The year's shortest day and longest night, the Winter Solstice, was celebrated with the next new dawn, as it was shown that the Sun had triumphed over darkness, the Sun had not been "eaten," but was born again. Some would drum throughout the night, lending their energy to keep the Sun alive.
Thereafter, each day would be a little longer, the light a little stronger, as Sol waxed and the darkness waned.
It also marked the end of the "nether" time that began in October, with Samhain, when spirits walked freely across the land: portals between living and dying closed again til another year.
The time of growing light had come, as the time of spring and the Equinox would each day draw nearer. However cold and dark the days remained, a glimmer of hope had arrived.
While Celtic peoples celebrated this special time with feasts, some Native American tribes saw this unique celestial event in a different light.Among the Iroquois, it was a time of dreaming.
Rather than staying up all night to celebrate the dawn, the People of the Longhouse turned in early, to sleep, to dream.
As Mother Night reigned supreme, in dreaming they walked between the worlds of light and darkness, gathering great meaning from what The Great Mystery illuminated for them.
At first light, the entire tribe would gather and each tribal member -- men, women, to the smallest child -- would stand and relate what visions they saw on this special night.
The dreams would be discussed at length by the entire tribe for each vision's meaning -- for the individual, about the world, for the tribe. Sigmund Freud wasn't the first to explore or discover the importance of nightly dreaming any more than Columbus "discovered" the New World. For, the Iroquois practiced this annual event for 1,000 years before the first European set foot on these shores.
French Jesuit missionaries in the 1600s marveled at the Iroquois' annual event, writing about them in letters and journals, especially the aspect of the tribe "acting out" various dreams.
Night of DreamsIt is a powerful awakening each year, this night of dreams, to be approached in sacred manner. In Shamanism, the "gift" of a vision is not realized until acted upon, manifested or "danced" into this reality. That is the Great Truth of our walking between the worlds, at any time of the year, but especially during this time.
What the Iroquois knew, and Westerners would not "discover" for hundreds of years, is that the line between waking "reality" and nightly dreaming is not so impermeable. What the Creator instructs in dreams can be the very "reality" of health, insights, group dynamics and individuality within a community, revealing not only the dreamer's world, but the shared vision -- and lessons -- for a people.
Our modern society has yet to learn this profound truth. Our true desires are slumbering within us even as the Earth turns cold outside and plants sleep as next spring's seeds beneath the ground. We know the world in our hearts, among the Sacred Hoop of our family, friends and loved ones.
It is sad that this time of year has become so commercialized. As our minds are racing to keep up with Christmas shopping, parties, socializing and demands of societal and cultural expectations, our bodies -- if they are in sync with the Earth -- are slowing down.
Illuminating Our VisionsOur attention should not be on the accelerating demands of action to fulfill some cultural impossibility (Christmas and all its attendant demands on time and energy), but on our inner fires, our visions. If we are in sync with the Earth, our outer world will mean less as our inner world expands. The light within will illuminate how we and our world should be.
This year, let's join in dancing our dreams alive as Mother Night watches over us, giving birth to a new dawn. Let's heed our dreams, the ones that are birthed within us, not the ones imposed from without. Let's let the spirit of our ever full, loving hearts' reality drive out the ghosts of want and illusion.
Watch your dreams. Dance your dream.
It is the only "reality" that matters.
Note:In astronomy, the solstice comes two times a year, in summer and winter and both times are incredible portals. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs Dec. 21 or 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn; the summer solstice occurs June 21 or 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Cancer. (In the Southern Hemisphere, the winter and summer solstices are reversed.) The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The precise moment of the solstice this year will be Dec. 22 at 2:04 a.m. Eastern Time (U.S.) or 7:04 Universal Time. But it is a three-day portal, meaning the energies will be powerful Dec. 21-23, with the New Moon on the 23rd giving a boost.