On this, the longest night of the year, I want to thank you for your support over the past year. My purpose here is to invite more serenity, vitality, depth, intuition, and ancient wisdom into my life, your life, and the lives of everyone else who is realizing there’s something more to this existence than simply existing.
I write this thank-you today because it was the winter solstice that first opened my eyes to a deeper reality than the one I was living.
I have long struggled with these short daylight hours and long, cold nights. I wrote about that here: Seasonal Depression & Autumn Magic. As I talked about in that post, the more meaning and purpose I discover, the easier it is for me to not just tolerate the darkness, but to embrace it and use it in my life the way my ancestors did.
One of the turning points for me happened a number of years ago while I was out spending some quiet time with my equine soulmate, my Norwegian Fjord Horse Charae. It was 5 pm and already dark, and it was a couple days after the Winter Solstice. As I ran my fingers through her thick winter haircoat I realized she was starting to shed. Just days earlier I was doing the same thing and barely a hair was willing to let go; now I was getting fistfuls of it. How was it that in mid-December, with the worst of the winter still to come, her shedding cycle suddenly changed? I pondered what it could be that was the ultimate trigger for such a force of nature (this horse can shed enough hair to clothe three of her hot-blooded kin!) and realized that winter solstice had just passed. That was it, that was the trigger. It was one of those moments where my mind swirled and my perspective zoomed way, way out. How does she know?! The reality is I can almost set my clock to her shedding cycle and, I realized, there were probably many other cues available in Nature to which I wasn’t paying any attention.
It was then that it really hit home for me… the calendar I was raised in, with Christmas still a couple days away, was a man-made creation that did not honour the natural rhythms of Nature. I knew that various cultures around the world followed different calendars, but which was “correct”? Who can say which one is true? My horse can.
It’s a rather silly and insignificant story for an important turning point… me standing in the dark and cold with a fistful of horse hair, but this began my journey in earnest to educate myself about the natural rhythms of the world that I had been blind to, and to figure out when and why my people lost touch.
Here are a few things you may not know about the calendar that most of the world now follows:
- It was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, replacing the Julian calendar (which had been introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC). The Gregorian calendar was originally introduced to change the date of Easter. Because the Julian calendar miscalculated the solar year, it had fallen out of sync with the seasons and Easter was moving further and further away from the spring Equinox (Nature’s calendar).
- Although September, October, November and December are the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th months of the year, the name September comes from the word “septem” which means 7, October comes from “octo” meaning 8, November from “novem” meaning 9, and December from “decem” meaning 10. This is a carryover from the Roman calendar which had 10 months total, so the names of the months reflected when they occurred in the year.
- The Gregorian calendar differs from the solar year by 26 seconds per year. So this means that our current system is still off by 26 seconds. As a result, in the years since Gregory introduced his calendar in 1582, a discrepancy of several hours has arisen. By the year 4909, the Gregorian calendar will be a full day ahead of the solar year.
As I learn about the history of our most widely accepted calendar I can’t help but envision a mess of duct tape and glue. It’s no wonder the horses, despite having been domesticated for thousands of years, will have nothing to do with it. Before all of these slightly inaccurate mathematical calculations we followed Nature’s calendar. We checked the position of the sun and the stars and we took a look at the plants and animals.
And we’ve lost something else along the way.
We’ve lost the wisdom of the ancients that taught us how to live in the winter, and in the summer. We’ve lost knowledge of the sacred masculine and sacred feminine and the way the balance of these served as a guiding light for how to be in the world. It’s no wonder that so many of us struggle with seasonal depression and feeling a little lost in the world.
With that I want to share one of my favorite blog posts: The story of the spirit of Mother Christmas. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do.
And I want to leave you with a practice or two that you might try this evening or this week, as we rest in the womb of the Winter Solstice:
Self-Care and Practices for Honoring Winter Solstice:
- Spend a little time outdoors, even though it’s cold or the weather may be poor. Get out there anyway and take a slow, reflective walk. Notice the plants and trees of the season, notice the birds and other wildlife of the season. Breathe deeply the winter air and notice the way it smells.
- Allow for quiet time and darkness. Turn off some of the artificial lights, light some candles, and allow your body to settle in to the quiet and dark of the season. Allow your melatonin production to synchronize with the shorter days. Spend some time reflecting on your year past. I like to light a small candle that will burn away all that I want to release, making room for all that I am inviting into my life for the coming year. I let it burn until finished, rather than putting it out.
- Set some intentions for the coming year. These aren’t goals exactly, they are simply intentions for who and how you would like to be this year. Maybe you’d like to spend more time connecting with people, to drop your agenda and listen, to speak your truth more often, or to express your love more openly. Whatever it is for you, hold it in your mind, heart, and body. And then allow yourself some extra rest!