I delved into libraries and I sat under trees. I lit fires and marked the calendar of the year. I discovered that at the solstices an ancient struggle is enacted between the oak kings: the deciduous oak, the ascending sun, and the holm or evergreen oak (here the holly) who rules the dark half of the waning year. At the apexes of solar year, the light and the dark battle with one another, and one cedes rulership to the other. It's a mythology we know in fragments, in snatches of song, ritual, carol and rhyme, Who killed cock robin? (the bird of the oak). It was I with my little eye, said Jenny Wren (bird of the holm). I found that these mythologies are like a code that points us to where the real treasure of life is kept. Red berry, red breast, red blood. Solar fire. The mythic language resonates within you in a deep place, in deep time - a language of stone and star, a track of geese flying across a liquid sky. Bone knowledge, heart knowledge. At the solstice you tap into that bone knowledge of yourself, the part that remembers everything about your homeland, as you wait scanning the horizon, across an empty field, on top of the hill. You know that no matter what fairy stories you have been told, gospels according to Luke or Darwin or Sigmund Freud, your human parents do not give you the spark of life - the breath in your lungs, the food in your mouth, the wood that stokes the fire, the rhythm that beats in your heart. And that the primary relationship lies not within the institution of family, but within the creative matrix of the earth and sun. If, as Jeremy Rifkin suggests we are moving beyond psychological consciousness towards the realm of bio-spheric, where we are empathic with all living things, it is this relationship, released from our bonds of tribal obligation, where our attention now needs to go. In modern life it is hard to pay attention to the big things that matter, so prevented and distracted are we from the wild and the deep, the elemental, the ancestral, the true allegiance of our hearts. Yet waking this morning it is everywhere I look. Snowlight filling the house. A fresh breeze across the land. In the gaps of the clouds a full moon in eclipse and Venus shining, and to the East an invisible sun starting its ascent. A planetary moment under a great oak. A new day. Happy solstice everyone!
Wayland's Smithy, Oxfordshire; yew, Box Hill, Surrey; sea forest, Borth, Wales; Solstice moon, Southwold, Suffolk.
From topic week on Midwinter