The Winter Solstice and Festivals of Light

Contemporary psychologists have dubbed the winter blues S.A.D., which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. They recognized that humans, animals, and plants react to the changing seasons, a conclusion that astrologers worldwide have been aware of for thousands of years. The symptoms of S.A.D. include oversleeping, a need for a nap in the afternoon (as in, a siesta), a craving for carbohydrates that contribute to weight gain, grouchiness, melancholy, and antisocial behavior. Bears have found a practical solution to winter depression. They just go to sleep. Psychologists devised a different remedy. They expose the patient to light. They call it light therapy.

Ancient festivals of light

All over the world, wise elders, storytellers, religious teachers, and astrologers lit up another solution. I am sure you and your family have already practiced this same preventive medicine countless times. It’s called the holiday season, or to be more specific, Christmas, Hanukkah (in 2023, celebrated Dec 7 – 15), Kwanza, Saturnalia, and Yule, just to name a few. Like modern-day psychologists, our astute ancestors could not help but notice that people’s moods hit rock bottom as the days grow shorter. Versed in the practical applications of the ancient alchemical axiom of “as above, so below,” they figured that as the light slowly disappeared above, people’s energy levels declined correspondingly below. In order to enliven their communities, these ancients decided to concoct holiday festivities to crown the winter solstice with special significance. During the darkest time of the year, they created the holidays of light. You can call holidays authentic light therapy. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, was created to counter the growth of darkness outside and in. During this holiday, Jews from all over the world spend eight days lighting candles. Hanukkah evokes a kind of sympathetic magic designed to abet the growth of light. We light eight candles (eight is the symbol of infinity and is the numerology of 2024), and once we reach eight candles on the eighth day, it seems as if the light has achieved a critical mass that will enable it to shine thereafter on its own.

The symbolism of the season

The Celts similarly ignited bonfires on the mountaintops during Yule for this exact purpose: to beckon light into a darkening world. During Christmas, we drape the treetops in sparkling lights. When you visit any mall or city center around Christmas, you will see light therapy in action. The shops and front yards sparkle with so much light that you barely notice the burgeoning darkness of the night. More recently, humankind has invented another technique to fight the winter blues. It’s called shopping therapy, but its efficacy is short-lived. Shopping’s invigorating boost usually lasts until the first credit card statement arrives in January. Shopping therapy derives loosely from Kabbalistic spiritual principles, but I have to say that in the last two centuries, it has spun a little out of control. Kabbalah works on the principle of giving and receiving, and in times of darkness, we are encouraged to generate love and happiness by giving and receiving gifts. We bring a green tree (the Tree of Life) into our living room and surround it with presents. Jewish tradition calls on us to give children chocolate golden coins (called Hanukkah gelt). The chocolate, of course, contains enough sugar to make the kids high enough to forget the dreariness of winter.

The winter solstice heralds the darkest day of the year. But it also heralds a marvel.

Legendary Capricorns

Another big question relating to Hanukah and Christmas:

What do Jesus Christ; Apollo and his lovely twin, Artemis; Marduk (the Mesopotamian Jupiter); Cernuous (the horned Gallic god); Mithras (the Babylonian sun god); Baal (the Canaanite god); Bel (the Celtic sun god); Balder (the Norse god); Attis (the Phrygian savior); and Horus (the Egyptian sun god) all have in common?

They were all born on the same day. Their birthdays land on the winter solstice, which means they are Capricorns. (Jesus Christ, however, was an Aries, but on that in a different blog).

This shared birthday teaches us a profound spiritual truth: in the moment of bleakest darkness and despair when all seems lost, our higher self, the spark of god and goddess within us, is born. When we hit rock bottom, our savior – our genuine divine nature – comes to the rescue.

An esoteric view

Astrology views the longest night of the year as the great womb of the Mother Goddess, who gives birth to the god of Light on that day. Spanish uses the phrase dar luz, which means “to give light,” to describe any birth. In the wake of this astrological birth, the womb of the goddess – code for the all-encompassing darkness of the night – begins to contract. Like the night from this day forward, it shrinks smaller and smaller, while the baby called Light expands and grows. According to esoteric astrology, the winter solstice equals the gateway of the gods, when the baby light is born. For this reason, the winter solstice became a symbol of hope, the light one sees at the end of the tunnel. Yes, the solstice ain’t easy and super dark, but it carries in its DNA salvation in the form of patience, a well-known quality of Capricorn that starts on the winter solstice. With time, life grows, and light vanquishes death.

By Gahl Sasson

Gahl Sasson is an expert astrologer, storyteller, and teacher. With deep roots in the ancient art of Kabbalah, astrology, and psychology, Gahl helps interpret your past and design your future in illuminating and life-changing ways.

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash