In the pagan world, the major festival of December is the winter solstice, held on the shortest and darkest day of the calendar year. In our calendar, that is today. They used to call the solstice the Birth Of The Undefeated Sun. This is the day when the poor are traditionally given money or presents. In ancient times, the Solstice was a day when the needy were permitted to ask for money, a practice known as “thomasing” or “mumping,” perhaps the earliest form of crowdsourcing.
History tells that nothing is new but our perceptions of things.
That is interesting to me, Jesus devoted his life to giving hope to the poor. I am curious to understand why giving the poor was once considered a sacred duty, the very purpose of holidays, while in our time the poor have been excised from our political consciousness and left out of the very holidays created to give them comfort.
People who ask for money in our world are considered beggars, panhandlers and dangerous pests. They are confined to the edges of life.
This is the fourth station of the year, it signifies hope and enlightenment, when the light is reborn within the womb of darkness.
From today on, every day will get longer, brighter, more colorful.The darkness can be a cold and frightening time in the natural world, the light is sacred.
On a farm, with animals, the Solstice has always had special meaning. It tells the farmers when they will be planting, it tells the animals to settle in for the harsh winter before the advent of Spring. The birth of many Gods is celebrated on December 25. These include Osiris, the Syrian Baal, Attis, Adonis, Helios, Apollo, Dionysus, Mithras, Jesus, Balder and Frey.
I told Maria this morning – she is a committed pagan – that in a sense, the Solstice is more our holiday than Christmas, it is the holiday closest to the natural and animal world, to Mother Earth. In a way, it is Mother Earth’s Christmas, the holiday most closely tied to our lives.
It is the green holiday, I think, because loving the earth is free, and darkness is universal. It is not a holiday tied to profits and gifts, or mall discounts. It is as accessible to the poor as to the rich. The gift is the Light, one of my most sacred possessions. It is not a time for elaborate feasts and rituals or corporate profits. It is not a time of forced joy, but of simplicity and connection to the world around us. If you see the light, you can see the world anew.
I am a warrior for color and light, a prisoner of it. Tomorrow I will begin counting the new coming of the light, celebrating the Birth Of The Undefeated Sun. Out of loss, gain. Out of sorrow, hope. Out of grief, comfort. Out of darkness, light.