Winter Solstice: Stillpoint & Light Reborn

by Vivian Hadleigh on December 13, 2014

trees winter 2014 close cropped

There are three mythic or archetypal elements which strongly affect us during the late fall and winter. The first myth, that of St. Nicklaaus or Santa Claus, is an archetype of abundance and generosity, and one of the most beloved icons of Western culture.

The second and third archetypes are inextricably bound together, and their myths explain spiritual mysteries that seem to baffle most modern people. The first of these, which is described in countless myths, is the endless cycle of death and rebirth, both in nature’s seasons, and in the constant recycling of human souls through many lifetimes.

The story of the Sacrificial God, who dies annually so that the land and its people can live, is the third archetype—one that appears frequently in death/rebirth myths from all over the world. Although the Sacrificial God holds a very important place in Christianity, his mythic roots reach far back into antiquity.

Samhain (Hallowe’en) marks the death of the Sacrificial God, and the planting of his seed. Upon his death he becomes the holder of the light, living in the womb of the Earth or the Dark Goddess. He reanimates at the Winter Solstice, which occurs in the Northern Hemisphere when the Sun enters Capricorn between December 21 and 23, just as the seeds in the cold earth begin to sprout. However, he remains within the safe, nourishing womb of the goddess until the first shoots appear at Candlemas or Imbolc in very early spring.

It is the god’s sacrifice of his physical being that makes a new and more abundant cycle possible. It’s easy to see how this archetype arose from the most basic tasks of an agricultural society, turning the leftovers from the harvest, both animal and vegetable, into the earth to fertilize for the next season. The myth itself, rather than being frightening, ultimately comforts humanity with the promise of the rebirth to begin a new cycle.

The Sacrificial God who most dominates our culture with His promise of redemption (the return of the Light) is, of course, Jesus Christ. Other Sacrificial Gods abound in mythologies all over the world. For example, King Arthur and Merlin are both seen as sacrificial gods. Irish, Scottish, British and Welsh mythologies have many such stories.

The death/rebirth or life/death/life cycle, the third mythic element, is one whose message of hope most people experience only in their deepest unconscious.

Keep in mind that until February (Imbolc/Candlemas/Lady Day), we are living in the realms of the Dark Goddess who emerged on Samhain, and it’s very easy to access her wisdom. Since that ancient psyche is so accessible now, you might want to do the following meditation to see what insights emerge from the Winter Solstice point, the moment of greatest darkness, and the next moment, when the Light is reborn.

For maximum effectiveness, begin this short meditation just before the actual Solstice moment, which you can find in most astrological calendars.


Find a quiet, undisturbed space, and have on hand candles, matches, and a timer, as well as a notebook and several writing implements. Get comfortable, and go within. You might want to use the clearing and grounding meditation in the final chapter, which is a free download at, as a beginning.

Extinguish all lights but one or two candles. Imagine that you are in those ancient times, that you have been huddled with your tribe in a deep, icy winter, and that you are sitting together around a small fire while an ice storm howls outside and seeps through the cracks of your shelter.

Remember that the power and effectiveness of your meditation increases with the number of senses you include: imagine what you see, what you hear (the fire crackling, people muttering fearfully),what you smell (everyone’s been in this shelter together for quite some time), what you hear, what you taste (will the food supplies last through this terrible winter?), how it feels to be sitting in clothes that haven’t been washed for months, the mood of the people around you, and your own feelings.

A few moments before the actual Solstice moment, exhale completely, extinguishing the candle flames as you exhale.

You might want to practice this for a week or so before the meditation, to get used to sitting for a moment with your lungs empty, and to see how long you can remain empty before beginning to feel the first little tingle of alarm … and then inhale deeply, immediately. Don’t inhale before the tingle, though, unless you have health needs that make waiting unwise. It adds to the power and effectiveness to let that tiny bit of unease slip in. Set your timer to signal when to inhale during the actual meditation.

Sit there for brief seconds before the Solstice, in the dark, with your lungs empty. Feel the absolute stillness and quiet, and let yourself be aware of any images, insights or visions which emerge into that quiet. Then, at the Solstice Moment, inhale deeply and fill yourself completely with breath and that first spark of returning Light, feeling and seeing it illuminate every cell!

Next, as you exhale naturally and gently, light the candles again, imagining that you are exhaling the Light you breathed in the moment before, and that it awakens the candles. Be sure to write down your experiences both in the last moment of deep dark and in the first moments of returning light, to refer back to during the coming months.

There are other ways to synchronize your personal rhythms with this Solstice. You could decorate a Yule Log, preferably oak, with traditional holiday greenery like holly and evergreen boughs, mistletoe and red ribbons, nuts and berries.

As you decorate it, think about your dreams for the new year, both personal and global. Before you go to bed on the 21st, extinguish all lights and fires in your home, and in the morning light the Yule Log as the first fire of the reborn Light to bless your home and family for the coming cycle.

Or, do as the ancient priests and priestesses probably did, and hold a vigil during the longest night, doing chants, songs and prayers to summon the Light. Or, light a candle each night from the Solstice till Christmas, and feel the connection between the rebirth of the Sun and the birth of the Son. However you choose to mark it, the Winter Solstice is a moment of great power. May it mark the beginning of a blessed time for you.

This meditation journey, along with ones for Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, as well as the Solstices and Equinoxes, is available in my book Sacred Cycles: Ancient Doorways to Inner Space, available on


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