Paul Winter’s

Winter Solstice Celebrations

Two Testimonials

Over the years of our solstice celebrations, we have been particularly blessed by two memorable affirmations, one in 1983 by cultural historian Thomas Berry, and the other in 2022, from cosmologist Brian Swimme. These commentaries have been like bookends of the first forty years of our solstice journey.


A barbarous setting
For Winter music
Gothic, Out of the
Dark Eurasian continent.
Vast, turbulent.

Peekakill granite
Stone locked into stone
By the heavy pull
Of the gravity lightly
Arching into
The distant sky

Dark as a cave
As a Kiva
Music, dark
Rumbling sound
Drums, Strings,
Winds, Organ
Whale song from
The deep of the sea.
Wolf cry from the forest.

Pathos of Earth
Gothic dark
Of a planet
Poignant as
Eternity come
Into time
Time resonant
With Eternity
Human cry
Wolf cry
Whale Cry
Cathedral cry
Cry of the Sun
Sinking into darkness

Not now ritual
Terror of a time
When the Sun’s
Conquest was assured
Now the terror
Of a death darkness
Descending over
The Life Planet

Our planet
Our little
“Christmas-tree ornament”
Hung in the sky
Our “Little
Watering Hole.” Is
It drying up
Or dare we
Drink its waters
Breathe its air

We flee. Whereto.

Back into the night
Of nights before
Creation flared forth
Its trillion degree
Sunburst. Back
Into the cave
Back into the forest
To the guardian spirit
Of the North American Continent.

We have heard
In this cathedral
Bach’s Passion
The Lamentations
Of Jeremiah
Ancient experiences
Of darkness
Over the Earth

And the light born
Anew. But now
Deeper than even
God can reach
With a quick
Healing power.

What sound
What song what
Cry appropriate
What cry can bring
A healing when
A million-year
Rainfall can
Hardly wash away
The life-destroying
Stain. What sound.
Listen! Earthsound
Listen! The wind
Through the Hemlock
Listen! The Owl’s
Soft hooting
In the winter night.
The Wolf.

A cry of distant meanings
Woven into
A seamless sound
Never before has
The cry of the Wolf
Expressed such meaning
On the desolate
This cry
Our Revelation
As the sun
Sinks lower
In the sky
Over a wounded

The meaning of the moment
And the healing
Of the wound
Are there in
A single cry
A throat opened wide
For the wild
Sacred sound of some
Great Spirit
Wakn Tanka, Orenda,
The Manitou
Hovering over
The darkening earth

A gothic sound
Come down from
The beginning of time.
If only humans
Could hear. Patterns
Too fixed in
Human frame for
The healing remedy
Of Earth Language

How break the pattern
Of “Little Red
Riding Hood?” How
See the Wolf
As guardian spirit
As Saviour guide
Our Jeremiah
Telling us not
About the destruction
Of Jerusalem
Of its temple
Our Augustine
Telling us not
About the destruction
Of Rome and Civilization.
Our Bach
Telling us not about
The Passion of Christ
In ancient times
But about the Passion
Of Earth in our times.

The Wolf
Our Earth
Our Christ
Our Sun
Our Selves

The arch
Of the Cathedral
Itself takes on
The shape of
The uplifted throat
Of the Wolf
Lamenting our
Present destiny-
Beseeching humankind
To bring back
The Sun,
To let the flowers

Bloom in the meadows
The rivers run
Through the hills
And to let
The Earth and all
Its living creatures
Live their wild fierce
Serene and abundant life.

In remembrance of Paul Winter’s
Winter Solstice Celebration
At the Cathedral

December, 1983

Thomas Berry

In remembrance of Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral.
December 1983

Thomas Berry

Thomas Berry (1914-2009) was one of the twentieth century’s most prescient and profound thinkers. As a cultural historian, he sought a broader perspective on humanity’s relationship to the earth in order to respond to the ecological and social challenges of the times. His best-known books are: “The Dream of the Earth”; “The Great Work”; and “The Universe Story” (co-written with Brian Swimme).

Thomas was a mentor for the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, Dean of the Cathedral from 1972-1996, who dreamed of creating a bridge between spirituality and ecology.

It was Dean Morton who in 1980 invited the Consort and I to be artists-in-residence at the Cathedral.

Solstice Saga

An Appreciation


“Paul Winter’s Solstice Saga is a cosmological event.

For me, it was an experience of awakening and finding myself in what might be called the music of the universe.

It came to me that I knew what Plato had in mind when he wrote

that though humanity is trapped inside a cave, there is a pathway out.

Solstice Saga was my pathway.

The sudden transformation from anxiety to exalted life took place in an instant.

I do not mean to suggest that the transformation I underwent was permanent;

but I am saying I had come to apprehend something of infinite significance.

It was suddenly so clear that the deep meaning of human life

is to awaken to our connections with everyone, with everything,

to sing of these bonds of love

with whales and insects,

with every race,

with forests and canyons,

with both the living and the dead.

Swept into Solstice Saga’s music,

I knew exactly how I wanted to live every day for the rest of my life.

It is tempting to follow such a bold statement with a sober reflection

that once the music ended, we return to our ordinary ways, as flawed as ever.

But that is not entirely accurate.

When the music ends, there is the memory of the music living inside us.

The experience of Solstice Saga becomes a permanent part of who we are.

We know, beyond doubt, that humanity exists to awaken to the beauty of planet and stars,

and to dance with wild abandon in gratitude for the great gift of existence.”

Brian Swimme
December, 2022

Brian Swimme (born 1950) is an evolutionary cosmologist on the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies. His central concerns are the role of the human within the Earth community, the cultural implications of the epic of evolution, and the role of humanity in the unfolding story of Earth and cosmos.

His books include “The Universe is a Green Dragon”; “The Hidden Heart of the Universe”; and “The Universe Story” (co-written with Thomas Berry).

A note from Paul Winter:

I am especially grateful for these offerings, for both are from authors who have been deeply important to me in my life journey. Between them, they have written four of what I regard as the five most significant books I’ve read: “The Great Work,” by Thomas Berry; “The Universe is a Green Dragon,” and “The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos,” by Brian Swimme; and “The Universe Story” co-authored by Brian and Thomas. (The fifth of my “bibles” is “Beyond Geography: The Western Spirit against the Wilderness” by Frederick Turner.