Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, and my current intention is to  celebrate the sunrise in the morning at some hilly or nature friendly locality, unless the weather is especially bad. After all if you can't see the sun, there is driving rain, a whiteout of fog, a foot of snow (last year), the temperature is many degrees sub-zero...I have no urge to masochism.   I don't 'worship' nature or abase myself before it to propitiate it by suffering. Okay, so I lack commitment....
It seems generally accepted now that ancient peoples (though probably not the iron age culture called 'Celts' who actually had a druid priesthood) greatly celebrated the winter solistice, which was more religiously significant than the summer solstice. For at the winter solstice, in the depths of cold and darkness the sun is 're-born' and hope for the future (for those who understand their  physical dependance on the sun) is renewed. The sun is, even in  modern scientific terms, a very natural 'supreme being' the bringer and preserver of life (and sometimes death), the source of most of the earth's physical (e.g. atmospheric and marine) energy and bio-chemical energy, which gives natural processes their 'vitality' and 'creativity' (what I tend to term ' natural spirit').
I don't immediately in my modern reality sense my physical dependance upon the sun: i  live with electrical power and central heating. Emotionally though I, for one, find the 'light' to be  extremely conducive to 'good mood' and a lack of the latter (and of fresh air in general) literally depresses me. Whether there really is such a thing as 'Seasonally affected Disorder' my mood is, I am sure, affected by the seasons. If one thing attracts me to paganism above all else, it is the celebration of the 'Wheel of the  Year' and marking the change of seasons. I have found this recognition of the changing rhythms psychologically beneficial, enlightening and fun at the very least.
So what will I do tomorrow? okay, well I will go up a hill that if possible allows an interrupted view of the sunrise or at least 'lightening' in the right general direction, cloud permitting, Then I might sit quietly or do a little jigly hands raised thing (depending on whether I might have an obvious audience or not). I will probably chant some 'awens' as the sunrise develops and finish by whispering gratitude and thanksgiving to the great ruler of the sky, the sun, though I know very well the sun is not a person/mind/god. I might offer some mead to the earth, though I also doubt there are any faery folk or elementals to enjoy it.  I probably won't do much else in the OBODian pattern as I am increasingly sure you can't make those rituals fit a naturalistic mould. Anyway such 'druid' rituals are not 'ancient' and I would be surprised if they pre-date 1980.  A ritual for today has to be a ritual of  today, and I don't accept the reconstructionist nonsense that one has to show some lineage of  religious practice. If it works (for you) do it, if it doesn't, don't.
One element I would like to bring into these rituals would be to sound at the moment when the sun breaks the horizon some kind of  ancient 'horn' (like the jewish shofar made from a ram's horn). I keep meaning to buy one, and if i do it will probably be a  modern version of a shofar as I haven't seen such at druid-supermarket recently (come on you merchandisers of pagan tat!) Though I am not going to have that element in my ritual tomorrow, I can relate a slightly 'spooky' experience of  hearing such a traditional 'horn'. This was about 2005 or 1 B.K. (before kids) the mrs and I were watching the sunrise at  winter solstice at the local  hillfort ( the Gaer, in wester Newport, an open space called locally the Gollars). As the sun rose we could see for miles along the Severn Estuary and behind us, to the North  mostly open countryside, the ancient village of Bassaleg, and in the distance the imposing hills of the entrance to the Ebbw and Sirhowy Valleys: Twmbarlwm and Mynydd Machen on either side the valley mouth. Drifting on the wind we both heard the low deep sound of such a horn for a good few seconds. It wasn't coming from the immediate hill fort or at least it seemed 'far away' in space (or? time?). Of course it was probably another neo-pagan hippy type with a horn doing their own ritual, but I still have no idea who this could have been (and I know perhaps half a dozen card carrying pagans in the locality). Still natural or preternatural the sound of the horn at the 'right' moment was impressively memorable.

1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting how this singular sensory deprevation, that is the the result of less light, affects people as it does. I suppose it backs up the notion of how much we are a visual culture now, however, reduction in light logically, gives us opportunity to use the other senses more. Except, IMO, we have lost that ability. If there was a period in the year where we lost a good deal of our sense of smell for example, do you think it would affect people as much as the loss of light does? (And yes, I'm aware of the reduction of vitamin D production associated with this time of the year, especially as I'm now living in Scotland and the occurance of rickets is higher here and is being associated with this light deprivation and the resultant decrease of vitamin D.)