By Sharon St Joan
All over the world there are megalithic monuments with alignments to the Winter Solstice. At the moment of the Winter Solstice a beam of light from the sun strikes the deepest recesses of an underground sacred temple, as at Newgrange in Ireland or Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland.
In the New World, at Chaco Canyon in new Mexico, the Sun Dagger at Fajada Butte marks both the Summer and Winter solstices, as well as other important celestial alignments.
The significance of the Winter Solstice is that this point in time every year marks the darkest time of the year; the death point if you wish, and at the same time, the return of the light. It is the time, when the sun, having reached the moment when the days are the shortest, returns, and the days begin to grow longer.
The light returns, and with it comes the promise of spring and summer, the rebirth of the world.
This is also the message of Christmas – and for that matter, it is a message in many religions, not only Christianity. At the hour of greatest darkness, the light returns, having conquered the darkness.
Interestingly, it is also the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection. The moment of crucifixion is followed in three days (actually a day and a half according to the Biblical account) by the resurrection, as life overcomes death.
Winter itself represent cold, darkness, and death. It is the time when nothing grows and every being that can, takes shelter or hibernates, waiting for a change of seasons and the return of spring. In warmer lands, the rainy season, or even the sun-baked, dry season may represent the time when one seeks shelter and waits, for a more propitious time – for a change of the seasons.
Though today the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 or 22, the festival of Mithra, who was the god of light in ancient Iran, was celebrated from December 17 to December 24. The Romans adopted these dates for a festival to their god Saturn, which lasted several days and ended on December 25 – a date then later adopted by Christians as the birthday of Jesus.
When or what time of year Jesus was actually born isn’t relevant in this context. The symbolic meaning has a significance that lies beyond the historical dates.
Life is cyclic. Life follows death, and death follows life. Both are two sides of the same coin. In the darkest hour, when there seems to be the least hope, the light returns, and a new age begins.
Photographer: Rhion Pritchard / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales, which has an alignment with the Summer Solstice.
© 2013, Sharon St Joan