On December 21st at 7:58 AM (if you are in the Pacific time zone), the northern most tip of the earth will be tilted far away from the sun. That is the exact moment of the winter Solstice. But for most of us poor humans who don’t have a celestial vantage point, the Solstice isn’t just a moment. It is five days. Our senses and vantage point aren’t sensitive enough to see the rotation or the tilt of the earth change. For us, beginning December 19th the length of the day seems to be exactly the same until December 23th when it is just a little bit longer. It takes us five days to feel and know that the day will once again grow in length and spring will come.
On December 18th in this year of the Common Era 2021, daylight will be visible for 9 hours, 33 minutes, and 10 seconds. It will grow shorter by a full 14 seconds over the next two days. The careful observation and carefully constructed observatories of the ancient ones in New Grange Ireland and Chichen Itza Mexico only see that the length of the day is standing still. For the ancients, as for us, the five days from the 19th to 23rd are days of mystery. Will the days grow longer? Will we be forever in short days of light and long nights of darkness?
This mystery is the source of countless tales and stories. From the Greeks we get the story of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, the Goddess of agriculture and grains, turned her face from the earth when her dearest child, Persephone, was taken to the underworld by Hades. The dark remained until all creation and all of the Gods begged Hades to return Persephone to the surface of the earth to enjoy the sunshine and her mother’s love and he relented. And Raven, too, has many stories about bringing the sun and fire to earth. For Christians, what better day to celebrate the birth of the Jesus? December 24th is the eve of hope. It is the day when we know for certain the next day will be longer and spring is on the way.
These five days of mystery are days that we Fools are marking with extra attention and intention. We invite you to join us. This year we are contemplating different experiences of this mystery. First, we will contemplate the pause and the darkness. Then, having paused, we will take a moment to remember to look around and pay attention to the moment. On the 21st, we will remember what it is to celebrate the light. As the days of the Solstice proceed, we will complete our contemplation with a day of reflection followed by a day of intention.
We welcome you to these days of Solstice, days to savor what light there is and to celebrate our common humanity.