The snow is piling up on Black Pine Mountain and it seems downright refreshing after the dormant dryness of last year. The dark is a bit depressing and I never get over how fast it falls. One minute it’s day and the next, the stars are out.
There is plenty of dark now; we’re approaching the longest night of the year. Since summer, the sun has been sliding south, taking the light with it, days growing shorter by the minute. On December 21, Sol reaches the farthest point south and it’s as far away as it can get from us Northerners. This explains the very long night. Meanwhile, the Australians are baking on the beach till all hours.
For centuries the Winter Solstice, or Yule, has been celebrated all over the world as a powerful yet festive time for good reason. The autumn equinox showed our ancestors a sun that was slipping away day by day and they had no assurance that it would ever return. If it kept going, they were all doomed.
By the solstice there was near panic. They needed comfort and craved some control over their destinies. So they began to develop elaborate rituals to encourage the sun’s return. They lit bonfires on the hilltops, imitating the sun’s light and heat, a way of honoring what the personal fireball did for us.
They Looked everywhere for a sign that life wasn’t completely gone and would perhaps return to full flower in time. They searched for what still might be living and green in the soil of their natural world.
The evergreens were a sign. They cut fir or pine trees and brought them into their homes in a celebratory way. If these trees were alive then surely they would have a chance also. They devised an ornament made from the trees branches, a circlet of evergreen boughs to hang on the door, this was another symbol of the sun and through sympathetic magic perhaps it could be encouraged to come back their way again.
Then, wonder of wonders the sun did return, the light was born again and all rejoiced at the Yuletide. Life on Earth would continue.
If this theme strikes you as somewhat familiar, it is. Before Jesus was a glimmer in Mary’s eye, people celebrated this life affirming holiday and revered it as a time of renewal and the moving out of darkness. When the Christian priests wanted more followers for their new religion they decided that the solstice was a good spot to place the birth of Jesus.
The symbolism was apropos and, besides everyone was partying anyway, the people might just be persuaded to celebrate Jesus instead of the Earth. I’ve been told that the Bible hints at Jesus’ actual birthday being sometime in the fall. At any rate it worked pretty well.
I think that it is important to know the true history of things so that we understand what we take for granted and why. One problem that arises in shifting the celebration from the natural world to that of a holy man is that we no longer feel we belong to our own earth. Our spiritual emphasis has become human-centered, no longer do we revere and celebrate the Earth and all that live on her.
This may seem like a (deceptively) trivial point at this time of year but having all the old celebrations of nature and the seasons removed from our psyches has helped to cut the cord of kinship with our very surroundings, snowballing into an appalling human apathy when it comes to our planet and home. How can we talk about the winter wonderland while tossing an empty beer can into it? We got control and lost the connection.
As you sit by the fire on December 24, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to celebrate Christmas or Yule. They are equally religious and beautiful holidays and past misdemeanors really don’t matter anymore. The theme is still one of bringing light into our homes and hearts and remembering to love.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs let them include one of the greatest gifts God or Goddess gave us: the earth. That said, Jesus is part of the godhead, but so is the earth – so how can we sing the praises of one and ignore or even harm the other? It makes no sense to me.
What matters this holiday season is that we choose to revere and honor all of life and the spirit of the God/Goddess inherent in it – called Jesus, the Earth or our other fellow beings.
So in that spirit, go on out and commune with some stark, yet still quite lovely scenery. The way the snow shines like a million diamonds on the hill, the color of the birds at the feeder all flutter and fancy in the still air, the whisper of a deer walking through the woods, a gentle reminder to slow down and breathe within our busy lives.
These are things we can enjoy with or without money and they bring us ever closer to a connection with the incredible life we’ve been given and the beauty of it.
When we stop and turn our attention to the natural world, and care for it, we raise our awareness of a gift we may have forgotten we have and help us to feel gratitude for who put us here. It all leads to the same place of holy reverence because we are all part of the same life force, are we not? It’s a circle, but we have to make more of an effort now, because we have no routine seasonal ceremonies to remind us of the honor we hold.
During this time of rebirth, let’s give rise to an attitude of inclusiveness, along with the love and joy, embracing not only our fellow human hearts and minds, but the others we share this planet with. For by honoring them we honor their (and our) Maker.
May the power of the season continue to inspire you throughout the year, Merry Christmas and Happy Yule.
Here in the Northwest winter has finally come to call. She must’ve mislaid her invitation somewhere (if she ever had one) as she is very late. I don’t mind really, as far as I am concerned she needn’t have bothered. For most of us the winter season is far from our favorite. In the pastoral calendar of old, December 23rd otherwise known as the winter solstice, was considered midwinter. Coincidentally (or maybe not) that is the date that our Sun changes signs from adventurous Sagittarius to serious Capricorn.
