Thursday, December 21, 2017

Shortest day

It's the shortest day of the year today, the day when the Sun sets before 4 pm and we all feel like the sunlight has been alarmingly fleeting. This time of year has been mythologized by many civilizations over the millennia, the Egyptians had a God called Horus who was supposedly born on this day (he was the Sun god). Apollo of Greek fame was also born on this day as was the Persian god Mithra (a temple to whom you can now see in London). Many ancient deities emerged into the light around this time of year, I guess ancient peoples didn't have much else to do other than survive and notice the effects of the natural cycles going on around them. 

Owing to lackadaisical copyright rules back then, our very own Jesus also (allegedly) peaked his haloed head out into the world at this time, such were the imagined connections between celestial bodies, Gods and Human beings back then. Just like the alignment of the Sun with the stones at Stonehenge, it's interesting how these myriad myths themselves align and converge over time, even the most ardent modern theocrat would have to acknowledge that cultures (particularly in the Golden Crescent around the time of the first Agricultural Revolution) have told, re-told and plagiarized the same stories for thousands of years, re-shaping them again and again to suit their own purposes and times.

Here in the UK, the rock hugging Pagans gather at Stonehenge at this time too, the Sarsen stones align with the sunset today. Clearly even our prehistoric ancestors understood these planetary cycles and marked them in dramatic, and thought provoking fashion. Today of course we know so much more, we know that this particular combination of season (Winter) and alignment (Solstice) only plays out in the Northern Hemisphere and that it's entirely due to the tilt of our planet in it's orbit. We even know that our planet wobbles slightly due to the difference between it's rotational axis and the figure axis around which the mass is balanced (our Earth is not a static body!) we can even predict the weather (fairly well at least) a feat I'm sure our Neolithic cousins would have viewed as "magic!" 

I used to visit Wiltshire quite a bit back in the late 90s, my parents lived in a little village near to some of the main Neolithic sites, it was a wonderful landscape, a "big sky" and at this time of year very dark (compared to the rest of the South-East of England) and, I'm told, "spiritual" (which I put down to the copious consumption of Wadworth 6X in those parts) Writing this reminds me of times spent laughing and walking to the Pub in the dark with a thick-coat and scarf, pair of wellies and a torch that occasionally cast strange shadows as it illuminated odd looking stones in the middle of fields, a special time and a special place indeed.

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