Our Alban Arthan was held on Saturday 20th December, officially the solstice was on the Sunday, but as with most of the festivals, it can be taken as a period of time rather than a single fixed point. At this time of year the sun seems to rise and fall at the same places on the horizon for around three days, as though it’s dithering about increasing it’s strength, like a newly lit candle.
This festival is all about the return of the light, and the focal point of the ceremony is the extinguishing and relighting of flames. The tension in both making and nurturing the new light, seems to reflect the sun’s hesitation, and reinforces the fragility of the newborn Mabon. There is the promise of warmer and lighter days to come, but we still have months of darkness and dreaming.
I thought it would be good to get up early and perform the ritual in the dark, and then after we finished, we could sit and drum up the dawn. I went out a couple of weeks before to scout out the best place on the Edge to catch sight of the sun. It had to be easy to get to in the dark and relatively flat. There was a heavy frost and gloriously clear skies. I found a great place close to Stormy Point which was in a grove of pine trees (I’m wondering if these are the Seven Firs mentioned in the Legend?) and decided to settle down and meditate there for a while. When the sun began to rise I stood and watched the horizon, it crested quite a bit further round than I anticipated but I had a good view. At that moment a jogger ran past, then turned back and stood next to me. ‘Is this the spot?’ he said. Yes indeed! Don’t you just love it when something as magical and crazily serendipitous as that happens?
Frosty Dawn on the Edge
The run up to the actual ritual was a period of terribly wet and windy weather and so that dawn wasn’t quite as spectacular. But the general gloom added to the atmosphere, the darkness seemed to draw closer and embrace you. We were sat in silence in the darkness when I heard the faint tinkling of bells moving through the woods and then minutes later a huge grey Siberian husky ran into the grove, stood looking at me for a few seconds and ran out again. It was as if a grey wolf had suddenly materialised out of the Otherworld, it was incredibly moving and had huge personal meaning.
When the sun had risen we left behind an offering to the Spirits and quietly slipped away. It was a magical and moving experience, which feels like it happened in another realm. Such is the power of liminal time and place. A Blessing to all those who shared it, seen and unseen.
’Only out of darkness does light arise.
Only when we have mourned the passing of the old, can rebirth occur’