At winter solstice, the sun will momentarily hang at the southernmost point of its annual voyage and then turn again northward. From the dawn of mankind's observance of the heavens this event has sparked the rebirth of gods and the retinue of symbols that inhabit both our conscious and unconscious lives.
Just uphill from the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland stands the passage-grave known as Brugh na Boinne. In the vicinity are fifteen other Neolithic passage-graves. The site, also known as Newgrange, is well known for its solstice significance. A roof-box structure above the entrance to the tomb admits the sun's solstice light down a 62-foot passageway to pierce the centre of the burial chamber during the few days surrounding the moment of the winter solstice.
Built in approximately 3000 BC the passage-grave may be the oldest man-made structure on earth and thus one of humankind's most ancient expressions of the wonder and promise of the winter solstice. Although we cannot know what the Neolithic builders of the tomb intended, the architecture speaks for itself by allowing the light of the reborn sun to penetrate the womb-like tomb.
If we allow ourselves an otherworldy "map" of Brugh na Boinne at the moment of the winter solstice, the cosmic orb would overlap with that of the tangible world. The shaft of light that penetrates joins both the cosmic and mundane world in a liminal moment of regenerative transformation.
Mythologically, the winter solstice is the moment when the Goddess gives birth to the Divine child, the new solar year. The Divine child grows to become the consort of the Goddess, later to die and be reborn again at the next winter solstice. The creative act of the Goddess and her consort gift our world with the immensely rich experience of spiritual and vegetative mystery. The birth-death-birth cycle originating here fuels many of the world's great religions.
The winter solstice offers us a moment of spiritual confluence. As the solstice occurs the worlds of eternity and humanity align, providing a conduit for the altogether different light that both flows from and pierces to our centre. Darkness, pain and outdated ways of thinking are released and light infuses the psyche with the illumination of a new way.
This holiday season, remember the Old Ways and the promise of light from a star that is traveling to you from 93 million miles away. Be well and may the light of the winter solstice bring you peace.