Winter Solstice feels more meaningful to me than Xmas or New Year, neither of these have played a significant part in my life, religiously or otherwise. Each celebration however, does have some themes and rituals which bring me pleasure and time for reflection. Whist thoroughly enjoying a recent carol service and remembering each hymn word perfect, my companion, a visitor from the East, (not a King), listened spell bound as I told the Bible story behind the words. A perfect baby, the Magi, how charming. Try explaining the virgin birth, or the slaughter of all Jewish baby boys ordered by Pharoah, when the Magi told him of the Savior’s birth. It was interesting to hear how in her experience, coming from a predominantly non-Christian country, what Christmas traditions they have adapted totally detached from the Bible story.
Traditional church services have little spiritual appeal for me, but I do enjoy church buildings.The interior of churches are where many find comfort and where they also find space to create meaning. The above photograph was taken in Wakefield Cathedral. I was pleased that my phone camera captured, unaided by flash and in the candlelit space, or without later editing, this rather other worldly image.
The dwindling daylight of the season means I rely more on the lighting of lamp or candle, which I find cozy. I’m happy I don’t feel obliged to observe too many of the season’s other razzmatazz trimmings. It’s good to remember, as one of our last posts mentioned, that this season’s celebrations can be a very difficult time for some people, the reasons may be numerous. Loss of natural light at this time of year can lower peoples general resilience; the perception that everyone else might be having fun.when they are not, can be isolating; lack of money to choose which rituals they might want to join, a lack of adequate heating or essential food, or in addition poor health can severely disadvantage many. (If you need support over the holiday period here are the details again)
My preference for Winter Solstice is because of it’s fewer trappings. I no longer observe any of it’s Pagan rituals that I once found novel in contrast to my earlier Christian but non-conformist traditions. It is the Winter Solstice physical descent into darkness which helps me confront symbolically the life journey I’m on.
Winter Solstice is the “shortest day and longest night of the year”. Daylight hours may be short but it also marks the return to increased daylight, which though imperceptible at first, by a fraction of a second on each successive day returns us assuredly to the sun’s Spring light.
During last year’s Winter Solstice I was moved to write about the different names people have given the moon that signals Winter Solstice. Moon cycles never fail to fascinate me, and that afternoon the sighting of the moon and sun in a bright blue afternoon sky inspired.
Though I feel able to give as much or as little attention to Christian or Pagan rituals as I wish, as the mood takes me. I think the everyday rites we as individuals re-create are just as valid and meaningful as the ones we might traditionally and collectively.enjoy. It may be tempting to regard disdainfully those who celebrate in different ways to ourselves, especially when commerce and excess appear to drive their enjoyment, but it is meaningful to them in what otherwise might seem a humdrum existence. Dr. Dorothy Rowe describes all of us as “meaning.creating” beings.
Lighting a candle for those in physical or emotional distress, or for those who have died was never part of my religious tradition. I’ve adopted it nowadays as a gesture when words have been insufficient for seemingly unsolvable situations; in memory of those who’s mood has tipped them into darkness more times than is useful, and for those who’s ill health dims or extinguishes their future.
Fiona Venner, the Manager of Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service (LSLCS) says:
“Christmas is the worst time of year for many people and it is very important that people who may need our support know that we are open during this period.”
The Crisis Service will be open right through Christmas, with two services, Dial House @ Touchstone and the Connect Helpline being open on Christmas Day. For the full list of their opening times, click below:
If you walk through the air today
you’d be surprised.
You’ll find that the same ‘cold’
breeze of yesterday
feels reassuring in the heat of the sun,
and seeps in through
your grey or colourful jumper.
The frost hugs you,
In a warm embrace.
The Italian Voice, Cold outside, https://www.flickr.com/photos/desiitaly/1634943068/in/photostream/, accessed 20.12.2014
We like Leeds Art Gallery. Not only is it free and warm, but there are often great exhibitions like the Fiona Rae one we covered in 2012. Jude Woods has the fabulous job title of Assistant Community Curator at the Gallery and was first mentioned on the blog in connection with the brilliant Black History Month event ‘Five’ in November, where a panel of 4 artists walked us around the gallery and talked about artworks from the perspective of ‘Empire’.
