art by Wendy Andrews

For millenia, the December solstice has been celebrated in the northern hemisphere as the time of the return of the Sun. Called Yule in the Celtic lands and Shab-e-Yalda by Persians, among others, the return of the Sun was worshiped as a god -in the Celtic lands the Oak King was the resurrected god, and in Persia it was Yalda, or Mithras.  In Rome the celebrations of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th, and while only the Sol Invictus was connected to the Sun god, it’s clear that these celebrations honored the return of the Sun.  In fact the word “solstice” comes from the Latin word for Sun (sol) and sistere (to stand still) – at the Solstice the apparent motion of the Sun literally stands still and then, out of darkness, new light is born.  At the Winter Solstice, the Sun emerges victorious over darkness.

The solstices celebrate the waxing and waning of the year – just as in the lunar cycle we celebrate the New and Full Moons, in the solar cycle we celebrate the shortest day as the return of the Sun and the beginning of the new year.  The culmination of the solar cycle is at the opposite solstice, with the quarter points of the equinoxes, when light and dark are in balance, are equivalent to the waxing and waning squares, similar to the waxing and waning squares of the lunar cycle.  Honoring both the solar and lunar cycles helps to keep us in touch with the cycles of nature even in today’s world in which we are so disconnected from the natural world.  These cycles of nature can serve as an alchemical process of personal transformation, just as we follow the cycles of the planets as they unfold to bring experiences of knowledge and wisdom into our lives.
Astrologically, the December solstice point corresponds to the ingress, or entry, of the Sun into Capricorn at 11:19 pm (EST) on December 21st this year (2019).   In the Northern hemisphere, this is a time of darkness and stillness.  Winter is not over when the Sun emerges, there are still several months of cold and turning inward.  For some, the dark winter days can lead to depression even though the days are getting longer.  But during this time we can begin to plant the seeds of self-awareness and plow the fertile soil of our subconscious in order to enrich our lives during the next phase of light – the waxing of the power of the Sun. 
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