The Queen of My Self

The Queen of My Self

Festivals of Light – Part 2

posted by Donna Henes

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

***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
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.

Festivals of Light

posted by Donna Henes

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

A common theme of solstice ceremonies everywhere is the burning of fires to symbolically re-kindle the dwindling sun. People gather together to cheer on the ascendancy of the light. The victory of the very forces of life. The Hindu Festival of Lights, Divali, comes about six weeks before the solstice. The story surrounding Divali is that Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic, Ramayana, was sent into exile (read darkness), but he redeems himself by slaying the evil ten-headed demon King Ravana, who had stolen his wife, Sita, the light of his life. He is then, after fourteen years, able to return home in triumph.

On Divali, people light his way back into the fold each year and at the same time, invite the gifts of the Goddess of Prosperity and Plenty, Lakshmi. They place clusters of deyas, small clay lanterns filled with oil and a burning cotton wick, along all the pathways, garden walls, window sills and patios in a town or village. Their flickering glow, providing a warm welcome.

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights celebrated near the winter solstice, commemorates a miracle, which is a metaphor for the dwindling, then returning light of the season. The popular story goes: the stock of oil that was used to fuel the everlasting light on the altar of the temple ran low. A one-day supply was all that was left, but it was somehow able to continue burning for the eight days that it took to procure more. The eight-day Chanukah ritual involves the lightening and blessing of eight candles in a menorah, a ceremonial candelabra. One additional flame is kindled each night, mimicking the gradual gathering of light in the dark sky. For Jews, the candles represent the light of truth, the flame of freedom.

Throughout Northern Europe where the weather is more severe, the solstice fires were lit indoors. The Yule log and colored light decorations, which are today emblematic of Christmas are the same as were once lit in honor of Sulis, Sol, Sunna, the old Goddess of the Sun. In Sweden, Santa Lucia, Saint Lucy, Saint Light, is observed on December 13, the date of the Winter Solstice on the old Julian calendar. Young girls dressed in white nightgowns with crowns of lit candles in their hair parade the streets at dawn, waking people with coffee and fresh baked cakes in the spiral shape of the many-spoked sun wheel.

Morning sun, morning sun, come my way, come my way
come my way, come my way, take my pain, take my pain
take my pain, take my pain, down below, down below
down below, down below, cool waters, down below
Morning sun, morning sun, I thank you, I thank you
(Each line is repeated four times)
- Salish Chant to the Morning Sun

Tomorrow: Festivals of Light – Part 2

***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
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.

 

Soulstice Goddess

posted by Donna Henes

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

Among the most archaic images of the sun is the brilliant radiance that clothes the Great Goddess. The great Mother of the pre-Islamic peoples of Southern Arabia was the sun, Atthar, or Al-Ilat (later to become Allah). In Mesopotamia, She was called Arinna, Queen of Heaven. The Vikings named Her Sol, the old Germanic tribes, Sunna, the Celts, Sul or Sulis. The Goddess Sun was known among the societies of Siberia and North America.
        
Shamelessly
orange like a
parrot’s beak,
arousing with a lover’s
touch the clustered
lotus buds,
I praise this
great wheel the sun –
rising it is an
earring for
the Lady of the East           
- Vidya Kara
11th Century Sanscrit

She is Sun Sister to the Inuit, Sun Woman to the Australian Arunta, Akewa to the Toba of Argentina The sun has retained its archaic feminine gender in Northern Europe and Arab nations as well as in Japan. To this day, members of the Japanese royal family trace their shining descent to Amaterasu Omikami, the Heaven Illuminating Goddess.

According to legend, Amaterasu withdrew into a cave to hide from the irritating antics of Her bothersome brother, Susu-wo-no, the Storm God. Her action plunged the world into darkness and the people panicked. They begged, beseeched, implored the Sun Goddess to come back, but to no avail. At last, on the Winter Solstice, Alarming Woman, a sacred clown, succeeded in charming, teasing and finally yanking Her out, as if from an earthy birth canal, and reinstating on Her rightful celestial throne.

Other cultures see the Goddess not as the sun Herself, but as the mother of the sun. The bringer forth, the protector and controller, the guiding light of the sun and its cycles. According to Maori myth, the sun dies each night and returns to the cave/womb of the deep to bathe in the maternal uterine waters of life from which he is re-born each morning. The Hindu Fire God, Agni, is described as “He who swells in the mother.”

It is on the Winter Solstice, the day when the light begins to lengthen and regain power that the archetypal Great Mother gave birth to the sun who is Her son. The great Egyptian Mother Goddess, Isis, gave birth to Her son Horus, the Sun God, on the Winter Solstice. On the same day, Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo and Demeter, and the Great Mother Earth Goddess, bore Dionysus. The shortest day was also the birthday of the Invincible Sun in Rome, Dies Natalis Invictis Solis, as well as that of Mithra, the Persian god of light and guardian against evil.

