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Barbara Ardinger

Through the Darkness:
A Midwinter Night's Dream

by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

The sun is setting early tonight, and the holiday lights sparkle through the darkness. We can see the stars beginning to twinkle above us, and the moon is rising. All though this long night, we and the moon and the stars call out to our mother sun to come back to her children.

Goddess Meditations by Barbara Ardinger

From time out of mind, tonight is the year’s darkest night. From time out of mind, tomorrow is the light’s rebirth. This is the winter solstice, and the sun stands still tonight. Before there were sun gods, there were goddesses of the sun—Amaterasu in Japan, Anahita in old Persia, Bast and Hathor and Sekhmet in Egypt, Bisal-Mariamna in India, Dia Griene in Scotland, the Cherokee Kanene Ski Amai Yehi, Keca Aba in Russia, Paivatar in Finland, Saule and her daughter Saules-Meta in the Baltic lands, Shamsu in Arabia, Rosmerta and Sulis in Britain, Xatel-Ekwa in Hungary.1

Tonight, the sun stands still. She is resting in her journey around our little world. She stands still in the darkness, and is she resting before her labors begin again, before her birthday? She stands in the year’s dark night, and is she dreaming through the darkness? What are her dreams as she stands still, watching through the darkness?

Sun   Sun   Sun

For millennia before the birth of a certain Jewish baby, people celebrated a more vital birth on December 21 or 22. As they took in their harvests, they watched the days growing shorter, the nights growing longer, the sun seeming to become weaker. Without our modern conveniences, without our modern calendars, they knew that the waning of the year and the moon and their own lives led inevitably to a rebirth and a waxing. It all went around. Everything would be reborn. From before the memories of the eldest grandmothers, light had followed darkness, rebirth had followed death. That’s why they painted the bones of the dead with red ochre. It symbolized blood, our mother’s blood as she labors and brings us back into the world.

Although that famous Jewish baby was probably born in March or April, for about 350 years his birth was celebrated on January 6. About 450 C.E., the date of Jesus’ birth was moved to December 25 to bring it closer to the solstice. He thus shares the birthday of a dozen or more solar gods—Aeon, Attis, Baldur, Chango, Dionysus, Frey, Helios, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl, Tammuz, and others. The Romans called this festival Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, the Day of the Birth of the Unconquerable Sun.

The sun goddesses were, alas, eclipsed, overshadowed, conquered, overtaken, put away in dusty old books. They were left in the shadows by their brighter, fiercer sons.

And so the sun stands still on this night. What are her dreams tonight?

Sun   Sun   Sun

December is a month of dark magic. Oh, no—do not think of the so-called "black magic" of puny and egotistical men. True dark magic is noumenal in that it engages the intellect, luminous in that it contains the hidden light, ominous in that it reveals omens of our future, good or bad. Don’t think of foolish black magic. Think instead of the eternal dance of light and dark, and know that as the seed needs the darkness of winter’s black soil to rest and germinate, so humankind needs this month of dark nights to rest and gather strength for the labors of springtime.

Practicing the Presence of the Goddess by Barbara Ardinger

December was originally the tenth month of the Roman calendar. It became the twelfth month when Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, thrust two new months—which he named after his step-father and himself—into the middle of the year. Because December holds so many holy days, the western European Franks (after whom France was later named) called this month Heilagmanoth, or "holy month." The Celtic tree month of Ruis (elder or myrtle) runs from about November 25 to December 22, when it yields to December 23, the intercalary day, the day out of time, the "day" of "a year and a day." On December 24, the month of Beth begins, Beth signifying birch, a tree especially sacred to our Great Mother, She who knows all endings and all beginnings. There is also a goddess calendar in which the month of Astraea runs until December 25. Astraea, youngest daughter of Themis, is a goddess of justice who, when mankind became too evil, fled from the earth. Some say that she still lives among the Pleiades.

Here is a list of the holy days of this dark month. These are the days of the goddesses of light.

