12/20/2011 05:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012

Winter Solstice: Anniversary Celebration of Creation

With the recognition that the solar light in the sky makes it possible for there to be life on Earth, comes enlightened responsibility. As the sun energizes our lives, so too, must we return energy skyward at the solstice when the winter light is at its weakest.

As Mother Teresa counsels, "To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it." Now we must ask not what the sun can do for us, but rather, what we can do for the sun? It becomes imperative in fact, to do all that we can to entice, aid, abet and ensure the safe return of the sun to earth. Life depends upon it.

Now this day,
My sun father,
Now that you have come out standing to your
sacred place,
That from which we draw the water of life,
Prayer meal
Here I give you.

-- Zuni Offering to the Rising Sun

In both imperial China and pre-Columbian Peru, it was the holy duty of the emperors to personally assure the continuation of the cosmos through their annual performance of ritual sacrifices to Heaven on the Winter Solstice in remarkably similar ceremonies.

After fasting for three days they would each emerge before the winter sunrise and proceed to the top of the Round Mound in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and to Haucaypata, Cuzco's ceremonial plaza. There, before retinues of their peoples, they offered libations and obeisance to the celestial center of the universe. They knelt, they bowed -- the Inca blew reverent kisses -- to the supreme solar source of all light.

The king of Swaziland in South Africa, the incarnation of the sun himself, retires in seclusion for the period preceding the solstice. Then, on the day of the sun's return, his warriors dance and chant in front of his compound, urging him to emerge from the dark.

The Mayan Indians of Guatemala perform a flying pole dance, palo voladare, in honor of the old, indigenous pre-Columbian sun god. Two dancers climb a 50-foot pole to the energetic beat of a flute and drum. At the top, they each wrap one end of an attached rope around one of their ankles and leap off into the wild blue yonder. If they manage to land on their feet, the sun god will be pleased enough to start sending more light to earth each day.

Soyal is the Winter Solstice observance of the Hopi People of the American Southwest. During this sacred season of solar renewal, the kachinas, the guides, the spirit helpers of the tribe, emerge from their dark kivas. They come up from the underground ceremonial spaces to join the community for the six-month period of ascending light. Fires are lit and the original creation tale is retold, reenacted and reclaimed. This ritual participation in the process of the workings of the universe affirms and assures the continuation of the cyclical order of time. At Soyal, the sun is symbolically, ceremonially, turned back, thus renewing life for the world.

The return of the retreating sun, which retrieves us from the dark of night, the pitch of winter, is a microcosmic recreation of the origination of the universe, the first birth of the sun. The Winter Solstice is an anniversary celebration of creation. It is both natural and necessary to join together in the warmth of community to welcome the return of light to a world in the dark and to rekindle the spirit of hope in our heart.

If you are in the NYC area, please join me to celebrate the Winter Solstice:

Wednesday night, Dec. 21

11:45 p.m. -- Event starts
12:30 a.m. -- Solstice moment


With Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman & Friends

The Winter Solstice is as dark as it gets! The light will now begin its slow return to the Northern Hemisphere. Let us drum back the sun and reignite the light in our hearts. Let us shine our spirit on the whole world!

This is a family friendly event. Kids and dogs are welcome. Please bring a candle in a glass container, drums, percussion instruments and lots and lots of spirit.


Mama Donna Plaza (aka Grand Army Plaza) at the Fountain
Park Slope, Exotic Brooklyn, NY
2/3 subway to Grand Army Plaza