(I record this musing for posterity so we can look back from the future and remember )
Visionary Winter Solstice Feast 2010
Sunday, December 19th (on the approach of the Winter Solstice).
At the close of the Winter Solstice Event,
Events of the Night:
6:00 P.M. doors open.
Participants were welcomed by a greeter and anointed with essential oils called Abundance. The room was dark save for 1 lone candle hip high on a candle stick holder in the center of the room. On the floor was a black light spiral with stars on the floor. The room was devoid of chairs. Just open darkness. At the East end of the room was hung a Sun King Effigy with some votive lights so you could write prayers and wishes on little prayer papers and twist them into the art work made by Freeman and Elizabeth Mester.
6:30 the musicians entered and took their places. 6:40 Delilah entered and took a hand of a near by participant and one by one everyone linked dances and followed her in a spiral dance in the dark. It wove in and out and around and around for 10 minutes and then everyone settled into a circle with Delilah near the candle so she could address the group and read the following welcoming.
Welcome every body to our Winter Solstice celebration.
It is our custom at VDP STUDIOS to use the seasonal changes as cause for celebrating with our community and sharing our music, dance and instigating acts of love and creativity.
We are gathered together here as we approach the longest night and the shortest day; which is officially on December 21st . Juxtaposition of the Winter Solstice is the Summer Solstice, which is the time of the shortest night and longest day. And as most of you know we celebrate with a big Parade!
A little bit of Science:
The reason we have a winter and summer solstice is because the EARTH not only rotates around the SUN but on it’s journey it also is tilted 23.5 degrees causing the Northern and Southern hemispheres to be closer or further from the sun for half the year thus resulting in the seasons. This particular Winter Solstice is also accompanied with unusual event of full lunar eclipse!
Age Old Holiday Times
Over the centuries of human experience and because of the darkness and the gloom that accompanies much of our western hemisphere during this time of the year, a natural need arises in us to counter this doldrums. Many myths, symbols, religious beliefs, traditions and community celebrations have naturally evolved in different cultures at this time of year.
Hanukka, Christmas, Winter Solstice, New Years Eve and New Years day. . .
Another celebration unknown to many in America is December 17th. Known a Rumi’s Wedding day. It is the anniversary of his death. The Dervishes celebrate in a special 4 part Sema ritual. In a meditation festival for the eyes and hearts the room is illuminated by light of the unfolding twirling of the semazen’s white skirts revealed from under black hurka robes. They spin around the sun to the voicing of the ney flute and drum.
Rumi is a popular Afghan scholar, poet and mystic who spent most of his life in Konya Turkey (1273 AD).
The winter in many places has been a time of dread with good reason. With it food and heat maybe in scarce supply and the human spirit is in dire need of a kindling inside the heart; Light, warmth and plenty are the means of celebration.
Candles, yule logs, christmas trees, Menorahs, and electric strings of light bring us the necessary light that reassures us, enchants us and chases away the fear from our children’s hearts and are replaced with hope and cheer towards fellow man. Feasts are made from brews and peoples food stores for this moment.
In age old Pagan traditions mankind’s view was that they were being watched over by a family of gods and goddess. Symbolically is seen as the reign of the Goddess . She who rules from Summers fullness, Falls harvest, up to the cold dead introspection and stillness of winter. Then things switch upon the Winter Solstice and the Fire and phallus of procreative powers of the Sun begin again to be re-ignited /reborn and now the God begins his reign from Winters waning, Springs new beginnings and new fertility until Summer when his seed has been spent into the earth and the cycles of fruition are called once again.
I know it’s hard to believe that the first day of winter has not technically happened yet. But the good news is after the 21st we are on our journey to longer days meaning more light, and with that the hope and new beginnings spring brings.
We celebrate the darkness toward the light!
Tonight is very different from our other kinds of performances here at VDP this is a participatory event.
RITUAL provides us with opportunities to become more vividly aware.
More present to the moment we share together.
Tonight we have a couple of simple rituals for us all to participate in, that is if you like.
1. We have joined in spiral dance together in the dark like also many of our ancient ancestors have don before us.
2. We have prepared a sun King Effigy and invite you each to tie into it, your wishes, prayers, and hopes FOR ourselves, each other, and our world. Then later on at around 10 Pm we will burn it in my back yard and symbolically release them into the night sky.
3 .A gift give away ritual.
