A Time of Suspension
The Darkest Day
Regardless of one’s spiritual background, the turn of the seasons is noted and witnessed. The world acknowledges when summer turns to autumn, autumn wilts to winter, and winter is interrupted by the color of spring, which warms us back into summer.
In the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the winter solstice, which generally can be marked between December 20th and December 22nd. There are many different pagan traditions surrounding the winter solstice, most popular of note is Yule. While many use “Yule” and “winter solstice” interchangeably, one is a simple fact of the year while the other is a spiritual celebration that happens in certain traditions. This post is not about Yule, but about the energy of the winter solstice, the fact of the year, itself.
“We enter the sign of Capricorn,” writes Anna Franklin in The Hearth Witch’s Year (p. 204, 2021). “The constellation of Capricorn was called ‘the House of Death,’ as in winter all life in the northern hemisphere is at its lowest ebb.”
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. This means that it is the darkest day of the year. As the earth turns on its tilted axis, it causes more hours of darkness than of light. This darkness represents the first day of winter, a time of dormancy.
“It was common belief that the sun spent each night or each winter in a cave. Most solar deities are said to have been born from a cave: Zeus was born in the Dictean Caves on Crete; the god Krishna was born in a dark dungeon; Apollo was born under Delos, where no rays of sunlight could penetrate[…]In early Christian stories, Jesus was born in a cave (the Greek text of the Gospel of St. Luke uses the word katalemna, meaning ‘cave,’ not ‘stable’), and in Bethleham, the Church of the Nativity is built over a cave. The Sun God was reborn from the chthonic realm, bringing order out of chaos and light out of darkness.”Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Year, p. 205
You might find that you, yourself, want nothing more than to snuggle up and stay inside. You might find that because of the lessening daylight hours, your outward energy is waning, or may even be near nonexistent. Historically, when we all grew our own food and hunting was actually done out in the wilderness instead of in the grocery stores, our bodies were—and still are—called to conserve energy to last through the winter. The fields had been plowed, and winter veg or bulbs that were to gestate over the winter had all been planted and seen to. Your only job, as far as your body is concerned, is to stay warm and use little energy.
This means that this is a time of rest, of suspension. This is a time to gather your wears around you, and simply exist.
When was the last time you allowed yourself to rest? To remain somewhat unanimated? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to do nothing?
It might be a good time to call up on the wisdom of the Suspended One XII (traditionally called the Hanged Man) in the tarot. Classically depicted, this image is of an individual suspended upside-down by one foot, with their hands tied behind their back. This is a forced suspension, a time where the one who is suspended can do nothing other than to observe the world in their new upside-down state.
This causes the Suspended One to see the world differently. To reflect upon what they know the world or a situation to be, and to see it from a completely new angle.
We spend all year in a state of rushing and hustling, of moving, producing, and going. That is what we know. But when we give ourselves the time to rest, to be motionless, to witness, then we are given an opportunity to get out of our hurried mindsets and see the world move around us. We are given the opportunity to witness without judgement, to understand our place in the world, and to ask, “Is this where I want to be?”
The Suspended One, assigned number 12 in the Major Arcana, is also an evolution of the Empress III (1+2=3, the Empress). The Empress is about growth on a basic level, ensuring that you are nurturing yourself and your potential so that growth can occur, so that survival can occur. The Suspended One looks at an evolution in consciousness, one that brings us closer together through understanding those around us. With 12 being 3 times 4, we can see how this is setting up a foundation (4 being a representative of the Emperor, who sets the boundaries and brings about structure) for understanding and community.
“And then, in the very moment of greatest gloom, the sun is reborn. Life and hope are rekindled—the light will grow, warmth will increase, and spring, summer, and harvest will come” (Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Year, p. 205.
The winter solstice falls at the tail end of Sagittarius, and as the sun rises into the new season, we transition into Capricorn. Thus, the position of the sun brings the call of growth, of warmth, and of life and hope.
When you allow yourself to rest and be dormant, you allow yourself the time to remerge refreshed, ready to do as the Capricorn is want to do—scale the mountain, in whatever fashion that means to you. As the days get lighter, so too will your mood, and your energy will rise.
But first, allow yourself to rest. This is the gift of the Winter Solstice.
Happy Winter Solstice, friends.
Further information on Winter Solstice:
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