Winter Solstice - Welcoming Back the Light
A Lay-Led Worship with Terri Boling
Come worship with the UUs!
As we approach the longest dark day of the year, and the "birth of the sun", the days incrementally begin to grow in light. We will speak about why we honor this tradition and what it means to us, personally, remembering ways we have marked this reflective time of year.
In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the UUCLV congregation has suspended most in-person programs and events for the time being.
UUCLV will be holding Virtual Worshipful Gatherings on Sundays until such a time that we can come together in-person again.
#UUCLV #UU #UnitarianUniversalist #UnitarianUniversalism #UUCLVEvent #SundayService #WinterSolstice #Yule #Pagan #EarthBased
Ringing the Bell
Invocation / Opening / Land Acknowledgment with some words by Lisa Bailey
As we gather this morning, celebrating the winter solstice, knowing that everyone travels a different path, let us call upon the ancestors and acknowledge those who inhabited this land before the exploitation of colonization took its toll and still walk among us today.
Let us acknowledge the Shoshone, once inhabiting much of the territories now known as Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada and who, despite the broken treaties and violence, continue to fight for our shared natural resources and retain traditional ceremonies; such as the annual Sun Dance and powwows, and engaging in sweat ceremonies to pray for individuals, families, or the tribe.
Let us also acknowledge the Southern Paiute, who until the violence of colonization destroyed their traditional lifestyles and ability to live peaceably among other native tribes, inhabited Holy land on Mount Charleston, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.
Today, the Southern Paiutes continue to protect what’s left of the integrity of sacred Indigenous land, including burial sites while thriving in our economy, owning multiple businesses in Las Vegas.
In the spirit of our shared and sacred community, let us thank both the Shoshone and the Southern Paiute for their efforts to continue to protect the land and let us seek to be worthy of their forgiveness for their ancestor’s blood that was spilled unjustly.
Let us welcome grace and love,
Let us also invite the spirits of the sacred directions,
Let us call in the divine feminine,
And let us welcome all that which brings
strength, and resilience.
May we be grounded in reason and experience,
lifted up with joy,
and held by compassion.
Today we will be talking about Solstice. But to do that, we're also going to talk about stories and storytelling.
Think just a little bit about how long ago it was that our longest-ago mothers knew of solstice. It was before cities, before the United States, before Jesus was born, before the ancient Egyptian pyramids were built, before we humans had a way to write language, in fact—before even paper was invented to have a place to write it like we sometimes do now.
Reciting and repeating facts can become a record of the knowledge. But when we tell a story, we engage the listener, who becomes part of our story, and might benefit from our telling as well. Think of all of the peoples and all of the stories and all of the wisdom right among us, that we never even know. We need to listen to the stories of others, and we need to make sure to make spaces where they are able to be told.
Let me show you two different ways of describing a tiny, tiny part of MY story.
A female child was born on November 8 in the year one-thousand-nine-hundred-fifty-eight of the common era. This child began her formal education at the age of 4, in a building which could be found at longitude 37.3614 degrees North, latitude 118.3997 degrees West.
Once upon a time, not too very long ago, a baby girl was born in a high desert valley in the Sierra Mountains. Her parents named her Mary, to honor her grandmother who had also been named Mary by her parents. Mary could see the snow on the tops of the mountains all year long—even in summer. She loved the baby lambs on her parents' ranch each spring. And sometimes, if a mother sheep was lost before the lambs were weaned, Mary helped to bottle-feed them. It was one of her favorite things.
I think one of those tellings is more interesting AND easier to remember.
What is YOUR story? What things describe you and your journey through this life? What things have YOU experienced that could amuse, or inform, or inspire YOUR tribe? Today, we're going to tell you some of our stories, and hope that we might hear some of yours.