Some read the web page or got the memo about our gift give away and many did not. Not to worry. Please if you brought one, when we go over to my house for the pot luck feast please place your give away gift on the gifting table on the porch at my house where we will hang the Sun King Effigy that will await it’s burning glory. The give away is a exercise in anonymous giving. It does not mater if you brought a gift or not. Sound with in your self and ask do you need a gift? This is a ritual about receiving as well as giving. Trust in the moment and ask. before you leave take a gift.
4. Candle Light Ritual
Each guest was give a candle and in groups of 3’s walk the spiral to the center and light their candle and then return to the circle. Little by little the room became a beautiful glow around the spiral.
Each of the 4 performances entered the spiral path and shared their performances with us.
Kaori Oto did a mesmerizing energy dance
Delilah did a dervish spinning dance into a Hot Drum solo
Three member of the Neighborhood Temple Priestess dance collective did
A Dance of Light; Jeanette, Elizabeth & Kalara
Dahlia danced to a Rumi Poem that Delilah read, as David Mc Grath played the ney.Then she belly danced and got the audience to join her in the light!
Title: Where Everything Is Music
Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.
We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.
The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.
This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere on the ocean floor.
Poems reach up like spendthrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.
Stop the words now!
Open the window in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly in and out.
The Sun King was paraded across the street and placed on the porch sancuary for late comers to participate in adding wishes. The table filled with enchanting gifts.
The doors were opened
“Let the Feast begin!”
People brought in their foods and drinks to share.
10 PM Winter Solstice Fire Ritual.
Erik roped up a tent so folks could stand in the rain and witness the event and stay dry.
Taiya from Vancouver Island danced in the rain steaming off the fire with a sword on her
head and 10 fire fingers! OMG! The Sun King was raised over the bon fire and slowly lowered to everyones cheers, drumming and a saxophone and clarinet melody! Sparks and embers flew into the night and the Sun Kings face came into focus and then dissolved. Then women began passing out play money and everyone through it into the fire (very cathartic) singing and dancing.
Everyone came back in and more drumming and dancing took place in the livingroom with George Sadat ,Erik Brown and Ed Sullivan. It was an amazing night!
Special Thanks to Maria Lafrance, josie, Laura Legere and Erik who helped do most of the decorating this year! oxox
Photos by Freeman Mester.
1985 I learned about Winter Solstice Rituals and celebrations from two sources. One was my women’s drumming circle and one of it’s main component artists Michelle Saville and Sarah Teofanov. The other one was the Fremont Arts Council, led by Denise Folgelman and Peter Toms. I participated in their amazing Solstice Feasts as honored priestess of the torch for about 15 years (1988-2003). I danced a voodoo belly dance with Afro Cuban drummers until I was drenched with sweat and torched the Sun King! Raw, sexy and yet completely family oriented (just like life!) Those events were so rich for my family, friends and community. I learned alot from the Arts Councils guidance for which I am very thankful. I always consider myself very fortunate to have such an incredible resource in my neighborhood. Things always change however.
In 2004 with the opening of my dance studio up the street from the Fremont Arts Councils Power House, we expanded to umbrella our dance studio participants. Our participation in the Summer Solstice Parade was in the hundreds of participants, so our participation in the Solstice Feast changed accordingly. We focused our attention in participation by creating our own arty stage installations. The main ritual became more about pageantry and less earth in scope. It was growing and more people wanted to participate and they wanted it tamer and more officially organized. The Afro Cuban drum circles even lost focus. The city was becoming more conservative with safety issues and the idea of candles did not sit well with the new fire chief. This was too bad because the old world charm of having it all candle it and electricity prohibited was very special.
By 2008 we decided it had become too big an event and we also heard that the arts council was encouraging some branching off to take place. They were talking about taking the entire event out of the city which would not make it practical for local community participation in the days leading up to the event. Thus 2008 was the first year we did our own Winter Feast event in Fremont. That was the year of the big snow. The arts council planned their event on Saturday night. We planned ours for Sunday. There was a ton of ice and snow and the Sandpoint airplane hanger where they planned to hold the event was too big and cold. It was the first time they canceled the Solstice Feast. By the time Sunday came, people were eager to get out and about so our event was richly attended even though people couldn’t get on a flight out of town. They came on foot with turkey and lazagna in back packs. We had luminare candles in the snow leading people across the street to the sun king sanctuary and a snow flake bond fire in the back. Live music, food and performers. It was amazing. Strangers were invited to participate.
There are other reports over the years I made and put on line. If anyone ever writes a book about these events I hope these essays are helpful.
There are cool photos on these pages as well.