Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter solstice 2015

Image: Goddess Isis (link); Background Milky Way Galaxy (link).

The earth has just hurtled past the point of December solstice, where the axis of the north pole is pointed most directly away from the sun, bringing us to the point (in the northern hemisphere) at which nights are longest, darkness triumphs most completely over daylight, and the sun rises furthest to the south and travels across the sky along the lowest arcs above the southern horizon that it will make all year long.

It is the point around which the entire wheel turns: the progress of ever-increasing darkness is replaced by ever-increasing light, as days grow steadily longer and longer, and the sun's rising point marches steadily further towards the north, and the sun's arc gets higher and higher above the southern horizon, causing the sun's rays to strike the earth more and more "from above" rather than "from the side" as the sun's path rises higher and higher on its way towards the June solstice and the top of the year.

In the great cyclical metaphor which informs all the world's ancient mythologies, and which was discussed using an important extended quotation from an essay by Alvin Boyd Kuhn from 1936 in this recent post, we saw that this lowest point in the year was equated in the spiritual metaphor with the "lowest point" of our incarnation: having been thrown down into a physical human body, and having temporarily forgotten all about the spiritual side of our nature and lost contact with the invisible realm which extends through and behind every single aspect of our apparently physical universe, we at some point begin to experience an awakening to the spirit, and to reconnect with our Higher Self or our True Self, even while we are here in this incarnate life.

The map of the year discussed in that post can be seen in the zodiac wheel diagrams shown in many previous discussions:

In this diagram, the point of winter solstice is located at the very bottom of the wheel, between the symbols of Sagittarius (partly covered by the yellow rectangle labeling the "Vertical Column" of the great "cross of the year") and Capricorn (just to the left of the lowest point on that vertical bar of the cross).  It is at this point that days cease growing shorter and begin to grow longer again. The hours of daylight are still shorter than the hours of night, but the hours of daylight at least are getting longer again (prior to that point of winter solstice, the hours of day were shorter than the hours of night, and what's more, they kept getting shorter and shorter as we approached the bottom of the wheel).

Continuing around the circle in a clockwise direction brings us to the point of spring equinox (when days again begin to be longer than nights). This "crossing point" is marked with a red letter "X" and a horizontal line. The horizontal line separates the "lower" half of the year (in which nights rule over days) from the "upper" half (when the hours of daylight finally become longer than darkness again, for half the year). This horizontal bar on the great cross falls between Pisces and Aries on the wheel (at the nine o'clock position, if the circle were a clock), which indicates that this particular diagram is showing the zodiac signs as set in the Age of Aries (the reason for this can be a discussion for another day).

Continuing further, the wheel reaches its highest point, the top of the vertical bar of the cross, at the summer solstice. At that point the days begin to shorten again. The hours of light will still be longer than those of night, but they will be growing shorter each day, until the next "crossing point" is reached: the autumnal or fall equinox, at the right side of the wheel (the three o'clock position, if it were a clock face).

This great circle, with its cross formed by the horizontal bar of the equinoxes and the vertical bar running from the low-point of winter solstice up to the high-point of summer solstice, can be seen in many crosses to this day:

Original image: Wikimedia commons (link); modified in this picture and the one below.

The horizontal bar of the cross represents the fact (and the act) of our being "cast down" into an incarnate body: into an animal form (like the animals that go around in a horizontal position). But the vertical bar represents the raising of everything that is not physical, the beginning of the connection with the Higher Self and the spiritual realm, and the increasing integration of this connection into our lives.

We have just passed that lowest point, the point of winter solstice -- and the message that this special day conveys to us each year is to remember that we are spiritual beings, to remember that those around us are also, and to work to see and treat them as such, rather than "objectifying" them, which means to see them and treat them as "objects," physical lumps only, tools to be manipulated or commodities to be exploited.

Raising up and calling forth the invisible and the spiritual is the very definition of blessing. Beating down and denying the spiritual, brutalizing others and making them feel as if they are only physical objects, is the definition of cursing. The greeting Namaste and the hands-together gesture that goes with the word "Amen" (a version of the name of Amun, the hidden god) expresses the idea of blessing: acknowledging and recognizing the divine spark in oneself and others, and reminding ourselves and others that this is a true fact of who we really are.

We have just passed the point of winter solstice: the point which symbolizes the end of the downward plunge into forgetfulness of who we are, and the turn back upwards. Thus, it is very appropriate at this point in the year to think about becoming someone who blesses instead of curses, in everything that we do (whether our blessing or cursing is done through words or through other methods).

This point on the great annual cross (see the "You are here" image added to the diagram above) is the point at which we should concentrate most on the idea of "raising the Djed column," in the symbology used in the ancient wisdom of Egypt (the Djed symbology is discussed in numerous previous posts such as here and here, and in several videos as well such as here and here).  

In the symbology described in the vision of the Lakota holy man Black Elk, the same concept was described as following the "good red road" (corresponding to the vertical bar on the great wheel, and to the Djed column raised up to connect with the spirit world and integrate the invisible and visible realms) rather than the "black road" on which everyone is biting and devouring one another and living for themselves.

At the point of winter solstice, we can contemplate which road we are following in our words and actions, and we can have hope that -- at this turning point in the great wheel of the year -- we too can change course to the good road.

It is something we would probably do well to contemplate not only on an individual level but also on a societal level -- asking ourselves to what extent the present economic and political structures are built upon a vision of cursing instead of blessing: of seeing the world, and other human beings and living creatures in it, as an object or objects to be conquered, devoured, consumed, turned into a commodity. 

In ancient Egypt, the recovery of the lost god Osiris -- the god who was slain: cast down, sealed in a casket, laid out horizontally -- is effected by the goddess Isis, who tirelessly pursues her beloved Osiris and finally finds him, recovers the casket containing his body, and brings him back to life. She raises the Djed column again.

Below, the goddess is shown receiving the Djed column representing Osiris in the casket, around which a tree has grown and which has been used as a pillar in the palace of the King of Byblos:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Interestingly enough, in the vision of Black Elk, a divine female figure also plays a prominent role: White Buffalo Woman, who is described in his vision at the very beginning, and who in many ways is the one who begins his vision and sends him on his path.

This is another point to contemplate deeply at the point of winter solstice, because in our current culture, which is badly disconnected from the ancient wisdom and as such seeks to turn everything and everyone into a commodity or an object (a form of spirit-denial and thus of cursing), women are very frequently and regularly "objectified," economically, socially, and in many other ways. 

And yet it should be intuitively obvious that the very concept of "birth" and "re-birth" are absolutely dependent upon women and belong most properly to women (physically of course but also spiritually), and that ultimately any real aspect of healthy "growth" and "blessing" must begin with the recognition of their spiritual value and worth, and seek to bless and not to curse and objectify and debase them (as literalist misinterpretations of the ancient wisdom have done for centuries and continue to do in many cases, and as many aspects of modern society can also be shown to do, worldwide).

The point of winter solstice, then, is one of the most significant points of the entire year. It gives us much to meditate on and to contemplate. Ultimately, its message should be tremendously encouraging and uplifting: it is the point of turning from the downward path to the "good road," the point where the "cast down Djed" begins to be raised back up, the point when we begin to see that we are more than a human animal in a dog-eat-dog world and that we actually have an inner connection to the infinite realm, that we and everyone around us and in fact every aspect of our physical universe has an inner divine nature as well as a material nature.