A New Dawn

Prayer of 7 directions

Look at us, Hear us!

Heart of Heaven, Heart of Earth!

Give us our descendants, our succession,
As long as the Sun shall move!

May the people have peace,
May they be happy!

Give us good life,
Grandmother of the Sun, Grandmother of the Light,
Let there be dawn, let the light come!

– Mayan dawn prayer

From “Grandmothers of the Light – A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook” by Paula Gunn Allen

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A Winter Solstice Story

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Today is the day of the solstice, the day when the sun appears to be standing still. Here in the northern hemisphere, where I live, it is winter. Today is the longest night of the year, it is a time of darkness, of cold and of rest. However, that is not all that the winter solstice signifies. Just as the dark season has come to its peak, the light is about to return. From now on, although night will continue to rule for a while longer, the hours of darkness will be getting shorter every day to give way to more and more light.

The ancients used to say that on this day of the winter solstice when the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, the Goddess in Her manifestation as the Moon gave birth to the Sun. It was celebrated as the day of rebirth of the light, the day when the young Sun was born again from the darkness.

This story is so very old and yet continues to stay with us to this day. Most cultures have a story that tells of how at this time of the year during the hours of darkness a mother gives birth to a son. It is no coincidence that in English the words for sun and son sound identical. In German also the word for sun “Sonne” (although female) is clearly related to the word for son “Sohn”. This is the case in most, if not all, Germanic languages.

Today on this beautiful solstice I’d like to talk about one of those stories, the one those of us in the Western world are most familiar with: the Christian nativity myth. Although familiar with the story of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, what most people don’t realise, however, is that the story is neither unique nor only 2,000 years old. It is one of many many stories in which the Goddess as virgin gives birth from within Herself to a life form that although part of Her is quite different to Her.

Although essentially a solstice story, the birthgiving by the mother to a usually male infant has another broader meaning as well. Let us look at that one first.

The Mother who represents the immortal Goddess as Mother Nature gives birth to a child who symbolises all mortal existence in the universe. The Goddess Herself is the Great Spirit, the universal immortal energy source of all and everything. The Greeks described this permanent aspect of nature as “zoe”, while the Egyptians knew it as “Ka”. Her infant child, on the other hand, represents the transient, finite aspect of nature (known as “bios” to the ancient Greeks and “Ba” to the Egyptians). He stands for all the different individual mortal life forms in existence. The child is usually described as male (i.e. different to his mother) in order to symbolise the great variety of life that Mother Nature gives birth to. His infancy represents his and thus our inherent dependency and connection to the Goddess as Nature. As one of the many life forms in existence we are one with all other life, be they plants, insects or even other mortal creations such as a new star. As the baby is one with his mother so are we one with the Goddess who is immanent in all and everything in existence. This basic truth is always present and represented pictorally in all mother-son myths throughout the ages.

The solstice myth, more specifically, deals with the events that are taking place at this time of year. From our vantage point on Earth it appears that throughout the year the sun moves from being overhead in summer to being barely above the horizon in the winter. It seems that as the year wanes so does the sun become weaker.

Many cultures imagine the Sun as a male figure who is born at the winter solstice, grows up and matures throughout the year until he ages and dies at the end of the year only to be born again as an infant at the winter solstice. [1] In these stories his mother is generally the Moon, for our ancient foremothers and fathers knew that all existence comes from the dark primordial seas of the universe and the Moon with Her close connection to water was seen as Mistress of the Dark Watery Abyss of the Night Sky. The Moon is one of the main manifestations of the Goddess. And so the ancients pictorally told the story of how every year at the winter solstice the Goddess as Moon gave birth to Her son, the Sun.

The essence of this story has to this day been captured and retained in the Nativity Story.

First of all, the story takes place on December 25th. Based on the Julian calendar this was the day after the solstice (December 21st + three days of standstill + the day after).

Secondly, the story takes place at nighttime in a dark corner of a barn or stable and in some versions a cave. This is a very important aspect of the myth, as with all the solstice stories it signifies the rebirth of the young Sun from the darkness.

Mary, although hidden in plain sight, quite clearly is the ancient Goddess Herself. Like all the Great Mother Goddesses before Her She is Goddess of the Sea and the Moon. Her name in Latin is Maria, which is derived from “mare”, the sea. Mary is often depicted sitting on a moon crescent wearing a blue dress – the colour of the sky and the sea. Her pose with Her baby in Her arms is reminiscent of Isis and baby Horus. She wears the mural crown of Cybele and Diana and is often depicted with the Gorgon mask on Her breast.

Mary is Virgin – before, during and after the birth of Her child. As was the case with the Goddess’s more ancient manifestations rather than Mary’s virginity signifying Her castity it really symbolises Her power to create new life from within Herself without having had intercourse with a man.

According to some version’s of the myth Mary was impregnated by the Holy Ghost. Today many people understand the Holy Ghost to be synonymous with the Hebrew god Yahweh, however, that it quite wrong. In the original script the Holy Ghost was Hokhmah, wisdom, which is female in Hebrew. Translated into Greek, wisdom became Sophia, also female. Only in the Latin translation did wisdom change from the female Hokhmah / Sophia to the male Spiritus Sanctus. To this day the Holy Ghost retains Her emblem, the dove, a very ancient symbol of the Goddess. As the Goddess as Wisdom as Hokhmah as Sophia as the Holy Ghost impregnated Mary in Her mortal form, the Goddess essentially impregnated Herself, just as She always did throughout the ages!

Mary is

– “the Mother of God”
– “Great Mother of Life and Death”
– “Queen of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld”
– “Goddess of Animals and Plants” [2]
– “Goddess of Wisdom of the Soul”.

She is Stella Maris, the “Star of the Sea”.

Mary is Goddess of the Crescent Moon when She gives birth to Her son. She is Goddess of the Full Moon when She mothers Her child. Mary is Goddess of the Dark Moon when She mourns Her son for three days.

The divine child, baby Jesus, who represents both transient life as well as the rebirth of the Sun at the winter solstice, is “Sol Invictus”, the Unvanquished Sun. He is divine in the same way as all of the Goddess’s creations are divine, including every bug, every weed as well as every human being.

The star of Bethlehem that features so prominently in the story has always been sacred to the Goddess. It is the evening star, the planet we call Venus which is sacred to Inanna of Sumer, Astarte of Canaan, Aphrodite of Greece, Venus of Rome and many other guises of the Goddess all across the globe. Similarly, Sothis, the star known to us as Sirius, is sacred to Isis in Egypt.

And finally the three wise men are symbolic of the three phases of the Moon and are therefore also sacred to the Goddess. They follow Her star, they travel long distances to pay homage to the miracle of the Great Mother Goddess giving birth to new life. They pay homage to the rebirth of the Sun.

“The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!”

Happy Solstice and Blessed Be! xxx

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NOTES

[1] Other cultures imagine two alternating male enities – the god of light who is born at the winter solstice and dies at the summer solstice and his brother, the god of darkness, who is born at the summer solstice and dies at the winter solstice. According to Robert Graves the ancient Celts knew these two brothers as the Oak and Holly Kings.

[2] Mary is revealed as such by giving birth in a barn / stable surrounded by the animals.

[3] My primary resource for this article was “The Myth of the Goddess – Evolution of an Image” by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford.