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Winter Solstice

December 23, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's post.

We have just passed the 2016 Winter Solstice. The longest night and coldest temperatures often derive strong images of sadness or death. These are the days of greatest darkness, and yet, for all the dark, we also find hope for the coming of the light. Small cycles often represent much larger cycles, more difficult to coherently map out.

The larger picture includes, among other things, the summer solstice. These two, winter and summer, create a yin/yang balance of light and dark. In most literatures and philosophies, the one is framed by the other. About ten years ago, I found myself in Ecuador, participating in the dances of Inti Raymi. June in Ecuador is part of winter, which brings heavy rains and shorter days. Before the dance, I learned about the concept “tinkuy”, which signifies the coming together of two things. It grants one the ability to hold two opposing things in simultaneous balance. Even the name, Inti Raymi, celebrates the sun during a time of little sun. Summer and winter solstices represent something like a duality, or a yin/yang relationship. They are not oppositional in the sense of opposites, but really, more like a cycle. Dancing with a circular step down dirt streets, singing songs and wearing the colorful dress of Inti Raymi reminds us that it is about being present. This dance represents the continuum of life, in which the darkness is just as necessary as the light.

Many cultures focus on the changing of the light. For these reasons too, solstices often find themselves in literature. I love this stanza from Timothy Steele's “Toward the Winter Solstice”. It develops the ideas of so many civilizations and groups simultaneously, almost as if a performance of tinkuy.

 

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. - Timothy Steele, “Toward the Winter Solstice”

Enjoy your holiday and all the hope that it implies.


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