Writing for the Seasons 4: The Winter Solstice

Known as the shortest day of the year, astronomically the Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of lengthening days and shortening nights. 

Throughout history, people have recognized this day on the calendar as a turning point, when the sun reemerges and each day becomes a little longer. There are ancient monuments around the world that were built to honor the Winter Solstice and other astronomical events. You’ve likely heard of Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland.

In North America the Cahokia Mounds, outside of St. Louis, near the Mississippi River, is the largest archaeological site in the United States and marks the ancient city of the sophisticated Native American culture called The Mississippians. The site contains 120 earthwork mounds and a circle of posts called “Woodhenge,” that mark the winter and summer solstices and the two equinoxes. 

Ancient Native sites exist in other areas of North America, such as The Great Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, where a huge snake effigy marks the Winter Solstice—the serpent’s head aligns with the Spring Solstice and the tails points to the sunrise of the Winter Solstice. 

Native American tribes celebrated the Winter Solstice in different ways, depending on their spiritual beliefs, survival traditions, and other life ways.

During the Winter Solstice, the Zuni Pueblo celebrate Shalako in which Zuni shamans dress as giant bird deities to ask for rain, blessings and balance for the coming seasons and their agricultural year.

The Hopi of northern Arizona celebrate the Winter Solstice holiday of Soyal with rituals of purification, rejuvenation, giving thanks, dancing and gift-giving.

The Blackfeet tribe in Montana marked the Winter Stolstice as the “return of the sun,” called “Naatosi.” Beginning on this day, they faced their teepees toward the east and rising sun. The day marked the beginning of celebration, dancing, singing, drumming and games, a time of rejuvenation, giving thanks and prayers for good hunting and bountiful coming seasons.

The Maya also built entire ceremonial complexes that were positioned specifically for the celebration of the solar cycle.

The ancients knew that Winter Solstice marks the turning point when sunlight finally started to increase and warm the earth toward spring, and that is why the theme of the Writing for the Seasons class on the Winter Solstice is LIGHT.

A few days before the class, I will send participants a list of readings, inspired by winter and the theme of LIGHT. These readings will serve to inspire and lead us into writing prompts I will provide. The hope is that writers will come ready to write and be in community. 

I believe in paying it forward and energetic reciprocity as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes: “Reciprocity—returning the gift—is not just good manners; it is how the biophysical world works.” As such, the suggested donation for this class is $30. You can send more, of course. Proceeds will help fund scholarships for upcoming tuition based Writing Our Lives classes. 

If you’re interested in registering or have questions, email writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

When: December 21st, 2022, 7-9pm EST
How much: suggested donation is $30 but you can give more
Where: Online via Zoom
To register or ask questions, email: writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com 

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