Christ, too, is a luminous son, the latest descendant of the ancient matriarchal mystery of the nativity of the sun/son. Since the gospel does not mention the exact date of His birth, it was not celebrated by the early church. It seems clear that when the church, in the fourth century AD, adopted December 25 as His birthday, it was in order to transfer the heathen devotions honoring the birth of the sun to Him who was called “the sun of righteousness.”

The return of the retreating sun, which retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe, the first birth of the sun. The Winter Solstice is an anniversary celebration of creation. Since the earliest of human times, it has been both natural and necessary for folks to join together in the warmth and glow of community in order to welcome the return of light to a world that is surrounded by dark. And through the imitative gesture of lighting fires, like so many solar birthday candles, we do our annual part to rekindle the spirit of hope in our hearts.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
- Anne Lamott

I send Regal Blessings to all Queens for an enlightened solstice season.

xxQueen Mama Donna

 ***
If you are in the New York City area, please join me to welcome back the sun today.

DECEMBER 21
Tuesday, 6:00 PM

35th ANNIVERSARY WINTER SOULSTICE CELEBRATION
With MAMA DONNA HENES AND FRIENDS

REVERENCE TO HER: KEEPING THE SPIRIT FIRES BURNING
This solstice is an especially Celestially Auspicious Occasion,
as it is also the New Cold Moon and a total Lunar Eclipse!
A family friendly event — kids welcome.
Please bring candles in glass holders,
drums/percussion instruments.
 
Rain or Shine!
Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope
Exotic Brooklyn, NY
718-857-1343
Free

***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
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.

It’s Damn Dark Out There

posted by Donna Henes

Congratulations to the winners of The Queen of My Self T-shirts:
Lorna Lee, MI
Shari Glantz, OR
Michelle Spitzer-Boyd, MA
Jeannette Prior, UT
Phyllis Gabriel, CT

Wear them in pride!

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

 
The week leading up to the Winter Solstice is the darkest of the year. True, the week following the solstice is just as dark, but the energy is different. After the solstice, the dark gets a tiny bit lighter each day as the world as we know it on the Northern Hemisphere turns toward spring. But now, pre-solstice, we are spinning further and further into the dark.

Come the fall, there is no denying the apparent disappearance of the sun. It is most definitely getting darker and darker. And the rays of light are becoming ever more indirect. They skim by overhead at an almost horizontal angle, their energy and warmth barely reaching us below. Their glow is weak and wan, a diluted wash. Insipid. Depressing. All season long, the sun continues on its wayward course, slithering ever further south. Further and further away from us. Until we are left standing here in the dark.

The Winter Solstice is as dark as it gets. The sun is at its nadir, the furthest southern limit of its range, its terminus. And there it seems to want to stay for a while. At the solstice, the sun rises and sets at the identical time day after day. The length of the daylight hours remains the same. The sun is standing absolutely still. It has stopped retreating, and yet hasn’t begun to come back. Solstice in Latin, means just that — the sun stands still. For three days it remains motionless, riveted. Pausing, it hovers in pregnant hesitation before it gets back on track again, resting before it begins its annual return trip across the equator into the Northern Hemisphere for its homecoming. Back to us waiting here hoping.

But in the meantime it’s damn dark out there. Dim and drab.The days have shriveled to a skeleton flicker of light. The frozen nights are endless. These are dim, drab times. No flowers, no foliage. No insects, few birds. No animals out and about. The Earth Herself is congealed with cold. Dark death and Arctic gloom surrounds us. How do we know that the sun, too, won’t die, its flame of life extinguished forever? How do we know that it won’t just go off and leave us, abandon us to the long frigid night?

Wrapped in the dark womb of the weather, it is not difficult to imagine the terrifying prospect of the permanent demise of the sun and the consequent loss of light, the loss of heat. The loss of life. Without the comfort of the familiar cyclical pattern, the approach of each winter with its attendant chiaroscuro would be agonizing. The tension intensified by the chill.

With the death of the sun, the world would be cast back to the state that it occupied before creation, the classical concept of chaos. The black void. The Great Uterine Darkness. It is from this elemental ether that the old creatrix goddesses are said to have brought forth all that is. This sacred spark of creative potential that is contained within the primordial womb is one of humanity’s oldest concepts — the solar son reborn each year from the Great Mother.
 
Though my soul may set in darkness,
It will rise in perfect light,
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.
- Sarah Williams

***
If you are in the New York City area, please join me to welcome back the sun tomorrow.

DECEMBER 21
Tuesday, 6:00 PM

35th ANNIVERSARY WINTER SOULSTICE CELEBRATION
With MAMA DONNA HENES AND FRIENDS

REVERENCE TO HER: KEEPING THE SPIRIT FIRES BURNING
This solstice is an especially Celestially Auspicious Occasion,
as it is also the New Cold Moon and a total Lunar Eclipse!
A family friendly event — kids welcome.
Please bring candles in glass holders,
drums/percussion instruments.
 
Rain or Shine!
Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope
Exotic Brooklyn, NY
718-857-1343
Free

***
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
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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