DARQ: As you know by now, I’m a Wysotti Indian from another planet and the heroine of the novel, JEWELS OF THE SKY, by Catherine E. McLean. Anyway, it’s December 21, and time for me to celebrate the Winter Solstice. My Wysotti traditions and belief system is about the natural world where all things are entwined with the spirit, the power of life known to us as “qi.” The Winter Solstice is a celebration and expression in prayer, song, and dance to give thanks for creation, for the year that has passed and to look forward to the winter, a time to remember, rest, and reflect–and prepare for the coming year. Here I’m wearing the traditional “costume” of my dyn that’s for a Winter Solstice Celebration.
Completing the outfit is a gray shawl. Grey represents shadows of yesterday (remembrance), the black fringe represents the darkness of winter days, but the white embroidery along the front edge symbolizes hope for tomorrow.
My boots have bells on them. When I circle the fire—
CATHERINE: Fire? What fire? You didn’t tell me we had to have a fire.
DARQ: A fire is necessary. A fireplace will do.
CATHERINE: We don’t have a fireplace!
DARQ: But you have a chimney.
CATHERINE: That’s for the gas furnace that heats the house.
DARQ: No problem. We’ll just build a bonfire outside in the yard.
CATHERINE: Bonfire? Burn a hole in the grass? No way.
DARQ: Yes way. It’s necessary. We’ll use the driveway turnaround–it’s all gravel.
CATHERINE: But it’s raining–where will you get the kindling?
DARQ: Must you be so negative? We’ll make it a little fire, just enough to burn the yolli-t’pilli.
CATHERINE: I’m not negative, I’m being practical. And what’s a yolli-t’pilli?
CATHERINE: It’s a pointy stick with a lot of stuff on it.
DARQ: Everything on the staff has meaning. Like, from the top down: The paper flower has my prayers and wish list for the coming year written on the petals.
CATHERINE: I don’t see any writing.
DARQ: That’s because it’s written with invisible ink.
CATHERINE: Where did you get the invisible ink?
DARQ: I made it from those lemons you had in your refrigerator.
CATHERINE (gasping): So that’s what happened to the lemons I bought for my tea!
DARQ (shrugging): Next on the staff is a bit of greenery, symbolizing that even in winter something lives, and the berries represent the seeds that will sprout in the coming year. By the way, the staff is made of wood, a renewable and sustainable product.
CATHERINE: Oh, I get it, wood represents maturing. And the feathers?
DARQ: The white one represents the wind.The brown one represents my spirit guide animal, a wild buzzard, sort of like your wild turkey.
CATHERINE: Did you swipe that turkey feather from my hat feather stash?
DARQ: You said I could raid your sewing room for whatever I needed, didn’t you?
CATHERINE nods, then says: What’s with the shell and rock?
DARQ: The shell represents water, the sea, which brought forth life and teems with life. Nourishing water. The rock is for earth, solid earth that we walk on.
CATHERINE: Oh, I get it, the things you put on your staff represent the elements of fire, earth, air, and water.
DARQ: Right, and the bit of red . . . That represent the blood of all the warriors of my world who have been injured or died in this year’s battles against the Doyon. [Dark clears her throat.] Anyway, the last bit is the dot of gold–not real gold, of course. It’s metal. Represents shining hope.
CATHERINE: That looks awfully much like the brass studs I use for–
DARQ: Moving on. We need ashes!
DARQ: Yes, first there has to be a layer of yesterday’s or this past year’s ashes on to which we’ll set kindling for a new fire. Only that fire won’t be lit until after the prayers and chanting is done.
CATHERINE: You know, looking at that staff of yours, well, it looks suspiciously like one of Charlie Brown’s scrawny Christmas Trees.
DARQ: Who’s Charlie Brown?
CATHERINE: Never mind. Yours staff is more colorful. I’ll go get the ashes from under the burn barrel–could you use the burn barrel.
DARQ (scowling at Catherine): No burn barrel, we need a campfire-fire!
DARQ: Yolli-t’pilli in hand, bells jingling in my other hand, my shawl sweeping away yesterdays, Catherine beats her djumba (did you know she has an African lap drum–doesn’t play it very well, but at least she can maintain a beat). Soon I step into the ashes strewn about the kindling so the soles of my boots pick up some of the ash. This ash symbolizes a letting go of another year. As I circle the kindling, the ashes will fall away, just as the old year has. The chants and jingle of the bells, as well as the drum beats, is to clear the air. (And send any evil spirits away.) When I’m done, it’s time to place my yolli-t’pilli into the center of the kindling.
And, then the final prayer:
Out of the ashes of doubt and uncertainty, help and protect us, oh Mother of Creation, that we may tread through the dark winter ahead and into the light of many new tomorrows, creating a new year of peace, joy, prosperity, and harmony.
CATHERINE silences her drum and mumbles, her voice barely audible: Amen.
DARQ: Together Catherine and I will watch the flames consume my yolli-t’pilli. As the flames lick ever higher, in my heart, I hope the Doyons will remain at peace and my people will again thrive and return to being space traders.
*******DARQ: Catherine was a good sport about my solstice celebration. In a few days, I’ll be watching her celebrate her national holiday of Christmas. Catherine promises that Santa will stop by and leave me a gift. This I have got to see. Especially since there is so much conflicting data available on whether the jolly old fella even exists. So, stop back Christmas Day and find out if I got a visit from St. Nick. You know–I just remember–Santa is supposed to come down a fireplace chimney, but there isn’t one in this old farm house . . .
*****From Catherine: if you’ve read to this point, HERE’S A BONUS FOR YOU: For today, one day only, Friday, December 21, you can download the eBook, Jewels of the Sky, for free, from Amazon.com. It’s Darq’s solstice gift to you (it beats the fruitcake, which Darq tells me is the traditional gift to give. Lordy, I hope that fruitcake she’s going to bake me is not the kind Aunt E makes that can be used for a doorstopper . . . ”
HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE!