Saturday, 21 December 2019

Approaching Solstice ~ Celtic Advent Day 25

Approaching Solstice, Seabrook, Kent, 19th December 2019

'Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years."'

Genesis 1: 14

I have found myself in a wordless place over recent days and so unable to share the many half-formed thoughts that have settled into my bones and moved under my skin in the Midwinter dark. I have though been grateful for this deeply dreaming womb space in order to allow the unformed to take form, or that is what I hope.

As I write I am awaiting the moment of Winter Solstice; in the British Isles this will be at 4.19am on Sunday, 22nd December. As the day unfolds there will be a Sunday service, the fourth of Advent, and a carol service in the afternoon. I am muchly looking forward to both, but the Winter Solstice carries an older tide that must be acknowledged before the fourth candle is lit; a welcome light, kissed awake by the Midwinter sun to celebrate our successful journey through another longest night.

It has been mentioned to me several times of late that it is perhaps wrong to mix spiritual work with politics, especially in the wake of the recent UK election. Whilst I acknowledge that this is not the path for everyone and it is important not to create further division as best we can, I vehemently disagree with this position. For me the work is to mend the broken threads between the sacred and the profane until all life is re-enchanted. And politics, which takes many forms, is often the place where heart and hope come to catch a spark. Why would we want to hold Spirit separate from that? It seems to me that its wisdom is badly needed there. When I have walked with so many others in the Grenfell silent walk, or stood on a cold and rainy roundabout in Dover at the Refugees Welcome vigil, the Christ that I know is with me.

It is the same for the older, wilder festivals of our pre-Christian ancestors; our barrow makers, our henge builders. It is also often suggested that to follow these older festivals, so deeply attuned to the rhythms of the Earth, is 'superstition' and to be avoided. Again, separation is used as a tool to disempower us; politics with Spirit at its heart is less easily taken over by greed and hunger for power. Spirit with the land and the stars at its heart is less easily co-opted for the benefit of secular, dare I say, Imperial ideology. Christmas tells us that 'God so loved the world...'. Why then would we not acknowledge and celebrate evety aspect of it? We need to root back in until every bush is burning.

The journey of the Winter Solstice sun. Image: NASA
And so we come to Winter Solstice, the acknowledgement of which Sarah Sunshine Manning, citizen of the Shoshone-Paiute and Chippewa-Cree tribes, describes as a 'decolonial act'. And so it is. In this post-Industrial world, where our only worth comes from how much we produce, we are not meant to slow down, or grieve, or gather together to tell stories, or sit to share food, or rest. It just all takes too much time, time which could be more productively spent in other ways. Time itself has been colonised now and we need to take it back. We need to remember when we were able to sink into the season, into the moment, without a thought for the next. And Winter Solstice, and the longest, darkest night, are the perfect time for that. Which is why I value so deeply that, as I write this, I am listening to a single bird singing for the rebirth of the Solstice sun. It is a perfect moment; my own creativity held in a chorus of grace notes.

'S/he made the moon for the seasons. The sun knows the place of its setting.'

Psalm 104: 19

I want to end by sharing my favourite Midwinter Solstice poem; 'Approaching Solstice' by Patricia Monaghan, which never fails to make me cry.

Snow on Blackheath, 2011

Approaching Solstice, Patricia Monaghan

Yes, friends, the darkness wins, but those
short days so celebrate light:

Today the lemon sunrise lasted a few 
hours until sunset, all day the snow
glowed pink and purple in the trees.
This is not a time of black and white.

My friends, outside us. Among us, too,
let's sing what winter forces us to know;
Joy and colour bloom despite the night.
We measure warmth by love, not by degrees.

Snow on the Somerset Levels, December 2010

I wish a blessed Winter Solstice to us all.



  1. "time itself has been colonised"... that rings very true!

    i often think that truly living, perhaps choosing to make do with less in order to have more time to spend at home, is a deep act of rebellion against the soul-sucking paradigm of modern "life".

    and i should very much like to see the politics arising from a great wave of reverence for life and the earth and the natural rhythms of the world...

    happy solstice!

  2. Keep on doing what you are doing. It's all wonderful.


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