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Medicine Wheel to Have Winter Solstice Ceremony

December 20, 2012

Special to the Times-Record Fire and ice luminaries are shown at the Medicine Wheel Park during a previous winter solstice observation. Valley City State University professor and manager of the park Joe Stickler plans to celebrate the solstice this year, especially because the date also marks the end of the Mayan calendar — which some say means the end of the world.

Friday, Dec. 21 marks this year’s winter solstice, which is the time the sun is at its southernmost point in the sky. The day has come and gone every other winter without much incident, making way for a rising sun the next day. But this year, some predict the sun won’t have an Earth on which to rise the next day.

Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of the Mayan calendar, and some people have interpreted that to mean either an apocalypse “end of the world” or a “new world” with new beliefs.

The doomsday prediction has been a hot topic in mainstream media in recent years, and even a science fiction disaster movie, appropriately called “2012,” was made about the fateful date.

Joe Stickler, professor of science at Valley City State University and manager of the Medicine Wheel Park, plans to celebrate the solstice and doomsday prediction with a ceremony at the park to observe the sunset along the winter solstice alignment.

Stickler said in an email, “In order to say goodbye to the world and your friends, there will be an observance of sunset at 4:46 p.m. at Medicine Wheel Park.

“Come at least 15 minutes early to get the full-scale effect of Valley City’s solar calendar.”

The park, which is a creation of Stickler and his students, features ancient solar calendar replicas and Native American burial grounds in a scenic area atop a hill south of VCSU.

Sticker said he’ll give others an opportunity to talk during the short ceremony, and fire and ice will be mixed in an ice luminary display.

“In case the world doesn’t end on Friday, we will meet again at sunrise at 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22 after the night of longest darkness to celebrate the Earth’s continuing existence,” Stickler continued in his email.

“Winter solstice means the sun is standing still,” Stickler explained. “As seen from the horizon, it’s reach its limit of southward motion” and starts its journey back to the northern hemisphere.

Stickler said he conducted winter solstice ceremonies from 1994 to 2004, “and then I just sort of gave up on them, but I always knew that in 2012, I was going to have another one because the media is just fascinated by doomsday scenarios.”

“Of course I don’t think the world is going to end,” Stickler continued. “I just simply get on board (with the hype).”

Stickler said because of the media attention, this solstice will undoubtedly make it the most observed winter solstice in modern history.

Although Stickler doesn’t believe our world will cease to exist in a few short days, he does say that “it is an intelligent activity for human beings to consider what catastrophes may befall them. Certainly there are many looming environmental catastrophes that may happen.”

“We’re correct being cautious,” he added.

Stickler said the idea of the world ending on the 2012 winter solstice has been a topic for at least the past decade, but he is unsure why and how it all started.

“I think it’s just a compelling idea of a doomsday scenario,” Stickler hypothesizes. “Here, if you have this doomsday scenario, it puts you in the central focus of history in a way. I think that’s one of the psychological ideas — it brings you into the center of the drama.”

He said that the data surrounding the Mayan calendar and its claimed predictions is very scarce because the Spanish burned all but four of their books.

It comes down to “interpreting rock carvings,” Stickler said, adding that there are rock carvings that extend the Mayan calendar even further than Dec. 21, 2012.

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