The Queen of My Self

This week’s theme is the Winter Solstice and all the multicultural goddesses and festivals associated with the return of the light.

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday, which has been celebrated during the solstice season since 1966 when it was first conceived by Dr. Maulana Kerenga, a Black Studies professor and cultural nationalist. Although it is inspired by East African harvest and thanksgiving festivals — Kwanzaa means “first fruits” in Kiswahili — it is celebrated like a solstice fire festival. A major ritual element is the lighting of seven, red, black and green candles in a kinara, a holder. Each candle stands for the Seven African Principles, fundamental precepts upon which a creative, productive and successful community life is based: Umoja, unity; Kujichagulia, self-determination; Ujima, collective work; Ujamaa, shared economics; Nia, life purpose; Kuumba, creativity; Imani, faith. Beginning on December 26, they are lit alternately from left to right, one each night, until they are all aglow.

With the recognition that the solar light in the sky makes it possible for there to be life on earth, comes sincere response-ability. As the sun energizes our lives, so too, must we return energy skyward at the solstice when the winter light is failing. As Mother Teresa counsels, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” Now we must ask not what the sun can do for us, but rather, what we can do for the sun? It becomes imperative in fact, to do all that we can to entice, aid, abet and ensure the safe return of the sun to earth. Life depends on it.

In both imperial China and pre-Columbian Peru, it was the holy duty of the emperors to personally assure the continuation of the cosmos through their annual performance of ritual sacrifices to heaven on the winter solstice. After fasting for three days they would each emerge before the winter sunrise and proceed to the top of the Round Mound in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and to Haucaypata, Cuzco’s ceremonial plaza. There, before retinues of their peoples, they offered libations and obeisance to the celestial center of the universe. They knelt, they bowed — the Inca blew reverent kisses — to the supreme solar source of all light.

The King of Swaziland in South Africa, the incarnation of the Sun, Himself, retires in seclusion for the period preceding the solstice. Then, on the day of the sun’s return, his warriors dance and chant in front of his compound, urging him to emerge from the dark.  

Oh Sun, source of light, love and
power in the universe
Whose radiance illuminates the whole Earth,
illuminate also our hearts
That they, too may do your work.
– Sanskrit prayer for peace.

Tomorrow: Festivals of Light – Part 3

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Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.

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