Now Jude has written us about her work at the Gallery, and some great opportunities to get down there and get involved. Jude says:
“It’s my job to encourage more people to come to the gallery especially people who haven’t been before. I also help people to enjoy the artworks by making our activities more accessible. I offer gallery tours to community groups and activities for children and adults. I work both at the gallery and out in the community. As well as one off events I also offer some regular groups which people can get involved in, at the moment they are:”
• Artful: easy arts activities for families in the gallery, every third Saturday of the month – Drop in between 1 and 3 or come to the whole session.
• Artful @ Marlborough Street (in the community hall): easy arts activities for anyone (adults and children) who lives around Marlborough Street (LS1), last Saturday of the month. Drop in between 1 and 4 or come to the whole session.
• Queer Eye Group: for anyone who is interested in Queer Culture, we explore the artworks in the gallery with a ‘queer eye’ using discussion, drama and arts activities. Tuesdays 4.30 – 6.30 and Thursdays 11 – 2, we meet most weeks but get in touch to find out when the next sessions are on.
• LGBT*IQ Social History Project: This new project is about collecting historical objects and telling the stories of our local gay communities, get in touch of you want to get involved. (LGBT*IQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Intersex, Queer/Questioning)
• The Warm Welcome Project: (starts March 2015) every Friday morning (10.30 – 12) in the gallery we will have interesting conversations about the artworks, drop in or stay for the whole session. Find out more about the artworks, join in a discussion about art and life using easy words so everyone can join in.
• Working in partnership with People in Action we offer 2 regular arts sessions for adults who have a learning disability: Saturdays 11 – 1 and starting in 2015 another during the week. Contact People in Action (email@example.com 0113 2470411) to join the groups.
• Multi-sensory tours for people who have visual impairment: available from March 2015, for both individuals and groups, get in touch to find out more.
Any questions? Get in touch to find out more:
Jude Woods, Leeds Art Gallery, 0113 2477021, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phoenix Health and Wellbeing in Leeds city centre provide alternative treatments such as various massages, aromatherapy and acupuncture. Acupuncture is a very ancient form of treatment. Traditionally, the Chinese believe our bodies have an energy force called ch’i (pronounced ‘chee’) or qi. Ch’i runs through the body in channels called meridians. These meridians can become blocked either through excessive yang energy – an energy that creates activity, or excessive yin energy – an energy that creates passivity. An excess in either yang or yin is the result of certain thoughts and actions. The excess can cause mental and/or physical illnesses and more minor conditions. It is believed that applying the acupuncture needles in specific points on the body stimulates the meridians which then un-block. The needles are thin and sometimes people don’t feel them when they are applied or just after application. The acupuncturist at Phoenix explained that in China, acupuncture is a communal treatment, many people will be treated in the same room at once. On Wednesdays Phoenix treat three people simultaneously in their Community Acupuncture clinic.
The staff at Phoenix were very pleasant and friendly. The acupuncturist asked about my health and how much sleep I get, then I got on the bed which was like a more comfortable version of the type you see at a conventional doctor’s. There was relaxing classical music playing in the background. The acupuncturist and a trainee took my pulse. A needle was placed in each elbow and a few were put in my lower legs. I was often asked if I felt comfortable and okay. I did. I was then told to simply relax and I shut my eyes for about fifteen minutes. I felt some pleasant sensations in my arms. By the time the needles were removed, I felt very relaxed, almost to the point of drowsiness. The acupuncturist said I could relax for a little longer before leaving.
When I left the room, the receptionist asked if I was alright and gave me a glass of water. The acupuncturist said to keep hydrated with hot drinks. I was asked if I would come again, I definitely would.
Phoenix also provide counselling and support to people with mental and/or physical health issues.
By Daniel Tavet
Is it risky to love and care for others? How does it feel to be broken? Does Enlightenment help? As we descend into the gloom before Solstice, or if the demands of preparing for Christmas leave us feeling stressed, these questions might lighten our thoughts.