Monday, December 21, 2009

The Winter Solstice and Human Nature

WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21:  People gath...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Today is the first official day of winter in the northern hemisphere – though you may be thinking otherwise if you’ve already experienced frosty temperatures.

At 12:47pm EST today, winter arrived – wow.

Actually it is a big “wow” if you go back to the start of human civilizations. Long ago we human beings were one with Mother Nature and her seasons.

Stonehenge in the United Kingdom is estimated to have been built somewhere from around 2500 to 3000 BC specifically for the Winter Solstice. The giant stone monument is an ancient burial ground, which archaeologists have cleverly figured out was used in conjunction with another Woodenhenge which is long since gone.

Locals back then would make the trek by foot from all the villages and towns up a giant path to Stonehenge in winter to honor recent and past deceased family and friends. The stones which compose Stonehenge line up perfectly to allow the final fall sunset to shine right through the giant monument – that’s one of the marvels of the thing, because during its construction, they didn’t have the technology we have now to master such miracles.

Archaeologists have found remains not far from Stonehenge of a similar structure which was once made of wood. They have found remains of celebrations, ancient pots, animal bones with burn marks (indicating they were cooked for food) and ancient chalices and other things. The remains indicate this Woodenhenge was constructed specifically to line up with the very first sunrise of summer.

These clever archaeologists have figured that the same people that built Stonehenge would travel to the Woodenhenge and have a celebration, to welcome and honor the re-birth of the growing season. Everything was tied to nature and the seasons.

At the start of the Winter Solstice, these ancient people would pray for their dead, and for the fall harvest. Then when summer returned, they would celebrate and thank their God or Gods for giving them the ability to plant crops once again.

Christian experts even link Christmas to the Winter Solstice, as they aren’t exactly sure of when Jesus Christ was born. But many believe the first Christmas happened on the last day of winter.

These days, with our incredible advances in technology, we know the seasons are caused by the Earth’s rotation around the sun. When the side of the planet you call home is furthest away, your part of the world gets colder and darker, and experiences winter, while the other side is hotter and brighter, and experiences summer.

Although knowing the science behind the seasons shows just how far we’ve come as species, we’ve lost that oneness with Mother Nature, and our world has suffered immensely from that loss.

Back before science told us how the world worked, we humans were in complete balance with all living things across the globe. We didn’t over-harvest our food or animal crops, and we didn’t overpopulate the planet with our kind either.

Back then, according to the experts, we lived in the harmonious cycles of nature with all other living things. The summer celebrations at Woodenhenge marked the start of the growing season, for crops, animals and even people – it was the mating season for us just as it was for deer, rabbits, the birds and the bees. Fall would be the harvest, when crops would be ripe for the picking, and most babies were born. Winter would be the dead season, literally as it reminded us of the power of nature. Spring would signal the start of life and lead us back to summer again.

Although it is good to know the reality of nature, it has put us over the top, out of whack and totally out of balance with nature.

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