This weekend we were up at a local Steiner school to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The ceremony, held at night in the bush surrounds of the school was beautiful. The central motif was a large spiral laid out on the ground, with an unlit candle at the centre. After some invocations and songs the older children spiralled solemnly into the centre carrying candles. The central candle was lit to symbolize the continuing thread of light at this darkest time of year. Then each child in the school, spiralled into the darkness, lit their own candle from the central candle, spiralled out, lighting up candles along the spiral’s edge. Thus the light slowly returned out into the world again.
The symbolism was simple and wonderful, and I am sure was felt on many levels by the children involved, all of whom seem to respect and love the ceremony. The entry into our darkest, most hidden selves, following the course and example of the Sun seemed to be a theme the children resonated with. I was very impressed, and hope that such positive exposure to meaningful ceremony early in life sets them up for the rest of their spiritual lives.
I first came across Steiner education when studying at University many years back. A friend explained how she had mainly a Steiner education, expect for the last couple of months (after a sudden move to Perth) and entry into the mainstream high school system. The subsequent shock was nothing compared with her end of high school exams, where she was asked questions she knew nothing about. When confronted with her Math Tertiary Admission Exam she wrote a poem. Somehow she still managed to score 7% :)
Rudolf Steiner himself has always impressed me. Who cannot be impressed by a man who in the last year of his life (at 63) gave over 300 lectures? His depth of vision and breadth of spirituality within daily life has effected hundreds of thousands since his death in 1925. There are so many sides to Rudolf that even many of his followers do not seem to know them all. For example, some Biodynamic farmers I met knew nothing of his esoteric side. Most Steiner educationalists and even some Anthroposophists do not seem to know of Rudolf’s Rosicrucian and western esoteric connections. Despite his written work being dense at times, he is definitely on my ‘to study more’ list.
The Winter Solstice has always been my favourite ‘seasonal festival’ – Lux ex Tenebrae; light out of darkness and all that :) In my Pagan youth we held our ceremony near a swimming pool or beach pool. We could bless and consecrate the pool with the power of the Underworld and Death, often using the Chant to the Morrigan:
I am the raven of battle…
I am the woman with the twisted mouth
Each line was punctuated with a striking of a whetstone over a genuine scythe. We would then, with wishes and intentions throw our sacred knives into the centre of the pool. One by one, in the freezing shadows we would dive into the darkness, down deep and retrieve the knives, symbolising the recovery from the centre of the hidden stone. We would then be ‘birthed’ out of the pool by the rest of the group, coming into a new phase of life for the following year.
One of the beautiful aspects of the modern pagan traditions is the creation of such dramatic celebrations and the rawness of the elements. It is very different in the RR et AC, where Winter Solstice is not celebrated in any outer way at all, it being focused on the inner connection – through the Vault – with the third, non-incarnate Order. And in the Northern hemisphere, the festival, like the Summer Solstice, is transposed onto a close by Christian celebration, in this case of course, Christmas. Still, all in all the RR et AC functions more deeply and solidly, both in terms of personal transformation for service, and actual telesmatic charging of a city’s egregore with the blessings of the higher spiritual forces. But I still miss the naked diving into the cold iron dark :)