Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Solstice today!

As I mentioned yesterday, Winter Solstice is an important day in many cultures around the world. Some regions of the world have been celebrating Solstices and Equinoxes before European culture was even a concept, let alone Western Civilization - and there is evidence that the mathematics involved in accurately calculating these dates were in use in cultures that were previously considered too primitive to have access to such stuff.

Don't worry folks, I am not about to espouse lizard people and alien culture theories. The continuing-to-be-revealed truths about human cultures are fascinating enough without conspiracy theories tossed in. That's what I love about archeology and anthropology - they keep turning our concept of the world and our human history on its ear.



So the shortest day and the longest night of the yearly cycle - what does this mean in simpler terms? Simply put, the days will now grow longer and the nights shorter until Summer Solstice 2012.

This day and time of the year was significant in shitloads of communities and cultures around the world. I am going to focus on only a few today, as the information is all out there for you to find for yourself if it stirs your interest.

While most of us eventually want it to end, winter has much beauty to offer us.
And its easy enough to stay warm in winter if you have the right kind of fur...
Signifying the midwinter - the point of deepest coldest winter -Solstice was/is observed in European, Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Macedonian, Inca, Mayan, Celtic, Nordic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese traditions - to name some of the major ones...


Interestingly, the winter Solstice is associated with the Boar and/or Sow in many of these cultures, a fun fact considering the vast geographical distances between them.


Just for example, why would Norse and Egyptian peoples both happen to both revere and sacrifice a pig at midwinter? It could be simply because of the obvious fecundity of pigs, they are serious breeders and signs of fertility so offering one or more to the gods might bring on a fruitful spring. This pig/sow/boar connection though runs through many cultures - Greek, Egyptian, Norse, Celtic, Chinese - there are plenty more if you look for it. Scholars have been pondering this for ages.


My personal favorite pig reference is the Great Sow. The Great Sow incorporates another darker meaning and significance of the pig - the devourer of souls, the gate keeper of the underworld, the dangerous hunter of man (yes wild boars and even domesticated pigs are quite dangerous to humans look it up).


There is one particular myth that I heard as a child that resonated with me, not that I am literally scared of such things, I am after all a man of many modern beliefs, but the story and the way it was told was chilling and fun to a child.

On midwinter night, the longest and darkest night of the year, the Great Sow wanders the earth searching for wicked people to devour and take back to the underworld with her. She is what you hear in the dark and fear when the lights are out. To keep her away, you must keep a light burning all night long - not an electrical light, as she is primitive and knows not of modern things, but a flame - a log or a candle - which is only one of the reasons we burn Yule logs on midwinter.



There are plenty of other fun and fantastical myths and stories around midwinter - reasons why the Christian church adopted midwinter as the celebration of their Christ's birth - I will go into a little more of that on Christmas Day itself, as well as look at Isis, Osiris and Horus. It should be fun :P

For now, I will go back and put another log on the fire and make sure my candle supply is ready. I am not gonna risk that my modern man beliefs might be wrong. 35+ years of burning a candle or a yule log haven't gone wrong yet...I may be wicked but I haven't been eaten by a giant sow just yet...lol.

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