ASATO MA SAT GAMAYA
Lead Us from Darkness into Light
And see the Red Moon!
Tuesday is the shortest day of the year - the Winter Solstice.
(Or do you call it the longest night of the year?)
Tuesday is also a full moon day.
And there is a lunar eclipse.
It's the first time in some 400 years that these three things have fallen on the same day.
They say you can see the moon glow a deep coppery red if you look at the right time; starting Monday night at 2:41a.m. East Coast Time, 1:41a.m. Central Time.
This is also the perfect time to go within.
So do some mantra.
Light some candles.
And do your (sitting) practice.
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For those with a more outgoing temperament, the lovely Aurora Danai will host a Solstice event Tuesday night from 9-11p.m. at YogaNow ($5 donation). Details here.
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Here's an excerpt from Richard Cohen's incredibly informative New York Times op-ed piece about the Winter Solstice and its related rituals:
The novelist Alan Furst has one of his characters nicely observe, “the day the sun is said to pause. ... Pleasing, that idea. ... As though the universe stopped for a moment to reflect, took a day off from work. One could sense it, time slowing down.”
Virtually all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment. The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness,” while the Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” first day of “the stripping time.” For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook. According to local lore, each winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers. The red bean in the rice balls repels him.
In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young women don candle-embedded helmets, while families go to bed having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming year.
Street processions are another common feature. In Japan, young men known as “sun devils,” their faces daubed to represent their imagined solar ancestry, still go among the farms to ensure the earth’s fertility (and their own stocking-up with alcohol). In Ireland, people called wren-boys take to the roads, wearing masks or straw suits. The practice used to involve the killing of a wren, and singing songs while carrying the corpse from house to house.
Sacrifice is a common thread. In areas of northern Pakistan, men have cold water poured over their heads in purification, and are forbidden to sit on any chair till the evening, when their heads will be sprinkled with goats’ blood. (Unhappy goats.) Purification is also the main object for the Zuni and Hopi tribes of North America, their attempt to recall the sun from its long winter slumber. It also marks the beginning of another turning of their “wheel of the year,” and kivas (sacred underground ritual chambers) are opened to mark the season.
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