New Year’s? Well yes, although the dark half of the year had already begun at Samhain. But that is, I have come to believe, not the same as New Year’s, or at least not quite. The end of summer, as the old Celtic expression SAM FUIN seems to indicate, may have been then, at the end of October. And that could very well indicate that, in the olden days, folks felt that a new farming cycle begins with the period of gestation, measured by the phases of the Moon.
So, what about the Winter Solstice then? It’s a celebration within the Sun wheel of the year, and as such a new beginning in its own right. The year as the Druids reckoned it – not as opposed, but in addition to the farmer’s reckoning of the Moon year? Hard to say, but that’s what I think could come pretty close.
Anyway, this morning the Sun has passed the point of solstice, a moment of perceived standstill, as he reached the most Southern point on his path from the Tropic of Cancer at the Summer Solstice to the Tropic of Capricorn, now, at the beginning of Winter.
We call it Alban Arthan in Druidry, the “Light or Peak (as in highest point) of Winter”, or Alban Arthuan, the “Light of Arthur”. As it so often happens with meandering thoughts, King Arthur comes to mind at this point, a symbol for the Sun, reborn after the longest night of the year. And with King Arthur we are inevitable reminded of the quest for the Holy Chalice, the Grail.
Usually, the Grail Quest is about the “where”. Where is the Grail, and where am I right now in relation to this sacred vessel? Geographically, and in the sense of time, as in “At what moment in time have I arrived, do I stand right now, in my quest?” Well, wherever you are located, timewise you are standing at a cusp, at a new beginning. This might be the first cusp you have reached in your quest, or you may have gone over many Winter Solstices, re-boots, in your live. Whatever it is and wherever you are, I wanted to seed a spark of a question in your mind: Instead of focusing so heavily on the where, you could ask yourself, “What is in it?” Because, in the coming year, you might just run into the Grail, it might just appear around the next corner, behind the next hill. And when you stand in front of it, then what? What if you realize at that great moment in time that you have never considered what’s in it?
We have already wound back time to the era of King Arthur. Let’s wind back more, seriously more. To the time when there was no Earth, but just a ring of atoms circling around a newborn star, a ring of potential just far enough away to not be sucked into the ball of hydrogen explosions, yet close enough to stay in a circular shape, a ring. These are the atoms a huge explosion of a star left in our universe, and every single one of these atoms can be found on the Periodic Table you know from chemistry class. But not only that, these are the very same atoms, every single one of them, that we still have today on our planet (add some from meteors, and subtract some we shot out into the cosmos as space-explorers). Every. Single. One. The atoms that circled the sun and clustered into molecules first, then into heavier matter, more and more until there was a ball we call Earth, are still in the land, the sea, and the sky, in all the plants, the animals, and also in us. Many, many of them we re-clustered into things we can use. We have forged iron into I-shaped beams for houses and into swords; we have altered carbon to heat our homes and pollute our atmosphere, or uranium to radiate cancer cells or build massively destructive bombs. We, our bodies, are built from this billions of years old star matter. Every carbon, hydrogen, iron, oxygen etc. atom in us was already there back then.
What if we imbibed a representative sample of the original composition of star matter that formed the Earth, and all that this planet is comprised of, including us? What if a sip of this sum-total of everything makes us one with…uhm…everything? With the land, the ocean, and the sky? With trees and flowers and animals? With our fellow human beings, no matter their shape or skin or faith?
What if that is the liquid that is contained in the most holy and sought after chalice of all? Wouldn’t that warrant a quest for it?
And wouldn’t today be an excellent day to start? Happy Alban Arthan! Happy Winter Solstice!