The winter solstice, also known as the first day of the winter season and the longest night of the year, will arrive this Thursday, December 21. Between Yule celebrations and preparations for New Year's Eve, this is an obviously joyful time of year. But don't overlook the spiritual purpose the solstice serves.
Last year, we spoke with seeress and shaman Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine about the meaning of the winter solstice. She explained that, as we create our own light to make up for the longer and darker nights, our "shadow self" emerges in stark relief. This isn't meant to sound spooky, though; it simply refers to the part of our personalities we usually hide from others.
Depending on how private you are, your shadow self might consist of your emotions, the reflections you write in your journal, your fears, or all of the above. As we're faced with decreasing sunlight, the stress of the holidays, and the anticipation of the new year, this subtler, more sensitive side will require additional attention.
Of course, a little self-care is warranted every year on the winter solstice. But, considering the year we're dealing with is 2017 (and the news cycle that accompanied it), we'd recommend letting your shadow self's needs take centre stage this Thursday. Let go of any internalised stress or worries now so that you can make room for new and brighter hopes for 2018.
Light a fire or a few candles and reflect on what conscious choices you made to help yourself this year. Did you welcome new people into your life, or did you let go of things that no longer served you? Taking this time to thank yourself for listening to your innermost needs will remind you to do the same in the coming year. You can even honour your shadow self by writing down everything it guided you to do in 2017.
The solstice can also be a good time to think about your intentions going into the new year. Ask yourself questions that, once again, focus on choices and changes that are within your power to make: What will you do to benefit others and yourself in 2018? How can your actions add light and warmth to what feels like an increasingly cold world?
Luckily, the moon will be waxing on the night of the solstice, adding to the optimistic energy. It may be the longest night of the year, but it's a good time to remember: There's always light to be found and nurtured, no matter how slight. If you choose to observe the winter solstice, you'll have the opportunity to illuminate even the darkest, quietest parts of yourself.