I didn't want to blog at length today, because I know we are all very busy souls, coping with all kinds of life's strains and stresses. There are obviously days when we do not know whether we are coming or going, and there are sometimes days when we don't even recognise the person that we have become...
I know many of us find that blogging is cathartic and a release. I know that because this is what I have found here, in reading others' tremendous life stories and fragile, fond fragments - Pieces of the jigsaw, smidgens from the heart.
Over the past few days, reading a number of blogs, I get the impression that we are all feeling the chemistry that descends upon us and infiltrates our very souls at this time of year.
Some of us are feeling as if a fog has descended, and we aren't sure what, if anything, we can write about.
This brings me to an interesting link, please stick with me, to our Pagan forebears, remember them? They were there before the Christians, more or less... We have evidence of them everywhere, and the Victorians, who wrote much of the history we learn today, chose rather to refer to this period of our history as The Dark Ages, thereby leaving us a bit in the dark.
Just a short detour, I promise, courtesy of my friends at Wikipedia: Paganism (from the Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller, rustic") has various different meanings, though, from a Western perspective, it has modern connotations of a faith that has polytheistic, spiritualist, animistic or shamanic practices, such as a folk religion, historical polytheistic or neopagan religion. Phew! Just to clear up, Pagans have nothing to do with satanism, just in case I lost any readers there!
You can't live where I do, in the frozen north of England, without picking up a little bit about the Pagan pre-Christians; their signs - particularly Cup and Ring markings - are to be found scattered across the beautiful Cheviots around my home. (This photo is of markings in Ireland, which are very similar).
Pagans have a bit of a calendar on the go, and celebrated the passing of the seasons, particularly the Winter Solstice, around 21st December. "A solstice (from Latin sol (sun) + stet (standing)) is simply the point in the year when the sun appears to be at its highest or lowest point in the sky. The earth's wobble means that this date and time varies from year to year, but it is easy to predict.
The winter solstice is the date of the shortest day, and has been celebrated by many peoples for thousands of years as the time when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to rise higher in the sky. As both hunter-gatherers and farming communities relied on stored food to see them through the long winters, the return of the longer days meant that the plenty of spring was approaching.
We know that the ancients were certainly aware of the movement of the sun. For example, Newgrange is a megalithic stone structure in Ireland. Believed to be five thousand years old, it was built to allow a shaft of sunlight into its central chamber at dawn on the winter solstice.
A cairn at Maeshowe, on the Orkney Islands admits the winter solstice setting sun along a passage to the back of the chamber.
Native Americans certainly celebrated the solstice, marking the changing seasons and the return of the sun. Winter Solstice provides an interesting analogy through its association with the birth of the Christ-child. The solstice, the entry of the sun into Capricorn (at least for a few years), marks the shortest day of the year, the day when the sun shines upon the earth for the least time and all seems lost, doomed to the eternal snows and ice of perpetual Hel, to crystallization and death. From this day forward, the light overtakes the darkness, until eventually reaching equality of night and day at Spring Equinox (on which Easter is celebrated ), and then gradually overcoming the darkness, until the Summer Solstice.
There are probably as many celebrations, feasts and rituals as there are cultures and religions, if not on the astronomical solstice, then certainly around that time. The desire to see lengthening days and a return to fertility are behind all of them, and in the 21st century we still look forward to shorter nights and an end to the seasonal gloom, a rise in the spirits and an optimistic look to the future."
Had enough of the history lesson now?! Wake up there at the back, Billy!
Finally Fhina gets to the point of her dialogue, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a real condition for many of us, affecting four times as many women as men, and as many as one in eight of the population suffer from 'Winter blues', a less severe form of S.A.D., so we are right and justified in looking forward to the coming of spring and the new year and the appearance of spring lambs again. That is for those of us unfortunate enough not to be able to spend a winter vacation in Miami or the Caribbean, unlike most of Hollywood, it seems, or is that just me reading too much into The Daily Mail online!
The exact cause of S.A.D. is not clear, but with less sunlight in the winter months, changes in the balance of certain chemicals and hormones in the brain may affect our moods, perhaps triggering some form of depression.
S.A.D. is linked to a feeling of everything seeming 'black', a lack of energy, abnormal sadness, often with weepiness (that's me covered then!); feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or uselessness (ditto); poor motivation, and poor concentration, and is often associated with sleeping problems, as well as other more physical manifestations. If you are interested in more information, just use our friend Mr Google, as I didn't want this to become a science lesson, or Medicine 101! There are loads of bits and pieces, gadgets and things that might help S.A.D. cases, including taking lots of exercise and trying to get out into some kind of sunshine, or at least daylight, each day.
There is a part of me, as I've said before, that feels as if we have lost our connection to the past, and for those of you who are keenly researching and preserving family history, well done! And, for others of us who are feeling a bit low or glum, blame it on the Pagans for not being clever enough to pass down their celebrations properly to us - If only they'd had Comedian and t'Internet then!
Oh, and humour is important in helping S.A.D. Apologies for any strong language in this video.