By Ellen F. Franklin, PhD
As the solstice approaches there is an opportunity to find our own still point to reach deep within and to find celebration, ceremony and ritual to feed our hearts, the depths of our soul, and access the beautiful light contained within us all. At this creative junction between the darkest day of the year and a return to the light may it provide a powerful gateway for the shifts we wish to see in ourselves and in the world.
Donna and I are in Ixtapa, Mexico to celebrate her birthday and work on several writing projects. Ixtapa located next to the town of Zihuatanejo was created in the 1970s as a government-planned tourist resort, constructed on what was once a coconut plantation and mangrove estuary. Unlike Cancún, the first planned resort (also created in the 1970s) Ixtapa remains small and fairly low key. Today it is largely frequented by Mexican families as it is just a five-hour drive from Mexico City and three hours from Morelia the capital of the central Mexican state of Michoacán a beautifully preserved colonial city.
Over the years Mexico has become our go-to destination in winter months to get away from cold and snow. We love the warmth of the people and always feel welcome often striking up conversations in my broken Spanish on public buses about a wealth of topics from politics to agriculture. It is heart breaking to hear the vitriol coming out of the mouths of so-called leaders in our nation’s capital as people here are kind, hard-working, gracious and so welcoming. Despite the mid-term victories for the democrats in the house of representatives. It is good to be away from the darkness that has engulfed the US and to have time to reflect on ceremony, solstice and other rituals and celebration that take place in December.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights – December 2-10
The Festival of Guadalupe – December 12
Winter Solstice – December 21
Hanukkah, the festival of lights is an eight-day celebration, which this year is December 2-10. This holiday commemorates the reclaiming of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE. Each night one additional candle is lit until the eight-branched menorah is blazing with light. Hanukkah is truly a reclaiming of the sacred, and a recognition that our light must not be dimmed regardless of faith or spiritual practice we must be able to stand tall in our beliefs and celebrate in community with recognition that all spiritual beings have the right to honor and practice their beliefs.
When reflecting on Hanukkah I often think about the Shekhinah, the Mother of all being, the fire that dwells within each of us to embody joy.
The Shekhinah is embodied in the indwelling fire within, the divine light within the life of the world she embodies joy, seeks peace and promotes human connections for transformation and healing. She serves as a symbol of shared suffering and empathy and the embodiment of the Divine feminine. You see the spirit of the Shekinah represented in the warrior goddess Inanna, in Kuan Yin who embodies compassion for those who suffer, and in the Virgin Mary.
Here in Mexico the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe the patron saint of Mexico is celebrated on December 12, her image can be found everywhere most commonly depicted with an angel and moon at her feet she is encircled with light. The celebration commemorates the sighting of the dark-skinned Mary by indigenous farmer Juan Diego on December 9, 1531 on Tepeyac Hill in what is now northern Mexico City. Guadalupe wanted a shrine to be built in her name and as the legend goes when Diego, an Aztec, approached the Bishop about this vision the Bishop did not believe him. So, in the middle of winter the Virgin grows roses and then reappears on December 12 to instruct Juan Diego to collect the roses in his cloak and bring them to the bishop. Juan Diego follows directions, gathering the roses he returns to the Bishop. When he opens the cloak, the roses fall to the ground and the image of the Virgin was imprinted on the inside. This image became the wellspring of a conversion movement of the indigenous in Mexico. The Virgin Mother was dark skinned she spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, she appeared wearing the dress of an Aztec princess. A shrine that subsequently built on the spot, where the original cloak can still be seen, to this day is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world. Our Lady of Guadalupe stands for life, for health, for hope; she supports and aids us during times of loss and is a symbolic representation of earthly and other-worldly hopes and desires, a genuine embodiment of illumination for life and hope and like the Shekhinah she is an aspect of the feminine face of god. She has become a cultural figure and a symbol of national identity in Mexico despite misgivings with the Church or not being Catholic at all people identify as "Guadalupanos”, followers of Guadalupe finding a sense of belonging and identity in the patroness.
The winter solstice is without question a time to celebrate going deep within, the process of reverting to the root to pause and reflect on what a year it has been for all of us. What are the lessons we wish to carry forward, to embrace, shine a light on, learn from and let go. How can we effectively pause to nourish and nurture self and others and to cherish each moment of our existence regardless of the obstacles that stand in our way.
As we move toward the New Year and 2019 – open your eyes, ears and hearts to be all that you can be, harmonious, loving, light filled beings.
Blessings of harmony, and light for this holiday season and the year ahead.
Ellen, Donna and Sande
Winter Sunrise, Mothership © 2018, Ellen F. Franklin