Over the years, I’ve celebrated the Winter Solstice in varying ways (and in varying degrees), for the honor of various gods. Apollon and Helios, both being Hellenic deities who are highly associated with Solar imagery, are never lacking in devotion during this season of long nights, while we await the Sun’s eventual rebirth. Of course, this attention to those two gods in particular is natural, understandable, and logical for any Hellenic Polytheist who, like myself, chooses to observe these seasonal changes. However, this year, as the Solstice drew nearer, I found that I was not meditating on the profundity of either Apollon’s or Helios’ roles in this shift of seasons, indeed, this shift of awareness, this shift of Power that will continue with the lengthening of days, and the warming of the land. This year, my thoughts were/are concerned with showing honor to Zeus, King of Gods and men.
Now, I am not one to arbitrarily assign birthdates to gods just to fit them into a certain season, but it seems to me that honoring the birth of the King, who would grow to free all of his siblings from the darkness of Kronos’ belly, is just as fitting as any other celebration taking place at this time of year.
Just think… if Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia had never been twice-born. What kind of world would exist in place of this flawed world that we are so fortunate to enjoy? Would we even exist in such a world? My guess is probably not.
When Zeus was born, hope was born along side him. The hope of freeing the Universe from Kronos’ tyranny. The hope of releasing the world and its inhabitance from stagnation, and the fear of inevitable change that I believe the swallowing of Rhea’s daughters and sons represents.
So, as the Kouretes danced their war dances around the tree-hung cradle of the baby Zeus on Mt. Ida (in one version of the myth), hope and a new beginning blossomed into being. Zeus, having grown strong and ready to deliver his brothers and sisters, and indeed the world, from darkness, becomes an even more profoundly symbolic manifestation of the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.
I see the Solstice (the actual point in time that the solar shift occurs, which falls at around 11:30 CST) as the moment of the King’s birth, while the subsequent hours of darkness before the dawn are representative of Zeus’ maturity. And the dawn itself, for me, becomes that glorious moment of triumph when Kronos regurgitates the other gods, freeing them, and all of their evolutionary powers.
Of course, we understand that the tale doesn’t end there. The war between the Olympians and Titans raged violently for some time after. However, through the release of his siblings, Zeus (with Metis’ aid) becomes the catalyst for change, a reminder that the best hope against these dark days, and harsh realities, comes from the wisdom to accept that nothing ever stays the same. Seasons change. Autumn passes into Winter, which in turn passes into Spring.
So, tonight, as many others are paying their respects to my Lord, and to Helios as well, I will be mindful of Zeus, our Father and King, who led the Olympians to victory over the Titans. And I will honor his mother, and her mother also, for their pivotal roles in Zeus’ birth and upbringing. In fact, I am so moved by this new (for me) revelation of the importance of the King’s birth, that this celebration may become a yearly event at my house. Yes, that feels right (for me and my family).
How ever you intend to celebrate the turning of seasons and the solar cycle (if indeed you do), I hope this Winter Solstice is a joyous and moving night of awe and reverence for the divine. Blessed Solstice, friends. And of course…
Hail to Zeus, King of Gods and men, Glorious and Skillful Son of Mother Rhea, Grandson of Gaea, Great-Mother of the Gods! Hail, and Blessed Be!