The chill of winter’s embrace enfolds us in an ever-darkening time of anticipation and joy. In all of us, it seems to stir up a caldron’s brew of memories—of times past and possibly of things and moments no longer. The earth waits and waits, as do we, for the promised return of the light. It is a time to feel—to be aware of the fertile dark soil of potentiality that lies within us, as well as the dark, the dark that does not serve us and the dark that needs to be released.
This cycle of light and dark repeats endlessly but each cycle is intrinsically slightly different. Time is cyclical, not linear. There is the past and the present that some indigenous cultures refer to as the non-past. But there is no future only potential ones based on the actions of the non-past influenced by the past.
This is a time of peace and joy—joy as the sun, now far away in the south, begins to travel north at the winter solstice, bringing the wintry earth a new promise of light and warmth.
On the night of the Winter Solstice (December 21/22), the sun reaches its southernmost point. Were it to remain in the south, it would mean death for living beings in the northern hemisphere. Thus we greet the returning sun as a “savior.” On the night when it begins its northward journey, the constellation Virgo, the celestial virgin, appears on the eastern horizon at midnight and is therefore, astrologically, the ascendant. This coordinates with the myth of the various light-bringing saviors of humanity, immaculately conceived and born from a virgin. Later, the sun symbolically sacrifices its life on the cross when it passes over the equinoctial point at the spring equinox, an apparent descent as seen from the southern hemisphere and an ascent in the northern sky.
Historically and spiritually, this is the month (at the time of the winter solstice) of the mythical birth of the light-bringers. These are the messengers of love and light—the hero-shamans that first brought the knowledge of the fire of the heavens, the knowledge of the light in the darkness, to all of humanity. These heroic messengers of light are born of the Virgin—the constellation Virgo. In the heavens Virgo is a Y-shaped group of stars resembling a cup that just happens to rise in the Eastern sky at this most spiritual time of the year. This is the mythic Holy Grail, the Cup of Light, the Bowl of Love that is Light—all the key to the metaphoric message of these virgin light-bringers—that the sun, the spiritual sun—the divine, is contained within all beings and all living things. This is the message that institutionalized religions do not want humanity to hear: that each one of us, like the light-bringers, is also a virginal vessel of love and light. No inborn sin here, just intrinsic love and light.
The winter solstice presents us with the opportunity to honor and to reveal (revelation—lifting the veil) this prime mystery of life. This is the time to honor these heroic messengers and to pay homage to the metaphoric moment of their “virgin birth” (based on the positioning of the constellation Virgo not on an actual physical birth—the actual birth of the prophets and messengers such as Jesus was late summer, early fall under the astrological sign of the Virgin-Virgo). In addition, it is the occasion to celebrate the return of the light foretelling the truth of eternal love and life and to honor and practice the message of the returning heroes—the light-bringers.
The return of light to a darkened world, metaphorically as well as one of reality, is reflected in the myth of the Returning Hero:
A legendary hero is usually the founder of something—the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life. In order to found something new, one has to leave the old and go in quest of the seed idea, a germinal idea that will have the potentiality of bringing forth that new thing.[i]
The cultural hero, and his return, is one of the most enduring as well as important cross-cultural archetypal prophetic themes known to humankind. Its importance is due to its message of hope and renewal. The meaning stays the same; only the names of the hero change. The best known returning hero is Jesus. Similarly, the Hopi prophecies speak of their spiritual hero Pahana, the purifier or the elder white brother, while the early Hawaiians worshipped Lono as their savior and lord of peace. The returning cultural hero for the Incas was Viracocha whereas the Mesoamerican prophet or cultural hero was known as Quetzalcóatl—the morning star. And to the Maya, he was known as Kukulkán, the Mayan name for Quetzalcóatl—the Feathered Serpent. Kukulkán was known as “god of the powerful voice,” a resurrection deity and master of the four winds.
The enduring teaching and message of each returning hero was focused on achieving a balance between spirit and matter with the additional knowledge that we are all a child of God, divine as well as human. To the returning hero, separateness is the illusion; oneness is the reality—all existences interpenetrate radically non-dualistically (non-dual interpenetration – Oneness).
Symbolically, the return of the hero represents the spiritual concept of the infinite cycle of death and re-birth. But it as well represents the return of light or enlightenment to a world void of love and a humanity that has darkened once again – so true today. The religious histories of many cultures also portray the morning star, the planet Venus, in this same emblematic role of representing the returning hero.
In this time of darkness anticipating the return of light, what inner potential needs to be manifested and what dysfunctional darkness needs to be released? Better to consider these than focusing on consuming some stupid stuff that you probably don’t really need.
[i] Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, 136.