Number 1, Winter Solstice 1992 Home page
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A Solstice Fable
It's snowing like mad. The snowflakes are the size of dinner plates and make an audible "plop" when they hit the ground. The snow builds up on the sidewalks at a rate of several inches a minute; a poodle and two small children in snowsuits have already been buried. Rescue teams wearily start digging: third buried poodle this morning. The children are singing while waiting their turn for rescue. Such is winter in New Denver.
The days have gotten short. It is barely light when I leave my miniature cabin and walk across the Carpenter Creek bridge. It is full dark when I leave the office and walk home, stumbling down the shortcut along the creek. The longest night of the year is just ahead. Winter solstice, the longest night, when the Earth hesitates in its path around the sun, uncertain. Will the night ever end? Will we see the sun again? So cold around our little fires. What if this is the final night, the one that never ends?
The children, tired of waiting for the rescuers to finish digging out the poodle, have tunneled, still singing, through the deep snow covering 6th Avenue. Resourceful children - it comes from having old hippies for parents. The old hippies themselves are on snowshoes, trying to get to the Apple Tree for coffee; when they pass over the tunneling children they sing along a few bars, unconcerned, and hurry on in hopes of a chocolate brownie.
In the old days we had the entirely reasonable fear that the days would continue to shorten and the nights grow longer until we all froze in the dark. Modern science assures us that this cannot happen. The solstice, says the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, is "either of two points on the ecliptic where the sun's apparent position on the celestial sphere reaches the greatest angular distance above or below the celestial equator." And so it is. It is also the magickal time when the Earth is reborn and moves toward Spring, when the dark is driven back, when life triumphs over death. We used to celebrate the solstice with ritual and greenery to ensure the return of the light. Some people still do, not trusting modern science, which is often wrong. And the light does keep coming back, proving the worth of their efforts. You don't understand that quote from the Encyclopedia either, do you? No. Best keep up the rituals, all you pagans; why risk it?
The rescuers have finally freed the poodle and turn to rescue the children, who have of course left the scene. The rescuers, led by the poodle, track the children through their tunnels, earnestly. The children no longer want to be rescued. They dig false side tunnels with dead ends and loops to throw off pursuit. The rescuers are baffled and fall behind.
Gravity, science insists. Magick, the pagans reply. The sun drags the earth around in a loop, say the men in their white lab coats; it really is not a matter of choice. Oh no, say the women and men in their bright-colored robes, the Earth and the Sun listen to our songs and if we are pleasing the daylight returns. Poppycock, says cold-minded science. The pagans don't mind; they have sung the rituals since before science was invented and they know what works. And besides, it's fun.
The children have reached Kildare Street and are heading toward the lake. The poodle, who is not a good tracker anyway, has taken a short cut and is curled up by the stove at the Apple Tree, where the old hippies feed her bits of brownie. Without the poodle's help the rescuers have fallen even farther behind, but they will not give up. Brave rescuers. The children carve naughty words into the snow walls of the tunnel to shock the rescuers and slow them down more. It works.
In the modern world we celebrate the time of the solstice by giving things we can't afford to people who don't need them, a corruption of a gifting two thousand years old. Christmas occurs near the solstice not by chance but by the church's design: to replace the pagan celebration with something more acceptable, something less wild. And science completed the taming of the solstice by explaining it with formulae and physics. Bah, says science, humbug. Poppycock and superstition. And do the men in white coats watch the pagans in bright robes with envy and secret longing? Yes.
The children have reached the Apple Tree by routes more circuitous and deep then their hippy parents, who greet them fondly, unsurprised. The children get hot chocolate and muffins, and in the spirit of the season send the poodle back to lead the rescuers out of the tunnel, to warmth and cheer and chocolate brownies.

Ritual for Winter Solstice, 
to Bring Back the Sun

Gather together before dawn
with friends of like mind.
Children are required.
Dress in bright colors,
as bright as the sun,
yellow and orange and shining red.
Bring anything green and growing.
Accept the wild.
Stand in a circle facing each other,
holding hands for warmth,
adult to child
to adult to child,
and sing.
The words are not important.
Remember that:
the words are not important,
but the spirit is.
Sing until the sun rises,
sing to raise the sun,
sing to please any who watch,
When the sun is up and shows no sign
of falling back,
hug each other and go home.
The Earth is safe
and the children are safe
and you have caused it yourselves.

Gravity? Humbug.