Monday, November 30, 2015

Re-Birth of the Sun - Winter themed challenge and Giveaway.

Winter Solstice Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
So today we're launching the last AJE challenge of 2015 and this month it's another of our themed events where we invite you to join us in designing beads, jewellery or decorative items inspired by a chosen subject and this month the theme is the sun.

Now that might seem a little strange when those of us in the northern hemisphere are cold and gloomy but the sun is actually very appropriate for this time of year particularly as we approach the the Winter Solstice on December 22nd.

"The winter solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point, as it marks the shortest day, when the hours of daylight are at their least. It's also the start of the increase in the hours of daylight, until the Summer solstice  when darkness becomes ascendant once more."

Throughout time many cultures understood the astronomical phenomena that divided their year into half light and half dark (and was so critical to their survival) celebrated the midwinter sun with festivals based on the need to preserve light and ensure the return of the sun. To ancient people it seemed that the sun may never return once it dipped below the horizon so they practiced rites to call it back and sought to capture it's light.

Around the world many ancient and sacred sites are oriented to capture the rays of the sun and moon at certain points of the year. The picture above shows the rising sun of the winter solstice as it shines through the carefully aligned standing stones of Stonehenge.

New Grange in Northern Ireland was originally called An Liamh Greine - the 'Cave of the Sun' and for a week either side of the winter solstice the sun shines through a narrow slot above its door and pours down an 80 foot passage into a chamber where it strikes the back walls and lights up intricately carved spirals and solar discs. The triskele, or triple spiral is a tripartite symbol composed of three interlocked spirals. The triple spiral is an ancient Celtic symbol related to the sun, afterlife and reincarnation. The light remains for approximately seventeen minutes and then fades again.
In ancient Egypt the sun was revered as a symbol of life and Re, or Ra, the Sun, was the chief of the gods and became the central figure of a reformed religion under the name Aton, bestowed by Pharaoh Amenhotep.  The early Egyptians believed that he created the world, and this is why the rising Sun was the symbol of creation. The daily cycle of the Sun moving across the sky represented creation and renewal.

Limestone carving showing Pharoah Amenhotep offering gifts to the sun god Aton
The Egyptians also used architecture to convey the significance of the solstice with the great temples at Karnack, Thebes and Abydos built in such a way as to focus the rays of the midwinter and midsummer sun directly into the heart of the temple enclosures.

Winter solstice sunrise at Karnack
Winter Solstice celebrations were also to be found in ancient America in the form of Soyaluna ceremonies held by Hopi Indians:

"The Hopi Indians traditionally believed that at the time of the Winter Solstice, the sun had traveled as far from the earth as he ever did. Only the most powerful humans could persuade the sun to turn around and come back to the pueblo. The purpose of Soyaluna, which is still held among the Hopi who live on the mesas of Arizona, is to prevent the disappearance of the sun at the time of year when the days are at their shortest.

The main ceremony takes place in the kiva, a large, circular underground room that can only be entered by climbing down a ladder through a hole in the ceiling. Hopi priests prepare the kiva by scattering cornmeal around the floor. On the west wall of thekiva, a stack of corn serves as an altar, surrounded by stalks and husks. Each family has given some corn to make the altar. At the solstice, everyone assembles in the kiva for rituals designed to bring the sun back for another agricultural year."

Hopi Sun characters symbolize life, growth, strength of spirit, and abundance and most Hopi accounts of creation centre around Tawa, the Sun Spirit.

Hopi Kachina sun spirit - by Linda Henry

So as you can see the sun and it's rebirth at midwinter have been hugely important across time and many cultures so it seems like the perfect inspiration for a bit of modern day creativity don't you think? We'd love you to join us and take part and here's how...

Theme challenge details

1. Giveaway- This theme challenge DOES include a giveaway! ( This will vary each time.) I will be giving away these two ceramic sun pendants to two winners selected randomly from comments on this post. The pendants are porcelain stoneware, glazed back and front and decorated with lustre.
  • Winners selected Thursday December 3rd.
  • You must have an active blog.
  • Please leave your email and blog address in the comments

2. Goal - Have fun! Try something different! Be inspired to make something that fits within this theme. This can be an artist bead, a component, or a finished piece of jewellery or decorative piece.
You are free to use any artist bead/component in your design, from an AJE team member, of your own creation or from another artisan bead maker...

3. Share/Reveal - Due to the holidays the reveal date for this challenge has been extended to Sunday January 10th 2016

If you would like to be included in the blog reveal on the 10th, please private message me (Lesley) via Facebook  Since this is open to all, this is the most efficient way to be included. Messages need to be received by January 8th to be included.

if you're are looking for components to inspire your designs I will also have the following selection available in my Etsy shop...

And Caroline has some new designs available in her shop too...

I hope this leaves you raring to take up the challenge...I'll be back with some more inspiration before the reveal date and in the meantime I'll be looking forward to seeing some sunny creations to warm up my January!


  1. Love these Lesley and would love to win one. (Melissa_trudinger at yahoo dot com,

  2. I would definitely love to get my hands on one of those pendants! Look forward to thinking up some winter sun themes too! :) x

  3. Thanks for sharing the information about all the different sun rituals - that was a very interesting read. I told mom this would be an awesome challenge to get us out of our rut!

    Love the ceramic suns - they are gorgeous. Would love a chance to win one. ( and

  4. You've got my brain racing again with this challenge Lesley x

  5. Yes! The winter solstice, with its mythology, rituals, and celebrations, has always been great inspiration to me. And, your components capture the exuberance of these so well! I have complementary beads at the ready; would love them! ; )

  6. Such a beautiful theme, I would love to win a pendant and participate in the challenge (jewelsofsayuri at gmail dot com

  7. Great theme and read! I would love a chance to win a pretty pendant and participate in the challenge. I have an active blog at
    Happy holidays!

  8. Definitely a theme close to my heart. I would love to win a pendant and participate bringing in the new year. ( and windbent at gmail dot com)

  9. Love the sun inspiration! Since moving to Minnesota I have gotten serious about counting down the days until the Winter Solstice and longer days. I would love to play along with one of your sun pendants. (You know I love the colors in the one on the left... I'm hording several of your lovelies in those colors!) /

  10. Winter is in full force here but for the past several days it has been blue skies and sunny. Just glorious! We have been mightily celebrating the sun. Such a timely and enjoyable post. Love this giveaway and your lovely pieces. I'd LOVE to participate; it's been a long while since I have taken up a jewelry challenge. ~ Cindy

  11. What a fabulous theme - I'm totally in! And I love the multi-cultural background you provided. Your newest component designs are spectacular, Lesley. Caroline's are great too. I would be thrilled to win one of your ceramic sun pendants to use in design.

  12. What a great theme. I can't wait to see the results. Happy holidays to all!!

  13. What a great theme and way to celebrate the solstice! I would love to take part. My email is and my blog is


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