Actually it’s already arrived, so I technically can’t say that anymore…
No no…strike that.
It hasn’t arrived yet.
Well I don’t think it has arrived yet.
I am of the opinion that Winter commences at the solstice, and that the other seasons commence at the corresponding equinox/solstice as well. I find it quite arbitrary that the commencement of the seasons has to coincide with the start of the designated months so as to have the year neatly divided in quarters. Now I freely admit that I am anally retentive, but I wont go that far to have ‘control.’ Plus nature has already divided the seasons in a perfectly good way. As a child I was taught that the seasons started on the equinoxes and solstices from my mother. From where we’re from originally the seasons are observed according to solstices and equinoxes, so that may also be a reason why the way that the seasons are divided here in Australia feels so foreign to me….
But I digress.
Given that the date is fast approaching, I am starting to think about Winter Solstice rituals, and so wanted this post to be about the Solstice.
Now I have already ranted (here) about my issue with how so much of the information we have available about the seasonal rituals are geared to the Northern Hemisphere. This is only appropriate given that many of the new age Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen etc etc traditions stem from original Northern Hemisphere (European) cultures.
But here in Australia – We don’t have snow (Well at least not where I live). I think our winters are relatively milder compared to the winters experienced in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere. We also have to factor in what climate change will do to our seasons as well. Oak and Holly are not native trees here (contrary to popular belief) and the obvious one – our winter is in the middle of the year, and does not coincide with Christmas.
In some ways this is a positive thing. Since our Winter doesn’t coincide with Christmas, we don’t have to deal with all the cultural baggage that comes with Christmas. It provides us the opportunity to be creative about our rituals and make them truly our own. Then again I am pretty sure that there are pagans out there that celebrate the wheel of the year like our Northern brothers and sisters, and that’s cool too. I guess if it works…it works.
I have more trouble reconciling some of the specific festival dates for Isis though. Obviously some the ancient festivals were centred on certain specific natural phenomena such as the Nile Inundation and the Heliacal Rising of Sirius, while others were centred on particular events in the Myth cycle of the goddess. Still the modern reconstructions that I have come across are still very much Northern Hemisphere centred. So for the most part I feel like I am left alone on a raft without a paddle sailing against the current of a wild river. Part of me simply wants to flip the seasonal festivals but the other side of me wants to stay as true as possible to the dates that we know the events actually occurred. Maybe I should immigrate to the Northern Hemisphere….
However at the end of the day, these issues are quite minuscule, and can be easily overcome, once I feel more comfortable down this path, me thinks. The beauty and the challenge I guess of modern paganism, is that unlike religions like Christianity, Judaism or Islam, we don’t have a book where everything is written down for us, telling us what to do, and when to do it. We have to be responsible for our own actions. The last part is quite powerful and daunting at the same time. For my part, I am interested in the mystery of the season, of the deeper reason why we celebrate and honour what we do when we do. How the very action we engage in resonate with me at that particular time.
So what does winter mean to me…
On one level it is a new year commencing for me, as my birthday is 2 weeks prior to the Winter Solstice. It’s a reflexive time of year for me, as I look back at the things that I have accomplished in my last year, and how much I have grown as a person.
I have also noticed that my general mood changes quite a lot during this time. I thought it was just that I was depressed, but I think it really has something to do with the lack of sunlight I get to experience. Working ridiculous hours doesn’t help this fact, where I am leaving and arriving home in the dark, and the time in between is spent sitting in an office that is more like a closest that receives little natural light….
But there is also hope. As the nights draw longer and the days shorter, I always visualise feeding my internal flame, in preparation for the warmer months ahead. It’s knowing that the longest night has passed, and that the longer days are coming ahead. It’s also the rude awakening that I need to get my arse back into gear for summer, given that Sydney is a Tart as the weather warms up. It’s about setting some new goals, and reassessing what is in the ‘personal pipeline.’
Keeping all this in mind, I still have a few couple of weeks to stitch together something appropriate for the Solstice. What will you be doing? I’m genuinely interested…please share