Midwinter Festival of Light
The Wheel of the Year has turned once again and we find ourselves at the
Midwinter Festival of Light, one which has been celebrated in many
mythologies and under many names for eons.
At this time in the
Northern Hemisphere, the light of the sun is reborn and the days begin
to grow longer, waxing toward spring. Very frequently midwinter is
celebrated as the birthday of the Sun God; always, it marks a time of
renewal. It is a time of light in the midst of darkness, warmth of
spirit and heart to counter the cold of the weather and a harsh world.
actuality, the story of the birth of the Sun God, the Divine Child of
Light, has its origins in the stars of the winter sky. The hours of
darkness have gradually increased since the Autumnal Equinox as the
longest and darkest night of year, the Midwinter Solstice, approaches.
The actual moment of Solstice marks the time when the Sun moves from the
sign of Sagittarius into that of Capricorn. At midnight on Midwinter
Night, the constellation of Virgo, holding her sheaf of wheat, rises in
the eastern sky. And so the Virgin gives birth to the Child of Light in
the very depths of the darkness. His light, the newborn sun, will rise
The newborn Light will bring growth and abundance—and
therefore, life. So it’s not surprising to find that, in the Christian
tradition, the Child is born from the House of Bread—Bethlehem’s literal
meaning—who is the Virgin holding the sheaf of grain. He is laid in a
manger—the small glowing starry cloud of Praesaepe, or Manger/Crib,
which is in the constellation of Cancer, the astrological sign of the
Mother, the nurturer. He is surrounded by ox and ass— respectively, the
constellation of Taurus and the star group Aselli, the Asses, in the constellation of Cancer, with one ass positioned on each side of his Manger.
wise men—called kings or magi—come seeking him. The stars that form the
belt of Orion, which rises in the southeast on Midwinter Night, were
often called the Three Kings. The Kings/Magi, who were said to be
astrologers, have come because they “followed his star” that rose in
the East. Was it Sirius, brightest of the stars and associated by the
Egyptians with Isis, whose light they followed? Or perhaps a special
planetary conjunction that lit up the night sky in the months just
Angels sing to herald this birth—bending low
to the earth from their homes in the high heavens. Angel means
“messenger,” and stars were looked upon as messengers of the divine. The
angels’ song poured forth the message of the new birth—and its
accompanying flow of spiritual energies—that ushered in a new era of
light, love, growth, and abundance to come. The angels sang of this new
birth to shepherds in their fields. The constellation of Bootes, near
Virgo, is known as the shepherd or herdsman, while the constellation of
Auriga is known as the shepherd’s crook.
And so the sky tells the
story of the birth of the Holy Child of Light. At Midwinter, this Light
is born again, and will shine forth—bringing light, warmth, joy, and
abundance to all the world.
This time of the year is a time of
sharing, love, and good cheer. May you all experience these holiday
delights of the spirit, which far surpass any material gifts.
© Margie McArthur, 2005-2006; All rights reserved.