“The rising of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.”
Winter Solstice 2014 carries a layer of enigma: it occurs at 23.04 on 21st December 2014, just before the New Moon at 0 degrees 06 minutes of Capricorn on 22nd December at 01.37. (UK time)
This year’s Solstice thus takes place at the very end of Moondark, the hidden 2-3 day period each month when the fragile, waning crescent Moon dies into the darkness from which the next New Moon is born.
Moondark in ancient times was a time of retreat, of reflection. People avoided travel at those times since there was no light to guide their footsteps, making the nighttime world even more dangerous than usual.
This seems to be appropriate to the atmosphere world-wide as a particularly grim year comes to an end amid a welter of extremist violence, with especial reference to the ‘massacre of the innocents’ which took place in Peshawar, Pakistan only this week.
Perhaps this Moondark New Moon in the solemn sign of Capricorn symbolises a world-wide invitation to contemplation and retreat as the year turns: to reflect on where we are as a human community, and how we can find ways, somehow, to live more peacefully with one another regardless of race, culture or creed…
In the meantime, we humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, need light and celebration to lift our spirits, no matter how much bleak world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down. At last year’s Winter Solstice, I published a wonderful poem by Susan Cooper which depicts the history and expression of this need with vivid beauty. Many of my readers have requested me to publish it again this year.
Enjoy the Solstice!
THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER
So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page
12 thoughts on “New Moon on the Winter Solstice”
Thank you, Anne, for this wonderful Solstice post. Susan Cooper’s poem will be shared at an open mic this afternoon, of course, giving her due credit.
Many thanks, Leslie – delighted to hear that the poem is getting some more exposure since it really deserves to be widely read.
My husband mused today, “darkest day of the year, and you were born.” Ouch! I’ve always hated my birthday. The only light is that my fav Gran was born on the 20th & she always said I was her birthday present. I am her age now, the year I was born. Must mean something.
For Ellis: Many believe the Winter Solstice is the true New Year.
“Winter Solstice is the day when light is reborn out of the darkness of winter. Our days start to become longer and lead us back to the beauty of spring and the warmth of summer, stretching towards their peak at the Summer Solstice.
“Most ancient cultures celebrated this return of light and life with feasting, music, light and fire, and for many, it was the true beginning of the New Year.” ~ Molly Larkin
Leslie, thank you so much for this message for Ellis, which like my own response to her, celebrates the light which inevitably emerges from the Dark…
Thanks, Leslie. It is a nice way to view it!
Well, Ellis, I was born on the last hours of Moondark, with both my Sun and Moon in Leo in the Twelfth House which concerns all that lies beyond this world. One of the gifts of Darkness – which we were both born into in different ways – is that our natures and our spirit take us deep, deep where other folk cannot go, or fear going….there are great riches to be mined there, and from what I know of you through your writing and your ‘feel’ you have both mined those riches, and shared them. Surely that is something to value?
Sisters born in darkness, always seeking the light. Maybe that is the root of the search.
What a wonderful reminder of the call to go within, bid by every Winter Solstice, but this one especially. I love the Susan Cooper poem and have used it in winter solstice ceremonies for years. I can never see it or hear it often enough. Happy Yule with warm thanks for all you do to bring light to our world, especially for those of us who see our interconnection in the stars. Blessings, Anne!
And blessing to you, too, Joyce, with thanks for visiting on this highly – charged day. Glad you too know about and share Susan Cooper’s wonderful poem.
So strange, I told a friend, that this year the Solstice hasn’t touched my imagination as it usually does. I suspect a too-deep immersion in the sad realities of life in this country just now: distressing, and also distracting. There is a bit of rage inside at the stupidity and cupidity of the leaders of our country, which I have to expend a good bit of energy to keep out of my posts, and there’s no question that is playing a role.
So, perhaps this year, the fact of Solstice and the turning of the world needs to be enough. Susan’s poem is a wonderful way to start reclaiming the mystery and beauty of this time.
Many thanks, Linda, for calling by on this powerful day. Yes, the poem reminds us of the ancient lineage of our relationship with those intertwined powers of Light and Dark. I’m away now to perform our Winter Solstice ritual: we toast the tree in whisky, sprinkle some drops on it – and I read Susan Cooper’s poem aloud. It feels fitting to do this…