All About the Winter Solstice: Best Practices & Tips
The winter solstice is tomorrow--December 21st. It marks the beginning of Capricorn season, a sign that represents duty, hard work, and the struggle to achieve in the face of adversity. Capricorn is willing to bear weight in its lonely ascent towards the summit of achievement. It's in struggle, adversity, and lack that Capricorn shines. Therefore, the season of Capricorn perfectly coincides with midwinter, when the landscape is barren and cold.
The winter solstice marks the point in midwinter when we experience the shortest day and the longest night. It's a point when yin energy is the strongest and yang energy is the weakest. Yin energy is associated with the feminine, with earth, with water, the dark, and the liminal space between transitions. Feminine energy is absorptive and holding. Yang energy is masculine, associated with fire and air, and is releasing and assertive.
(Disclaimer: this is about energetic archetypes and not gender--everybody, regardless of gender identity, possesses feminine and masculine energy. We speak of energy, not people.)
Winter solstice is the day that yin energy dominates, so we are naturally predisposed towards introversion, introspection, and we are asked to step into an emotional and spiritual liminal space--that space at the threshold where you're neither here nor there. Standing at that threshold with no clear direction is uncomfortable--especially if you're a cardinal sign that needs a sense of direction! It is, however, a powerful space to contemplate from. In that uncomfortable space, you sit in the womb of possibilities and it's a chance to truly reflect before planning your next steps. It's not fun, but it's necessary work before you shoot off into the new year.
Here's the problem. What's described above sounds nothing like how we celebrate the holidays. Our holidays are merry, jolly, bright--and there's nothing wrong with that--but we forget to do our solstice work. The merriment and family are meant to bring warmth to us during a time when we need it--a time when we retreat into our inner depths and face all of our failures, shortcomings, and mortality. We are meant to do our solstice work, to review our year and honor the loved ones and dreams lost, as we surround ourselves with the love and warmth of friends and family. The celebrations give us the hope and inspiration to continue to plod forward with all the enduring spirit of Capricorn, and the bitterness makes the love sweeter. After you reflect on what you lost, it is time to practice gratitude for what you have.
Many people always feel a sense of melancholy during the holidays, myself included. While seasonal affective disorder and depression are very real, how many of us wonder what's wrong with us for not fully engaging in the holiday spirit? What if we gave ourselves permission to lean into those feelings of melancholy, sobriety, and not berate ourselves for thinking about our mortality and that of our loved ones? What if that is also the spirit of this holiday--the spirit of the winter solstice?
Two things happen simultaneously during the solstice: We reach the lowest point of daylight, but daylight also begins to increase from that point forward. The light reaches rock bottom, and then it swings back up. Solstice traditions around the world have celebrated this as a return of the sun, return of a god or rebirth of a god, the return of the yang energy. Embedded in the darkest night is hope that the light is returning.
The solstice is a time for reflection, for letting go, and for gratitude. It's a transitional time where you take one last look at the year gone by before you turn your head towards the year yet to come. It is a powerful time for transformative change, and like Capricorn, you must put in the work if you're to reap rewards.
Where we go wrong is that we miss this time and we do resolutions after the solstice when the celebrations have already passed and we aren't girded by the psychological protection of friends, family, and traditions. It's like trying to have a romantic dinner at a restaurant after they've blown out the candles, turned on the fluorescent lights, and started to clean. The moment has passed and taken the magic with it. You can eat the same food, but it's not the same.
And, yes, even the sobering winter solstice can be magical. It's a day of cosmic alignment. It's the longest night. And if we're to believe as above, so below as well as as without, so within, then it is the best time for you to access your own feminine wisdom, because that part of you is also the strongest during the solstice.
Your divine feminine is the mother of both death and creation, because it is one and the same. To the divine feminine, there is no beginning or ending, there is no failure or achievement, and there is no difference between the unconscious and the conscious. Spirit and matter are the same, and in the eyes of the divine feminine, you are both here, there, everywhere, as well as nowhere. Phenomena rises and falls, and the feminine wisdom does not react. It observes. Because feminine wisdom accepts all possibilities but doesn't react to them, it is also the place from which we best can plan our next steps.
Masculine energy needs a place to go, a direction to move towards, so it puts blinders on and gets moving. That's great when you've already decided on your direction, but it's the feminine that can observe all possibilities with wisdom and calm. In short, step into the uncomfortable liminal space with your feminine wisdom and decide your path from that place.
The winter solstice is the best time to do it because that's when both the outer yin and your inner yin energy is strongest, and we need all the help we can get to access it because we live in a masculine dominated, extroverted society. We've been socially conditioned to value characteristics and actions that produce material results. A divine feminine that doesn't actually do anything and just knows is just not celebrated or valued in our society today. We're all cut off from that side of us, so the energy of the solstice is a much-needed helpful push for all of us to connect with our deep, inner knowing.
The days around the winter solstice are great for reflection, journaling, reminiscing, doing readings for yourself, getting readings from someone, or just taking time to go on walks by yourself while you contemplate your life.
The winter solstice is also a time to nourish your the masculine, fiery, yang energy that is coming back. Feed it like you would kindling. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, anything you do on the day of the winter solstice to feed your yang energy can fortify your fire energy and protect you from winter illnesses. (Conversely, anything you do to weaken it will also weaken your vitality and make you more vulnerable to illness throughout winter.) Here are the basic do's and don'ts:
Do bundle up and protect yourself from the cold. Cover the vital points of your torso, your neck and shoulders, and your head. Protect your knees, as well. Protect them from both cold and wind.
Don't consume icy or cold drinks or food that day. Choose soup instead of salad and warm drinks instead of cold.
Do consume fortifying bone broths and warming foods, such as ginseng, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. Choose root vegetables over green ones. If you don't eat a lot of meat, this is one of those days to consider partaking, especially if your astrology is earth-heavy, water-heavy, lacking fire, or if you're a fire sign (especially Leo).
Do soak up sunlight if it's available. Imagine the sunlight filling your body and stoking the fire of your vital force in your belly. Literally imagine the sunlight feeding that fire and visualize the flame grow into a healthy fire that fills your body with light and heat. If your chart is heavy in earth/water and low in fire, consider doing this visualization throughout winter.
The best part about doing your internal winter solstice work is that you'll clarify your position and direction for the new year in time for Aquarius season in mid-January. Aquarius is the sign of the innovator and the genius, so you'll develop new ways of achieving your goals!