Winter Solstice 2020: 21st December, 10:03 GMT
The Solstices and Equinoxes are the great gateways of the year, indicated by the Sun’s passage into the first degree of each of the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. These signs are the initiators, inaugurating the new. We – and our Earth – enter these portals and are conditioned by their energies; they herald the Zeitgeist for the coming season. So this is a chance to glimpse what is unfolding over the next quarter.
The Winter Solstice is a new beginning. The life force bestowed by the Sun is withdrawn deep into the dark earth, where it is gilding roots and seeds, energising them in preparation for a new cycle of growth in the year ahead. It is a time of stillness and restriction (and this year as never before for many of us). We are turned in upon ourselves as we too transmute the gold of the last year in the dark roots of our beings in a kind of summer of the soul. We gild the roots by nourishing our soul life with beauty and tenderness; resting, feeding and moving our bodies to release the old year; feeling into the inner life and letting the fertile darkness inspire dreams for the year ahead. The outward gloom can feel depressing, especially when we identify strongly with the outer realm. The ‘world’, as it comes at us through mass channels, delivers a toxic overload of stimulation, fear and anxiety. We need the balance of the inner realm, to attend to quiet and delicate processes that nourish and strengthen us for the outward activity to come. There is much sunlight to digest and to delight in. Using the Solstice point of stillness to gild the inner realm will transform our experience of the outer world in the months to come.
December is a busy month astronomically, beginning with a total solar eclipse on 14th,[i] and this will be an extraordinary Solstice, marking the end of quite a year. The final major conjunction of the three that have set 2020 ablaze happens just hours after the Winter Solstice moment, as Jupiter and Saturn meet on the first degree of Aquarius (at 18:20 GMT), exactly semi-sextile the Solstice Sun and Mercury. Saturn leaves its own sign, Capricorn on 17th December, after three years’ working in tandem with Pluto to raze obsolete social structures and systems of authority. That work is not over: Pluto continues it until March 2023. But Saturn’s movement out of Capricorn de-intensifies our conscious awareness of those processes. A planetary conjunction is the beginning of a new cycle, and the meeting of Jupiter and Saturn (creating a great ‘star’[ii] – it was a Jupiter–Saturn conjunction that alerted the Magi to the birth of the Christchild), sets a new, Aquarian tone in the social world. The positive register of Aquarius is humanitarianism, idealism, orientation towards the future and communal endeavour. Aquarius turns us towards the group.
We know about individualism and where it gets us. Human evolution consists in overcoming separation and learning to work together. Time to contribute to group vision, to align with and honour group contexts, in whatever form they take in our lives.
The challenge of this under current restrictions is obvious. Technology (also ruled by Aquarius) as a tool can assist us but it cannot be a substitute for our coming together for real. Planet Earth is about physical manifestation. The Earth Path runs through the body, which is the locus of consciousness. There is no source of consciousness for you outside of your own body. Aspects of human presence can be technologised: I can see and hear you (most of the time) on Zoom, but at its best it is a pale approximation of being together. Real human presence is enlivening; when it is technologised, it sucks. The channel of connection leaves us devitalised and subtly shut down. When I am physically with you there is an exchange of energy between us; when I see you Online there is an exchange of energy between me and the technological interface we are using. We’re making someone rich, but our connection is impoverished. This new emphasis on Aquarius challenges how we feed our group connections and also how we manage our relationship with technology. The tendency towards technologisation in all aspects of life is likely to strengthen, so we have to become adept users, discerning and deciding where our human energy is flowing. As a counter-balance we need to preserve our commitment to physical reality (and to reinstating and exploring our freedoms of association and assembly in the real world, which, stunningly, have disappeared across much of the globe). The danger is that we are buying into ways of being that are reflections of reality. This obscures and confuses our sense of physicality, which in turn distorts and glamorises our perceptions. Our perceptions give birth to our realities. They are always unhinged, but throw virtual reality into the mix, and perception becomes machinic and non-human/inhuman, utterly fantastical.
Virtual realms readily serve the lunar consciousness. The Moon has no light of its own; it bestows no life. It is a reflector, just as the virtual world reflects and refracts reality. The Sun is the source of life; it organises and integrates all aspects of our beings. Our energy and attention have to orbit around the solar principle (our Sun sign), which relies on the body as the source of consciousness, not on the picture of a body, however brilliant the resolution. There is no way around this: we are either embodied or we are avatars with little connection to the possibility of consciousness. This feels like a fork in the road. Will we choose fantasy or reality? It takes great presence of mind even to make that choice, and let’s be clear, it is a choice that has to be made and remade consciously and consistently throughout each and every day.
Where’s my attention flowing? To what am I giving my energy? What is my relation to my body, the physical world?
At the Solstice moment all the planets are confined within 149 degrees of arc, leaving 211 degrees gapingly empty, giving a highly subjective mood to the chart; Mercury is ‘combust’ (close to the Sun), which also undermines objectivity and rationality. This is a time for feeling and sensation. The planets are bookended by Venus in Sagittarius on one side and Uranus in Taurus on the other. This is interesting as Venus is disposited by Jupiter, and Jupiter by Uranus, bringing extra heft to the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. The highly sensitive midpoint between Venus and Uranus, which are straining against each other in a tight quincunx, is occupied by Neptune in Pisces in a conjunction with the Moon, consecrating this moment, offering access to a vision of our interconnectedness and to the spiritual reality that lies behind the apparent world. This is something to treasure.
Neptune rules epidemics – it shows us how we are all mixed up with each other. It erodes boundaries. We can lock down for the rest of our mortal lives but we cannot prevent interaction and interchange, they are fundamental to life. Neptune, ultimately, is impersonal love. It inspires artistry, intuition and imagination, and at the Solstice, it is with the Moon giving an experience of boundless inspiration at one level, at another a massive sacrifice made by the people. Use intention to tune into the register that you prefer. This is intensified by exact aspects from Mars and Pluto to the Moon (the square between Mars and Pluto is exact on 22nd December). This seals the potency of this great moment that forms the portal for the next quarter. It feels like we are being lifted out of our lower, chatterbox minds (Mercury combust) and inundated with the light of spiritual love, where we all are truly One. It is an invitation to live our lives with an awareness of this level of illumination, which both asks for and gives a lot. The other possibility is to surrender to overwhelm, sacrifice, delusion and the endlessness of loss.
Next year Saturn will make three squares with Uranus. This is the tension between the forces of conventional control and the breakthrough force of doing things differently. Clinging to the known might feel like the safe option, but it only makes us easier to break, especially when situations are changing at speed and it looks like we are heading into a pacey 2021.
Our values and resources, our relationship to our bodies and to the land that sustains them, and also the technologisation of physical processes and sensations are major themes for 2021, arising from Uranus’ slow journey through Taurus. The future is being fomented in our hearts, minds and wills right now; the future is woven from the threads of ourselves. We are powerful, and our hopes and intentions shape the future that we and our descendants will experience. Likewise our fears, anxieties and neuroses are also being stirred into the pot. Meeting ourselves with maturity and compassion, and dealing with the things that pull us out of shape are gifts to the future. Gilding the roots of our beings at the Solstice is a great place to start, asking ourselves, what is it that wishes to be born?
[i] 14th December: total solar eclipse on 23° Sagittarius;
17th December: Saturn moves into Aquarius;
19th December: Jupiter moves into Aquarius;
21st December: Solstice and Jupiter–Saturn conjunction;
22nd December: Mars square Pluto on 23° Aries/Capricorn.
[ii] They are visible in the southwestern sky in the early evening: look for a very bright star with a fainter one to the east and somewhat higher.