On the Winter Solstice: Time’s Flow and the Still Sun
Today is the winter solstice. Christmas is looming. Outside in the shops, people rush around to buy presents. All the tv schedules are gearing up for Christmas. It might feel magic, but it can also feel overwhelming, and artificial. Like being stuck in a christmas machine that churns out songs, tinsel and financial transaction. Forced into good cheer with families.
“Haunted Evaporations” is about finding the connection between the creative and the psychological in mythic ecology and poesis. So in that spirit, I’d like to offer a brief reverie on the solstice
Time as a lived experience
The winter solstice might seem to be something for a group of people that identify with modern witchery and druidry, as people who want to revive something lost from the mists of history. That might appeal or not, depending on if you relate to those traditions or not .
However, the solstice is not primarily about belonging to a particular group but about time. It is about time as an organic lived experience, that connects us deeply to reality.
Furthermore, our actual experience of time is different from our sense of history. We are always present within time, as embodied beings. In some deep sense, a simple understanding that history is time that has gone, like an arrow isn’t quite right. We live in time, and time is part of our being, in a way we share with all the beings that have lived in all times. If we think of our being as part of the ecological being, we can say that deep time flows from the Earth, rather than passes away. It flows from the way things live, die and are.
The Still Sun
The origin of the word solstice comes from the Old French “Sol” – the Sun and “Stice” – to be still. The solstice is the day of the Still Sun.
The winter solstice is the day that for a moment the Sun reaches it’s still point in darkness.
We are a culture that avoids darkness and stillness. Our economics, our psychologies and our technology are built on an unshakeable belief in growth. Economic growth, spiritual growth, technological development. Constant movement and stimulation. Our culture is addicted to growth. It may be economic growth or “inner” growth. Either way it seems to only wants to know about Spring and Summer, and not the meaning of the descent into the dark.
If we want to know where our religious beliefs have gone, we could do worse than to check the places where our sense of what is real is unshakeable.
Growth as an religious ideology
However, as an imaginal psychotherapist, it is not growth but imagination that’s real. We are always imagining, fantasising, telling stories. They intercede in our every moment, whether we know it or not, at the point between experiences and action. It is our blessing and curse.
As beings always wrapped up in metaphors we might take a moment to consider the question of growth, at this point in the year where growth stands still for a moment.
Here in the northern hemisphere,the metaphor of growth belongs to the green sprouts of Spring and to the Summer. That’s when plants do most of their hard work – when they harvest the Sun and transforming into green leaves, ripe fruits and fleshy roots.
Metaphors of growth have their origins not in industrial technologies or economic forecasts, but in the way plants respond to their ecological realities, and the way ecosystems harvest and redistribute sunshine through their web of inter connections.
Here is the origins of growth in the deeper cycles of nature. And growth refers to time, time is what allows things to grow, mature and age.
The Basement of the Year
But here, in the dark basement of the year, that has paused for a while.
Dreams, reflections, reveries and revels all belong to the darkness.
Perhaps then stillness belongs to darkness too. With stillness comes alertness, awareness. In the poem “The Bridge” I had the idea of this reflective stillness as a bridge at midnight. A place of multiple reflections – the dark, the river, the moment between one day and another- a moment ripe for reflection:
All’s paused as if waiting for the night to breathe
Or a twig to crack”
In the song “the stopped heart spins” I imagined it as a moment when the everyday seems to fall apart to reveal strange hunger for something more:
“the pavement crack and grins,
the stopped heart spins
so stretched and thin
can’t tell what’s within
The Dream and the Underworld
In “the Dream and the Underworld” James Hillman connects dreams to the underworld, to the psyche and the soul.
At this time of the year, it is as if the Sun has gone down into the darkness beyond the horizon. It leaves us in the extended night.
The myth of Persephone tells of how Hades snatched up the daughter of the Earth mother Demeter, and took him to the underworld. Her mother Demeter searches with increasing frustration, neglecting the earth mourning her daughter.
Eventually she recovers her child, but the pomegranete seeds Persephone ate meant she must return each winter to be Queen of the Underworld. She has taken in some food from the Underworld, so its bound to it.
Persephone can move between worlds, she can be the queen of different realms. She seems to accept her husband and her roles as both creatrix of the Spring and Queen of the Dead. The resolution of the story lies in her acceptence of her multiple nature. She separates from her mother, but she is able to return and accept her mother’s gifts at the right time. From then on she is no longer stuck in one world, but able to move between them.
No longer just addicted to growth and to development, but able to understand the underworld too, as part of the nature of things. That which, by bringing limits to growth, allows creativity to flourish. The food of the dead is the food of the soul.
The story seems to speak of how inter twined life and death, summer and winter, creativity and stillness are.
Shadows as creative emblems
To nurture our own deep creativity, we need to nurture the dark too. For Jung the shadow was the entry point into the collective unconscious, into the imaginal. Reflecting on what is hard for us allows us to create things of true value. Creativity becomes a way of re-capturing what has been dispossesed, of giving shape to those parts of ourselves we have banned or seen as weak, or inferior. The inferior, the wound is precisely where the soul is. The soul is where the creative comes to life.
You can find more inspiration in the poems, essays and songs of Haunted Evaporations here
You can buy the book “Haunted Evaporations” here
This small collection is a gem, full of woven myths and deep imaginings. He goes to dark places to find small flowers growing and shines moonlight on our evaporating civilisation. And the deathly line at the heart of it could stand as the admonition for our age: ‘Learn to become haunted.’” – Steve Thorp, author of Soul Meditations and editor, Unpsychology Magazine