Monday, December 22, 2008

Longest Night of the Year

Last night was the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. Yesterday was the winter solstice, marking the official beginning of our winter and heralding the return of light and increasingly longer days until the summer solstice, June 21 of next year. The solstice has been of great practical and symbolic importance to human beings for millennia.

The Norse god Odin (pictured) and his brothers killed the frost giant Ymir and used his body to create the earth - Ymir's brains, interestingly, became the clouds. Odin has long been associated with the Yule winter celebration and has some striking similarities to old Saint Nick.

I've been listened to the band Fleet Foxes's self-titled debut album a lot lately and their great song White Winter Hymnal suggests, rather ominously, the twin solstices - the hints of summer in winter's harshness. It's hard not to consider human solidarity in the chorale. The video for the song, directed by Sean Pecknold, is below.

(image credit: 18th century Icelandic manuscript shows Odin, who slew the frost giant Ymir,