“And then the sailors say, ‘The halcyon days are here. Let us be glad. There is nothing to fear’.”
~ Emma Firth, Stories of Old Greece, 1895
My friend Molly Hall mentioned Halcyon Days in a message this morning, and off I went, following that golden thread into the roots and magic of Halcyon.
Turns out, it’s very timely — as in, associated with now — and perhaps it’s very much what many of us yearn deeply for.
Halcyon refers to those idyllic, happy, joyful, golden days of old or yore or our own recollection — the days we fondly remember; those favorite story or movie moments that warm our hearts every time.
They might also be the days and times we might yearn deeply for, if we feel an acute absence of those qualities during more challenging, angst-filled, uncertain, or tempestuous times.
It turns out, that the origins of the phrase Halcyon Days connects with just this time of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice).
So important was this possibility to the ancients, that Halcyon also has mythic connections, both as a rare, beautiful mythical bird, “said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the Winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm,” and connected too with the Greek myth of the beautiful nymph Alcyone.
Hmmm, so what’s the connection between this golden quality, the beautiful bird and nymph of myth, and the Winter Solstice?
By way of the story, we might connect into the Halcyon stream and invite some of that mythic, golden joy and contentment now.
Alcyone was a beautiful nymph, who married her beloved Ceyx, son of Eosphorus, the Morning Star. They were exquisitely happy together and, story has it, they playfully called themselves Zeus and Hera sometimes after the great gods themselves.
Then, as usual with the rather moody and tempestuous Greek pantheon, Zeus took offense and became angered, shot some lightning bolts at Ceyx ship, sinking it and Ceyx with it, which prompted Alcyone to hurl herself into the sea in her grief at the demise of her beloved.
Also as usual with Zeus & Co., after wreaking their havoc, the easily agitated gods felt badly and, out of compassion for the torment the couple endured at their hands, turned both Alcyone and her beloved Ceyx into mythical Halcyon birds.
And here’s where the story begins to show the mythical beauty…
The ancient-world writers, Ovid and Hyginus, say that the phrase “halcyon days” had its origin in the story of the 14 days each year — seven days before and seven days after the Winter Solstice — during which the fierce winds and storms were calmed.
In this story, Alcyone (now as the mythical Halcyon kingfisher bird), laid her eggs and made her nest on the beach.
During this time, “… her father Aeolus, god of the winds, restrained the winds and calmed the waves so she could do so in safety.”
And here’s where the juicy, much-yearned-for Halcyon qualities of experience come into the story:
“The phrase has since come to refer to any peaceful time. Its proper meaning, however, is that of a lucky break, or a bright interval set in the midst of adversity; just as the days of calm and mild weather are set in the height of winter for the sake of the kingfishers’ egglaying.” (Wikipedia)
Really, who couldn’t use a little bit more of that right about now, individually, and in the world as a whole? A bit more Halcyon, please.
This connection with the golden, idyllic bliss and this exquisite mythic bird with Winter Solstice also finds its roots in the heavens, in the beautiful constellation of The Pleiades – the Seven Sisters – where Alycone shines the brightest in the Winter Solstice sky.
So this is one more example of how the Winter Solstice season is associated with beauty, lights, mythic blessings, idyllic times (both in recollection and dream-visions), joy, and celebration — a time in which the fierce winds and storms of life might subside a bit.
Whether we find Halcyon moments with others, or within the garden of our own hearts, the possibility is there.
In these seemingly chaotic, frenzied, far too angst-ridden times we live in, we may need to intentionally invoke, cultivate, and connect back into the Halcyon stream in order to awaken it once more into our hearts, our days, and perhaps to others through us.
And if you feel like you’re caught in one of Life’s fierce storms? Here’s a bit more inspiration from the Sophia’s Children archives:
Uncertainty, Courage, and Fear-Calming Practices (plus the ‘No-Fear Goddess’)
If you just want to cultivate and stir a bit more joy, have a look at this edition of The Wake-Up Juice: Joy, Presence, and The Power of Reciprocal Blessing.
Big Love and Halcyon Blessings,