But what about the stars, and the rain, and the trees and the wind? Who honors Them?
A solstice is a time for those in the northern or southern latitudes to experience a shift in the lengthening or shortening of nights. Note I wrote nights. Many ancients counted time by nights, not days so here I focus on the nights. Of course, when the nights lengthen the days shorten. For me in my northern hemisphere the winter solstice revolves around the longest night. From that time the nights will steadily grow shorter and the days lengthen until the summer solstice when I will experience the shortest night and then the march of the hours will reverse. To give some perspective for those closer to the equator, in the Pacific Northwest, USA where I live my solstice night will be 15 hours and 34 minutes. Add a good hour of twilight before and after that and I’ll have a whopping six and a half hours of light. Unless I have a lot of cloud cover which is typical of December here- then I get twilight for those hours. At least I’m not in Alaska where one can have eternal night for several months at a time!
The equinox is different. This is a point in time when the sun is directly over the equator. The thought is that the day and night will be equal lengths- this isn’t quite true and all depends on what latitude one lives on. But you’ll be fairly close to equal. The equinox traditionally signifies a change in seasons. In heathenry this would be summer and winter. The March equinox signifying the start of summer while the September equinox signifies the onslaught of winter.
So why do I wonder if we look at this correctly? It’s really a personal view. I was mulling over the solstice coming and it occurred to me that solstices are about day and night while equinoxs are about seasons. Seasons such as summer and winter, at least in the northern hemisphere, can easily be symbolized by the sun and the moon. It’s either bright and warm or dark and cold. The solstice is the trickier concept. Yes, we see more of the sun or moon dependant on which solstice. But is that what the solstice is about- the sun or the moon? No. It isn’t.
The solstice is about length of time. The rhythm of our hours, our diurnal clocks that march to light and dark cycles. This led me to realizing that many of us quite possibly are honoring the wrong heathen Gods on the solstice! Often, it is Sunna and Mani who are looked to on this night. Unless of course the solstice in and of itself is ignored in favor of honoring the Gods associated with Mother's Night or Wild Hunt and protection from wights of the night. But, should we possibly be looking to Nott and Dagr during the solstice events? Night and Day, the rhythm of the hours.
I’m most certainly not saying don’t honor Sunna on your solstice, I’m not saying don’t welcome Her back after the longest Night. But I am asking for you to consider Nott and Dagr. These are rarely honored deities who do so very much for us. No, we don't know much about Them but we know enough to start.
Feel free, if you are moved to toast them on your solstice, to use these poems/prayers.
We welcome you in these times of longest night.
Daughter of Narvi, black as the emptiness between the stars.
Upon Hrimfaxi you draw the night; rime-mane foaming frost-dew from his jaws.
Marriage first to Naglfari the smith of the Nail-Ship. From He you bore Audr, wealthy emptiness of the Dream-Weaver’s sky.
Second to the Mountain, a dwarf Annar; and you bore Ever-Green, Earth Herself; Jord.
Married last to Day-Spring Dellingr and from this blessing gave forth shining hope, time of day itself, Dagr.
Your gifts to us nourish and rest, beneath your gaze we slumber.
You are named ‘night’ by man, ‘darkness’ by the Gods, ‘the masker’ by the mighty Powers, ‘unlight’ by the jotunn, ‘joy of sleep’ by the elves, yet the dwarves call you ‘dream-Njorun’; our dream Goddess.
The owl reigns in your comings and goings, the bat swoops- you give us wisdom and the wild ecstasy of the shadows. You hold your secrets in close shade-crush, your dark closes in, we tremble in your vast expanse of un-sight.
The realm of murk is yours; the pounding of our hearts, the quicken of our breath, yours.
We enter your time, your embrace Nott. Hail to you!
With joy we spread our arms welcoming your warmth, your time of day.
Hail time of Sun’s Flame! Hail seed of Dellingr!
You who wed Thora, you who sire heroes!
We rejoice in your coming, weary kin having journeyed through the night.
We huddled under murk’s embrace, your Mother’s vigilance kept us safe through the dark. But blessed are we to see your dawn, to bask in your blessing of bounty, your promise of summer to come.
Dagr, rider of bejeweled Skinflaxi, you draw day to mankind and we find solace and peace in your course. We stand before you, relief has eased our hearts and minds, Shining-Mane’s route over Mannheim brings us strength and certainty.
You bring clarity to our vision, warmth to our souls and minds.
Your time of glory grows stronger, day by day your expanse lengthens.
We will bask in your blessing, we who are bidden by your journey through the heavens hours, we who are beholden to the rhythm of your steed’s step. Placed by Odin in the heavens the metre of your pace as vital as the drum of our hearts.
Hail Dagr, we thank you, we are blessed by you. Hail to Thee!
Rather than list sources from which you can research these two Gods I will (for shame) refer you to start with their wiki's. They are referenced fairly well. Also check R. Simek's Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Those will be great starts in your own personal exploration of these deities.
Both pictures by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Dagr, below, done in 1874. I would guess Nott, above, was done around the same time.