Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere

The timing of the winter solstice is marked when the sun reaches its furthest north position in the sky and starts to move back towards the south.  As it does, it marks one of the main turning points in the year, the others being the equinoxes as well as the summer solstice (that occurs in December).  The timing for the winter solstice this year is today, Sunday, 21 June at 7:13 am (ACST time).  From this moment onwards, days start becoming longer and night times shorter.  However with the worse of the winter weather yet to arrive, this thought is not often the first that comes to mind.

In ancient Europe the winter solstice (the timing of which in the Northern Hemisphere takes place in December) was seen as a time of celebration.  The Romans had a week-long celebration called Saturnalia during which all wars had to stop and courts did not try criminals.  Later this festival became Dies Natalis of Sol Invicti, or the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, celebrated on 25 December each year.

Within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft, this is the time when the God is reborn and emerges from the Underworld, where he passed into at Samhain.  His rebirth will bring warmth and fertility back to the land. 

The eve of the winter solstice, however, belongs to the Goddess who is likened to a hibernating animal, residing deep within the Underworld as she readies herself for the pending birth of her son.  The child conceived at the festival of Bealtaine, which marks the commencement of summer, is about to be born. This birth is also the sign that life is about the return to the earth once again after many bleak months of winter.  Just as she labours to bring forth her son, the “Child of Promise”, the young hero, we also wait with much anticipation for the sun to appear.  The rebirth of the sun confirms that darkness will be overcome by light and we step into the waxing half of the year. We are reborn. The year is new.

The following “Solstice Prayer” by Thorn Coyle reflects the anticipation of waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear over the horizon:

We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun.
We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun!
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of newness.
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of day!

The Child of Promise is the new sun, which is small and weak at this time of the year, but will grow stronger as the sacred Wheel of the Year turns.  As such, the winter solstice is a time for celebrating new beginnings and to focus on what you wish to bring into your life.

Sources: Sydney Observatory