Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight -- But I Celebrate Solstice Looking at the Sun
Tonight many people will observe a rare event: the first total lunar eclipse to take place on a full moon at the Winter Solstice since 1638. But we celebrate the Solstice every year -- and we do it by greeting the Sun.
I think sometimes we don't give ancient people the credit they deserve, but they were infinitely wise. Among other things, they were able to calculate the very day that the Earth itself began tilting back towards the sun, bringing longer days, warmth, and food. The sun was one of the first deities, and it's no wonder since everything hinged upon it for the earliest people. They celebrated its yearly life -- its birth in the winter, its journey through the sky, its death at the Summer Solstice, and its journey into the world of the dead on its way to be reborn Winter Solstice morning.
For as long as I can remember I've heard Mother Earth calling me. I feel most spiritual and whole when I am out among nature; listening to the power of the waves crashing on the shore, sitting on a warm rock in the sun, or under the shade of an oak tree, climbing a mountain to look down at the rough and beautiful valley below. This is my church. I don't have all the answers to my spiritual questions, but I know that being in my church, out with Mother Nature herself, makes me feel at peace.
And so on the morning of the Solstice, the holiday we call Yule, we rise in the darkest part of the night. We layer ourselves in pajamas, clothes, coats and hats. We warm up hot cocoa and coffee and grab some muffins. We gather blankets and items to mark our altar -- candles, holly, fir branches -- and we head out to meet with some friends in our special spot to watch the sun rise. We eat and laugh and listen to stories and we each pray in our own way. We sing The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and wish the Sun a very happy birthday. The kids play tag and climb on rocks. The parents sip hot drinks and enjoy the view. And then we go home. Some of us open our presents as soon as we arrive home, some of us save that for Christmas day or the nights of Hanukkah. As night falls again, my children and I head out to look at all the brightly lit houses in our neighborhood.
But that was not the beginning. Our holidays begin at sunset the night before. In my family we make beeswax candles before the holiday and we light them at sunset. We listen to a story from Circle Round and we sing Harry Belafonte's Turn the World Around. At some point we make a gingerbread house and, if it's ready before sunset, we call it "Mother Winter's Home" and we pretend she stops by in the night. My own personal traditions involve cleaning -- spiritual and of the home -- and introspection. I reflect on the recent past and meditate on the time ahead. But mostly I just need to be out with the Earth, touching trees and rocks and welcoming the Sun.
Christmas and Yule look very much alike from the outside (in fact the word "Yule" itself is now associated with Christmas, although it was originally a separate holiday). Decorated pine trees, evergreen branches, holly, candles, red and green, even Santa is considered by many Pagans to be a faerie spirit associated with the holiday. The lights, of course, are symbolic of the sun, and a bright reminder that this dark time of the year will soon be over and things will become easier. And they will.
And so, a very happy Yule to you! And, to my friends in the southern part of the globe, I wish you a very happy Summer Solstice!