The Sun is Born
by Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day, the longest night of the year. Since the Summer Solstice, the longest day and shortest night,
six months before, the light has been steadily retreating each day. Tip toeing slowly, silently away. The decrease is so gradual that we barely notice the almost imperceptible shift, the subtle loss, until we have nearly reached the Autumn Equinox when the light of the day
and the dark of the night are of the same duration. Equinox in Latin means, “equal night.”
Come the Fall, there is no denying the apparent disappearance of the sun. It is most definitely
getting darker and darker. And the rays of light are becoming ever more indirect. They skim by overhead at an almost horizontal angle, their energy and warmth barely reaching us below. Their glow is weak and wan, a diluted wash. Insipid. Depressing. All season long, the sun
continues on its wayward course away from us, slithering ever further south. Further and further away from us. Until we are left standing here alone in the dark.
The Winter Solstice is as dark as it gets. The sun is now at its nadir, the furthest southern limit of its range, its terminus. (Or so it looks to us on Earth, who are actually the ones moving in relation to
the sun.) And there it seems to want to stay for a while. At the solstice, the sun rises and sets at the identical time for several days before and after. The length of the daylight hours remains the same. The sun is standing absolutely still. It has stopped retreating, and
yet hasn’t begun to come back. Solstice, in Latin, means just that — “the sun stands still.” It remains motionless, riveted. Pausing, it hovers in pregnant hesitation before it gets back on track again; resting before it begins its annual return trip across the equator
into the Northern Hemisphere for its homecoming. Back to us waiting here, hoping.
But in the meantime it's damn dark out there. The days have shriveled to a skeleton flicker of light. The frozen nights are endless. These are dim, drab times. No flowers, no foliage. No insects, few birds. No
animals out and about. The Earth itself is congealed with cold. Dark death and Arctic gloom surrounds us. How do we know that the sun, too, won't die, its flame of life extinguished forever? How do we know that it won’t just go off and leave us, abandon us to the night?
We know because it always has returned. And because we have, to the best of our abilities, computed that it always will (at least for the next x billion years). We can see the seasonal cycle of light and dark
through the scope of thousands of years of the accumulated astronomical data — observations, investigations, calculations, and collective experience — of many cultures. We know with fair certainty that day follows night, spring follows winter. We are quite confident, secure
in the sure return of the faithful sun. We haven't the slightest conscious doubt.
Even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth
You owe me.
Look what happens with a love like that,
it lights the whole world.
But wrapped in the dark womb of the weather, it is not difficult to imagine the terrifying prospect of the permanent demise of the sun and the consequent loss of light, the loss of heat. The loss of life.
Without the comfort of the familiar cyclical pattern, the approach of each winter with its attendant chiaroscuro would be agonizing. The tension intensified by the chill.
With the death of the sun, the world would be cast back to the state that it occupied before creation, the classical concept of chaos. The black void. The Great Uterine Darkness. It is from this elemental ether
that the old creatrix goddesses are said to have brought forth all that is. Tantric sages refer to this as the condition of the Great Goddess in her aspect of "Dark formlessness when there was neither the creation nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the Earth, and when
the darkness was enveloped in the Darkness, the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was. . .The Absolute."
This sacred spark of creative potential that is contained within the primordial womb is one of humanity's oldest concepts. The visual symbol which represents it, a dot enclosed within the circle, is also
extremely ancient. Still in common use today, it is the astronomical notation for the sun. The spark supreme.
Among the most archaic images of the sun is the brilliant radiance that clothes the Great Goddess. The great Mother of the pre-Islamic peoples of Southern Arabia was the sun, Atthar, or Al-Ilat. In Mesopotamia,
She was called Arinna, Queen of Heaven. The Vikings named Her Sol, the old Germanic tribes, Sunna, the Celts, Sul or Sulis. The Goddess Sun was known among the societies of Siberia and North America. She is Sun Sister to the Inuit, Sun Woman to the Australian Arunta, Akewa to
the Toba of Argentina The sun has retained its archaic feminine gender in Northern Europe and Arab nations as well as in Japan. To this day, members of the Japanese royal family trace their shining descent to Amaterasu Omikami, the Heaven Illuminating Goddess.
