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  • Writer's picturePauline Smit Reiki

Equinoxes and Solstices

You may know that the solstices and equinoxes in the UK signal the changing of the seasons, but do you remember which is which? Or are they just different names for the same thing?

Perhaps the most useful way of thinking about their relationship is to say that a solstice and an equinox are a sort of opposite, but we need all four to help us our mind and spirit accept and appreciate change, balance and wholeness.

There are two equinoxes which happen in March (about 21st March) and September (about 21st September). These are the days when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, which makes day and night of equal length (12 hours of daylight, 12 hours darkness).

There are two solstices which happen in June (20th or 21st) and December (21st or 22nd). These are the days when the Sun’s path in the sky is the farthest north or south from the Equator, which makes the longest day of daylight (June) and the shortest day of daylight (December).

The wonder of this is due to the fact our planet is slightly tilted, so at different points in the year it moves closer to or further away from the sun. This provides the four seasons that the UK has, enabling us to sew and harvest crops, enjoy warm summers and cold winters, and observe different cycles culturally that help us mark time and change.

Throughout the history of human civilisation, we have been fascinated with the changes of season, with the battle between light and darkness, and with the promise of new life in Summer and a time to rest and restore in Winter. This means humans throughout time have marked the solstice and the equinox as mystical or spiritual festivals.

At the Spring Equinox people often celebrate a time of new beginnings, renewal, and growth. This connects to agriculture and the start of the planting or sewing season. For most of us it is also a symbolic chance to start focusing on new challenges or projects –time for that classic spring cleaning, not just clearing out clutter from our houses but also the mental clutter in our lives. What are unhelpful habits or unhealthy relationships we have that need to be changed?

When we think of the Midsummer Solstice – it often conjures up for us those images from the daily news of hundreds of people staying up all night and partying near Stonehenge. It symbolises the restless summer spirit that has lots of positivity and energy. Our job is to nurture that spirit and to harness the impatient feelings we might have, instead focus our energy into nourishing activity. The lesson from nature is to embrace the gift of the longer days by getting up earlier and going to bed later, making the most of the daylight through good activity, including being outdoors.

By the time the Autumn Equinox arrives it is harvest time. The farmers are producing in abundance during this time, so we should celebrate their growth whilst also sharing our own resources with others – be that practical or financial help, giving people your time or helping people with their own spiritual growth. This is a time to be grateful for what Mother Earth has provided for us, but also to not be wasteful of those gifts – for growers this means preserving the food we can’t eat right away such as pickling and making jams.

Our final celebration of the year is the Midwinter Solstice also known as Yule (where the famous ‘Yule Log’ tradition comes from). When we lived in small communities and without the street lighting we have become accustomed to, the winter could feel like a bleak time, sometimes for hunger or cold, but also for fear because so many hours were in darkness. In modern times we also associate it with a lack of vitamin D from sunlight, leading us to feel more depressed and having less energy. The Solstice therefore, takes on a special meaning as a turning point through the ‘sun’s rebirth’ which means every day after the Solstice day has more and more sunlight. During this darkest day, people would light up the night sky through light festivals and fire to keep away dark thoughts and fear, whilst also contemplating the ‘death’ or one year and the ‘birth’ of the next year.

The light and the darkness, the ends and the beginnings – each affect us in all kind of different ways. Reiki and sound healing helps us through each seasons and support us to reach the balance and wholeness we mark at the equinoxes and solstices. Reiki stimulates the body’s natural healing abilities which help us to manage symptoms, feel calm and relaxed, and to feel a greater sense of balance and wholeness. Through Sound healing we feel more balanced and more clear in our mind. Both of these therapies lead us to a renewed sense of purpose, well-being, calm and happiness by ‘re-tuning’ the body through the frequencies and vibrations of sound and through harnessing the natural energy of our wonderful world.

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