Sunday, December 21, 2008


We've reached one of the year's four cardinal points, a seasonal shift. Nights will not grow longer now. It's downhill from here! More cold and damp weather to come though, at least in the northern hemisphere. Our friends down south experience the opposite and are getting out their summer gear, while we bundle up for a few more months, but always in the knowledge that we're heading for the next shift - into spring. The lights of Hanukkah and Christmas brighten the nights and our spirits. Those lucky enough to live near an ancient site of solstice celebration will have seen the season turn, in slow motion, before their eyes.

Winter Solstice - it's a romantic, magical time, its echo travels back thousands of years, beyond Christianity, beyond the Roman and Greek Empires, beyond anything we have recorded - and therein lies magic. The theme has inspired at least two novels in recent years - both titled simply "Winter Solstice", one by Irish author Lucy Costigan, the other by novelist Rosamunde Pilcher. The opening chapter of Lucy Costigan's "Winter Solstice" can be read at a pdf HERE

Lucy Costigan's book begins as the heroine leaves home on a short journey to see the Sun rise on 21 December at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland. A 5,000 year old site where, in a passage under a large burial mound, the Sun, as it rises at Winter Solstice shines through an opening in the roof to illuminate the pathway. Entrance to the site is strictly controlled, only a few observers are allowed to actually witness Solstice there nowadays. The tomb is said to be more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge.

The Winter Solstice inspires poets too - here's an example from

Toward the Winter Solstice
by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.



Wisewebwoman said...

And backatcha, T. Great post!

anthonynorth said...

Another excellent post. Newgrange is one of the most amazing sites. And the supposed history of the solstice is intriguing. I'd love to know just how far it does go back.

Twilight said...

Thanks WWW and AN ~~~

Yes, AN - it's beginnings are lost in the mists of time, but I guess it started soon after the dawn of intelligence, when man began to realise that the Sun was his best friend. :-)

Twilight said...

....its beginnings!!