Let There Be Light
December is a month marked by many holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, etc. For pagans, Wiccans and many of the older religions, it is the time we celebrate the season of Yule, which also marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year. We celebrate the rebirth of the sun and beginning of winter. It is one of the oldest winter celebrations known. Winter Solstice celebrations gave people hope that sunny days lay ahead. Warmth would return to the world and cold and darkness would fade.
The thought of celebrating any holiday is incomprehensible to many of us this year, as we search for some sign of hope that things will get better for the weakest among us: the poor, the disenfranchised, refugees, those who have lost everything in their struggle for survival. Some of us are eschewing consumerism and what has become a material expression of the holidays for more meaningful celebrations with family or in nature. The old pagan ways actually seem like a good way to observe the holiday season - praying for the return of Light in Dark times. Where can we find light when we need it so desperately, and How can we be bearers of the Light for others?
The ancient traditions of caroling and wassailing were actually a merry way of checking in on neighbors to be sure they had enough fuel and food for the winter months. Darkness and cold can drive us together to seek the warmth and good cheer of our fellow humanity. We could all use this right now. It is a time for charitable deeds and kindness. If you are eschewing consumerism this year, consider donating to a charity that needs help. Not only will you help someone else, but the light of your actions will light you up as well. Check in on a neighbor or friend who may be struggling financially or dealing with depression. Give a grocery gift card anonymously to someone in need. Donate to help Syrian refugees. The Buddha said, "Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
Winter is also an appropriate time for "hibernation" - for going within. Taking time for meditation or self-reflection can help us nurture our wounds so that we may be prepared for what is coming. The Sufi poet, Rumi said, "The wound is where the light enters you" which reminds me also of Leonard Cohen's lyrics - "There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in..."
In response to the election, Pema Chodron said, "I’ve been meditating and getting in touch with a deep and profound sadness. It’s hard to stay with that much vulnerability but that’s what I’m doing. Groundlessness and tenderness and sadness have so much to teach us. I’m feeling that it’s a time to contact our hearts and to reach out and help in anyway we can." (From lionsroar.com)
In this time of darkness, if we take time to meditate, or to go out and be in nature, we can nurture our our own souls. We can seek to understand the lessons given to us by the universe and better determine for ourselves how to move forward towards Light.
In one of my favorite novels, The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, as Sam Wise and Frodo are crossing the Plains of Gorgorooth in Mordor to return the ring back into the fire, Frodo is getting weaker and weaker, and the world is getting darker and darker. Seeking hope and light, Sam Wise finds the North Star in the sky, even as Frodo is fainting. He says, "Mister Frodo, look! There is light, and beauty up there, that no Shadow can touch." Indeed, there is light in the sky that lights up the night, and there is light inside of us that no Shadow can touch. We are the light and the shadow. Now is the time to let our light so shine before men, so that they might know some kindness again. (From Godspell by Stephen Schwartz, based on the Gospel of Matthew). Namaste! Om Shanti! Peace Be With You!