This year the ’December Solstice’ occurs on 21st at 10:44:07 UT (05:44:07 EST) – it is, in other words, the Sun’s annual ingress into tropical Capricorn.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees; at that time, the shortest day and longest night of the year will be experienced in the Northern Hemisphere; but the opposite is true for the Southern One (since, let’s imagine, the Sun is directly overhead at noon on the Tropic of Capricorn), there the Summer Solstice happens inducing the longest day and shortest night.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year often falls on December 21st, but the modern calendar of 365 days a year – with an extra day every four years – does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days. Therefore, this solstice can happen on December 20th, 21st, 22nd or 23rd, though solstices on December 20th or 23rd are rare.
Lighting of the fire – i.e. the ’bonfire tradition’ – has been common in the Winter Solstice Festivals throughout time and all over the world, as it meant not simply the return of longer days, but the true rebirth of the Sun (cf. the well-known Celtic ritual called ’Yule’, the ancient Indian celebration of the ’Lohri’ or the old Iranian festival called ’Yalda’ and so on).
In the day of the Winter Solstice, after having waited till the Sun reached the Meridian, Hungarians used to release saker falcons to fly into the newborn Light. This ceremony was called ’Kerecsen’, after the ancient Hungarian name of the ’falcon’.
On this day, Mayan Indians do the ritual known as the ’Palo Volador’, or ’Flying Pole Dance’. Three men climb on top of a tall pole as one of them beats a drum or plays a flute. The other two men wind a rope attached to the pole around one foot and jump. If they land on their feet, it is believed that the Sun God will be pleased, thus the days will start getting longer.
In Mithraic images – within the context of the ’Mithraic mysteries’, originated in the Persian / Zoroastrian tradition – Mithras represents the Sun, or a solar principle equivalent with the Roman ’Sol Invictus’ (the ’Invincible Sun’– the festival of ’Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ was later syncretized with Christmas). Generally, two attendants named ’Cautes’ and ’Cautopates’ are also depicted with Mithras; they are torch-bearers, the former with his torch pointing up and the latter with his torch pointing down. ’Cautes’ and ’Cautopates’ supposedly represent either the stations of sunrise and sunset respectively or the Summer and Winter Solstice Points.
Be that as it may, what is really important for us now in this Mithraic approach, this is the accented depiction of a world view based on a dichotomy or bipolarity in which we see not two obviously asymmetric principles – the exclusively acceptable ’Good’ and the ’Evil’ to be destroyed as they are represented both in the Manichaeism and in the Christianity – but two equally important entities te be integrated into One. It’s not surprising that the Avestan common noun ’miθra’ derives from proto-Indo-Iranian root ’mi-’ which means ’to bind’, ’to join’, besides, that Mithra is not the ’Son of the Light’ but was born from a rock. He is wearing a Phrygian cap in almost all depictions which is the Adepts’ emblematic hat within the alchemical tradition during the Middle Ages.
Expressly or tacitly, the medieval Alchemy was linked to the Mithraism in many respects, but it does not fall within the scope of this post. I will mention only one theriomorphic alchemical symbol named ’Abraxas’. Its imago is usually found with a shield, a sphere or wreath and whip, a sword or sceptre, a body clad with armor, a cock’s head, a serpent’s tail or serpent-like transformed feet. (There are, however, innumerable modifications of these figures: lions’, hawks’, and eagles’ skins, with or without mottos, with or without a trident and star, and with or without reverses.)
This bizarre symbol represented not only the (re)integration of the above-mentioned dichotomy (which is, with some supportable simplification, the bipolarity of the Spirit and the Body), but it symbolized every metaphysical crisis or potential ’cut-off’, among others, the Winter Solstice. Abraxas draws attention to the fact that the man of today does not consist purely of Light, and we should become aware of certain ’lower’ constituting elements to be reintegrated. Furthermore, we have ’Sulphur’ (cock’s head) and ’Mercury’ (serpent-like traits) in mostly dead or ’cataleptic’ manifestations that alchemists call ’/Ordinary/ Salt’ (body clad with armor and shield).
Summing it up, with the example of Stonehenge, we should not ’fly away’ from the ’Stone’ (which is our own individual /spiritual and psychosomatic/ structure awoken to its consciousness closed in a specific personality) into the Sun, but we have to try to raise this ’Stone’ into to Sun, as result of relentless transformations ie. ’rectifications’. ’Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem Veram Medicinam.’ (Visit the Interior of the Earth, and by rectifying, you will find the Hidden Stone, which is the true Medicine.) I think this is the true message of the Winter Solstice for the men of today. >> More Info