I’m writing in the late afternoon amber light, a week past solstice, sensing but not quite sure that the daylight is lingering for a minute or two longer. I can use such encouragement at the moment, and am grateful for the returning of the light. But at the same time I’ll relish these short days and their invitation to rekindle the practice of kaartsiluni. Read on and and you’ll l soon find a contradiction here since what follows is a repost from a few years ago… but rising to my own defense, I can already tell you that the new stories are announcing themselves. Some of the new ones are ancient ones. More about that in the next post. For now… consider Kaartsiluni!
Here are the words of Majuak, an Inuit elder from Diomede Island in Alaska, describing karrtsiluni to Arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen in his 1932 book The Eagles Gift.
‘What is karrtsiluni?’ I’ll tell you that now. But you won’t get anything more from me today.’ In the old days, every autumn – we used to hold great festivals or the soul of the whale, and these festivals were always opened with new songs which the men made up. The spirits had to be summoned with fresh words – worn-out songs must never be used when men and women danced and sang in homage to this great prize of the huntsman – the whale. And while the men were thinking out the words for these hymns, it was the custom to put out all the lights. The feast house had to be dark and quiet – nothing must disturb or distract the men. In utter silence all these men sat there in the gloom and thought, old and young -ay- down to the very smallest urchin, provided he was old enough to speak.
It was that silence we called karrtsiluni. It means waiting for something to break forth. For our fore-fathers believed that songs are born in such a silence. While everyone is trying hard to think fair thoughts, songs are born in the minds of men, rising like bubbles from the depths – bubbles seeking breath in which to burst. ‘So come all holy songs.’”
I like this idea of silent, patient reflection in a spirit of homage to great life holy and full of awe. So, let’s enjoy New Year’ eve, eat, drink and be merry, but hold off on those calendar driven resolutions until we’ve sat quietly with good company.
Let’s give ourselves some karrtsiluni time (skip the dark and gloom if you must). Let’s think fair thoughts, alone and together, and may our new songs, rise to the surface and break forth, carrying us together in our quest for a life of meaning and contribution to each other and the planet. I look forward to the expression and celebration of these “new songs” together. For the moment, I’m turning down the lights.