|Stonehenge at Winter Solstice, by Mark Grant|
Of course, this is written from the perspective of someone dwelling in the Northern Hemisphere, and whose ancestors have always dwelt in the Northern Hemisphere. I'm sure the experience is somewhat different in other parts of the world, but moving and meaningful, nevertheless.
There are common motifs that run through all of us upon experiencing the solstices. They are not a thing of past "uncivilized" tribes and peoples. The experiences have never ceased to move human beings who are sensitive to such matters.
Personally, this time of descent has for most of my life been a time of melancholy. It is nothing new. A descent into darkness rarely brings feelings of good cheer. As sunlight grows dimmer and its duration shorter, the time comes for furthering one's experience of Soul and its depths.
For thousands of years, human beings have dealt creatively with their feelings of despondency, as Sol daily creeps lower and lower in the sky. Ancient peoples erected sites all over the world to both inform when the solstices would arrive and for their celebration. For instance, the reason why we celebrate Christmas is not because this is when the infant Christ was born. We celebrate because the Sun begins its ascent out of darkness and into light.
Solstices and equinoxes are a time of connection between the heavens and the earth, the personal and the divine, the inner and the outer, the material and the spiritual, and even a time when contact through mystical experiences is made more possible. It is a beautiful time, which unfortunately we as a humanity have lost touch with, as did other cultures who degenerated in the past and lost their spiritual foundation (from The Significance of the Solstice and Equinox in Spirituality, by Belsebuub and Angela).
The ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Neolithic people of Ireland, and many others, knew of the cosmic Son, its symbolic relation with the sun, and the events which take place within and in a someone’s life when a person works to incarnate it. These events with all their symbology then formed part of the teaching these divine figures gave and the spiritual cultures or groups which formed around them (ibid).The descent of Sol toward its nadir is an initiatory experience for us. It is a time of preparation for the return of the Light to the Earth. We undergo a cathartic process of transformation (a spiritual death) which prepares us for the birth of, what many have called, the Son of God. Part of this cleansing is dealing with depression and feelings of hopelessness.
All religions have derived from the cosmic experience of the dawn on the day of the winter solstice. When the Son of God is reborn in our hearts, it is like an infant that grows slowly, day-by-day. This phenomenon is repeated over and over, year after year, millenia upon millenia. It is highly sacred because it commemorates the first day of Creation. It reminds us that Light has once again incarnated in flesh, in us.