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.
Susan Boyle came from a humble background in Scotland; her father was a miner and her mother a typist. Until her mother died she lived with her, and she now lives with her beloved cat.
For years she struggled to achieve some success with her music. Recently, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease, which could explain why her social relationships had always been awkward. Most of her life she had been been subjected to ridicule, and must have endured many unhappy and very trying times — until that one evening, in which, like a rocket leaving the bounds of earth, she shot into stardom.
Illustrating how not to be a victim — Susan Boyle’s is a rags-to-riches story, which, in its own way, is a testimony to the great power of not allowing oneself to remain victimized, but instead, with the help of the angels, of magically overcoming obstacles. It is a simple story – she has not transformed the entire world, but it is a remarkable one, and has certainly altered her own life and touched the lives of many others.
Her strength is not only her musical talent itself, but her undying faith in her music.
None of us has to remain stuck in the box that we find ourselves in.
The second example of rising above limitations is Nelson Mandela. A figure on an altogether different scale, he was one of the great men of history, who had a transformative impact on our world. Though he came from a tribal royal family, as a boy, he herded sheep, then became a boxer, then a lawyer. When he was imprisoned for 27 years, spending part of the time breaking rocks in a quarry, it must have seemed to him, that there could be no hope even for his own freedom, let alone hope for any success in his life.
If he had emerged from prison, embittered, to lead his people on a crusade to make his oppressors pay for their crimes, that would hardly have been a surprising turn. Yet he didn’t. Somewhere he found the grace and wisdom to forgive his captors and to lead South Africa beyond the threat of a bloodbath, into the light, to stand as a democratic nation. In the process, he spared the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and avoided a prolonged time of darkness for generations of South Africans. South Africa is not a perfect country. No country is, but it has avoided these catastrophes, thanks to the wisdom and greatness Nelson Mandela.
Neither of these two people, very different from each other in their scope and their impact, is a saint. They are examples of people who did not allow themselves to remain victims, but instead, with the grace of the angels, overcame and rose above obstacles.
We do not have to be victimized by our circumstances, sinking under the weight of our situation, and blaming heaven, the stars, or those around us for the obstacles in our lives.
There is always a higher level, where God, the Gods, the angels, the universe (or whatever we wish to call the spiritual level) live — and it is from this level that strength can be drawn and magic and miracles can come into being.
To return to the concept of the myth of progress – it would be a great mistake to confuse this higher level of otherworldly strength, inspiration, and clarity, which occasionally breaks through the clouds, with the current, ongoing state of the human world in which we live.
Were we to put our faith in the “human spirit” or in the “inevitability” of human progress and the advance of human technology, we would find ourselves sadly misled. We ought not to sit waiting for the train of human “progress” to carry us along to utopia, because it won’t.
Many of us, probably most of us, have seen miracles happen – of one kind or another. Miracles are very real. They come from beyond and above the level of this world.
The world does not get better by itself, and, sadly, human nature does not make it better. There is no inevitable progress of the “human spirit.” We are not the culmination of evolution, and we have not, in creating the “wonders of civilization” brought peace and enlightenment even to ourselves, much less to animals and the natural world. Instead we have left a trail of destruction in our wake. And the natural world seems to be reminding us of this regrettable fact through rising tides, catastrophic storms, and other upheavals.
Yet all is not lost, and if – beyond the smoke and mirrors of the image we have fabricated, as a species, of our own success – this is, in truth, a dark hour and a dark age, there is still a real light at the end of the tunnel.
Consider this – a curtain is being lifted that had long veiled the past. All over the world are being found now, in recent decades, remarkable archeological discoveries that speak to us of great civilizations, with magnificent art and culture, that we did not even know existed, and some are many thousands of years earlier than the accepted dates for the beginnings of civilization. (We will be writing more about these.)
The cyclical view of history informs us that this age of limitations that we live in is neither the only age nor the last age.
There is much, much more to the Cosmos than we know – other levels, other dimensions — more to the past and more to the future.
Our “modern world” is not the pinnacle of creation, it has an ocean of problems. But as we come to acknowledge this, there are great gates that swing open – to the magnificence and mysteries of the very distant past – and to the possibilities of magic and miracles, both in our own lives and in the world ages that lie before us – possibilities of nearly-forgotten connections with higher mystical levels and the restoration and renewal of the natural world of innocence that we have so nearly destroyed.
As our current world age dims, other lights of intelligence, perception, and clarity—those, older and wiser, who were here before — will re-awaken and shine again.
The thoughts expressed here are personal views that do not reflect or represent those of any organization.
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Top photo: Wikimedia Commons: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Laura SA at the English language Wikipedia / Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in pre-colonial South Africa.
Second photo: As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. / President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, July 4 1993.
Third photo: Author (photographer): Teomancimit / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe, Urfa, Turkey.
Fourth photo: “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.” / This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy…all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years)….