This happening has an effect on the human population. If your birthday is anywhere from (approx) Dec 23rd to Jan 21st your Sun sign is Capricorn and all the honors and tribulations that go along with that sign are yours. Yet, it isn’t just native Capricorns getting all the fun, for one solid month we are all complimentary Capricorns because we have to deal with the Saturnian energy the sun is shoveling in. Saturn is Capricorn’s ruling planet. You might call it the boss. Saturn would like that and it’s always preferable to stay on a bosses good side. Saturn is one of astrology’s more infamous planets. It has a reputation for being difficult to deal with. Well what boss isn’t? Saturn isn’t as threatening as it is demanding, just as winter is demanding. Winter can turn threatening too if we are grow unconscious or lazy toward it. Saturn (and winter) has a lot of expectations. At certain times of our lives there are rules applied and we are expected to color within the lines and make the most of it. One thing that winter and Saturn have in common is that during their reign we can’t cut loose and do whatever we want. If we try speeding down icy roads it isn’t going to end well, we’re going to get hurt.
There are other rules in life that aren’t as physically obvious but breaking them can end up hurting us just as much. Another word for rules is responsibility. Saturn asks: who or what are we responsible for? If this responsibility is right and true for us to accept then how can we find joy while meeting the demands? Lastly, what are the consequences for us if we chuck it all anyway and run? This is part of what Saturn has to teach us. During the winter we all get to try on temporary versions of this kind of energy because responsibility is being imposed on us by outside seasonal conditions rather than through our birth charts, lives or transits. We feel (or should feel) the “rules of the road” this time of year. A time to pull in, take stock and recognize what is important enough to drive through a blizzard to and what is not. Scarcity is the order of the day. Everything from what is in season and affordable at the grocery store, to how much time do I have before it gets dark outside to how much energy am I going to have left after shoveling the driveway and thawing pipes? It isn’t even practical to be away from home for very long as the bitter cold can turn small mishaps back at the ranch into major problems quicker than you can say: “Jack Frost.”
There is no changing the weather, but one may change their attitude and consequently their actions and that is where astrology comes in handy. Understanding what is being asked of you and why can provide an answer to the question of: “Just what kind of joy can I get from responsibility?”
In astrology the answer to one signs dilemmas or extremes is its opposite sign. That is, the sign that is 180 degrees from it on both the astrological wheel and the wheel of the year. The opposite of January is July and the opposite of Capricorn is Cancer.
Now another plug for my assertion that astrologers include Earth in their astrological studies: once again Earth has something to contribute to these situations because when the Sun is in a sign our Earth is in the opposite sign. The Sun is the active principle here meaning, that it is the Sun’s dynamic (and the sign it is in) that is dominating our lives every month, the outside force to be reckoned with at this moment. Being stable and slightly inert the Earth has the passive principle. Caught in winter’s claw the Earth can’t really do a whole lot but hunker down and neither can we. This is our first hint of guidance. A passive role also includes our inside energy, the psychological attitude we need to cultivate and our reaction to this dynamic Sun energy that is snowing on our parade. In other words the Earth sign, being the opposite of the Sun sign at any given time shows the creatures of Earth how best to deal with the Sun’s present energy level or color.
Let’s look at the energetic signature of the sign of Cancer. Cancer is known for a penchant to pull in when a situation threatens and assess the emotional temperature around them for the purpose of getting a better bead on things. As a result their natural intuition gives them the ability to instinctively know the best time to take their next step.
Cancer is also famous for its extreme nurturing abilities. According to Dictionary.com to nurture is “to support and encourage or to feed and protect” Also covered is training and education for the development of oneself.
When the year swings around and the Sun is in the sign of Cancer (and the Earth in Capricorn) we experience the other seasonal temperature extreme here on Earth: high summer. It follows that in July we then look to Capricorn for the right psychological mindset and emotional mood to align ourselves with. Here we have a see-saw like pattern unfolding:
In January, Capricorn Sun: Peak of Winter, freezing cold and bitter outside? Cancer Earth: Regroup and make plans and nurture them. Develop and deepen your talents or even train yourself in a new specialty. Stay indoors and nurture you, your home, your family and friends and maybe a business idea or two. Reconnect with all indoor and internal levels and ideas.
In July, Cancer Sun: Peak of summer. Emotions are running high, family and friends actively coming for a visit. Need a retreat? Capricorn Earth: Take charge, organize and defer. Throw yourself into work and career, plans and projects should be at their highest operational level now.
However like its mirror image winter, the sweltering hot days of summer can hold some similar restrictions too. Recognize that this time of year is not the time to spread yourself too thin or run too fast, you’ll collapse with heat stroke. Get all your plates in the air and then kick back a little in the afternoon. Wine cooler on the patio with a lively guest anyone?
The planet Saturn, like the winter season, represents a limiting set of circumstances and high expectations whether it’s one month a year or as in our natal charts: throughout our entire lifetime. Yet if we heed the message in the medium of astrology, paying close attention to opposites, marrying the active outgoing principle of the Sun and the attitudinal passive principle of the Earth (in the signs of Capricorn and Cancer respectively, this time of the year), if we work within that criteria we can meet Saturn’s expectations with a song in our hearts. Then Saturn rewards us for a job well done. We will establish ourselves as serious and successful workers who can handle life’s adversities with know-how and great timing while sporting the support system of a strong foundational home-life of family and friends. Happy Winter!