Winter Solstice – Celebrating Birthing New Being by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

Winter Solstice is the time in our annual orbit around Sun when the dark part of the day is longest. Traditionally it has been celebrated by our Gaian ancestors in many regions of our planet as the birth of light, the birth of form. The stories of many cultures tell of the Great Mother giving birth to the Divine Child on this night. It is this Seasonal Moment for which the ancient pre-Celtic indigenous Europeans apparently built Newgrange (Bru na Boinne is its indigenous name), completing the major structures there between 3200 and 3700 B.C.E.[1]

The inner chamber wall of this mound is carved with the Triple Spiral motif, and at the Winter Solstice it is illuminated for seventeen minutes by the rising sun. This was confirmed by modern academia only in 1969[2] with minds that at that time had little comprehension of what its significance might be. Few accounts really understand the significance of the triple spiral at this stage: a Goddess frame of mind may be helpful, as mythographers have not been prepared to allow Goddess any cosmic function and “her possible role among the people of the Celtic realms”.[3] Marija Gimbutas notes the link of the triple spiral and other triplicities to Goddess as “the triple source of life energy necessary for the renewal of life”[4], and Michael Dames associates the triple spiral there with the triple goddess, known as Eriu-Fodla-Banba in that local place.[5]

I understand Winter Solstice as a celebration of Cosmogenesis – the ongoing birth of all, enabled and characterised by this Creative Triplicity: and it seems the ancients understood that from their rock inscription and its placement. The annual return of the light at this Seasonal Moment[6] is a microcosm of the birth of all and the holy dynamic of the universe that births it all. Nothing is excluded from this triple-faced Dynamic – not Earth, nor Sun, nor you or me: everything is subject to it … to the “waxing, peaking and waning” dynamic, an eternal re-creation. The Celts named it as the triskele of energy, “the innate triplicity of the Cosmos … that runs through every part of the Universe”.[7]

Winter Solstice is a birthing place – a holy moment, the gateway from the dark part of the year to the light part: it thus particularly celebrates the mother aspect of the triple goddess. At this Seasonal Moment, darkness reaches its peak, its fertile fullness, and breaks into form. The face of Goddess moves from crone of the dark part of the cycle through mother at this Winter Gateway, to virgin with the birth of form, of new life. This is how it happens – out of her fertile Dark Matter. Winter Solstice is a time of receiving the gift of the dark, which is birth, birth of form – in its depth and breadth. To help participants in Winter Solstice ceremony at my place[8] to get a feel for this, the breath meditation is often a contemplation of Earth-Gaia’s and Universe-Gaia’s many birthings happening in every moment and throughout the eons, and some of the many birthings in their own lives, and how none of it is separate.[9]

In this tradition since pre-Celtic times, and in many other cultural traditions, Winter Solstice has been celebrated as the birth of the God, and in Christian tradition as the birth of the Saviour. But there are deeper ways of understanding what is being born – who or what the “saviour” or the “God” is. In the Gospel of Thomas – which was not selected for biblical canon – it says: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.”[10]   This then may be the Divine Child – the ‘Saviour’ – the new Being forming in the Cosmogonic Womb, who will be born.  We celebrate the birth of the new Being, which/who is always beyond us, beyond our knowing … yet is within us, burgeoning within us – and within Gaia. What will save us is already present within – forming within us.


We may imagine the in-utero foetus , and we may imagine ourselves in this way: this is a truth about Being … we are this, and it is within us, within this moment. In every moment the New (the holy one) is gestating. It will be birthed when darkness is full: we simply need the eyes to see the “new bone forming in flesh”, scrape our eyes “clear of learned cataracts”.[11]That is what the fullness of the dark offers – a freshening of our eyes to see the new. And the process of Creation is always reciprocal. We are Creator and Created – simultaneously, in a “ngapartji-ngapartji “[12] way. We are in-formed by that which we form.

Birthing is a shamanic act. Tlazolteotl 1400 C.E., Hallie Iglehart Austen’s The Heart of the Goddess, p. 18

Birthing is not often an easy process – neither for the birthgiver nor for the birthed one: it is a shamanic act requiring strength of bodymind, attention and focus of the mother, and courage to be of the new young one. Birthgiving is the original place of “heroics” … many cultures of the world have never forgotten that: perhaps therefore better termed as “heraics”. Patriarchal adaptations of the story of this Seasonal Moment usually miss the sacred creative act of birthgiving completely – pre-occupied as they often are with the “virgin” nature of the Mother being interpreted as an “intact hymen”, and the focus being the Child as “saviour”: even the Mother gazes at the Child in Christian icons, while in more ancient images Her eyes are direct and expressive of Her integrity as Creator.

