The Solstice at Serpent Mound

The holiday season is a time to gather with friends and family. With all of the distractions in today’s consumer culture, community tends to be forgotten. This is not the case during Friends of Serpent Mound’s annual winter solstice illumination.

The winter solstice occurs every year on either December 20, 21, 22, or 23. It marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Throughout history many groups have acknowledged this day and its significance. One such group is the Native American community and those with Native American heritage. In Southeast Ohio, The Great Serpent Mound in Adams County shines on this special night.

The Great Serpent Mound is over 1,300 feet long, three-feet-high and sits on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek. It is designated as a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior. Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis first reported the Serpent Mound from surveys in 1848.


Attribution of the construction of the mound is disputed between three different prehistoric indigenous American cultures. Originally thought to be Adena in origin, now with the use of more advanced technology, including carbon dating researchers now believe that members of the Fort Ancient culture built the mound around 1070 CE. Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the world.

Friends of Serpent Mound, an organization that works under the Ohio Historical Society, formed ten years ago because of concerns about the conditions of the mound and surrounding area. After a successful first year of work in 2004, Friends of Serpent Mound began celebrating the solstice by holding a nondenominational illumination ceremony at the mound.

  During the first commemoration of the solstice Friends of Serpent Mound used 600 candles. That number has grown now to more than 1,000 candles that are used to light up the mound. The event takes place each year and is open to the public. “What’s really special about the lighting is the community and the diversity of the community that comes,” Executive Director of Friends of Serpent Mound Delsey Wilson says.


Wilson believes the public is missing a sense of community and that the lighting offers a meaningful activity during the holiday season. Whether that is saying a prayer or a thank you, reflecting on the past, or thinking about the future, the winter solstice at Serpent Mound provides a venue to commemorate the day and as Wilson says, “enjoy a place and share that enjoyment with others.” 

This year’s solstice takes place on Sunday, December 21. For those interested in attending this ceremonial candle lighting, Tim Goodwin, park manager at the Great Serpent Mound, says the event is best “at dusk, where you see the lights slither over toward the edge of the cliff.”


Southeast Ohio strives to spotlight the culture and community within our 21-county region and aims to inform, entertain and inspire readers with stories that hit close to home. Southeast Ohio is the first student-produced regional magazine in the country. Every semester, approximately 25 students enrolled in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism produce an issue of the magazine, which is published in print twice a year. The staff generates story ideas, conducts interviews, writes stories and designs the magazine in only 15 weeks. The magazine has won several Regional Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.