“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 16: The Winter Solstice Meditation

This year the winter solstice fell on Thursday, December 22, yesterday.  I had thought it was the 21st, but no, I just looked it up.  So beginning today, Friday December 23, every day for the next six months will have a few more minutes of light.  In other words, our future is getting brighter.

This is the day's meditation: the longest nights of the year are behind us now.

Unless you live South of the Equator.  For you--sorry, mates--that party is over.

If you happen to be traveling to the South Pole, you will see midnight sun this week.  But if you are in the Arctic Circle, up toward the North Pole, you will see no light at all.

This is the real reason why Santa travels south.  Poor guy suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Which explains the weight problem too.  But a trip south is like having a big light therapy box around your head.

So here's what I learned today:

In pre-Christian Poland, the tradition of the December solstice, which is currently called Gody, involved forgiving people you'd been in snits with, and the sharing of food.

Some Christians celebrate St. Thomas's Day on December 21, and in Guatemala, on the same day, Mayans honor the sun god in a flying pole dance (hmmmm).  One man plays the drum and a flute while he ascends, and the other two tie a rope around their feet, attach themselves to the pole, and then jump.  If they land on their feet, the light returns to the earth. 

In Northwest Pakistan, a festival called Chaomos takes place on the solstice.  It features purifying ritual baths, singing and chanting, a torchlight procession, dancing, bonfires and festive eating.

The ancient Incas had a solstice festival too, but it was banned by the Roman Catholic church in the 16th century.  You can't keep a good Inca down, thank goodness, and the festivities were revived in Cusco, Peru, by a group of Quecia Indians in the 1950s, in a large theater which is open to the public, if you wish to travel there to partake.

The festivals of Saturnalia used to take place in ancient Rome beginning on December 17 for a week.  Rules were broken, grudges forgiven, slaves went free, or were given a few unexpected pleasures, and good fun was had by all: until it all turned into one big debauch and order had to be restored.

Saturn is Chronus, the god of time.  Since my greatest wish these days is to make time slow down, I plan to bow down to this god today and say, hello, sir, you with the long, white beard and the giant ticking clock, would you like some spiked eggnog?  I will gladly do a pole dance in your honor, if you give everyone I love some more time and a few more precious minutes of light.

This photo was taken by one of my Adirondack Semester students--please come forward!

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