December 25th, 2014

Winter Solstice At Turtle Rock

Winter Solstice At Turtle Rock

An ancient Ohlone creation story tells that, before humans and other animals existed, the souls of all beings were brought from the ocean by Turtle and were contained within Turtle's shell, represented by a large rounded rock on a ridge top in the Santa Cruz Mountains. At sunset on the winter solstice the sun descended at a certain angle split the boulder open, and the souls of the people and other animals were set free.  Every year on the winter solstice, the Ohlone people celebrated special rituals at the holy rock.  Now, modern-day Pagans hold ceremonies at the site.

On the Solstice, D. and I joined up with a group of hikers and some local Pagans to visit Turtle Rock at Long Ridge Open Space Preserve at sunset, and I took a few pics (limited by cloudy conditions and failing evening light).

The woods are misty.

The canopy catches the mist and fog as it blows in off the Pacific Ocean 6 miles away.

Moss forms a cushion around the base of a Douglas fir.

Late afternoon light floods the forest from a break in the cloud bank.

Droplets of fog have condensed on redwood needles.

Looking southwest from the ridge.

A mushroom pops up from the forest floor.

The trail wends through the forest toward the ridge top.

The trail breaks out of the woods and heads up to the ridge where Turtle Rock rests.

Clouds and fog rush in over nearby hilltops.

A small pool of water rests on the top of Turtle Rock.

We assist a priestess with her candles, sheltering them from the wind as she lights sage and incense and performs chants while the sun sets into the fog bank.  The Solstice is ushered in.  We retrace our steps and return home.