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Solstice is spiritual time for many

Seasonal variation makes for metaphysical rumination, as the winter solstice marks new beginnings across the southern hemisphere.

Yesterday was the shortest day and longest night of the year, this side of the equator, and 5.04pm technically marked the start of winter. The president of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society, Ian Cooper, said the gloomy weather limited the visibility of the solstice as the noon Sun sat at its lowest point above the horizon.

During the weeks either side of the solstice, the Sun appears to set in a relatively static position.

“That’s why it’s called a solstice, deriving from the Latin words ‘sol’ and ‘still’,” Mr Cooper said.

In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs at the end of the year and is the reason we celebrate Christmas in December.

Mr Cooper said northern hemisphere communities saw the solstice as the “end of the gloom”.

“We don’t have that tradition so much in the southern hemisphere because of more temperate, tropical climates. The seasonal variation is what people celebrate.”

This sentiment was echoed by Ashhurst man Adrian Phillips, a druid of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids of New Zealand.

Many druids, an international group of moral philosophers who emphasise the sanctity of nature, will gather at New Zealand’s Stonehenge, near Carterton, today to mark the solstice.

Mr Phillips said many cultures celebrated their spirituality through the seasons and astronomical events like the solstice connected them all.

“It’s a time of equipoise and balance, and a chance to reflect on your own personal seasons,” he said.

“It’s about seeing the world around you and seeing the changes occurring, which makes you feel more a part of it.”

Palmerston North Theosophical Society secretary Anthea Cooper said their group saw the solstice as the birth of the sun.

“While we see the physical sun being reborn, it is also the rebirth of the spiritual sun, that is the consciousness behind the solar system.”

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