Chalice Lighting with Erma Zurita
Upon entering the vestibule of UUCLV, there are a multiplicity of paintings depicting the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith; the Chalice and the Flame. When me and my Wiccan brethren have pick-up days or events here, we are always gladdened to enter its front doors and see this display. We truly appreciate this divine welcome; every time. To us, the flame is a symbol of the element of fire and the chalice, which holds the elixir of life, is a symbol of the element of water. These two constituents, as we have been taught, are the first two principles that issued forth from Divinity, from the Akasha, from the All - and working together, they form and create all things; their communion brings life to the world we live within. Their rapport is a mirror of the alliance we feel with UUCLV and we thank you for being a good friend. The chalice may remind you that you are connected to a much larger religious tradition that stretches out of the past, reaches around the world, and leans into the shared future, but please know…. I am glad to be a part of that connection. So it is with great joy, honor, and privilege that I now light the chalice for this Winter Solstice service.
Song Weave: A song by Terri Boling - Glow Glow Sun
Of Our Hearts
Offering and Invitations
Offertory Song Weave: A song by Terri Boling - Glow Glow Sun
A Story by Mary Phillips
I call myself a science enthusiast—a little more than a hobbyist, but still no scientist myself. In this way, as I became an adult, and began to question those beliefs which I was taught as I grew, I also began to examine the holidays or Holy Days commonly celebrated, memorialized, or observed in our American culture.
It wasn't hard to dismiss many of these as inventions, days set aside with an ulterior motive, perhaps. Some seem arbitrary, some ethnocentric, some purely commercial.
One Holy Day came into my understanding that changed all that. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is December's Winter Solstice. I had to “unlearn” some things. I grew up in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, and of course, eventually became aware of the many indigenous Holy Days which had been co-opted by various incarnations of the Christian church. It is ironic, whoever thinks to bring religion to the uncivilized, most often finds that they themselves are the uncivilized.
Winter Solstice rose in my esteem as an entirely UNinvented, naturally occurring, and truly Holy Day. I think of the wise and observant elders of our earliest human tribes, and how they watched as the Sun grew more distant every day. Life became more difficult. The edible plants lay dormant in the cold, seeds turning their hidden engines toward a potential spring miracle. And yet, we could not see that hidden marvel. We could only watch as the sun moved further and further away from being overhead and warm. What had we done to offend the mighty one who made possible all life? Why was the sun leaving us? Would it come back like it had in times remembered? Would there be another season of growth?
Then, in the very, very coldest, darkest days of worry, despair, and maybe hunger, Solstice! The day the sun stands still! The dictionary tells us that the word Solstice is from the Old English, which is from the Old French, which is from the Latin meaning the sun stands still. What a joyous and glorious stillness that is!
That is how Winter Solstice has become a Holy Day to me. What a joyful and wondrous rebirth it foretells! I honor it. I celebrate it. I allow it to connect me to that tradition which uses the bated breath in the dark of night and the stillness of even mighty Sol, to dance with joy over the return of plenty and ease, and the promise of warmth and birth coming forth from Earth, our oldest Mother.
A Story (Rant) by Erma Zurita
In my role as an elder in a Wiccan coven, I am usually asked which is my favorite witches holiday. Often, everyone joins this conversation and I will allow each and every participant to share their love for Samhain, where we think of and honor those who have gone before us; or Lughnasadh with its myriad of delectable carbohydrate offerings of bread; or their love of Beltane which opens the summer and the fullness of the Earth as the God and Goddess revel in their love for one another and then in the end, after everyone has shared their thoughts, “The Winter Solstice is my favorite sabbat .... and let me tell you why.”” I will answer, finally, after everyone has shared. I always wait until the end because I know it will be followed by what I call my Solstice rant.
The Winter Solstice is the ONLY holiday celebrated across the planet, on almost every continent, by almost every culture!
I can just imagine the very first people, our “cavemen” brethren, watching the sun sink lower and lower in the sky, and thinking it will disappear from their lives forever. The weather is getting colder and colder, their fires get higher and higher, their fear growing greater and greater. An entire hemisphere of Paleolithic people are completely freaking out that the Sun is leaving… is dying…. And they will do whatever they can to keep that from happening; including sacrifices, offerings, pleading, and fires… lots and lots of fires
And I say THEY, with purpose, for whole communities conducted these rituals together, (uh yes, including the sacrifices) - together in communal spirit, to stem the death of the Sun. And while my visuals of our ancient ancestors may not be true to form, there is ample evidence to show that the next generation of Neolithic people marked the Winter Solstice so they may celebrate the Sun’s return.
