The Long Night’s Festival

Winter Solstice arrives this week in the Northern Hemisphere (Thursday December 21, 2023 at 10:27 pm et) which draws attention to the living relationship between Earth and Sun. Solstice, which means “the standing still of the Sun,” is like the pause in human breathing, between inbreath and outbreath, outbreath to inbreath. While this takes just a moment for the human being, for Earth and Sun this pause lasts about three days. At the winter solstice inbreath, we approach the year’s midnight.

In the Christian Calendar, the year’s midnight culminates in the festival of Christmas, the birth of light, described as the Christ Child.

This year, as we move through the days and nights from solstice to festival, the planet Mercury will make a unique gesture. In ancient cultures Mercury was described as the fleet-footed messenger, the god of communication. As such, Mercury is always shown in motion, even with a kind of “catch me if you can” attitude.

But right now, Mercury is in its retrograde loop, during which time it will come to an exact meeting with the Sun ~ Friday, the day after solstice. So let’s imagine it: Earth and Sun at are the solstice pause, the full inbreath of the year; outer daylight has fully waned, and the messenger slips in, to behold the sun at the year’s midnight, as though the swift-moving planet would join in the season’s stillness, to listen. In this stillness, in the midst of what would be the season of sweet dreams and health and quiet breathing, the god of communication may help us to discern what is speaking at this fulfillment of the year, which holds within it the seed of what is to come.

In the listening,


Hear this episode of The Storyteller’s Night Sky on Interlochen Public Radio Monday, December 18, 2023, and on podcasts everywhere at anytime.