter. It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. For over hundreds of years many traditions, whether pagan or Christian, have grown, marking this date as a celebration of rebirth and renewal.
The main promise of this day and night is that the light wakes and returns, a symbol of hope and potential. This was important for people hundreds of years ago, because with the promise of light came easier survival, allowing food to grow, animals that will not starve, and longer work hours.
Winter Solstice Rewritten
While there are many myths, stories, and traditions from various cultures of the Winter Solstice, my favorite comes from Celtic mythology. This night marks the great battle of the Oak King and the Holly King, twin brothers always vying for power and dominance. The Oak King personifies light, growth, and warmth, while the Holly King embodies darkness, decay, and cold. During the Winter Solstice, the Oak King wins, thus representing the coming of light or Spring.
There are many versions of this paradox of light and dark, of death and rebirth, and of course they fight it out again in the summer. Neither kings are to be feared or dreaded, for each has their own beautiful purpose in bestowing unique gifts upon us as the year turns around the sun.
Rewriting Winter Solstice for Myself
One of my favorite days of the year, I feel myself living in a liminal space, where time is lost during these wintery nights. It’s a time of quiet reflection where I seek wisdom and learning from all things. There are so many lessons to learn and observe from The More Than Human World during this time. To see the trees protect themselves and sleep deep reminds me to do this for myself. Watching squirrels searching for their caches of food makes me want to organize my office. From the frost painting its delicate masterpieces on leaves inspiring me to paint, to the guardian moon lulling me to sleep, there is a rich abundance in winter that often goes unnoticed.
While the Oak King has won this round, drawing strength to bring us the gift of light, we cannot ignore the Holly King, who bestows us inner wisdom and mystery. It is a great time to pass through the thin veil of shadow and seek counsel.
For me, the Winter Solstice is a time of The Dark Quiet and solemn yet hopeful reflection of the coming new days.
I used to loathe the winter months, having suffered Seasonal Affective Disorder for many years until I researched Druid and Pagan customs years ago. What I understood is that without one, there cannot be the other, and to hate one is not being whole in our souls. As the old saying goes, without darkness there can be no light. Just as our body needs the light, it also requires the dark. Instead of just dreading the winter months, I now find I look forward to them just as much as the miracle of Spring.