What comes with the solstice, the last and deepest dip of the sun, Midwinter here in the Northern Hemisphere?
The first last and deepest is answer is darkness, darkness, darkness.
In some parts of North America, the continent where I live, it means bright sun on very short, very cold days; cloud-packed skies where it rains for weeks; land resting from the heat of summer; snow and ice, sleet and the delights of “wintry mix;” lake effect snow piled feet high; and barren, sere land.
But it’s darkness, relative to the rest of the year, that solstice really brings.
So what does darkness bring?
Darkness is the cave, the (literal) foxhole, the place of hibernation. And
how many of us want to hibernate at this time of year? I find myself going
to bed earlier and earlier until I wonder whether I’ve become a toddler in my middle age!
Darkness is the closed eye. The sleeping eye. The eye of the kiss, of wanting to feel only the beloved’s lips and skin, and so dropping your eyelids to rest on your cheek. And maybe, though, I don’t know, Darkness is what comes with the loss of sight.
Darkness is the monster under the bed. The tentacle under the open-riser stairs leading to your grandmother’s cellar. Darkness is where are Shadow lives, that part of ourselves we least want to encounter, the part of us that temple guardians around the world confront.
Darkness is so often something we try to keep at bay. First with fire, then with candles and lamps and electric lights.
And Darkness is what lives in the deep places of the world. A friend of mine just said it made her think of Dragons and Balrogs, the creations of J.R.R. Tolkien. But it’s also soil microbes and worms and bugs in the deep Earth that keeps us alive. And it’s the deep, dark places of the sea, some of which we have never plumbed, places no human has been. Some we know, and some still shrouded in the mystery of Ocean.
Darkness at solstice, though, is about embrace. It is about the close and holy Darkness of the turning Wheel. It is about being together. It is more like the Darkness of the sweat lodge and less about the Darkness of the terrors of childhood.
Or perhaps it’s both.
Perhaps it’s a time we can make space for us to safely confront our griefs, the actions and inclinations of our Shadows, our losses over the last year. Perhaps the solstice is a time of welcome to one another. We can share one another’s warm. We can share one another’s light. We can hold hands and huddle under blankets.
“In the bleak Midwinter,” Christina Rosetti wrote, and the carol rings, “frosty wind made moan. / Earth stood hard as iron, / water like a stone.”
If these are the conditions in which we find our hearts and souls, then perhaps we can reach out and find someone reaching back for you.
And if we’re lucky, we can look up and see the North Star, or a star for our very own.
-Blessings of the deepening dark to you-