The most famous example, of course, is that of Stonehenge in Southern England. The Winter Solstice sunset is visible through the center of the stone circle when you stand with your back to the entrance. Even today, revelers gather at these famous dolmen to witness for themselves this phenomenon. Also in England is a man-made mound called Glastonbury Tor, where for hundreds and hundreds of years, one could and can watch the rising sun on the Winter Solstice roll UP the hill to rest on its peak.
In Ireland & Scotland, there are 5000 year old burial/worship mounds that were carefully constructed so that tunnels to its interior are illuminated by the Winter Solstice sunrise. In Ireland it is described as “A shaft of sunlight shin(ing) through the roof box over the entrance and penetrat(ing) the passage to light up the [interior] chamber. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December.”
In Southern Egypt, if you are inside the Temple of Karnak, you can see “the Sun rise dramatically in the entryway, between the high walls of the ancient monument. For a few moments, the Sun’s rays gleam through the pillars and chambers, including the Sanctuary of Amun before the event passes, and morning commences on this shortest day of the year.”(1)
In the Golan Heights, Syria, there is an ancient megalithic monument consisting of concentric circles of stone that mark the solstice and in Malta, the solstice sunlight illuminates the edges of the doorway to an another ancient megalithic temple.
In Missouri, the Cahokia Mounds boast 120 earthen works in over 6 square mile and mound #96 marks the Winter Solstice sunrise and sunset.
In Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, and Washington, ancient First People tribes either built grand monuments or co-opted natural edifices to help mark the four quarter days of the Spring Equinox, the Summer Solstice, the Autumnal equinox and of course, the Winter Solstice.
In the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, Mayans constructed a temple with a small hole at the top that aligns perfectly with sunrise on the Winter Solstice. The shaft of sunlight creates a spectacular starburst effect as it filters through the hole.
At Chichen Itza, Mexico, much like at Glastonbury Tor, the sun can be found climbing the slope of a step pyramid to reach the peak on the morning of the Solstice.
In Angkor Wat in Cambodia, temple spires mark the solstice as do archaeological remains in Taosi (Towsee) China.
There are also Neolithic markers for this auspicious day in Australia, New Zealand, and hidden away under rising waters around the world yet unfounded by curious archaeologists.
Solstice is from the Latin solstitium, which means 'sun stands still.' The Sun is at its lowest point and seemingly doesn’t move for 3 days as it astronomically marks the beginning of Winter. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the original Paleolithic skywatchers? Shivering under furs as the sun seemed dead? And then the joy, the absolute enthrallment as the Sun began to move incrementally upward again. Talk about holding in anticipation. Is it any wonder then that they developed traditions, and customs, and superstitions to stem the occurrence and then to celebrate? Some of those revelries lasted days, others lasted weeks. The myriad of festivals from all faiths and cultures for the solstice at this time is prolific, indeed. That, however, is a whole other rant.
The Sun, which is universally recognized as the thing that gives us life and provides us with the sustenance we need to survive is reborn every year, year after year, and has been marked for over 10,000 years.
By GROUPS of people, all coming together for a singular purpose. So besides reason number one for why the Winter Solstice is my favorite holiday: the fact it has been celebrated from the beginning of man’s history by nearly every culture on the planet….
The 2nd and most important reason is summed up in one of my favorite quotes of the season:
"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
American writer and lecturer Hamilton Wright Mabie
Conspiracy, from conspire. Con meaning "with" and spire meaning "spirit." To conspire means for people to act together with the same spirit. We are all considering our friends and family at this time of year. We are all considering those in need more so than any other time. May we all “conspire” in love for one another this holiday season. Merry Solstice!