  • December 3 – Roman festival of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess.
  • December 4 – Saint Barbara, matron of storms, also known to the Basque peoples as the Lady of Amboto. We pray to her for protection against lightning.
  • December 8 – Sacred to Astraea. Let us pray for justice on the earth today. Let us call out to Astraea to return to our weary planet. This day is also sacred to Isis, whose titles and epithets were given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the Persian Anahita, who wore golden earrings, a golden necklace, a golden mantle, and a golden crown with hundreds of stars shining down from it.
  • December 9 – Sacred to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Aztec Tonantzin, who became the patron saint of all Mexico in 1737, the Empress of all the Americas in 1945, and who was canonized in 2002. (Does a goddess need to be elevated by a pope?)
  • December 10 – French festival of Liberté. Her statue stands in New York harbor, where she holds her great torch to shine upon the world. Her festival was originally Roman: Lux Mundi, which means "light of the world."
  • December 13 – Lucy’s Day. Lucy is the family’s youngest daughter, the virgin who wears the crown of candles. Santa Lucia was originally Juno Lucina, and here we are again, celebrating the Lady of the light that shines in the darkness.
  • December 15 – The first of the Halcyon Days. Alcyone was a Greek goddess whose bird was the kingfisher. For the seven days before and after the winter solstice, the seas were smooth and peaceful so that Alcyone’s birds could hatch their eggs.
  • December 16 – Honors the Gnostic goddess, Sophia. She is not simply a goddess of wisdom, however; She is Holy Wisdom. She was present at the creation and, even though Her holy temple in Istanbul has been a mosque for over a thousand years, She is with us until the end of days.
  • December 18 or 19 – Roman Saturnalia, whose first days honor Ops, wife of that good old god of the golden age. Ops, from whom we get our modern English word "opulence," shared the temple on the Capitol with her consort and smiled down upon the Romans as they celebrated their seven-day Saturnalia with banquets, gifts, decorated trees, freedom, and topsy-turviness in all things.
  • December 20 - In the forests of northern Europe, they called the night before the rebirth of the sun Madranicht, Night of the Mothers. Dreams on this night were said to foretell the coming year.
  • December 21 – The solstice is the "womb of Isis." This day is also sacred to Amalthea, the nymph who fed goat’s milk to Jupiter. One of the horns of this generous goat broke off and became the starry cornucopia, from which nectar and ambrosia were said to flow. The Greeks also recognized Nyx and Hemera on this day—Night and Day, whom Hesiod described as nodding cordially to each other as one passes out of the house of Night and the other passes into the house.
  • December 22 – Sacred to Persephone, the beloved daughter who went down into the shadowy lands beneath the earth to bless the shades of the dead and became their queen. The Celts said that Rhiannon, another virgin mother, was always reborn with the winter solstice.
  • December 23 – The only blank day in the Celtic tree calendar, this day was also the Roman festival of Acca Larentis. An earth goddess, She was the mother of the Lares, or house gods.
  • December 24 – When Pope Leo the Great moved the birthday of Jesus to December 25—Christes Maesse—the Night of the Mothers was moved to Christmas Eve. Inscriptions honoring Deas Matrones, The Mothers, survive from Roman times in Germany, Holland, and Britain, and it is believed that the Mothers were worshipped by both Celts and Germans as they prayed for fertility and protection of hearth and home. The old Persian goddess, Atargatis, was the mother of Mithra, the Unconquerable Sun. This was the last day of the month of Astraea.
  • December 26 – The month of Hestia, goddess of the house, begins. Hestia is the oldest of the Olympians and was never given a human face; her image is the hearth flame that provided light, warmth, and the cooking fire. (Although Vesta has been conflated with Hestia, these goddesses are not the same.)
  • December 27 – Sacred to Nut, the Egyptian goddess whose starry body stretches above the earth to give us the light of the sun, moon, and stars, which are contained in Her body.
  • December 28 – Sacred among the Greeks to the Horae, goddesses of time. They gave their name to our word "hour" and they represent both the hours of the day and the seasons of the year.
  • December 29 – On this day, Hathor gave birth to the sun god, Ra, in his form as a scarab beetle.
  • December 30 – Another day of honor to Isis, who is possibly the longest-worshipped goddess in the world, from at least the fourth century, B.C.E. until modern times. Her hieroglyph is the throne, for the pharaohs of Egypt were said to live in Her lap (as modern women also live in the lap of the Goddess). Her last temple in Alexandria was torn down in 391 C.E. and last pre-modern Isian festival was held in 416. In 1976, Lady Olivia Robertson and her brother, the late Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, Lord Strathloch, and his wife, founded the Fellowship of Isis. Thus is the Great Creatix once more honored and worshipped around the world.
  • December 31 – In Egypt, the day of Nephthys, goddess of the house, and Sekhmet, goddess of time. As New Years Eve, this is the night that turns into the first morning of the new year, and next month is named after that old two-faced Roman god, Janus. Before Janus, however, came Cardea, an oak goddess who stood upon the hinge of the year and looked both forward and backward. Her daughters were Postvorta and Antevorta. Their Latin names come from post, meaning "after," ante, meaning "before," and vertere, the verb that means "to turn." Divination on December 31 can show us what in our past becomes our present and looks toward our future.

Sun   Sun   Sun

Beginning with the fall equinox, the year’s great day tips over into night. As the days grow shorter and the nights lengthen, bears and other animals seek their dens to begin their period of hibernation.

Perhaps we, too, would rather rest, would rather not do all that shopping, not go to all those parties. Perhaps we, too, would rather sleep the winter away. And what do we do when we sleep? We dream, and if the Goddess should speak to us, we find Her magic. We dream in the dark, germinating like seeds to spring into life when the light comes back. We dream through the dark to find our own light, our own soul’s sweet treasure. We dream through the dark to find our midwinter night’s dream of light and rebirth and the rebirth of the light.

And as we awaken with the new-born sun, who has been dreaming her own dreams through this dark night, let us sing a new version of an old familiar carol:

Joy to the world,
The light is born.
Let earth begin to sing.
Let every heart
Rejoice in the light.
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and earth and nature sing!

I send you my dreams of a blessed and happy solstice night. Let your new light shine!

© Copyright Barbara Ardinger 2002. All Rights Reserved.

1 In addition to the famous Man in the Moon, there were, indeed, gods of the moon. One of the most famous was Sin, who gave his name to that famous mountain upon which stood a burning bush—Sinai.


  • Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., Goddess Meditations (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1998).
  • Peter Bogdanovich, ed., A Year and a Day Engagement Calendar, 1993, Adapted from the works of Robert Graves (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1993).
  • Cooper, J.C. The Aquarian Dictionary of Festivals (Wellingborough, U.K.: Aquarian Press, 1990).
  • Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, The Year of the Goddess: A Perpetual Calender [sic.]of Festivals (Wellingborough, U.K.: Aquarian Press, 1990).
  • Diana Ferguson, The Magickal Year: A Pagan Perspective on the Natural World (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1998).
  • Nigel Pennick, The Pagan Book of Days: A Guide to the Festivals, Traditions, and Sacred Days of the Year (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1992).

Barbara Ardinger
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D., (www.barbaraardinger.com), is the author of Goddess Meditations and Practicing the Presence of the Goddess. She has two books scheduled for publication in 2003. Finding New Goddesses is a book of parody, puns, and humor. Quicksilver Moon is a novel about a vampire, a coven of witches, and a far-right fundamentalist preacher. She has recently finished another novel about a group of crones and is also working on a book called Let There Be Beauty. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg, plus her collections of witches, goddesses, and books.


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