Winter Solstice

“What religion is that?” Alyssa asked. “Oh, it’s a complicated answer,” I replied. “I usually say pagan, but that label was given by Christians to identify those people who believed in other religions.”
“Many different peoples around the world celebrate events associated with the earth, we usually describe them as indigenous or native peoples. But they each had their own beliefs, although most of them recognize the sun in some way.”
“And,” I continued, “what people who call themselves pagan do now is different than what people did in olden times.”
“But what’s the point?” Alyssa pressed for a solid answer. 🙂
“The earth is at its furthest point away from the sun* – its apogee** – which is why the nights are longest. So we spend the night wishing for the sun to rise, in order for its return to bring longer days again.”
“But won’t the sun rise anyway?” (Such a smart cookie!)
“Yes, it will. But no one really knows if our belief makes a difference. Maybe, just maybe, us taking one night of the year and wishing wishing wishing for the sun is part of the overall balance that keeps the universe running the way it does.”***
“Cool!” (Like I said, such a smart cookie.)
*The usual way is to say the sun is farthest from the earth, which is evidence of the lingering “common sense” that the earth, our planet, is the center of the universe. Not. Even though most of us know this is not true, we still tend to act (and talk!) as if it is. The scientific knowledge – after how many hundreds of years? – is not the gut-rock basis of everyday knowledge. (hmmm…)
**The term, apogee, was originally used only to describe the furthest point of the moon away from the earth, BUT the site, “everything2”, where I first read this is some kind of spiritual/scientific mix (astrology-based?) of someone’s particular epistemology. See what they say about the Sun representing the ego or persona of an individual.
***Ever heard of a Milankovitch Cycle? Me neither, until today! I was trying to find out more info on the correct term for the earth’s distance from the sun – apogee is generalizable if we consider the earth as a satellite around the sun (which it is) – but I’m curious if there’s something more precise. Oddly, the perihelion (when the earth’s orbit brings us closest to the sun), is only a couple of weeks away! How can that be? What does this mean in terms of my own knowledge (understanding) of the natural events that are known as the Winter Solstice? It gets complicated, and I’m going to need repetition in order to absorb these facts. First, it is the tilt of the earth’s axis in combination with the rotational cycle that causes the seasons (i.e., the length of day/night and temperature changes). (Do you know, I have learned this before and even yet it has not fully peirced my everyday consciousness. Am I a slow learner or what?!!)
Then, there’s a difference between the tropical year, and the anomalistic year. Each is measured by a different starting point: the tropical year begins/ends at the equinoxes, and the anomalistic year begins/ends at the perihelion. They are not the same! I can’t go further with this now, but here’s a conversion chart showing the slight difference in length between a tropical year and an anomalous year. It is explained in the article linked above on Milankovitch cycles, which are named “after Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian scientist who provided a detailed theory of their potential influence over climate in the 1920s.”

One thought on “Winter Solstice”

  1. Well, what can I say? The apple does not fall far from the tree! 🙂 It is great to have an inquisitive, open mind! Especially at the ripe old age of 11 3/4! Thanks for educating Alyssa and bringing knowledge to her that she might not have acquired otherwise! XO, Drita

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