Winter Solstice Lights Up the Land: Ley Lines of Heart and Home
As we move through the days of darkness into mid-December, and try to bypass the seasonal frenzy that goes against natural rhythms (!) we sense a stillness, and a waiting. Before the modern era our earth-emergent Ancestors found the days after Samhain to rest, honor those who came before, contemplate deeply, and prepare seeds for the future. As we travel through the Land of Winter today, how can our own spiritual journey relate to this ancient wisdom? Clearing and composting old growth in the garden, practicing meditation and introspection, refining our home as a sanctuary space, or celebrating our Elders are all activities rooted in centuries of tradition. Solstice is also a perfect time to develop a more intimate knowledge of the land, to identify the ecotones and life-forms that inhabit the wild places, and to learn about the First Nations in our region.
Within the Celtic Wheel of the Year, mid-winter or Yule is particularly evocative, as it mirrors the progress of our own soul from emergence and rebirth (the “dark”) to the fullness of wisdom and self-expression (the “light”). The Winter Solstice is a time of great festivals in all faiths and traditions, with ceremonies deeply embedded in the land to honor the rebirth of the life-giving sun. Our Celtic Ancestors marked the light’s return at sacred sites with reverence, gratitude, ritual, music, merriment and communal feasting. For thousands of years, great stone markers, megaliths and circles in the land functioned as ancient calendars, time-tracked the cycles of sun and moon, and maximized shadow-casting at the eight cardinal points – the solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days.
In harmony with the geo-magnetic energy fields, monuments were constructed along the ley lines of the Earth, each with a distinct vibration. Calming or grounding, or experienced as epiphanies, visions or healing – all offer the joy of bonding to the land. Visiting these sites today, they still function as “high energy” vortex places that hold deep meaning and spiritual power. In the UK at Winter Solstice, it is thrilling how modern folk still gather to honor the return of the light – as Celts have done for millennia - at stone circles designed by Bronze Age people four thousand years ago, that still function in the same way and provide essentially the same experience! As we revive the Old Ways today we continue to restore balance, and whether one is solitary or part of a wider community, the cycles of nature come first.
How do we hear the “song of the earth” while honoring both our own path and the Indigenous Knowledge (IK) of the original Earthkeepers? Here in the Kawarthas I am incredibly blessed to have access to sacred sites that intersect on a ley line, and as ally and friend, to discover a powerful rapport with Michi Saagiig Nishhaabeg community. The Peterborough Petroglyphs or Kinomagewapkong (The Teaching Rocks), a sacred site of global importance, is the largest concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada. A vast visual library of red ochre animals, figures, spirit beings, shapeshifters and other symbols on a ridge of crystalline limestone offer cultural teachings and guidance, and is a living sacred site for ceremony, prayer and healing. Vision quests and other events are held regularly at the site, which continues to be an important location for spiritual resurgence and cultural reclamation, and a place of pilgrimage for Indigenous and earth-connected people from all over the world. Kinomagewapkong is a mystical place that has deep significance to us today as we renew our connection to the Earth, and as allies to First Nations, recognize their foundational claims to the land.
Kinomagewapkong. “Sacred Deer next to the Fertility Power of the Earth Mother, Muzzu-Kummik Quae”
In Celtic mythology, sites of beauty and thresholds of magic are called the “thin places” where the visible and invisible worlds come into close contiguity, and our task is to seek them out for our deepest inquiries and soul connections. When we are receptive enough, we can even exchange messages with the resident earth spirits! I have come to know the sacred sites in my region as transformational gateways that evoke ancient memory, and restore the healing power of the Earth Mysteries. A short drive from my home, the Serpent Mounds on Rice Lake contain the only serpent-shaped “effigy” mound built by ancient peoples in Canada. The largest mound, sinuous like a snake, is surrounded by smaller circular mounds like serpent’s eggs. Archaeological excavations have uncovered burials and artifacts from the mounds and surrounding area that offer clues to the mysterious Mound-Builder Culture, both in Canada and the Ohio Valley. As an extension of “topophilia” (affinity for the spirit of place) I continue to seek the paleolithic, and reminders of the antediluvian in landforms shaped by ancient forces.
Another exciting aspect of our geomantic ability to hear the call of sacred land is to build brand-new sites, such as contemporary earthworks, temples, cairns, sculptures, spirals and stone circles. It’s astonishing how quickly a miniature set of standing stones topped with a capstone can be created to capture a Solstice sunrise! An eclectic diversity of new labyrinth installations are appearing in grass, bark or stone, all part of a flourishing movement to mark the presence of the living numina in the land.
In my own front yard, the stone-set Triskele Labyrinth my partner and I designed recalls our Celtic origins, and fills me with the joy of heritage and panoramic scenery stretching for miles in all directions. Walking the labyrinth is a journey home to our true nature, and like an ancient form of body prayer, a euphoric way to connect directly with the ley lines and serpentine patterns of the land. Part of my gratitude for having daily access to sacred space is knowing that stone circles, and the experience of them, is part of an ancient tradition. Like a mythic geography or “psychogeography,” the person/place resonances important to my life are anchored in these landmarks, so beloved to heart and home.
Winter Solstice Sunrise in the Kawarthas
Celebrating the age-old cycles of birth, death and rebirth, the Winter Solstice is a time of rest, reflection and tending to our inner world. Sinking into the “beautiful darkness,” it’s time to return to our roots and be nourished by the old stories. Sacred sites are calling us to remember them, to attune to the luminous whole of nature, to recover the old maps and honour Earth Community once again. Outside of the demands of modernity and linear time, treks to ancestral sites heighten the senses, shift our everyday consciousness, and enrich our connectivity. And as we open our hearts this Solstice to the power of the light, may we feel the ancient energies of the world come alive!
Paul Devereux, “Places of Power: Measuring the Sacred Energy of Ancient Sites,” Blandford, 1990
Pegi Eyers, “Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community,” Stone Circle Press, 2016
Andis Kaulins, “Stars, Stones and Scholars: The Decipherment of the Megaliths as an Ancient Survey of the Earth by Astronomy,” Trafford Publishing, 2003
T.C. McLuhan, “The Message of Sacred Places: Cathedrals of the Spirit,” HarperCollins, 1996
Peter Nabokov, “Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places,” Viking, 2006
Pegi Eyers is the author of the award-winning book Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, a survey on social justice, neurodecolonization, nature spirituality, earth-emergent healing and the holistic principles of sustainable living. Pegi self-identifies as a Celtic Animist, and is an advocate for the recovery of authentic ancestral wisdom and traditions for all people. She lives in the countryside on the outskirts of Nogojiwanong in Michi Saagiig Nishhaabeg territory (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), on a hilltop with views reaching for miles in all directions.