Reflections on the Winter Solstice Birthing Mystery


The Earth dreams in the dark embrace of the Goddess. Deep in her sacred womb-cave new life – new possibility – stirs. The heart-beat of creation sounds loudly in our ears. We pulse to a rhythm resonant with the birthing and dying of stars and galaxies, the rise and fall of species, peoples, empires… We are seeds, fallen into the fertile growing medium of opportunity. Heart beats measuring out ripeness as the moon swell and shrinks and swells again. Slowly the possible takes form.

Winter solstice brings a new appreciation for the generative role of darkness – as we prepare to celebrate the emergence of all that is – the endless process of becoming – which pours forth from the primal darkness of the Great Mother’s womb. Now is a time for reflecting and giving thanks for the potency that is hidden away within our beings, often well out of sight of our conscious identities, until the time is ripe for its birth (or rebirth) into our lives and our world. What within you now readies itself to be born?

Whether we are on the giving or the receiving end of it, birth is always a leap into the great Unknown.

As pregnancy draws to a close, diurnal creatures will generally feel the instinctive need to find a protected hidden place in which to give birth, and this birthing often takes place during the hours of darkness. Similarly, in the lead up to the great Birthing Mystery, we are called to consciously ‘feather our nests’ – discovering and gathering in the qualities and circumstances which will support and enable our innate capacity to trust the process and let go.

As the hour approaches, the rushes of energy begin. From the emerging child’s point of view, what once seemed a most desirable sanctuary away from the bright lights and rough edges of the world now comes to seem like an unbearable constraint upon our capacity to stretch into our manifesting potential. As the rhythm of labour takes hold, it may feel like life is squeezing us unmercifully. It is easy to forget that this too is our own co-creation. As some part of our experience contracts, so another expands, making way for that which is brand new to push its way out of confinement, into full expression in the flesh.

As human beings we have all been witness to at least one birth – our own – whether we consciously remember it or not. As a woman, you may not have ever physically given birth. Nonetheless you have in your body the cellular memory of getting born, and also the emotional resonance of your mother’s experience of giving birth to you. Remembering that the ova which makes up half your genetic inheritance was fully formed within your mother’s body at the time of her own birth, this means that you also have access at a cellular level to your mother’s experience of being born and the emotional resonances of your grandmother’s experience of giving birth to her.

Like Janus, the two-faced god who rules over the threshold of each new year, the passage through the great gate of birth signals a death as well as a new beginning. For both mother and baby, birth marks out those moments where an old way of being (in utero, pregnant) must inevitably cede to a whole new sensory experience of ourselves.
Sheila Kitzinger says “Motherhood not only changes what we do, it changes who we understand ourselves to be”. As mothers, the reality of the baby now emerging marks the demise of our pregnant fantasies – as the imaginings of babies we might have been carrying now give way to the manifest experience of this particular flesh and blood child we behold and gather into our arms for the first time.

The new child is physically separate from her mother for the first time, yet still helplessly dependant, as she first masters the transition into independent breathing, and then begins to settle into the processes of ingesting nourishment, digesting what she can use and eliminating the rest. For new mother and baby life becomes a never ending cycle of feeding, cleaning up and sleeping. Beginning to take each other in – through the eyes and ears as well as through the warm vital contact of body on body.

What does all of this mean for our spiritual journey with the Ishtar Mysteries?

The winter solstice mystery point marks the point at which whatever fresh potential has been awakened within us now becomes visible to others for the first time. Its emergence into our lives may precipitate a whole new way of understanding who we are. The more deeply we tune in to this mystery, the more we glimpse a reality in which we truly are the newborn offspring of the Great Mother herself. And at the same time, we may perhaps be gifted with a fresh sense of ourselves as mother to the Divine Child, through this process in which our innate gifts and spiritual inspirations find new expression in the world.


Catherine Ishara de Garis

First published online June 2010