Wednesday Wonderment – Winter Solstice

Today, the Northern Hemisphere experiences the winter solstice.  That  special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures even during neolithic times. Astronomical events were often used to guide activities such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). It is significant that at Stonehenge the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the middle of the monument, i.e. its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

The winter solstice was immensely important because the people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but at the beginning of the pagan day, which in many cultures fell on the previous eve.

Birth of the Sun

Because the event was seen as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures which used cyclic calendars based on the winter solstice, the “year as reborn” was celebrated with reference to life-death-rebirth deities or “new beginnings” such as Hogmanay’s redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also “reversal” is yet another frequent theme, as in Saturnalia’s slave and master reversals.

Iranian people celebrate the night of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice as, “Yalda night”, which known to be the “longest and darkest night of the year”. In this night all the family gather together, usually at the house of the oldest, and celebrate it by eating, drinking and reading poems (esp. Hafez). Nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are particularly served during this festival.

The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day “midwinter” (winter solstice) holiday called Yule (also called Jul, Julblot, jólablót, midvinterblot, julofferfest). Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendents of Yule customs. Scandinavians still call Yule “Jul”. In English, the word “Yule” is often used in combination with the season “yuletide”  a usage first recorded in 900. It is believed that the celebration of this day was a worship of these peculiar days, interpreted as the reawakening of nature. The Yule (Jul) particular god was Jólner, which is one of Odin’s many names. The concept of Yule occurs in a tribute poem to Harold Hårfager from about AD 900, where someone said “drinking Jul”. Julblot is the most solemn sacrifice feast. At the “julblotet”, sacrifices were given to the gods to earn blessing on the forthcoming germinating crops. Julblotet was eventually integrated into the Christian Christmas. As a remainder from this Viking era, the Midsummer is still important in Scandinavia, and hence vividly celebrated.

Sol Invictus (“The Unconquered Sun”) was originally a Syrian god who was later adopted as the chief god of the Roman Empire under Emperor Aurelian. His holiday is traditionally celebrated on December 25, as are several gods associated with the winter solstice in many pagan traditions.

Time to celebrate!  How will you celebrate this momentous occasion?

Wednesday Sunrise

Morning has broken

Morning is certainly one of my favorite times, even though I am not an early riser…  It’s always a good thing to welcome another day, particularly when there’s a nice sunrise.  Currently, it is the season to welcome the sunrise on a regular basis, as it occurs when I am on my way to work.

One of the features that I pass during my commute is Wachusett Reservoir, where this morning’s image was captured.

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Wednesday Color

This reflection was kind of interesting, but I also noticed another possible shot…

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A Minute Later

I actually like this one a bit more.  Which one do you like best?

Technical Details

Both of these images were captured with an iPhone 6S with the standard Camera app.

Saturday’s Sunrise – pt 6

The day ahead…

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, which looks to develop into a pretty warm day!  Luckily there’s no shortage of things to do around the house and in the yard, which will be done one at  time!

As I was looking at some of the sunrise images in my collection, I came across this Autumn shot from a couple of years ago, which caught my eye…

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Morning Reflections

The bit of haze across the pond and the serenity of the scene, make this one worthwhile for contemplating the day ahead and all its promises.

Have a wonderful day!

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 5S using the standard Camera app.

A True Companion

Sun’s company!

On this first day after the Summer Solstice, WordPress’ Daily Prompt asks us to ponder the them ‘Companion‘.  As a dog owner, or rather a dog-servant, the idea of our dogs being companions in our lives came up right away, but I decided to go a little deeper in today’s response to the prompt and examine other companionship…

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Companions

The companionship between life on Earth and the Sun is possibly the most significant one that exists in our existence, as that existence would not have been without our closest star.

Enjoy contemplating this with this sunrise image…

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 4S using the standard Camera app.

Saturday’s Sunrise – pt 5

Tiny Light

This Saturday is starting with great weather to kick off what is going to be a fantastic day!  It’s always good to have some plans for the weekend, which is the case today!  First, let’s take a look at a morning image from a couple of years ago…

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Hydrant Morning

This image comes from one of my commute photos acouple of years back.  Clearly, the hydrant is getting good reception with its antenna attached!

Tonight, my wife and I are going to a show at Blue Hills Bank Pavillion in Boston: we’re going to see Grace Potter, which is a show that I am very much looking forward to seeing!  It should be a perfect evening after a rather hot day!

Hope you have great plans for your weekend too!

Daily Prompt – Natural

Serene moment of the day

There’s nothing more natural than the assumption that the Sun will rise again tomorrow…  Indeed it does, as long as the Earth continues its rotation, whether we are there to observe the first light of morning or not.

So for this moment, let’s appreciate the simple, serene beauty of a calm morning without a cloud in the sky, as the Sun rises…

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Peaceful Morning

Take a deep, cleansing breath and may you enjoy the rest of your day!

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 5S using the standard Camera app.

In response to the Daily Prompt – Natural.

Saturday’s Sunrise – pt. 4

Morning mood

There may be a little rain in the forecast, which is much appreciated by the garden, but the clouds that bring this rain will not deter us from celebrating another great sunrise.

The Yoga Tree stands strong on this cloudy morning, awaiting the incoming weather, anticipating the revitalizing rain.

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Cloudy Morning

This image is from late December in 2014, before the massive snow fall of that Winter had arrived.  This was one of those mornings that provided a wonderful mood to capture a scene of simple beauty.

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 5S using the standard Camera app with a bith of sharpening and structure added through Instagram.

Saturday’s Sunrise – pt. 3

Golden morning

On this beautiful morning, I’d like to take a moment to look back to one of my favorite Yoga Tree sunrise images.

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The Wise Tree

This image goes back to 2013 in the late Autumn, as a few leaves stubbornly hang on to the wise Yoga Tree.  A gentle sky provides a backdrop with golden tones.

This is one image that is certain to be included in the exhibit.  I print this limited edition on paper with a slight gold tone in it, to lift the gold in the image.

Hope you enjoy your day!

Technical Detail

This image was captured with an iPhone 4S using the standard Camera app.

Saturday’s Sunrise – pt 2

Cool thought for a hot day

Today is forecasted to be a rather hot day, here in New England, so I thought it might be nice to put up a sunrise reminder of cooler days, just over two years ago.

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Cool Sunrise

On a day, when we know that we’ll be tested in our ability to deal with the heat, we can spare a moment to remind ourselves of days when cool times were appreciated for their beauty.  We know they shall return!

Let’s enjoy this day!

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 5S using the standard Camera app and some minor adjustments in Instagram.

Inspired by Weekly Photo Challenge – Spare

Saturday’s Sunrise

Colorful beauty

On this morning of absolutely gorgeous weather, I thought I’d share an image of a Yoga Tree sunrise from a couple of years ago.

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Color Abounds

Every morning is special, as the Earth rotates to show us the Sun once again; some mornings come together with a palette of colors that remind us to never underestimate the simple pleasure of each new day.

Let’s enjoy this day!

Technical Details

This image was captured with an iPhone 5S using the standard Camera app and some minor adjustments in Instagram.

Inspired by Daily Prompt – Underestimate