Eyes to the Sky: Cosmic event spurs cultural traditions


The weeks before and after the winter solstice -- which occurred on Dec. 21 -- are rich in cultural traditions that create opportunities to some way share the experience of the mystery and challenges of both inner and outer darkness. From our vantage point in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest, southernmost position in the sky. Its light and heat are scarce. Celebrations of light, birth, renewal, self-realization, and community abound. The powerful and innocent dream of "halcyon days" is centered at the winter solstice.

The kernel of the story is that two lovers, Alcyone and Ceyx, meet tragic ends and out of mercy the gods change them into halcyon birds (not stars!) that nest at the seaside the week before and after the solstice, protected from storms. Another version gives the halcyon -- the one known to us is the belted kingfisher -- the power to calm the sea for the two-week period when it nests on the open ocean.

On clear winter nights that begin with early dusk and overflow into late dawn our eyes meet the cosmos and read the stories that were written in the stars by generations past. These are our halcyon days, aglow with peace and beauty. Let’s add a wish for the safe return, with the sprin sun, of our native kingfisher.

The last of the longest nights of the year, 14 hours 54 minutes, was Thursday! There will be a minute more sunlight today, 9 hours 7 minutes, however, the very latest sunrises (darkest mornings) of the year, 7:22 a.m., begin on Sunday and continue through Jan. 9.

Wishing you invigorating and inspiring planet, moon and star gazing, especially in the early morning as the old year ends and all the wonders ahead as the new year begins.

To contact Judy Isacoff, M.A. go to: www.naturesturn.org.


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