“She contains in her darkness the sun of “masculine” consciousness, which rises as a child out of the nocturnal sea of the unconscious, and as an old man sinks into it again. She adds the dark to the light, symbolizes the hierogamy of opposites, and reconciles nature with spirit” (Jung, CW 11, par. 711).
Today is December 21st, the Winter Solstice. While many, I suppose, are preparing their ceremonial fire circles and dusting off their drums, I decide to take a morning bike ride along the coast. The waves are smooth and well shaped, and the melacon is abuzz with antsy surfers. I feel elated as I slip through the salty air, effortlessly dodging surf boards and dog walkers. At this moment, there is no other place I would rather be.
The world solstice comes from the Latin and means “sun stand still”. This is due to the perception that during the days preceding and following the solstice, the sun becomes fixed along its southerly route. If the sun gets trapped, or refuses to turn around, we would be doomed to short days and long nights. Or, worse yet, the sun just might disappear altogether and we would be seduced into an endless sleep. Frankly, this might not be so bad. Sleep is easy. Being awake takes much more effort.
Which brings me to another dream that came a few days ago. In this dream, I am driving along the Southern California coast between Ventura and Santa Monica. Along the way, I spot an old wooden outhouse and decide to stop and relieve myself. I get out of my car and step into the small box-like structure and, as if walking through the Narnian wardrobe; it magically opens up into a beautiful cavern. The earthen ceiling is circular and high and the walls are covered with multicolored Tibetan mandalas. The beauty is so overwhelming that my knees buckle beneath me and I cannot move. I want to stay here forever. After some undetermined amount of time, the minister of this place, a woman, looks over her balcony and says to me, “Betsy, it is time to leave”. I tell her I don’t want to leave. And in a stern, but loving voice, she says “It’s time”. I make a few feeble attempts to free my legs from their frozen position, and eventually manage to head back to the old wooden door with its crescent moon carved into the center (what is behind these moons on outhouse doors, anyway?).
The cavern, turned cathedral, propelled me into a state of ecstasy, and like the solstice sun, I stood still. I did not want to turn around and reenter the light of day. I did not want to go back into the world. I needed some help.
For the ancients, the winter solstice represents a moment of rebirth; the sun having descended into the underworld, the land of the dead, now makes its way back to the realm of the living to revive crops and regenerate livestock. It is a hopeful time, indeed, and one to be celebrated. But, the old ones must have also known the risks involved. The Chumash, for instance, stayed indoors while their shamans summoned the sun back to life. They knew that the sun’s strength could consume them.
In my sideways view of things, I kind of wish the sun would remain in its cushy state of unconsciousness. I could follow the sun as it dives even deeper into that ocean of bliss, never to return. I could sleep my life away.
But I’ve left the Cathedral. I’ve turned the corner. Ready to start the day more than ever.