We’re coming up to the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere – the time of the longest night, after which the days start to lengthen once again. However much we might like darkness and the winter, at some primal level this time tends to bring with it a sense of feeling ‘down’, of fearing all those dreadful states that begin with the letter D: dreariness, despondency, depression, doom, dread, danger and of course death. This figures, because not only are our bodies probably lacking one kind of D we could do with at this time – vitamin D – but because for millennia this time of year signified hardship and a greater risk of death for our ancestors. So this gloom is a soul-memory – not just a reaction to a lack of sunlight.
To keep up the alphabetic association, by the time of the longest night we are desperate to shove along to the next letter E: to experience some euphoria, some ecstasy even, and certainly some energy. We’ll even have to get a different bottle of vitamins down from the shelf now – Vitamin E to protect our skins from the sun.
John Michell, Past-Presider of OBOD, has written about the sometimes uncanny links between the alphabet and our Euphonics a fascinating and witty book on this topic of the associations and meanings of sounds in words, first discussed over 2,000 years ago in Plato’s ‘Cratylus’.
Ideally, of course, our predominant state of being is not at the mercy of levels of sunlight – we’re not lizards. But we’re not impervious too, to the collective memory of humanity.
In our Druid ceremonies we light a candle after bathing in the darkness, symbolizing the turning of the year, the turning of our souls, towards a new year, a new dawn.