William R. (Bill) Levacy is the President of the American College of Vedic Astrology™. Each quarter Bill starts off the newsletter with a message for the season.
|The winter solstice is upon us again in the Northern Hemisphere, and though the year's shortest day heralds the onset of winter it also promises the gradual return of the Sun after a prolonged period of darkness. As our sun reaches the southernmost point of its journey, this hemisphere will see its shortest day of light. At the instant when the sun begins its northward journey, the solstice will occur and every day after will be longer than the one before it until the summer solstice, when again, the light will begin to diminish.|
The term solstice means "sun stands still." On the year's two solstices (winter and summer) the sun appears to halt in its incremental journey across the sky and change little in position during this time. Of course, contrary to appearances from Earth, the Sun's "changing position" throughout the year is actually caused by the rotation of the Earth on its tilted axis as it circles the sun each year. The earliest sky watchers knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress. In India, and in many other cultures, some temples were built facing towards the direction of the winter solstice in order to measure the start of a new solar cycle.
The regenerative cycle of the Sun, its birth, death and rebirth, is a basis for many of the world's most fundamental mythological beliefs. In astro-mythology, the winter solstice is representative of the old solar year expiring and being reborn as the infant solar year. Most all ancient cultures have myths and legends generated by the winter solstice. These “stories” are one of the main ways that early societies recognized and celebrated the sacred celestial events in the yearly cycle of life.
In the northern latitudes, the solstice or midwinter's day has historically been an important time for festivals. These winter celebrations included rituals of light, fire, and heat. These seasonal events helped beat back the dark gloom of winter and reminded the populace that brighter days were just ahead. On this shortest day of the year, the sun is at its lowest and “weakest.” While the Sun is expiring, it becomes a hopeful pivot point from which the light of life will begin to grow stronger and brighter. This is the turning point of the year.