A Story by Terri J. Boling - Winter Solstice, Yule
Do you ever have those moments when you feel especially peaceful and at ease? Breakfast is like that for me, after my overnight fast, and this time of year in our Northern Hemisphere, the morning light in the Southern sky warms my eyes and face as I slowly eat while reading The Sun magazine. I love starting days like this!
Lately, I have been reflecting on the first time I celebrated Yule ‘consciously’, and was amazed at how familiar everything was: the carols, decorated trees, and gathering of people to celebrate newness of life.
Unitarian Universalism, particularly UUCLV and the CUUPS group that was here when I arrived years ago, has been foundational in my spiritual growth. There’s much I could share, yet the first Winter here is my focus today.
It was December 2004, when two events at UUCLV sparkled into my life to forever influence me, helping me to realize that the life-long love of nature, of collecting rocks and seeds, and of gardening, was already planted inside me, and had been in the darkness, germinating. Sprouts of what I now call Earth-Based spirituality, as referred to in the Sixth Source, had already begun.
Then, I signed up for a Friday evening workshop at UUCLV called “Journey to the Goddess”, sponsored by the CUUPS group. A guest, Carole Eagleheart, was traveling through Las Vegas to share an evening in community. Carole led a guided meditation using narration, singing and dancing. Carole composed songs and lyrics, and her music, including her voice and guitar, was utilized. Movement, singing and listening wove together as Carole took us back in time with a visualization, to the island Crete where the Goddess; the Great Mother Earth, was cared for and honored. It was a time when respect for people and the earth; her flora and fauna, was the norm, and where each person could be their authentic self, with the divine feminine nurturer recognized. Law enforcement officers and soldiers were absent in this ancient civilization.
That evening revitalized me, and still lives on.
A few days later, CUUPS facilitated a Yule Winter Solstice ritual that brought all my December holiday experience into a space of old mixed with new: new language for old customs I already enjoyed. Since then, I have attended and sometimes written ritual for many Yule Winter Solstice community and solitary events.
Winter Solstice and Yule is a time I look forward to. Tomorrow, on the actual day, I will close out my year with the longest dark day. Then, my new year begins, with the “birth of the sun” (s.u.n.), and the daily incremental increase of light, as the Sun completes the cycle of movement in the Southern Sky and begins to head North once again.
Tomorrow, at breakfast, I will feel especially grateful that the Sun will sparkle on my face as I read “The Sun” magazine, and look forward to the UUCLV evening ritual. I also feel awe that this Solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will be the closest they have been to one another in a few hundred years, to appear as one big bright fusion of light.
Let's Talk About It
Do you have a story about Winter Solstice? About Yule? About Stillness?
How would you want to start your Holiday (or Holy Day) story?
Benediction and Extinguishing the Chalice with Erma Zurita
Let us close this time together with these words from Dr. Judith Rich, (adapted)
Winter Solstice: A Paean (Pee-Un) To The Pregnant Darkness
We come to the portal that separates darkness from light. Standing in this arch of time where Earth takes a breath before facing us back towards the sun, we too, must take a breath, turn inward, and pause in this pregnant moment and let the darkness reveal its gifts.
Let the longest night of the year seduce you into stillness. A time to silence inner voices, to listen to the beating of your own heart. Breathe slowly, slowly and become the breath. Linger here... for the solstice night is long.
Savor the sweetness of the dark. There is nothing to fear. It is only you. And millions of years of Earth's turning; away and then back, away and then back towards the light. It's all you. The dark, the light, the fire, the night: it's all you. You're all it. As it was for them.
Them with whom we share a sacred link. When the Earth’s veil thins, the unseen becomes the seen. Images of our ancestors and ancient roots thread back beyond time… back to the first humans, their bonfires still burning to call back the light. Hold them sacred. Honor their struggles and their triumphs since we are here because of them. We meet in the darkness of their blood.
So as the shortest day meets the longest night. Celebrate and relish this time of darkness and its precious gifts... then lovingly and patiently greet the newborn light.