Back in the seventies, N, my boyfriend at university, introduced me to the music of Steeleye Span. I fell in love instantly – and this love affair has lasted nearly forty years so far. My first ever meditation was conducted to the haunting notes of ‘Drink Down The Moon’, and I have made love with ‘Saucy Sailor’ riding shotgun, as you might say!
When I joined an SOL Lodge, back in 2007, the Steeleye sound also became associated with ritual – and, in particular, with Solstice and Yule rituals.
Our Magus created a wonderful Toy Box Ritual several years ago – and it was eventually enacted during one year’s Gathering of the Lights (GOL).
But the Steeleye sound I associate with this time of year above all others is another one used during ritual: ‘The Unconquered Sun‘ – and this is why I am sharing the link with you.
The dark has been rising – as, in a very real sense, has the Dark – and, the day after tomorrow, on the Solstice, the light will make its come-back, and, one hopes, the Light.
But the point I wish to make is this: There are two Solstices in every year – Summer and Winter. They are polarised, perfectly balanced. One acknowledges the shortening of the daylight hours whilst in full summer; the other welcomes the lengthening once more during deepest winter.
You cannot have one without the other. Night and day are of equal value – and, if you think about it, light can hide things just as effectively as darkness.
I think we humans have a tendency to rail at the darkness, to mourn the dying of the sun, to dismiss, even hate, any nocturnal evidence in our own characters. We fear this time of year and look forward to the return of the sun.
But what, I ask, is it that we really fear? The seasons are cyclical and we know that light always will come back, just as we know that the leaves will fall – and then grow again in the spring.
The obvious fear is our own death. But I suspect we are also terrified of our own dark nights, dark thoughts and so-called negative emotions.
On this day, two before the Solstice, I feel strongly that we should acknowledge the seasonal tides and variations within our own psyches, and exult in our own inner festivals (whatever our beliefs). We all, at some level, go through a form of Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, Samain, the Equinoxes and the Solstices. What some people call religious ritual and are scared of is, if you think about it, part of the human condition. Whether you celebrate the birth of the Son and call it Christmas, or the Sun and call it Yule, it is the same urge, the same psychological understanding, the same mythology with slight variations in its characters.
Happy Solstice for Tuesday! May Light and Darkness be balanced, and at peace, in your souls!
And, at every level, enjoy the Unconquered Sun!
Many thanks to the two friends who reminded me that the Solstice is, actually, on the 22nd this year! I have now amended this post accordingly!