Winter Solstice: Knowing Yourself Through The Night

winter solstice

Happy Winter Solstice everyone! This centuries old celebration is one of the most meaningful days of the year to me. Ever since I was a small child, the inky nights of winter held a certain kind of spooky magic that enthralled me.

Starting with the Fall Equinox, our literal time in light begins to decrease, as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. Today, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, which means that we spend most of the 24-hour cycle in total darkness. I have always felt that solstice darkness is thicker than other nights, and perhaps that is because it has the possibility to symbolize so much.

The Shadow

It is during the darkest time of the year that we’re metaphorically invited to dive into our shadow and palpably feel into the unknown. In depth psychology, the shadow represents aspects of ourselves that we’re unaware of, have repressed, or disavowed. Often the shadow is represented as negative; but the true definition is that part of ourselves that eludes the conscious/daytime mind and lives most fully in our unconscious dreamlife.

The Winter Solstice can be understood as a time for exploring shadow life — an invitation to find yourself through the long night. It can be understood as a season of ending or releasing into the life cycle.

Many fall and winter holidays celebrate the end of the life cycle, or light within the darkness. Yom Kippur, Eid al-Adha, Halloween, Diwali, All Hallows Eve, Dia de los Muertos, and many more demarcate this time of year with ritual and celebration. To me, it often feels like shared human history demands that we take pause during this season and contemplate the shrouded: darkness, shadow, and endings.

enlist An Archetype

In order to encounter new parts of yourself, you might need to shift the “lens” through which you usually see yourself. One way you might do this would be to enlist archetypal or symbolic wisdom, and the collective unconscious through the use of the Tarot (cards).

tarot, winter solstice

Beth Maiden (2014) of LittleRedTarot.com provides the following guidelines on a New Moon/Winter Solstice spread. Turn the cards up from the deck and place them one at a time as shown in the illustration (photo credit: Beth Maiden, LittleRedTarot.com).

  1. Where you standtarot spread
  2. Something to leave behind
  3. Something to receive
  4. Something to learn
  5. Something to give
  6. Your hopes and dreams
  7. Your secret special skill

Using this spread as a template to stretch your self-understanding. You might reflect on how these symbols and archetypes appear in your life (i.e. in dreams, coincidences, slips of the tongue, relationships, the environment, art, etc). Using Tarot cards, the idea is to encounter something about yourself that is outside of your normal awareness or identity. So, you might need to get creative — try on new interpretations, discuss them, journal about them, chew on them, see how they feel and fit or don’t.

See what stirs in you, or what pulls at you. During this time of the year, if you dare to sit with what is buried, concealed, or disguised from your ordinary identity you might find something surprising emerges. This is a sure sign you have bumped into an aspect of your shadow. Happy hunting!

 

References:

Maiden, B. (2014, December 19). Winter solstice and a new moon. Little Red Tarot. Retrieved from http://littleredtarot.com/winter-solstice-new-moon-tarot/

Krans, K. (2016). The wild unknown tarot. San Fransisco, CA: HarperElixir.

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About Elizabeth Duke, Psy.D.

Elizabeth Duke joined the LifeWorks Psychotherapy team in July 2015. She has been trained as an Equine Assisted Psychotherapist and also has had a therapy dog. Clients who are experiencing depression, loss, or long standing difficulties in relationships sometimes find a therapy animal can offer a unique channel of healing that may not require words. Elizabeth is a member of the American Psychological Association; Division 32, Society for Humanistic Psychology; Division 44, Society for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues; and Kink & Poly Aware Chicago Therapists (KPACT).