Tag Archives: winter solstice

Winter Solstice – A Time for Reflection

Persephone, painting by Judith ShawIn the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice, usually December 21,  heralds both the time of deepest darkness and the beginning of the return to light.  It is a liminal day offering a transformation from darkness to light.

In the mid-latitudes in the ten days after the winter solstice the hours of sunlight increase by only a few seconds up to a minute or so.  The world slows down allowing a time to relish the quiet of long nights and the inspiration of winter dreams.

One of the most well known stories about the transformative nature of this time of darkness is the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, Earth Goddess of Grain had a daughter, Persephone.  Persephone lived in the golden glow of her Mother’s love and protection.

But like all youth she was compelled by curiosity and divine force to begin a journey of completion.  Persephone was walking in a meadow one day and she saw the beautiful narcissus flower – the flower of death. As she reached down to pick the flower, the earth split open, releasing Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. Hades then took Persephone, willingly or otherwise, in a Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld.

Read my full essay on Winter Solstice, Persephone and two other Goddesses in their dark aspect, Inanna and the Cailleach on the Feminism and Religion Blog. Click here.

The Story of Ereshkigal, Inanna’s Older Sister

ereshkigal drawing by judith shaw

Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld

In the Sumerian pantheon, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld is Inanna’s older sister.  Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth but she does not know the underworld.  Without this knowledge she remains immature.  “From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below”.  Thus begins Inanna’s  journey into a deeper life with the knowledge of death and rebirth.

Ereshkigal was given the Underworld for her domain.  Here she eats clay and drinks dirty water.  She has no loving mother, father, brother or sister.  She has no friends or companions.   She longs only for her own sexual satisfaction.  She is unloving, unloved, abandoned, instinctual and full of rage and loneliness.

Ereshkigal can be seen as the other neglected side of Inanna, the side which feels all those feelings of worthlessness and abandonment.

Inanna's Descent, painting by Judith jShaw

Inanna’s Descent

She becomes enraged when she hears that Inanna, clothed in light and glory, wants to enter the underworld.  Ereshkigal commands her gatekeeper to remove her royal garmets as she passes through the seven gates in route to her Underworld Kingdom.  She wishes for Inanna to experience the rejection and loneliness which she lives with daily.

Naked and Bowed Low, drawing by Judith Shaw

Inanna enters the underworld “naked and bowed low”. The Annuna perceived her neglected parts, her shadow side.

“The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her,
They passed judgment against her.”

“Ereshkigal fastened the eye of death on Inanna.
“Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.” *

Ultimately, with the help of her spiritual servent, Ninshubur and her mother’s father, Enki, God of Wisdom, Inanna is rescued.  Though Ereshkigal ordered Inanna’s death she now moans in anguish, as she has killed the other part of herself.  Creatures created by Enki sympathize with Ereshkigal’s pain.
Now that Ereshkigal is comforted by others, she has released part of her pain.  As she grows spiritually, she is now able to release Inanna.

Inanna is reborn.  But no one leaves the underworld unmarked.  Inanna must

Inanna's Return, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna’s Return

choose someone to replace her in the Underworld.  The connection between Ereshkigal of the Great Below, the unconscious, and Inanna, of the Great Above, the conscious, has been established and must be maintained.  Inanna must never again forget that part of herself which is Ereshkigal.

The ancient Sumerian story of Ereshkigal and Inanna illustrates the importance of owning all sides of ourselves – the light and the dark.   On this day of the winter solstice when the hours of light are the shortest and the hours of dark the longest, reflection and meditation on this story may help us integrate and understand our own inner pain and feelings of abandonment. Here, in the dark of winter, lay the seeds of our transformation into greater depth and understanding.

* Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.

Winter Solstice with Mayan Spirits

dzibichaltun, ancient mayan siteYucatan, Land of the Maya, where the spirits are strong.  Wandering thru the Mayan ruins and the Spanish cities built atop and of Mayan ancient cities, I hear their voices whispering, whispering – undecipherable and deep; calling for balance, calling for an opening to the unknown mysteries of spirit.

Mayan site, temple of the dollsWinter Solstice, I walked the roads of  Dzibilchatun, an ancient Mayan site near the Gulf, occupied from 300BC to the Conquest.  The Temple of the Dolls, greats the dawn sun on each equinox, allowing His magnificence to shine thru Her central doors.

drawing of Mayan temple by Judith ShawMexico mystique, Mayan mysteries, are foreign to my bloodline. And yet this new dawn brings the realization to the world that we are one Human Race, all connected.  A thread runs through all the creatures of the Sea and the Earth to the rocks, the trees, the plants, to the stars and beyond to the great unknown.

cenote water lily at dzibilchatuntree grows thru ancient stones by Judith Shawtree at dzibilchatuntrees among mayan ancestors homesI – quiet amongst the trees growing out of the stones, the bones of the ancestors homes; breathing in the holiness of leaves and grass.

The last of my mother’s living sisters died on this Winter Solstice.  Bush, mother of Helen and Trudy and Lynne, chose a day of power for her departure.

3 pilars at dzibilchatunTreading the path of the ancient Mayans has opened my heart to my own departed loved ones.  Margaret, mother of Anne and Susan and Judith, long gone from this world, whispers to me in these days. Remembrance stays the hand of death.

On this day of the Winter Solstice the sun stands still in its yearly turning back to the light, bringing a renewal, an awakening, a quickening of my soul.

ancient mayan temple by Judith Shawroad thru trees at mayan site

one pilar of DizibilchatunTo see more photos and read more on Dzibilchatun visit my post on hubpages.