The idea of a final judgement is, in historical terms, a relatively recent notion. Apparently the first religion to embrace the idea was Zoroastrianism.
One book I read suggested that as a religion of the steppes, where herdsmen were under constant threat from marauding warriors on horseback, the idea of a final battle or a final judgement was an attractive one. It offered the prospect of final victory, and for a people who were fighting a never ending battle for survival that was a powerful notion.
However in many earlier religions time is circular. The battle between good and evil is cyclical; night follows day follows night; winter follows summer follows autumn. The sun disappears but is reborn each morning. It’s power wanes from midsummer to midwinter but them waxes again.
Thus the midwinter festival is a celebration of rebirth, the beginning of a new cycle just as it is a way of propelling people in northern latitudes through the most dismal months of the year until spring is close enough to seize and revitalise them.
Another suggestion I encountered recently was that Stonehenge was actually primarily intended for the winter rather than the summer solstice.
There is something quite haunting about a bright midwinter dawn. I captured these images last Friday. The first is of the Bewl Valley looking East Northeast from Wards Lane just as the sun is about to rise. Somewhere in the distance, out of sight, is Rosemary Lane where the great Bert Jansch lived and recorded an album of the same name the year after we moved here. His death was one of the saddest moments of my year.
The second panorama is taken looking more or less Westwards towards the Wadhurst Ridge.
A very happy solstice one and all.