According to legend, Amaterasu withdrew into a cave to hide from the irritating antics of Her bothersome brother, Susu-wo-no, the Storm God. Her action plunged the world into darkness and the people panicked.
They begged, beseeched, implored the Sun Goddess to come back, but to no avail. At last, on the Winter Solstice, Alarming Woman, a sacred clown, succeeded in charming, teasing, and finally yanking Her out, as if from an earthy birth canal, and reinstating on Her rightful
Other cultures see the Goddess not as the sun Herself, but as the mother of the sun. The bringer forth, the protector and controller, the guiding light of the sun and its cycles. According to Maori myth, the
sun dies each night and returns to the cave/womb of the deep to bathe in the maternal uterine waters of life from which he is re-born each morning. The Hindu Fire God, Agni, is described as "He who swells in the mother."
It is on the Winter Solstice, the day when the light begins to lengthen and re-gain power, that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to the sun who is Her son. The great Egyptian Mother Goddess, Isis, gave
birth to Her son Horus, the Sun God, on the Winter Solstice. On the same day, Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo and Demeter, and the Great Mother Earth Goddess, bore Dionysus. The shortest day was also the birthday of the Invincible Sun in Rome, Dies Natalis
Invictis Solis, as well as that of Mithra, the Persian god of light and guardian against evil.
Christ, too, is a luminous son, the latest descendant of the ancient matriarchal mystery of the nativity of the sun/son. Since the gospel does not mention the exact date of His birth, it was not celebrated by
the early church. It seems clear that when the church, in the fourth century AD, adopted December 25 as His birthday, it was in order to transfer the heathen devotions honoring the birth of the sun to Him who was called "the sun of righteousness."
According to the mythology of the peoples of the American Pacific Northwest, the sun was held captive by a selfish old chief. When Raven, the trickster hero, saw that the people were forced to live in darkness,
he turned himself into a pine needle and floated down to Earth, landing in a river. When the daughter of the chief drank from the river, she swallowed the pine needle and became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was Raven in disguise. The baby boy began to cry and would
not stop. In order to placate him, his grandfather, the chief gave him a ball of light to play with. As soon as Raven had the ball in his hands, he flew back up to the sky with the light ball where he installed it so that the people could have light.
I arise from rest with movements swift
As the beat of a raven’s wings
To meet the day
My face is turned from the dark of night
To gaze at the dawn of day
Now whitening in the sky.
Iglulik Eskimo Chant
Canadian Northwest Territories
The return of the retreating sun, which retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe, the first birth of the sun. The Winter Solstice
is an anniversary celebration of creation. Since the earliest of human times, it has been both natural and necessary for folks to join together in the warmth and glow of community in order to welcome the return of light to a world that is surrounded by dark. And through the
imitative gesture of lighting fires, like so many solar birthday candles, we do our annual part to rekindle the spirit of hope in our hearts.
And this year, it is especially important to light the fires of peace and passion as we usher in the New Era signaled by the Global Ascendence.
One by one, in tiny increments,
candle by candle, gesture by effort,
wish by prayer, concern by care,
we feed the life-fires of the soul
and light the infinite universe,
little by little from within.
© Copyright 2012
Donna Henes. All Rights
," "Moon Watcher's Companion," "Celestially Auspicious
Occasions: Seasons, Cycles and Celebrations" and "Dressing Our Wounds In Warm
Clothes," as well as the CD, "Reverence To Her: Mythology, The Matriarchy & Me."
In 1982, she composed the first (and to this date, the only) satellite peace
message in space: "chants for peace * chance for peace."
Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman, is the editor and publisher of the highly
acclaimed quarterly, Always In Season: Living In Sync with the Cycles. She is
also the author of "THE QUEEN OF MY SELF: Stepping Into Sovereignty in Midlife
Mama Donna, as she is affectionately known, has offered lectures, workshops,
circles, and celebrations worldwide for 30 years. She is the director of Mama
Donna's Tea Garden & Healing Haven, a ceremonial center, ritual consultancy
and spirit shop in Exotic Brooklyn, New York.
For further information, a list of services and publications, a calendar of
upcoming events and a complimentary issue of Always in Season: Living in Sync
with the Cycles. contact:
MAMA DONNA'S TEA GARDEN AND HEALING HAVEN
PO Box 380403
Exotic Brooklyn, NY 11238-0403
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