When I snapped these photos of Poseidon in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, I had no idea that, in a way, I was honoring him on the eve of what was a major holiday in Ancient Greece: the beginning of the Festival for Poseidon, which conveniently coincided with the Winter Solstice.
Tonight, December 22, 2011, in the Northern Hemisphere, at slightly after midnight the Winter Solstice occurs. It’s the night of the year with the most hours of darkness. It’s also the time when nights start to get shorter, and daylight begins to increase. With unlimited electricity, this is no big deal today, but if we lived by candle and firelight, it would be a MUCH bigger deal.
Ancient Greeks believed gods involved themselves in many aspects of daily life. So if honoring the gods helped ensure that the days actually did start getting longer again, the coldest, longest night of the year was a good time to start.
Throughout history cultures all over the world have celebrated the Winter Solstice, and most of these festivals had a couple of things in common. Some celebrants lit candles or bonfires to overcome the darkness, but others preferred to take advantage of the darkness. You had a clear choice; celebrate the light with one crowd or join the drunken debauchery with the other. And with Poseidon’s randy reputation, he was just the man (or should I say god) to inspire the party.
As another astrological footnote, this year the Winter Solstice is the last day of the Mayan calendar. And by the last day, I mean the LAST day. So if you buy into the prophecies, it could be the end of the world! So with that in mind, I wish you all a happy Winter Solstice, and say WWPD. What would Poseidon do?