Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Winter Solstice!


On the last day of our trip to Ireland in 2004, on the summer solstice, we stayed at a B & B in the Boyne valley, north of Dublin. It just so happened that you could see the Newgrange passage tomb, one of the oldest man-made structures in the world (There's a temple in Malta and a farmstead in Scotland that might be older, but only by a couple of hundred years.) from the window of the B & B. The Newgrange passage grave was built in approximately 3200 b.c., and one of its most striking features (besides its size and complex construction) is that at dawn of the winter solstice, and a couple days before and after, a narrow beam of light penetrates the tomb and extends into the interior chamber until the whole room gradually becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9 a.m.

We were leaving Ireland the next day and didn't have time to tour the tomb, but I'd love to see it someday. Visiting on the winter solstice would be especially cool, although I doubt I could get my family to travel there so close to Christmas.

It's amazing to think of people marking this day over 5000 years ago. I'm sure they went to all this effort to build this huge structure and position is so accurately because the solstice was special to them. In the darkest time of the year, they celebrated the sun's return and took comfort from the awareness that from that point on, the days would get longer. As someone who has always struggled with low energy and a gloomy mood this time of year (I can't tell you how many times in my life I've been sick in December.) I find the solstice an especially meaningful and magical time. From this day on in the wheel of seasons, the light will rise and everything will get better!