WINTER SOLSTICE

It is dark and foggy outside and the air
freezes itself to your face. The full moon
hanging like a shining pearl, beams the warmth
of reflected sunshine back to earth. It looks
mysterious against the dark night sky with fog
drifting lazily past it. Yes, it is winter time in
Cape Town. Our mornings are dark, chilly,
foggy and often drizzly. This is a reminder that
another change in the seasons of the year 2011
is taking place. The golden brown leaves in the
streets are still a clear indication that we had
autumn in the not so distant past. William
Cooper writes positively about winter when he
says: ‘O Winter! … king of intimate delights,
fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness.’
In fact, midwinter is actually a time to look
forward in hope and in many religious traditions
it is considered to be a deeply spiritual time.
One of the themes most strongly associated with
the Winter Solstice across the world is the
re-emergence of light out of darkness. The
most well-known term here is the so-called Sol
Invictus or the Unconquerable Sun. A very
important theme for all ancient cultures and our
own since without the hope of the returning sun
in the deepest part of winter all life would end.
Apart from the Sol Invictus the theme of the
temporary reversal of the social hierarchy in the
depths of winter time is another interesting and
meaningful one. It is supposed to be a time
when the king and his subjects became equals
for a limited time or a time when men dressed
as women for instance. Our local ‘Kaapse
Klopse’ carnival is a good example of a festival
that runs along those kinds of themes.
So as we enter into the deep winter these
two themes are worth reflecting on. The mi-
raculous rhythm of the seasons moves from the
high point of light to the low point of darkness
and then to light again. It reminds me of a very
important affirmation during times of disturbing change: ‘This will also pass!’ or, ‘Summer is
around the corner’. Charles A. Beard says:
‘When it is dark enough you can see the stars’.
All are reflections of the belief in Sol Invictus.
Secondly, winter removes any class
distinctions we tend to attach ourselves to.
The temporary reversal of the social hierarchy
is similar to death because it reminds us that
our lives balance precariously upon death
itself and that in that very balance lies the
miracle of life itself.
The modern meditation for St. Petersburg below
adds to our year theme of building community:
The Hearth
Around the fire we friends in a group
stretch out our arms and warm our hands.
All of us take great comfort from these coals.
Beyond the window a blizzard swirls in the
night.
These snowflakes are each of them unique
like fingerprints, or souls.

And finally a very thought-provoking poem by
Charles Mungoshi from Zimbabwe:

The Trees
In their nakedness
the winter trees laugh
at our inability
to shed the clothes
of our past seasons.