It is from the state of original chaos, the elemental ether, the black void -- The Great Uterine Darkness -- that the old creatrix goddesses are said to have brought forth all that is. That the world started with the sacred spark of creative potential contained within the primordial womb is one of humanity's oldest concepts. The visual symbol that represents the solar spark that makes all life possible, a dot enclosed within a circle, is also extremely ancient. Still in common use today, it is the astronomical notation for the sun.
Among the most archaic images of the sun is the brilliant radiance, the flaming aura that clothes the Great Goddess. The great Mother of the pre-Islamic peoples of Southern Arabia was the sun, Atthar, or Al-Ilat (later masculinized to become Allah). In Mesopotamia, She was called Arinna, Queen of Heaven. The Vikings named Her Sol, the old Germanic tribes, Sunna, the Celts, Sul or Sulis. The Goddess Sun was also known among the societies of Siberia, North America and Australia.
She is Sun Sister to the Inuit, Sun Woman to the Australian Arunta, Akewa to the Toba of Argentina. The sun has retained its archaic feminine gender in Northern Europe and Arab nations as well as in Japan. To this day, members of the Japanese royal family trace their shining descent to Amaterasu Omikami, the Heaven Illuminating Goddess, and display Her glowing image on their national flag.
According to legend, Amaterasu withdrew into a cave to hide from the irritating antics of Her bothersome brother, Susu-wo-no, the Storm God. Her action plunged the world into darkness and the people panicked. They begged, beseeched, implored the Sun Goddess to come back, but to no avail. At last, on the Winter Solstice, Alarming Woman, a sacred clown, succeeded in charming, teasing and finally yanking Her out, as if from an earthy birth canal, and reinstating on Her rightful celestial throne.
Other cultures see the Goddess not as the sun Herself, but as the mother of the sun. The bringer forth, the protector and controller, the guiding light of the sun and its cycles. According to Maori myth, the sun dies each night and returns to the cave/womb of the deep to bathe in the maternal uterine waters of life from which he is re-born each morning. The Hindu Fire God, Agni, is described as "He who swells in the mother."
It is on the Winter Solstice, the day when the light begins to lengthen and re-gain power that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to the sun who is Her son. The great Egyptian Mother Goddess, Isis, gave birth to Her son Horus, the Sun God, on the Winter Solstice. On the same day of the year, the Greek goddess Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo; and Demeter, the Great Mother Earth Goddess, bore Dionysus. The shortest day was also the birthday of the Invincible Sun in Rome, Dies Natalis Invictis Solis, as well as that of Mithra, the Persian god of light and guardian against dark evil.
Christ, too, is a luminous son, the latest descendant of the ancient matriarchal mystery of the nativity of the sun/son. Since the gospel does not mention the exact date of His birth, the anniversary of His nativity was not celebrated by the early church. It seems clear that when the church, in the fourth century A.D., adopted December 25 as His birthday, it was in order to transfer the heathen devotions honoring the blessed birth of the sun to Him who was called "the sun of righteousness."
The birth of the archetypal sun, the shining son of The Great Mother on the Winter Solstice brings forth the luminescence from Her dark womb and offers it as a gift of life to the world. This light that retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe. The Winter Solstice, then, is an anniversary celebration of creation.
If you are in the New York City area, please join me for my 35th Anniversary Winter Soulstice Celebration. If you are not in New York, please join us in spirit!
"Reverence to Her: Keeping the Spirit Fires Burning" with Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
Tuesday, December 21, 6:00 p.m. (rain or shine!)
Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope
Exotic Brooklyn, NY
Join us as we drum back the sun. This solstice is an especially celestially auspicious occasion, as it is also the new cold moon and a total lunar eclipse. The last time there was such a propitious lineup was 1554! This is a family-friendly event, so kids are welcome. Please bring candles in glass holders and drums/percussion instruments.