The story of solstice holds ties with the story of Christmas. Bound together through appropriated pagan traditions from across Europe and lands East of here into Christianity’s stories. By absorbing the story of the birth of a brown-skinned baby in Bethlehem with the annual (re)birth of the Sun itself.
In the Julian calendar, which was created about 40 years before Jesus was born, the twenty-fifth of December was recorded as the winter solstice. Here in Europe, as well as in Syria and Egypt, this day was regarded as the ‘Nativity of the Sun’, where each year the Sun was ‘reborn’, rebalancing the long days of night back into light after solstice celebrations were had.
The Egyptians represented the new-born sun with the image of an infant, and aligned its birth with the Oriental goddess who the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin / Heavenly Goddess who was responsible for bringing the sun back to life. A story which fit Jesus’ origin story just right.
Early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. It was not introduced until 375 A.D, and is recorded by a Christian Syrian writer in that year that it was incorporated into the Christian story due to the fact that both Christians and Pagans were still celebrating the birth of the sun together at that time. So in order to ensure Christ’s supremacy, the Church transferred gratitude to the sun (who is responsible for photosynthesis and thus all life on earth) to the celebration of a single human instead.
I don’t share this corner of history to shame any one nor any faith – I think worship is an integral part of the human experience and I’ve not much to say about religion so long as it does not bring others pain. BUT, I do think it is important to recognise that our species has tumbled through history causing patterns of death and rebirth in the creation and appropriation stories, spiritualities and societal norms that fit the perceived needs of the time and the needs of those who held power in those periods.
This gives me faith that we too can reshape our culture’s narratives. That in this chapter known as the cleansing tide (which is made extra special by the fact Jupiter and Saturn will align for the first time in 700 years), where we have all been sent indoors once again to prevent the literal death of our kin due to Covid-19. We can take the opportunity to impose the figurative death to that which does not serve us, leaving us space this week to consider a few things:
Like whether it might be worth us each looking to the practices of our ancestors to discover forms of animism (seeing other living beings as such and treating them accordingly) that we can emulate. Or whether the narrative of separatism really serves us in this moment where what we need most is mutual-aide and unity.
Or, as we fall into recession in the early parts of next year if we want to bail out the banks and the economic system which has caused so much destruction and pain, or if we’re brave enough to abolish it even if that means those of us holding privilege lose some of it to create balance for others to gain.
Or, if it is ok with us that Queen Elizabeth II owns ⅙ of the earth’s surface, or if she and her family should be convinced to return the lands into the care of human and non-human beings as a form of reparation for the supremacism their monarchy has reigned. And while we’re at it, perhaps we can also question whether we wish to continue to feed narcissism and ego by celebrating individuals, or if we want to learn how to celebrate movements and communities as a whole instead.
We have a chance to challenge the narrative we’ve come to know personally, within our local communities, and within our culture as a whole. Because without death there cannot be life. So until we bring death to the shapes of supremacism and its conduits racial capitalism, the rebirth of a fair and equitable society we know is possible cannot make its way into being.