A Solstice Legend


The Peacemaker

The Native American myth of Deganawidah ahs many astonishing parallels with the story of Christ

The Native American myth of Deganawidah has many astonishing parallels with the story of Christ

The influence of Christian myths may well have affected another story from Native American traditions — that of the Deganawidah the Pacemaker.  This semi-mythical character, also known as the Man from the North, was born into the Wendot tribe, later known as the Huron, who lived along the northern shore of present day Lake Ontario.  According to tradition, Deganawidah was born of a virgin who, when she confessed to her mother that she was pregnant but had never known a man, was revealed to have been visited by a messenger of the Great Spirit Tarenyawagon, who was sending a messenger to bring  lasting peace to humankind.  At first there was much doubt among the tribes-people, and it is even told that Deganawidah’s grandmother tried three times to kill the child after prophecies that he would bring no good to the tribe.  Yet Deganawidah survived, and grew imbued with wisdom, intelligence, and kindness.  He spoke with animals and birds, and began to teach a message of peace among his fellows.  The walking Huron found this distasteful and strange and tried to drive Deganawidah away.  On reaching manhood he wandered in the wilderness for a time and then set forth in a white canoe said to have been made, astonishing, of stone, to visit other tribes.  In the years that followed he traveled amongst the tribes and eventually founded the great Iroquois Confederacy, a democratic union of five tribes from amongst the northeastern woodlands, the concept that influenced not only the founding got of the United States constitution, but also that of the United Nations.

Deganawidah’s death remains mysterious, and like King Arthur, it is believed that he will return at the time of the his country’s need.  Remembered still as the Peacemaker, he is seen as a harbinger of peace and as messenger of God.  His life parallels that of Christ in many ways, especially in his birth and youthful deeds.  He is a perfect example of the Children of Wonder, who come in the dark heart of Winter to bring light and a message of peace to the world.

Pacemaker2

Deganawidah, the PeaceMaker, was brought up with intelligence and kindness and, like Jesus, went on to spread a message of peace and democracy

–From The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas by John Matthews

Just What is the Winter Solstice


winter solstice

winter solstice

” Welcome everything! Welcome all alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places around the Christmas fire, where what is sits open-hearted.”  –Charles Dickens, 1851

There is a moment of silence that occurs every year, somewhere between the dawn of Christmas Eve and the setting of the sun on Christmas Day itself–a moment we have all experienced at least once in our lives, maybe more than once. It can silence a great city like London or New York, and it can bring stillness to our hearts, whoever and wherever we may be. It offers the promise of new beginnings, of the clean slate of a new year, and it incorporates the breathless expectancy of Christmas night itself, when a familiar figure enter our lives and changes them briefly. It is a moment such as this that lies at the heart of the Midwinter Solstice.

There are many legends and traditions which have made it down through the centuries and are still with us in the twenty first century. There was a bringer of Christmas fare, the Green Knight. He is woven in and out of King Authur’s court. He would arrive just as the festivities were beginning. He offered a strange game—that someone should strike his neck with his great ax. Only Gawain is brave enough to accept the challenge, and undergoes many trials before the tale ends. For once his head has been severed, the Green Knight is able to pick it up, and await the coming of his challenger—a trick that Gawain is not able to do. The Green Knight is the incarnate spirit of Winter, able to present his frightening challenge as the prelude to a battle for the hand of the Spring Maiden.

“It is only in the past three hundred years or so that a “rational” civilization has turned its back on both the Christian and the Pagan traditions and remembered the Solstice by custom and habit rather than by an instinctual involvement with the turning of the seasons.

                                                                                                                   —Shirley Toulson: A Winter Solstice

The Green Man or the Green Man

The Green Man or the Green Man

“Here at the gateway of the year,

may we strive to make good cheer.

In our revels shall joy abound

and sorrow be cast underground.”

—Caitlin Matthews: Sun Still; Sun Return

It is just before sunrise on a cold December day some three thousand years before the coming of Christ. For those crouched at the heart of the mound it must seem as though light has been banished forever. Then, suddenly, a tiny sliver of sunlight strikes the stone slab at the back of the chamber. Slowly it widens, climbs upward, illuminating a number of mysterious carvings—circles and spirals, zigzag patterns. For the people crouched in the center of the great mound of Brug na Boine (also known as New Grange) every symbol has meaning. But by far the greatest significance is the return of the sun itself. The light that enters the dark womb of the earth brings with it the promise of warmth and life to come.

solsticestonehenge

                                                                                                                 Stonehenge at sunrise