Equinoxes & Solstices

Our planetary relationship to the solar system can be celebrated and studied as a source of awe and learning. One interesting note to consider is that the infinity symbol, the lemniscate, is itself the shape of the path of the sun across the sky from any fixed vantage point across a year. The sun’s path along this figure eight pattern is called analemma, and its crossover point is the two equinoxes, while its farthest point is the summer solstice and its closest point the winter solstice. 

Balancing on the Equinoxes: In both the spring and the fall seasons, the Earth comes into balance. Humans experience this as an equally long day and night, and label it the beginning of its respective season. It is said that eggs balance on end remarkably well at the auspicious hour of the equinox. In New York City, a ritualist and Urban Shaman known as Mama Donna leads public gatherings for egg balancing, and anyone who has attended these knows eggs do balance on the equinox. The only question is do they balance on other days, too? It takes a steady patient hand to bring them to balance, so this is a great opportunity for a meditative science experiment – or rather an EGGS-ELLENT time for an EGGS-PERIMENT. Take notes: How many eggs did you manage to get standing and for how long in the auspicious hour of the equinox? Try again later, and the next day – multiple times on multiple days.

Saluting the sun on the Solstices: In winter and summer come the solstices. These are the extreme moments wherein day dominates the summer, and night dominates the winter. These extremes of light and dark are lovely to celebrate. When the darkness dominates, it is often the light that gets celebrated. 

Darkness and Light: Many cultures have celebrations that center around light. They often take place in the darkest seasons. Sometimes darkness, in contrast to light, gets a bad rap and metaphorically gets pushed into realms of fear and negativity. Indeed, darkness is beautiful, rich, and essential to all growth and development. Seeds germinate in the darkness of the ground. Stars shine in the darkness of the sky, even though they are always there! Dreams flourish in the darkness of sleep. Darkness restores us. It unbounds the imagination. 

You can create cavetime for any group of children. For example, in a classroom, each child was given a large cardboard box with one open side to crawl into with a small tealight. Inside it, they could draw on the walls, as ancient ancestors had in deep underground caves. Inside it, they could sit quietly by themselves, and experience darkness, in safety with wonder. “I am me. I am safe within me.” Once in a while, the whole class gathered in the darkness of the large supply closet, cleared for intruder-safety precautions. They sat in their shared cave, silently in utter darkness, practicing for more challenging days when/if the world might be chaotic or dangerous, with the shared mantra, whispered and then internalized, “I am me. I am safe within me. We are we. We are safe together.”

HumanLight: HumanLight is a secular holiday, traditionally marked with celebrations on (or around) December 23rd, that was created by leaders of the New Jersey Humanist Network in 2001. It’s an opportunity to rejoice around shared positive values. “To help express the meaning of this holiday, we light candles, rather than curse the darkness. We light candles to symbolize lighting the way forward to a better future for humanity and for the planet.” Candles are lit to symbolize “the light of Reason,” “the warmth of Compassion,” “the glow of Hope,” and “the heart of Humanity.”

Writer and songmaker Annie Lanzillotto collaborated with singer Bonita Oliver through Ethical NYC in creating the song below to honor darkness for the Winter Solstice Festival.

“My Roots” 
Lyrics & Music by Annie Rachele Lanzillotto
My roots go down with me
In through the dark to see
That is where I find my nutrition
That is where I get rid of inhibition
My roots go down with me
In through the dark to see
That is where I dream up a vision
That is where my soul makes decisions
My roots go down with me
In through the dark to see
That is where I rest and grow
That is where my soul lets go
My roots go down with me
In through the dark to see
That is where I stretch and breathe
That is where I dive into infinity