In Earth-based religious practice, the ubiquitous icon of Mother and Child – Creator and Created – expresses something essential about the Universe itself … the ‘motherhood’ we are all born within. It expresses the essential Communion experience that this Cosmos is, the innate and holy Care that it takes, and the reciprocal nature of it: that is, how one is always Creator and Created at the same time. We cannot touch without being touched at the same time.[13] We may realize that Cosmogenesis – the entire Unfolding of the Cosmos – is essentially relational: our experience tells us this is so.

Woodlands Nursing Mother 1400 C.E. North America, Hallie Iglehart Austen, The Heart of the Goddess, p.29

It is the very essence of the Universe to give birth to the new[14]: Great Mother and Divine Child express the Creative impulse of the Universe – “the end of Desire”.[15] We may affirm and invoke that in each other in Winter Solstice ceremony. At my place participants anoint and address each other: ”Thou art Goddess Mother, thou art the Divine Child. Thou art That … a whole Universe.” And later, when each lights a candle, the group responds: “May the new being within you come forth.”

© Glenys Livingstone 2015


[1] See Martin Brennan’s The Stones of Time.

[2] Michael Dames, The Silbury Treasure, p. 159.

[3] Claire French, The Celtic Goddess, p. 22.

[4] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p.97.

[5] Michael Dames, Ireland, p. 192.

[6] Capitalised because they are holy days.

[7] Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit, p. 366.

[8] PaGaian MoonCourt, Blue Mountains, Australia.

[9] See Winter Solstice ritual script offered in PaGaian Cosmology chapter 7.

[10] The Gospel of Thomas, referred to by Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels … Id=5422695

[11] Quotes from Cynthia Cook Refractions, Womanspirit, 1980.

[12] An Australian Indigenous term for reciprocity – giving and receiving at the same time: explained a bit further in Chapter 8 of PaGaian Cosmology.

[13] See David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous.

[14] Brian Swimme, The Earth’s Imagination, video 7 “New Forms of Synergy”.

[15] A quote from Doreen Valiente’s The Charge of the Goddess.


Abram, David. The Spell of the Sensuous. NY: Vintage Books, 1997.

Brennan, Martin. The Stones of Time. Rochester Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1994.

Dames, Michael. Ireland: a sacred journey.

Dames, Michael. The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976.

French, Claire. The Celtic Goddess. Edinburgh: Floris Books, 2001.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

Iglehart Austen, Hallie. The Heart of the Goddess. Berkeley: Wingbow Press, 1990.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Matthews, Caitlin. The Celtic Spirit. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2000.

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. Vintage Books 1979.

Swimme, Brian. The Earth’s Imagination. DVD series

Original post 

The Author: Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

Glenys LivingstoneGlenys Livingstone Ph.D. has over thirty years experience on a Goddess path, which has included diverse spiritualities and a scientific perspective, inner work as well as academic scholarship. Her studies have been in theology, ritual, archaeomythology, social ecology, psychology, sociology and education.

Glenys is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, which was an outcome of her doctoral work in Social Ecology from the University of Western Sydney. Glenys’ doctoral research was an experiential study of the three phases of the Triple Goddess – Virgin, Mother, Crone – as Creative Cosmological Dynamic, and the embodiment of Her in seasonal ritual as a catalyst for personal and cultural change. More recently, Glenys’ continued ritual practice of the seasonal Wheel of the Year and research, has deepened her identification of this Cosmic-Organic Creative Triplicity with the Triple Spiral engraved by the ancients at Newgrange (Bru na Boinne) in Ireland.

Glenys grew up in country Queensland Australia. Glenys considers herself a student of the Poetry of the Universe – a language expressed in scientific story, mythological metaphor, ancient and contemporary images of integrity, body movement and dance, stillness, chants and songs. By these means, she conducts geo-therapy – ecological reconnection – for herself and with others.

Glenys’ work is grounded in the Old European indigenous religious practice, integrated with evolutionary perspective and Goddess scholarship.

Glenys’ M.A. is in Theology and Philosophy and included education in liturgical practice at the Jesuit School of Theology Berkeley California. She lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her beloved Taffy (Robert) Seaborne, who is also a graduate of the School of Social Ecology and rich life experience. Glenys teaches, writes and facilitates the seasonal rituals in her Place with an open community.

See Glenys Livingstone’s Posts

%d bloggers like this: